Sunday, November 22, 2015

Exploring Mystic Khaptad

This is second part of our Khaptad Trek. To read first part, click here: Khaptad: Adventures, mistakes and misadventures.
Khaptad in the morning!
After 7 hours of blissful daytime sleep, we woke up fully recharged and refreshed. The nightmare had finally been over and it was the time for exploring Khaptad. The beautiful valley resembled like a human body. At the top, it is a dense forest – like hair. Below it are large Patans (slopy/plain grounds) resembling mighty chest. These Patans have wetlands that flow into small streams that you can compare with defecating organs.

We were not prepared to take adventures, at least for this day. So, we chose to visit nearby Khaptad Baba's Ashram and Ghoda Daune Patan. It was a blissful moment. We returned before the dusk as we were not prepared for any other adventures. It was time for fest! At that height and in given circumstances, any food would prove to be a feast. This indeed was a good food.
Exotic Meal in the Guest House of Khaptad Tourism Development Committee

Once you reach Khaptad, you don’t have to worry about food and sleep as tourist infrastructures are being expanded. You can eat and stay at three places: The army guest House – if you are going through connection of army Majors and Generals – which is the case for many; the guest house of Khaptad National Park or the Guest House of Khaptad Tourism Development Committee. We were staying at the latter and food, hospitality and stay all were superior!
Khaptad Baba's Statue in the Ashram

Here, I should not forget to mention the name of Lok Bahadur Rawal, the operator of the Tourism Development Committee's Guest House and Surendra Bogati, the Game Scout at the National Park who managed some mutton dishes for us which we were badly needing. It was blissful and fulfilling experience. Who knew another horrible day is waiting for us?
Khaptad Baba Ashram
Being pragmatic and cautions
We had had enough misadventures and troubles. Therefore, we were in no mood to repeat them while returning. So, the next day, we planned to leave early. We were fade up with going uphill, so chose the another route which will require going downhill only – we were travelling via Bajura villages to Kanda and that day's destination would be Dhapa Bazaar, on the way to Martadi – the district headquarter of Bajura, from Sanfebagar, Achham. 

Serene Khaptad lake

We were told that we could easily make from Khaptad to Dhapa (Daaba, as they pronounce) bazaar in 8 hours. So, we left Khaptad at 8.00 hrs after having heavy brunch! On the way, we would see Khaptad view tower from where we would stand face to face with Mt. Api and Saipal and Khaptad lake – a serenely beautiful lake at 3050 metre altitude, similar height we spent the previous night.
School group in Educational Excursion tour, takes rest beside Khaptad lake

There, we met a group of students on excursion tour trekking from Daaba to Khaptad via Kaanda. It feels amazing to get human presence in that unmanned area. We cheered them up that they were almost close to reaching Khaptad. All were exhausted and our cheer up gave them some hopes and excitement. After taking few pictures, we descended.

Saving a life
On the way we met remaining part of the caravan of students and teachers. They were 37 in total. They said that few are still climbing the hills and one of the student had severe pain and requested us to take pain killer medicine to him. We happily told them not to worry as we had the painkiller, water and also a doctor accompanying us. 
This boy was severely ill.

After descending about a kilometer, we met the boy who was suffering from severe pain on his upper stomach. Jiwan checked and signaled us that the problem was much more severe and not curable by the painkiller. After consulting with his colleagues in Kathmandu and Chitwan he concluded that it could be as severe as thalassemia and the boy had to be immediately rushed to lower altitude and to hospital where blood transfusion would be available. 

We repeatedly sent the message to his principal and other teachers who had already reached Khaptad. But the principal and teachers were so irresponsible that they refused to return back and manage to take the boy to the hospital. Finally, we reached to the National Park administration and the army for help. Finally, a group of army men arrived with stretcher and some medicines. We suggested them that the boy has to be rushed to hospital as soon as possible. But, they were also not prepared to ambulate the boy as far as to Daaba bazaar.

There were limitations on our part. Finally, Jiwan told them the severity of the sickness and also wrote the diagnosis and recommendations on a blank paper and we left the boy with army men. For this, we had spent three precious hours.

As we descended, we were following up with the Lieutenant of the army barrack about the progress. We knew that the army men took the boy to Khaptad on stretcher and after giving oxygen for few hours, sent to Silgadi on horseback for further treatment. It was very relieving news for us.

Scenic view of Api and Saipal mountains from Khaptad Tower
Another horribly adventurous day!
So, we rushed down and down. It was already 15.00 hrs when we reached Kaanda that marks almost halfway to our destination. From the surprising look in the villagers when we told that our destination for the day was Daaba bazaar, we could sense that that day was also going to be another adventurous day! 

Agog about reaching Rara in another 2 days, we were in no mood to back off and cut short that day's walk. Despite repeated requests from villagers along the road not to walk upto Daaba bazaar, we continued walking. It was almost dark when we crossed the villages and dense forest would start. We were told that we could cross the jungle in upto three hours and reach Daaba bazaar.

We thought about revising our destination and stopping at the village. But probably a competing sense among three brothers that who would back down first led us to continued walk. We had three disadvantages as compared to our walk to Khaptad two days ago – we had only one torch light, no mobile phones because all were switched off and even moon would not come to our help for two reasons – it would rise late and also we would be walking through the dense forest in the river bank, unlike atop hills.

On the way, we could observe rural lifestyle. Here, preparations on for Volleyball Competition.

After the village, we descended to a stream. Alas! It was a cul de sac! We could see only white boulders, water and pebbles nut not the way across the stream. This was lowest point of our trip that day. Keshav and I thought that we lost the way and had to return back to the village and spend the night there. Jiwan was adamant. It was already dark and despite our refusal to accompany him, he travelled few metres up the stream alone and finally found the way. Reluctantly, Keshav and I followed. Henceforth, we will be inside the forest and there will be no returning back. If anything happened to us, nobody would notice until the next day.

It was a Mela day, Most rural parts in Far West have Celebrations on Dashain Purnima
The path was less confusing. Amidst fear of wild animals or evil humans, we continued walking and walking and finally reached Daaba bazaar by 21.00 hrs. When we reached Daaba bazaar, all shops and hotels were closed. Most men had gone to see fair that is held in most rural areas of the Far West on the day of Kojagrat Purnima (Full moon day after Dashain). Few hotels said they could provide us shelter but not food as it was too late. Finally, a helpful person who ran a tea shop opened the door and offered us to cook the food as well as offer his bed.

We were so tired and hungry that we were repeatedly telling him to cook fast or offer us only rice and dal. Finally, another horribly adventurous day was over and all three of us crammed to fit into a single 3ft/6ft bed.

The third and last part of the Travel Rara, a shelved dream! will soon be posted

Friday, November 6, 2015

आत्मनिर्भर अर्थतन्त्र निर्माणको अवसर

सुकाउन राखिएका ब्रिकेट
 म अर्थशास्त्रको ज्ञाता होइन, राजनीतिक अर्थशास्त्रमा चासो राख्छु । तर जारी इन्धन संकटले जब भान्सामै प्रभाव पार्‍यो, अर्थशास्त्रका केही कुराबारे ज्ञान भएजस्तो ठानेको छु । पढेर भन्दा परेर जानिन्छ भन्ने यसैलाई होला।
अहिले नेपालीहरुले भोगेको सबैभन्दा ठूलो समस्या इन्धन अभावको हो, भलै आन्तरिक र सिमापार ढुवानी तथा आवतजावतमा अवरोध कायमै रह्यो भने खाद्यान्न, औषधिदेखि अन्य धेरै कुरामा प्रभाव पार्न सक्छ र यो मानवीय संकट पनि बन्न सक्छ। तर सुरू गर्छु अहिलेको सबैभन्दा प्रमुख समस्याबाट।
ग्याँस अभाव शुरु भएपछि यसलाई सामना कसरी गर्ने भन्ने बारेमा परिवार र अन्य मजस्तै पीडित साथीहरुसँगको सल्लाह पछि ५ हजार रुपियाँ तिरेर इन्डक्शन हिटर किनेँ । यसका लागि चाहिने एउटा प्रेशर कुकरसहित १ सेट भाँडा किन्दा ६५०० खर्च भयो । जम्मा ११ हजार ५०० मा मेरो भान्सा पुरै विद्युतमा आधारित भयो । अब मलाई आवश्यक छ लोडशेडिङबाट मुक्ति । जुन आफ्नो नियन्त्रणमा छैन । यसको एकमात्र विकल्प सोलार हो तर इन्डक्शन हिटरसहित चल्ने सोलार जोड्न २ लाख हाराहारी लाग्छ ।
तर उपाय त्यतिमात्र होइन । लोडशेडिङका बेला खाना पकाउनका लागि ७५० को एउटा चुलो (ब्रिकेट चुलो २५० रुपियाँदेखि उपलब्ध छन्) र केही प्याकेट ब्रिकेट किनेको छु । लोडशेडिङको दिन पनि ३३ रुपियाँमा भान्सा उम्काउन सकिन्छ (काठमाडौँका मुख्य डिपार्टमेन्टल स्टोरमा १ घण्टा बल्ने ६ वटा ब्रिकेटको प्याकेटलाई रु १०० पर्छ, २ वटा ब्रिकेटले दाल, भात, तरकारी मज्जाले पकाउन सकिन्छ ।), जुन विद्युतको तुलनामा महँगो हो तर सधैँ लोडशेडिङ नहुने हुँदा मासिक हिसाबमा त्यति महँगो नपर्ला ।
सिन्धुपाल्चोकको ताम्चेमा बायो ब्रिकेट बनाउनका लागि तयारी गर्दै स्थानीयहरु
ब्रिकेटको अर्को फाइदा पनि छ कि काठमाडौँको जाडोमा यसले खाना पकाउन सँगै आगो ताप्न र कोठा तताउने काम पनि एकैपटक गर्न सकिन्छ । अब म भान्साको लागि पुरै आत्मनिर्भर बनेँ- नेपालमा बनेको विद्युत र ब्रिकेटमा आधारित । मसँग भएको ग्याँसका २ वटा खाली सिलिन्डर प्रयोजनहीन पनि ।
धेरै गरीब परिवारलाई एकैचोटि इन्डक्शन हिटर र भाँडा किन्न महँगो परेमा ब्रिकेट एउटा उपाय हो । अथवा महिनैपिच्छे १,१ वटा भाँडा किनेर पनि आफ्नो भान्सालाई विद्युतमा आधारित बनाउन सकिन्छ। इलेक्ट्रिक केटल मात्रै किन्ने हो र दाल, भात आदि पकाउँदा त्यसमा पानी उमालेर हाल्ने हो भने ग्याँस खपत स्वाट्टै घटाउन सकिन्छ ।
यो एउटा उदाहरण हो कि जारी इन्धन सँकटले कसरी हामीलाई विकल्प र आत्मनिरभरतातर्फको ढोका खुलाईदिएको छ । वर्षौँदेखि हामीलाई घोकाइयो कि नेपालमा वार्षिक १०० मेगावाट हाराहारीमा विजुलीको माग बढ्छ, अहिले यो प्रक्षेपण शायद १५० मेगावाट पुगेको होला । तर कसैले सोचेन कि यदि हाल ग्याँस प्रयोग गर्ने नेपालीका भान्सा विद्युतीय भए भने कति बिजुली खपत हुन सक्छ? पानीको अथाह स्रोत छ, त्यसको उपयोग गरेर विद्युत निकाल्ने हो भने अन्य सम्भाव्यता के के हुनसक्छन्? जस्तै काठमाडौँ र पोखराजस्ता मेट्रो शहरमा सार्वजनिक यातायातलाई शतप्रतिशत विद्युतीय बनाउन सकिन्छ र साना शहरहरुमा साना सवारीलाई विद्युतीय बनाउन सकिन्छ । त्यसको लागि कति बिजुली चाहिन्छ? यसरी नविकरणीय उर्जा प्रयोग गर्दा विश्वव्यापी तापमान वृद्धि कम गर्नमा कति योगदान हुनसक्छ ? शहरको सवारी व्यवस्थापन, सुन्दरता र स्वच्छतामा कति योगदान पुग्ला?
एउटा रासायनिक मल कारखाना बनाउन १०० मेगावाट बिजुली चाहिन्छ, एउटा सिमेन्ट फ्याक्ट्री बनाउन १५ मेगावाट । डेढ सय मेगावाट वार्षिक माग वृद्धिको प्रक्षेपण र सोही अनुरुपको विद्युत उत्पादनले के हाम्रो देशमा औद्योगिकिकरण हुनसक्छ?
इन्धन सहजताको बेला हामीले यी सम्भाव्यताबारे केही सोचेनौँ । अहिलेको सँकटले बल्ल हाम्रो भुराजनीतिक अवस्थितिका सीमा र बाध्यता सँगसँगै आफ्नै सबलता र सम्भाव्यताबारे पनि आँखा खुलाइदिएको छ।
आज जसरी हामी ग्याँस नहुँदा भोकै पर्नुपर्ने आवस्था आयो, यो समस्याको शुरुवात सन् १९९० पछि शुरु भएको उग्र नवउदारवादले सिर्जना गरेको हो । नेपालमा रोजगार पनि सिर्जना नगर्ने, उत्पादनशिल जनशक्तिलाई अरब पठाउने, उनैले पठाएको पैसाले अरबबाटै पेट्रोलियम किन्ने र उपभोक्ताबाट उठाएको राजश्वले राज्य चलाउने अवधारणाको कारण निम्तिएको हो यो दुर्गति । आन्तरिक उत्पादन नबढाउने, रेमिट्यान्सबाट आएको पैसाले विदेशी वस्तु किन्ने र त्यसैबाट आएको राजश्वले राज्य चलाउन सकिन्छ भन्ने अवधारणाका कारण आएको हो हाम्रो अवनति । आफ्नो देशका उत्पादनलाई अनुदान बन्द गरेर अरुका देशमा अनुदानमा उत्पादित वस्तुसित प्रतिस्पर्धा गर्न छाडिदिँदा आएको हो यो सँकट ।
अहिलेको विश्वव्यापीकरणको युगमा हामी सम्पुर्ण रुपमा स्वनिर्भर हुनसक्दैनौँ र तुलनात्मक लाभका क्षेत्रमा जोड दिने हो । तर खोइ त त्यो अहिलेसम्म भएको? जलविद्युत हाम्रो १ नम्बर तुलनात्मक लाभको क्षेत्र हो । तर किन हामी हिउँदमा १६ घण्टासम्म लोडशेडिङमा बस्नुपर्यो? पर्यटन अर्को क्षेत्र हो तर नेपालमा एउटा ५ तारे होटल नथपिएको कति भयो? किन निजगढ अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय विमानस्थल बन्न सक्दैन?
जडिबुटी अर्को तुलनात्मक लाभको क्षेत्र हो तर किन हामी जडिबुटीलाई कच्चा पदार्थको रुपमा मात्र निर्यात गरिरहेका छौँ? के एउटा हर्बल कम्पनी स्थापना गर्न इन्धन सँकटले छेकेको हो?
सिन्धुपाल्चोकको ताम्चेमा बायो ब्रिकेट बनाउँदै स्थानीय महिलाहरु । बायो ब्रिकेट प्रवर्द्धनले गाउँ गाउँमा स्थानीय रोजगारी सिर्जना गर्न सकिनेछ । 
फेरि फर्कौँ इन्धन सँकटतर्फ । बिजुली उत्पादन रातारात हुँदैन तर ब्रिकेट र सोलारजस्ता तात्कालिक उपाय प्रवर्द्धन गर्न केले छेकेको छ? नेपालका पहाडी जिल्लामा मुलतः बनमारा, अन्य झार र झाडीबाट बनाइने ब्रिकेटले इन्धन सँकट सहजिकरण गर्न सघाउन सक्छ । खुशीको कुरा ब्रिकेटको फुटपाथदेखि डिपार्टमेन्टल स्टोरसम्म पुर्याउने मुल्य श्रृङ्खला बनिसकेको छ । अब उत्पादन बढाउनु जरुरी छ ।
म खोक्रो राष्ट्रियतामा पनि विश्वास गर्दिन र मेरा यी प्रयास राष्ट्रियताका लागि होइन, आफ्नो सहजताका लागि गरेको हुँ । मैले किनेको इन्डक्शन हिटरदेखि भाँडासम्म भारतमा बनेका हुन् तर देशमा प्रशस्त विद्युत उत्पादन भएको भए त (या भविष्यमा भयो भने) मेरो भान्सा पनि पुरै विद्युतीय बन्दो रहेछ भन्ने महशुस हुनुले मलाई खुशी दिएको छ । कल्पना गरौँ यसरी नै मागको प्रक्षेपण भएर भटाभट जलविद्युत बन्न थाले भने देशमा कति रोजगारी बढ्लान्? इन्डक्सन हिटर र विद्युतीय रिक्शा, अटो बनाउने कति कम्पनी थपिएलान् ? देशमा अन्य उद्योगधन्दाको विस्तार कति होला ?
तर त्यसका लागि पहिलो अवरोध हाम्रा नीतिनिर्माता र राजनीतिक नेतृत्वको सोचाइ नै हो । विद्युत विकासको जुन निर्यातमुखी सोच छ, त्यसलाई परिवर्तन गरेर उपयोगमुखी नबनाई हामी न त इन्धनमा आत्मनिर्भर बन्न सक्छौँ नत आर्थिक विकास गर्न नै ।
पेट्रोलियम प्रयोगलाई पुरै निषेध गर्न सकिन्छ भन्ने पनि होइन। पेट्रोलियमको सँकट क्षणिक हो र कुनै न कुनै रुपमा हल हुने नै छ तर यो सँकटबाट हामीले पाठ सिकेनौँ भने अर्को केही वर्षमा वा अर्को पुस्ताको पालामा फेरी यो सँकट दोहोरिनेछ र हाम्रा सन्ततिले हामीलाई धिक्कार्नेछन् । राष्ट्रियता र राष्ट्रवादका खोक्रा नारा भजाउनुको सट्टा सम्भव भएसम्म आत्मनिरभरतातर्फ कदम चाल्ने हो कि?
(तस्वीरहरुका लागि राजकुमार राईलाई धन्यवाद।)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Khaptad: Adventures, mistakes and misadventures!

Challenging locals
"You cannot reach Khaptad today".

It was 14.45hrs on October 25 when a local of Chaukhutte of Achham said that.

Early that morning I alongwith my brothers Jiwan and Keshav had set out for trek to Khaptad from Dadeldhura where we were told that shortest way to Khaptad is via Chaukhutte and it takes about 4 hours to reach Khaptad.

Agog to reach Khaptad that day, our excitement was punctured by the locals as many joined to persuade us that Khaptad was unreachable in 4 hours.

"We were told that it takes only 4 hours from here to Khaptad." I said.

"Not even locals would make to Khaptad in 4 hours." Replied locals.

That is when our ego was hurt. We thought that we can trek as fast as locals. And we resolved that we will show them!

After the locals were convinced about our resolution, they helped us in finding local guides.

Alas! Nobody was interested to join us.

Finally, we met an enthusiastic local leader Ram Bahadur Ouji who also happened to be the member of Khaptad Area Tourism Development Committee. He tried to persuade as many people. To his and our dismay, nobody was available. Finally, two teenagers indifferently agreed to join us.  One of them Krishna had been to Khaptad and he would go only if Puran could accompany him. Eventually, for Puran too, it would be a tourist visit. Finally at 15.45 hrs, five of us set out on the trip.
We had to cross the highest hill seen on the horizon called Kala Pokhara. We had hoped that if we could cross that hill in daylight, we could make to Khaptad by 20.00-21.00 hrs.

Picture taken around midnight but before we decided to spend the night in the forest!

Walking with the moon
We realized that we had made the wrong decision of the trek even before the dusk as we were not even half way to Kala Pokhara. This way was particularly tricky as there was not even trail upto Kala Pokhara. Only from another side of the hill would we find a tourist trail. Krishna was immensely helpful to lead us to the top of Kala Pokhara. However, at one point, he also lost the trail and we had to walk longer to catch the lost trail.

It was already 20.00 hrs, the target we expected to reach Khaptad, when we reached the top of Kala Pokhara. We were not even half way through! Walking past the bamboo bush, fear was already looming over all of us. Most pertinent was a bear jumping out of the bush and attacking us. Besides, there were so many foot trails of wild boar that we had to remain watchful all the time.

There was no going back and target was elusive.

Finally reached the Guest House!

Left with no option, we decided to continue walking through the jungle. After Kala Pokhara, Krishna was also overwhelmed in the night that he was of not much help. Even upto Kala Pokhara, he had not much reliable as he would say it takes half an hour to reach a pass or the hill top and it took upto three half hours for us. Luckily, we were within mobile coverage range and Ram was providing us teleguide service.

We walked and walked and walked in the woods and with the moon. The forest was so intense that we were relying on our torch lights for light despite it being the almost full moon night.

The road not taken
By 23.00 hrs, we reached Sahasralinga, another reference point where we took rest for about 20 minutes. It signaled that we have entered Khaptad area and close to destination. This was so beautiful that we hoped to capture few pictures when we return the same route next day.

There was a sign post 50m from where we were taking rest. Too tired to go and see the sign post, we continued to walk in the direction where we were earlier heading. In just about midnight, we found a shade with an adjacent room. This came like an oasis for us. Overwhelmed with tiredness, hunger and sleep, we decided to spend the night there.

At once, we had hoped to sleep inside the room after warming ourselves with fire. However, after lying on the floor, the cold was so pricking that we abandoned the idea of sleeping and spent the whole night by the fire.

The place where we spent the night!
At dawn, we continued our trek to the direction where we were heading. After walking an hour – in fact descending, Khaptad was nowhere in sight. So, I called Ram again.

What bad news do you expect? We had been on the wrong path and we had to return back to Sahasra Linga to catch the right path to Khaptad. Walking back uphill, we realized how we have been doing mistakes after mistakes.

Because of our foolishness not to see the sign post in Sahasra Linga from where we could have reached Khaptad in 1 and half hours, we had invited further troubles.

Mistaken for poachers!
We were in no mood to learn from our mistakes. Instead of coming back to Sahasra Linga despite Ram's repeated request, we tried to circumvent the top and avoid going uphill. We walked North West by making trail ourselves. We had hoped to catch the trail coming from Sahasra Linga.

And there was good news. We could over hear human voices! After 15 hours walking in the jungle, we were hearing human voices other than ours. As we were crying for help, two people were running to us. As they approached closer to us, we realized that they were army men.
We were shocked to know that they had mistaken us for poachers and had run to catch us! Had we not mentioned name of Dila who had reached Khaptad two days ahead of us and was kind enough to help us in managing our stay there, we would have been thrashed by the army men.

Nevertheless, the lieutenant who also happened to be in charge of the army battalion in Khaptad scolded our local guides. It was clear that he was venting his anger indirectly to us.

Finally, he said that he was glad to see us; that we were not attacked by any wild animals; that had we not met them in the right time, we would have reached Bajhang.

Cheerful moments came when we met the team of Dila and knew that we could reach Khaptad in 2 hours. We departed after having some group photos as Dila's team was returning from the trip. Our local guides also chose to return from there as they had Dashain festival the next day in their village.

Piece of heaven!
The Lieutenant was kind enough to assign one army man to guide us. However, the lieutenant probably wanted us to teach some lesson for our previous night's mischief. He told the army man to take us through a trail by a stream. There was literally no trail and we had to keep jumping and skidding by catching twigs of the bushes.

The accompanying army man would say that Triveni is just there but we were so exhausted that we were not taking steps but pulling legs indifferently.

At Ghoda Daune Patan, one of the largest Patans in Khaptad

Finally we reached Triveni Dham and beautiful Khaptad had started. We could see army guest houses. Monkeys had descended on the plain and were basking in the morning sun. The whole Patan ground was submerged in the morning dew. It was like gold being covered with silver.

However, these things were not exciting for us as our only motto was to reach the guest house, have some water and food and sleep. We were so much tired that none of us was enthusiastic to photograph two beautiful wild dogs basking in the sun.

That's the Guest House! The facilities are incredible.
Finally, we reached the destination and real heaven prevailed upon us. We asked for hot water and each of us drank at least one litre of it. We had drank all the water we had carried during the night and we were literally dehydrated. This was followed by hot black tea with fragrance of herbs. In half an hour, very hospitable and humble guest house operator Lok Bahadur Rawal offered us 
magnificently exotic lunch.

Outside warden Office

We were amazed to find such exotic food in such a remote place. This probably epitomized heavenly feel! If food was heavenly, the sleep was more heavenly!

Read Part II: Exploring Mystic Khaptad!