Monday, 25 March 2013

Blue waters, white sand, cool weather – this is Bheri meri jaan

“If you don’t plan, you plan to fail.”

I stick to the saying. However, as always, there are some exceptions. I would better like to quote, “Sometimes serendipity plans and executes the unplanned.”

With no plans and, of course, no expectations we set out for a plunge in the Bheri River on Saturday. Saturday outings have been a part of our ritual to kill the ennui and enliven our spirits.

Madhu on the banks of Bheri River
Bheri and Babai are the life and blood of the Mid-Western Development Region of Nepal. The rivers feed millions, irrigate the fields, wash away the dirt, light the households, and quench the thirst of millions in the region.

Starting from Birendranagar, the nearest point of reach to Bheri is only 15 kilometres away. However, we wanted to keep against the flow of the river and reach upstream. Our target point was Ghumkhahare, a village near Botechaur. 

As we passed Chhinchu, which is 28 Kms away from Birendranagar, and headed to Chhinchu-Jajarkot section of the road, Madhu started pointing to the beauty of the surrounding. The landscape is simply awesome!

Abhijit ready to cook the goat head
On my left side was a dense sal (Shorea robusta) forest while on the right was a vast expanse of wheat fields with spurts of households in between. The lush and green fields were at the point of turning into yellow: the wheat was ripening.

As the SUV was roaring towards the destination, the landscape started turning more and more beautiful – the juxtaposition of blue waters of Bheri River, dense forest, patches of sparse settlements, and wheat fields made the scenery a perfect sight to behold at.                 

On the way we passed through Mehelkuna. The locals have started a rafting service from Mehelkuna, a popular spot for picnicking. Starting from Mehelkuna, the rafting ends at Ramghat, a downstream point, and covers a distance of nine kilometres.

Om preparing salad
We drove for almost one and half hour from Birendranagar to reach Botechaur. We had short stops on the way to look for local chicken which is a delicacy to savour. In spite of seeing lots of chicken here and there we could not make a deal with any of the owners and had to settle in for the broiler variety at last.

We crossed the suspension bridge near Botechaur to reach the other side of the river. The sight below the bridge is a beauty: the water is clear and blue, the sand on the bank is sparkling white, and children playing on the bank seem to be a pattern drawn on a blank canvas.

Sanjeev swimming in cool Bheri waters
Carrying and dragging the loads of supply for the outing was a tedious job in itself. Abhijit carried the heaviest sack with all utensils, a large cauldron included. He was keyed up to exhibit his culinary skills. We walked for more than twenty minutes with the sun above our head, shining to its might.

On reaching the bank of the river, we were awestruck at the serenity and beauty of the place. The blue river was flowing rapidly, splashing white waves on the rocks. The sand and pebbles on the bank were scorching hot and to our chagrin there was not a single place with shade to recline. 

Sparkling white sand and pebbles on the bank of Bheri
Om then came up with his Eureka findings. He found a barren piece of land with few trees nearby to set up our cooking and picnicking. Further he went to a house nearby and brought an armload of firewood to lessen our worries. Kapil, Abhijit, and I had been collecting dry branches of the alien shrub Lantana camarra.

We set up a stove out of stones and Kapil took pains to light the fire. Abhijit started showing his cookery, starting with the goat head. The head was split into four parts and he boiled it till the meat and skull were easily separable. “Detaching meat from a goat’s skull is as easy as peeling a banana,” claimed Abhijit. He was right, it seemed effortless and within minutes our first dish, the fried goat head, was ready.

Set to return after the merrymaking
It was then time for a dip in the cool waters of Bheri. The water was amazingly clean; we could see the bed of the river clearly. As we plunged in, all of our tiredness was gone in seconds. The swim was relaxing and reinvigorating. Our batteries recharged and we were again set and hungry for a sumptuous meal. The food was plenty: a large bowl of fried goat head, a cauldron full of fried chicken, salad, and Wai Wai sandheko (instant noodles mixed with puffed rice, beaten rice, onion, chillies, and tomatoes).       

Eating, swimming, and merrymaking were not the only deeds in our list. My friends fed an old man, tipped a young boy herding cows, and gifted an old woman for her help. Finally, it was time to pack and we left the place with a promise to get there once again.

Resting at the chautari
On the way, we stopped at a chautari (a public resting place) for black tea with Basil leaves. It was tasty and costed only five rupees per glass. While we drank tea, Sanjeev was quick enough to find out the reason behind the early marriage of the girl in the shop. Eloping at an early age is on the rise among the youngsters in this part of Nepal.       

Last pose on the suspension bridge
While crossing the river to board the SUV, I was already weaving plans for future jaunts. I didn’t share the idea with my friends because I know “if you plan a lot, you are doomed to fail”.