Tuesday 16 December 2014

Day 178: Dolpo day 9 - Threshing time

Harvest time in Saldang
A half-day's walk brought us to Saldang.  Unlike the encampment of Shey, this was a town, almost a metropolis, Dolpo-style, and we had arrived at one of the busiest times of year, during the harvest.  Groups of women stood in the fields, threshing grain.  They wore waistcoats over long sleeve clothing and striped aprons over long black skirts.  The uniform was regular, like the metronomic sound of their threshing poles hitting the ground.  It continued after dusk, after our soup and dal bhat and cups of ginger green tea had been consumed; threshing must finish before the snows arrive.
Nothing is mechanised in Saldang

In the afternoon we visited the most splendid gompa we have yet seen and added to London Mountaineering Club's collection of gompa receipts.  Then we tried the local shop, seeking beer and chocolate.  Resemblances to Tescos were few.  We climbed a step ladder into someone's bedroom and sat on the bed, looking at a haphazard arrangement of items on a shelf: a few cans of Chinese beer, a pot of vaseline, noodles, chewing gum.  "Do you have Mars or Snickers bars?" Krishna asked in Nepali.  Presumably word went round the village that some white folks wanted chocolate and someone entered with a full refuse sack.  My eyes widened.  We had not tasted a crumb of chocolate since we left Kathmandu and now someone was carrying a whole bag of the stuff.

Villagers threshing wheat
The shopkeeper opened it.  "Chocolate."   Was the word accompanied by a slight smile?  We took a closer look and found heaps of Chinese chewing gum.  Perhaps anything sweet counts as chocolate here.  I shook my head and Guy bought some beer to reward the shopkeeper's efforts.  When he needed change from 500 rupees, the man ruffled around in his bedding for a note, but could not find one.  Then his wife began feeling in her underwear.  Guy eventually received his change from a hidden location and we clambered down the step ladder laughing.

"It's hard to communicate with people here," Krishna told us.  "They don't speak much Nepali, only Tibetan."  Once again, our merchandise had come down the valley from Tibet, not over the pass from Nepal.  I wonder what the Tibetan border looks like and how easy it is for the locals to get permission to trade there.  But perhaps Saldang is largely self-sufficient?  When we left the village next morning, the sound of threshing had already begun.

Colourful field patterns as we climb the trail above Namgung
Yaks on the look-out
At the top of the small pass between Namgung and Saldang
An interesting mix of attire: ancient and modern!
I'm sure Pamela can tell us what these are?
First views of Saldang
Saldang nicely camouflaged amongst the hills
Mani wall on the approach to the town 
It was harvest time in Saldang. Everywhere we looked there were groups of peasants threshing or carrying wheat. 
Their job done for the day, the donkey boys relax
A typical Tibet-style house in Saldang 
Cut wheat ready to be processed
The monastery at Saldang 
Chortens and flags mark the approach to Saldang monastery
Again, we sought entry by means of the caretaker
Books in the monastery 
Saldang monastery
Harvest time
This girl told us that she was 13 but the apron normally indicates marriage!

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