You make me feel like Tansen

Posted: January 5, 2011 in Nepal
Tags: , , ,

We were gutted to leave behind Pokhara but had an excellent last night. Keshab invited us for dinner with his family and we had a lovely time wolfing down their veggie thali and learning more about Nepali life from Govinda. We then had a few hours to enjoy the Street Festival, indulging in street game classics like tin can alley and giving the live music a shout. Alas the live music sounded like cats in a blender. As we left early on Friday morning, Govinda tied traditional Hindu good luck cloth around our necks in a touching farewell. Muneeza had to hold back the tears (no Mick Hucknall gags please).

To the mountains once more

Tansen lies in the Palpa district in Southern Terai. At 1,372m elevation it is nestled in the mountains and nicknamed The White Lake because most mornings the valley below is hidden by a blanket of dense mist. The arduous bus journey from Pokhara took 5hrs to cover just over 100km. We were dropped at the intersection with the Tansen road and had to take a jeep taxi up to the town. That was rubbish and nausea set in as we were thrown around the windy lanes like an uncontrollably large pair of breasts in an ill-fitting bra.

The trusted Lonely Planet says that “rarely will you hear a bad word said about Tansen”. I’m not really sure what there is to say that is positive. I don’t mean to sound disingenious to the inhabitants who are generally friendly, but it’s not a pretty place. Tansen is freezing cold, dirty, grubby and oh so noisy.

Sleep deprived and feeling depraved

Accommodation options aren’t great up in the mountains of Palpa. We checked in to the shabby Gauri Shankar Guest House. The rooms looked ok but hindsight is a wonderful thing and we wish we had never made that decision. After 2 nights with almost zero sleep, no hot water and often no water at all, frozen limbs from the open windows and a general feeling of desolation, we checked out and found somewhere to restore sanity.

What irked us the most was that the rooms were expensive. Our room was meant to be R850 ($12) but nothing worked. We pointed this out to the manager but all he did was drop the price to R800. When he said “see you again” my reply was somewhat barbed.

New Year’s Eve hike to Ranighat Palace

The one shining light and our sole reason for coming to Tansen in the first place. Ranighat Palace is a ruined baroque palace on the banks of the Hindu holy river of Kali Gandaki. It was built by a prominent politician in honour of his wife’s beauty, mimicking the story behind the Taj Mahal. The politician was exiled after am abortive attempt to seize power and the durbar was stripped of fittings and left to ruin.

We picked up a map from the helpful GETUP Tourism Office in Tansen and headed off early New Year’s Eve, around 07.30. The hike makes its way up the steep streets towards Shreenagar Danda, the large hill overlooking the town. From there you follow a relatively well marked trail for 7km to the infamous palace.

The trail is peaceful and stunning. At first you snake your way down to the valley floor through small villages and down roughly cut shortcuts. At each village we stopped for a polite chat and asked for onward directions.

The path then follows a rivulet and makes its way down the valley, beset on both sides by imposing cliffs. The flora is wonderfully diverse with the relaxing sound of the trickling water stream to lull you into a peaceful reverence.

After 6km the path forks and the right turn takes you down towards the river bed. At this point there is a deep gorge to your right and steep cliffs, with frequent waterfalls, to your left. It is so remote that you can’t help but feel thrown back in time. There were no tourists the entire time, only local villagers tending flocks or harvesting grass.

We arrived at the palace around 11.00 and took in the sights. The palace, though faded and jaded around the edges, still looks impressive and you can imagine how majestic it once looked. the river bed and valley is a razzle dazzle of rich colours.

After enjoying the views we sat down in the only tea house in the village of Ranighat and enjoyed a feast of veggie thali from a housewife. It was quaint to sit and watch her cook on a traditional clay stove fuelled by chopped wood.

The return path was the same except we were gifted increasingly heavy rain, so that by the time we reached Tansen we were thoroughly soaked and a bit grumpy.

Hotel California

For us Tansen was the place we could checkout anytime we wanted but could never leave. The night we got back from Ranighat, as we packed ready for the border crossing to India the next day, I was hit by another vicious attack of the bum wee.

Instead of hitting India on New Year’s Day we checked into Hotel White Lake for some creature comforts – a warm, clean room with TV and free Internet. We updated the plan to leave the next day if my insides would allow it. We woke the next day and I felt fine but my darling succumbed do the dastardly bug. So, another day was added to the Tansen stay. Luckily for me one of my client’s had asked me to do some work, so instead of festering in bed I earned some dollars to cover some of the additional flights we’ll need in India. Every cloud etc.

And so, finally, with no further deliberation, we awoke on Monday 3rd January and hopped on the bus to Sunauli and the Indian border. The next stage of our adventure was set to begin.

love jamer & muneeza x

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