Thursday, August 11, 2016

Day 5: Hiking to the Apple capital of Nepal

Marpha, a cute little village nestled between the Dhaulagiri and Nilgiris peaks of the Annapurna, is about an hour or two walk from Jomsom. It is considered the Apple capital of Nepal as the main crop cultivated here are Apples grown on the banks of the Kali Gandaki. The entire hiking trail is dotted with Apple farms as one walks peacefully from Jomsom without any exertion whatsoever owing to the relatively flat lands enroute. This being the start of the season for Apples in these parts, it was also a great sight to behold as we saw every tree on the path ladden with the Green and Red fruits in various stages of ripening. One could even pick a fruit or two off the tree and eat on the way with only the Kali for witness as most farms were deserted and void of any human vigilance.

As my luck would have it, we got ourselves a Vegetable vendor (who was going to pick his produce from Marpha to sell at Jomsom) as our porter/guide. One could also hire a bike or take the local bus and reach Marpha in under 20 minutes but considering the fine weather, we decided to hike all the way. Our porter, it turned out, was a great talker and he kept chatting all the way whenever I fell in line with him. Thanks to him, we reached Marpha in what seemed like just 30 minutes.

The tiny village was a sweet surprise right from the word go. As with almost all towns here, the outskirts of Marpha had a monastery and prayer wheels welcoming us. The town, shaped in a kind of semi circular shape curving away from the main road, was straight from an exotic vacation postcard. Narrow pathways lined with pavement stones, flowing water underneath, stone houses attached closely to each other on either sides, flat roofs stacked with wood, and a sense of peace and calm that one could never find anywhere else in the world. Oh, heavens! As with my previous post, it would be better if the pictures do the talking.

But before that, I must let you in on a secret jaunt of mine to the Horticulture department in the area in the guise of an Apple farm visit. You see, I made our porter promise me to take me shopping with him when he goes off to buy his goods. And my specific request to him was to get me as many seeds as possible. The kind man that he was, he not only took me to the Horticulture dept (aka Apple farm aka Vegetable Garden aka Market), he also introduced me to the officials. An hour or so of great talking ensued with me emploring them for all kinds of seeds while they kept going off track chatting about their experiences of India. At one point, they even got highly amused at my eagerness to get seeds from Nepal to India (meaning what seeds do you want to take all the way from here to Bangalore that you won't get in India was their question). I finally managed to convince them to sell me some seeds after making them understand the difficulty of getting pure native seeds (they don't usually sell any seeds though; the seeds were for their own growing in the dept garden). I walked away a happy customer with a quarter kilo seeds each of Mustard Sag (a special kind of leafy green with huge leaves), Nepali Radish (which grows 2 or so foot long) and Swiss Chards. Now I just can't wait to get back home to get them going in my balcony.
It's totally another concern whether customs at the Indian airport will allow it!!!

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