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The Photoless Photography Blog Post - Part IV

From jungle to juniper and back again, we successfully traversed the Langtang Valley. It was epic, steep, cold and fraught.

Our second trek was made all the more difficult by sickness and the erroneous budgeting of both money and toothpaste. It was certainly tight, but fortunately for our gums and stomachs, we didn’t run out of either. The toil paid big with monkeys, glaciers and an unexpected cuppa in a monastery with a trio of Tibetan monks. A situation that arose after we befriended an affable teahouse owner on our way to Kyanjin Gompa. She plied us with bubble gum and without any heed to the advice given to us as children we followed the strange lady back to her house. Stopping abruptly with her weathered finger outstretched and pointed toward a rustic looking shack she claimed excitedly ‘There’s monkeys in there!’ before striding purposefully through the gate with a generous bunch of mustard greens in hand. Exhausted and expecting grey langurs, we follow. Instead, we were greeted with a cosy kitchen and a group of maroon clad monks, one of which had the kettle on.

Yes mate.

‘No money, we’re monks!’ the man cried as Damaris rifled in her purse for two brews worth of rupees. Luckily, after a couple of months in Nepal, we’re now the kind of folk who don’t leave home without a few ounces of buffalo ghee in their rucksack. Hand churned by yours truly on a cold Chitwan morning several weeks prior and ensconced neatly in tupperware, we presented them with our buttery gift and they accepted the ghee with glee. We were delighted too, to have traded an unforgettable experience for something hand crafted. All that lactic acid was worth it. Cultural win.

Using physical cash brings joy to my heart and was one of the unexpected pleasures of visiting Nepal. No bloody contactless payments. A process, which in my mind, aims to separate the act of spending from the amount of funds available to you and is no doubt training a whole generation of financially illiterate people. Even the name riles me, there’s no such thing as a contactless tap. To prove it I tried to get my wife’s attention with one for an entire hour the other night, by which point the sausages had burnt and were inedible. Thanks capitalism.

After two months of consuming mostly carbohydrates we’ve become daal bhaat connoisseurs. The staple Nepali dish of rice, vegetable curry, pickle and lentil soup is open to many different interpretations and across the spectrum we’ve sampled a hearty rainbow. It’s both inexpensive and healthy, but the very finest bit about daal bhaat is the endless refills.

“When out of the mist came a beast more stomach than man”
- Captain McAllister – The Simpsons, 1992

So here it is, our definitive and completely subjective list of the TOP 3 DAAL BHAAT IN NEPAL. Anyone unfamiliar with the numbering system should acquaint themselves with prestigious 1980’s game show, Bullseye:

INNNNNNN three - Himali Kitchen, Kathmandu
The first meal we ate upon arriving in Asia holds a special place in my heart. Convinced that Nepali food would be laced with nuts (I’m allergic) or crammed with bacteria that’d give me the squits, it was a relief to eat a meal that had neither. Served on traditional brass plates with a chalice of soup, it’s a solid daal bhaat on solid kitchenware.

INNNNNNN two - Anjana’s Kitchen, Adhikari Farm in Chitwan
Anjana makes this twice a day, every day. She’s a pro. It’s home made, comforting mum food and the high watermark that her children will forever judge other meals by. Green beans and mustard leaves picked from the garden, sautéed in spices with a cup of freshly squeezed buffalo milk. Delicious, all organic and packed with nutrition, it’s more like medicine than a meal. Thumbs are firmly up.

INNNNNNN one - Thakali Kitchen in Pokhara
Technically a thali, this technicolour daal bhaat is so flavoursome it’s like a disco in the mouth. A multitude of different pickles accompany a highly spiced curry and a mound of verdant spinach. There’s even a dollop of tamarind jam with the stone to suck on for a pudding mouthful. Ruddy great.

Living differently for two months has allowed me the opportunity to re-assess my lifestyle, break a few bad habits and hopefully form a few good ones. My twenties were spent working exhaustively; overnight, weekends and mostly in dark rooms under relentless air conditioning designed for machines and not people. Not good for a chronic eczema sufferer. A break has been good for my brain to reflect on what I’ve done well thus far and what I haven’t. I’ll always work hard but now I’m ready to work wise too.

Right then, there’s just enough time for a quick stop at Himali Kitchen before some frantic packing and the realisation that we might’ve over indulged in cashmere and copper kitchenware. The souvenir haul is extensive, including a hand painted teeth sign purchased from a confused dentist, it’s weathered appearance a good indicator of what might happen to us should we stay, a brick with the word SUPER on it and a ceramic resistor that’d fallen off a pylon.

That’s yer lot, the Nepal adventure is at an end. It’s sad to leave but exciting to return home to embark on the next phase of my career. We came to Kathmandu, we Kathmandid and now we’re Kathmandone.

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