Kanchenjunga Expedition- Tapleyjung Nepal(Day 6 to 8th)

The shop alongside our hotel. It was a video cum music parlour and you could get a wide collection of Hindi films and hindi film music from here besides Nepali. Here Mahinder shows the camera viewfinder to a baby in the shop.

26 August( Tapleyjung)
Amitabh, Gary and I are allotted one low-ceiling, sqarish blue and green coloured room on the first floor of the Darjeeling Guest house. There are three beds joined together and I sleep in between Amitabh and Gary. Wooden plants stand horizontally on all the three sides that make for the walls. Outside our room is a small balcony that looks over the street and the shops below. I wake up to the incessant crowing of a cock . I am still sleepy as I make my way to the loo. The loo is rudimentary , divided between the bathoom and the toilet and shared by us all shacked up here. It is understandably dirty and the toilet smells of urea.

The small Tapleyjung town in Eastern Nepal looks like any other sleepy hill town in India. The streets were usually empty of men.. they having gone to the bigger cities particularly Darjeeling for work.

There was a plan for hiking but for fear of the Maoists it has been aborted. Now until the helicopter comes we have to live in Tapleyjung. The helicopter will come around the 31 or 1st September but their arrival depends on the weather.

The next morning I  wake up with some of the bones in my back aching. There is a bump in my head from banging into the low entrance of the bus. The knees are hurting too but I hope I will be fine in a dew days time. What intimidates me more than anything is the thought of taking this horrible road back to Ilam after our expedition is done. (Thankfully we fly back in a helicopter). I go to the Tapleyjung bazaar in search of an internet café and am surprised to find one. It is a single computer set-up with a dial up network and I was amazed that it was reasonably fast. Hindi songs play in music shops. There are posters of Aishwarya Rai and other bollywood stars in homes and shops. Apart from the predominant presense of Gurkha men Tapleyjung could be any sleepy Himachali village.

A woman with a baby in a balcony in a house in Tapleyjung.

There has not been any good light uptil now and I am resigned to either postpone shooting or shoot in the diffused light of an overcast sky. There are no panaromic views from Tapleyjung and I cannot think of getting up early to take shots of the sunrise. All that I can do is take shots in the bazaar of the people there. There is still scepticism about going out in the bazaar so I am a little circumscribed by the army’s concerns of safety and danger.
I must mention that the food here is as bland as one can imagine. There are no onions or tomatoes in the preparations and the dal is just water with a few floating lentils. They say food at the base camp will be good as there are cooks with us and the food supple we have is enormous.

Balcony scene in Tapleyjung

27-28 August,2004
It rains incessantly for these two days and everyone is saying its lucky we arrived before it poured. However a resident of Tapleyjung whom I spoke to told me that three buses come and go from Tapleyjung everyday and rain like this dosent hamper public transport. There are however no personal vehicles and understandably so. Some small jeeps however ply the horrible route.

The locals here seem to breed ducks in large numbers. I saw ducks also on the way to Tapleyjung. In Tapleyjung there are half a dozen of them right below our lodge. There are no water bodies for them to wade and they strut around awkwardly on solid earth. Watching them I realise why anyone with a funny gait is said to `walk like a duck’. The house opposite from us has a hen that is looking after a brood of around a dozen ducklings. The ducklings are almost half her size already .

The town is quite except for the occasional barking of dogs, the hoarse quacking of the ducks and the crowing of the cocks. A steady stream of low noises of hammering and sawing also emanate from a workshop nearby that makes furniture. I have seen some more shops in the bazaar that manufactures furniture. I wonder if it is the close proximity to the trees in the forests or whether Tapleyjung is the furniture mart of the near and far towns.


Besides carom , chess seemed to be a favorite game with the residents of Tapleyjung. This is just as well. In this sleepy town you had all the time in the world to wait on the next move from your opponent .

The weather remains overcast and the rain drums steadily on our corrugated tin roof. On Saturday I shave off my head. The two barber shops in the middle of Tapleyjung is where I go. Gary shaves his head with the other barber butnot before shooting me on film. It feels funny touching ones head after the shave. Feels like touching not yours but someone elses head. The scalp is delicate, soft and seems as fragile as an membrane. As for the looks I don’t look bad at all. In fact I seem to look rather appealing even though with the hair shorn off my head looks a wee bit bulbous.


The shopkeeper who insisted i shoot from top of his house. The view was not so good but he gave a close glimpse of his home.

I shoot more than half a roll in the bazaar after my shave (I also shave my face) The light is diffused but I try to make the best of it. A shopkeeper accosts us in the bazaar and tells us of a good view from somewhere high. I follow him and when I reach the point proposed all I could see are roofs. I take shots of the man instead. On the way down the gully I ask him to show me his house. He has tiny three rooms. One of which is converted into a puja house. He is a Brahmin and the red mark with some rice grain stuck on his forehead  proclaims it as much. He also introduces me to his wife who guards the shop.

The local cobbler

Later while waiting for Amitabh to get his shoe fixed up I get to shoot an old indifferent man in an open window with some bubby children in a balcony alongside. I take around 10 frames and I hope they come out all right. I still haven’t made any calls back home ever since I arrived…
We watch some movies on the laptop. I don’t like any of them. `Vertical Limit’ was too overdramatic.

One Response to “Kanchenjunga Expedition- Tapleyjung Nepal(Day 6 to 8th)”

  1. pankaj anand says:

    I haven’t traveled much till date but your writing is giving me a good experience of what to expect from places. Would love to visit some sleepy hill town in future

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