Itahari, Dada Pangma and Manebhangjyang
Travelled from Pokhara to KMD on the 12th October. Did a fair bit of Bee related reading on the bus. Kaman Singh was waiting for me at Kalinki Chowk in KMD, but it took about half an hour for us to find one another because Kalinki Chowk is quite large. Eventually I hit on the idea of finding a Taxi driver and getting him to direct Kaman to our location. The Taxi driver brought us together then carried us to Santos and his brother Nabin’s house. Nabin Kaman and I went out for mo mo, a small pastry containing minced meat and herbs steamed and served with ochar or sauce, and to wash it down a nice Tubourg a beer. I slept like a log. The next day Nabin, Kaman and I spent a pleasant day meandering around KMD, more mo mo, more beer, a temple or two, some interesting shopping and home for a very pleasant meal and a tomba prepared by Nabin. The next day, 14th Oct we were due to catch the 04:30am bus to Itahari. I got up at 03:30am for a shower and discovered by accident that Nabin’s shower had a hot water supply. Up to this point I’d been taking cold showers, which were definitely more invigorating but not as thorough. Kaman Singh and I boarded the bus at 04:30 am and arrived at our destination at 06:30pm, 14 hours of travelling. The bus trip was not very comfortable, the seats in front of us were inclined so much that I had to hold my knees at an acute angle and when it started raining I found out that there was a hole in the roof, about 2” x 5’ long above my seat and the seat ahead of me. Water ran down my arm and saturated the seat. We complained to the driver’s mate and he draped a blanket over the luggage rack and window to re-direct the water. Kaman Singh took the seat nearest the window with only a mild protest from me. When we got off the bus for our second to last comfort stop I noticed that Kaman Singh’s jeans were saturated.
Spent the next three days in the Jimi’s house in Itahari . Back to cold showers but I take a perverse pleasure in being brave and dodging under the spray for as long as I can hold my breath. On the 16th all the members of the household had been briefed that it was my seventy second birthday. They laid on a memorable birthday party for me, a large cake beautifully made with candles forming the number 72, drinks, presents and a lovely meal. I have dozens of photos on my camera, all the young people here love handling a mobile phone, and usually know more about how to use it than I do. When I asked Sarkar a few questions about operating my mobile he proceeded to regale me with some amazing insights as to how the phone could be really useful. It turns out that he has, I think it’s the same phone, the Samsung Galaxy which he purchased with the proceeds of the sale of an App he designed at college.
Above is a panoramic view from the roof of the Jimi’s house in Itahari
I arrived in Dada Pangma on Friday 17th October after an eventful ride, from Itahari as a motorcycle pillion passenger. We started off at 06:00 am and arrived in Manebhangiyan at 4:30pm. Our luggage, mostly mine, was loaded on a bus before we set off from Itahari. From Itahari, to Hille the roads were reasonable and tarmac almost all the way, but from Hille on they became worse and worse.
By the time we reached Pakribas, a few miles from Hille they were positively dangerous. I’ve taken a few photographs of the scenery along the way and also of the roads. Somehow they don’t do justice to how dominating the hills were and how extreme the road conditions were. Some sections of this road would be too rough for a Moto X course, they’d slow the action right down to walking pace. We both fell off twice and I almost came a cropper on several occasions, once I lost my grip on the vestigial handles on the rear of the bike and was on my way off the bike, my toes hit the handle bars as I went over backwards and this caused Kaman Singh to brake sharply, this threw me forward again and I grabbed hold of Kaman Singh. I never let go of him again for the rest of the trip! From observation, it’s not “cool” for the pillion passenger to hold on with their arms round the rider’s waist, unless they’re a girl, so with a slight sacrifice of security I, later, modified my hold with one hand on his shoulder and one on the handgrip. During our trip a few miles from Tumlingtar we came to a ford across the river Piluwa the river was unusually swollen so Kaman Singh didn’t want to chance it. Fortunately there was a bridge alongside the ford, unfortunately the last twenty metres or so of the bridge were not complete and usable. Someone had installed, what appeared to me, to be a very rickety set of ladders, down to a platform and then down again to the opposite bank. These ladders were made of bamboo and pedestrians were making use of them. There was a motorcyclist already at the ford when we arrived and he’d given up on crossing that day. Kaman Singh waded out into the river for a few metres then returned and had a brief conversation with the other motorcyclist. The upshot of this was that we rode the 200 metres or so to the bridge and pushed the bike across it to the bamboo ladders, here Kaman Singh enlisted the help of half a dozen young men who lowered the bike down the ladders with a rope tied to the back wheel.
gave the boys the equivalent of £15 for their efforts and I also provided some amusement for them when my body language expressed extreme alarm at various points during the operation. It was obvious that the lads had made this situation into quite a nice little earner. They asked me for 1600 rupees in Nepali and wrote the figure in the mud so that I’d understand. I stood on the figure 6 and offered 1500. After I’d “accidentally stood on the figure 6 for a second time they accepted the 1500 with a grin. From the river Piluwa to Tumlingtar, then Khandbari and finally Manebhangiyan, about 30 minutes’ walk from Dada Pangma, here we were to collect our luggage. Wouldn’t you know it the bus had had mechanical problems. Kaman phoned his brother and a couple of his mates and about ninety minutes later we were on our way with the boys carrying the luggage, 35kgs of it, and K. and I off on the motorbike. We arrived first but not by much because the road from Manebhangiyan to Dada Pangma winds back and forth tortuorously up a very steep hill. Our destination, reached at last, after a long exciting and interesting trip; Ram Badahur and Khinamaya Rai’s home. I was introduced to the family Ram Bhadhur and Khinamaya and their children, Tara, Sujita and grandson Sabhal. Kaman Singh, the eldest son and Raman, the second eldest son, I’d already met, Kaman carried me all the way from Itahari and Raman met us in Manebhangiyan and with his friends carried my luggage up the hill to Dada Pangma. For the next three days Kaman singh showed me around Dada Pangma and introduced me to various people. There were some important football matches in Manebhangjian on the 18th and Kaman and I spent the afternoon watching some very exciting football. Raman was playing on the wing and made the pass for the winning goal. On the 20th Kaman and I went on an expedition to Chainkutty. I’d previously commented to KS, that the view from the ridge, which dominated the eastern skyline from Dada Pangma, would be a wonderful spot to visit and true to form he immediately organised the trip. The view was indeed wonderful. On one side of the ridge Khandbari, Manebhangiyan, Dada Pangma and the other surrounding villages and on the other nothing much except for massive craggy hills and in the background above the clouds the Himalayan Mountains, huge almost beyond imagination. Beyond the foot-hills and the mountains, I don’t know how many miles away, lie Tibet and China.
Because for various reasons the internet is difficult to access from Dada Pagma I’ve decided to date my entries as I make them on my computer, hopefully, this will provide an element of continuity.
So far on my visit t Nepal, due to circumstances beyond any ones control, and including the Dashain and Tihar holidays when nobody’s working, I’ve had to modify my travel plans and instead of coming straight to Dada Pagma stays in Pokhara and Itahari have figured in my itinerary. Any way to cut a long story short, apart from conversations with a couple of Nepali Beekeepers and the purchase of one hive in Pokhara I’ve only just started working in earnest on the Bee project.
I’ve got one hive, the larger version of the Newton, comprising a floor, a brood chamber, a super, (10 wired frames in each), a crown board and a roof. This hive has frames in the brood chamber but I favour top-bars, (more on my ideas on top-bars v frames for A cerana later), and the super is slightly deeper than half the brood chamber, which doesn’t suit my modus operandi either. I need at least 10 hives, to achieve measurable results, although I’d prefer 15 or 20. I also intend to try a “box hive” a la Warre’. I’ll make it to receive the same top-bars as the other hives although this may make it a little larger than the ideal. Some of the literature that I’ve read suggests that 6 to 8 full supers are possible in one season from a well-managed colony of A. cerana. My supers will be slightly larger than those, in said literature, and allowing for losses from absconding and swarming and hoping that I’ll be able to extract as they fill the supers, I reckon on making 3 supers for each brood chamber. I’ll need a feeder for each hive, frames for each super and top-bars for each brood chamber. I’ll also need a centrifugal extractor, this, to preserve combs for the supers and to make the honey easier to harvest with a minimum of processing.
To list the above:
9x brood chambers
6x Box hive boxes
1x Box hive floor
1x Box hive cover board
1x Box hive roof
9x brood chambers
10x cover boards
20 smallish feeders
3x clearing boards to minimise disturbance when removing honey filled supers
10x dummy boards
100 super frames
Some means of centrifugal extraction
Luckily I’ve got nothing else to distract me!
I’m trying to make everything using resources and materials available locally. Materials available nearby include bamboo for hive stands and possibly top-bars, nails, glue, coconut fibre rope, for lashing the bamboo struts together, banana fibre and sawn timber 200mm x 28mm and about 2m long. The sawn timber can be a little warped but we can buy it from just up the road and carry it back to our outdoor workshop on foot. Very thoughtfully, Kaman Singh, Raman and Ram who’s only a few years younger than me, won’t allow me to carry anything. From slightly further afield you can get plywood in 8’x4’sheets and I’ll have to use this for floors, crown-boards and possibly clearer-boards. The idea is that if I can do it then anyone living locally should also be able to do it and fairly economically as well. All my tools with the exception of a pin hammer, have been purchased locally. I will get the extractor made elsewhere in Nepal and the plan is that it will become a communal asset in Dada Pangma. My hosts son Kaman Singh has shown me around and I’ve identified a couple of sites for apiaries of 6 hives each where the colonies will be warmed by the sun in the morning but will be in shade when the sun is at its height. K.S. and I have made a prototype bamboo stand. On one of these sites I’ve placed the stand and the hive brood chamber only, with no frames.
Today we constructed 8 top-bars, 1 brood chamber and cut the sides for one more. Not very productive, but considering the work was interrupted by the need to walk into Manebhanjyang to buy tools we did ok. Early in my stay in Nepal I bought a circular saw and I’ve been trying to work out methods of producing hives fairly quickly, (not quite mass produced but quicker than using hand tools). I fancy that equipment manufacture would be an interesting side-line for someone who’s trying to make beekeeping profitable. I’ve fitted the top-bars to the bait hive, placed on one of the apiary sites, hoping to capture an absconding colony. I was standing in the front garden today watching A. cerana foraging for nectar and pollen when two of them landed on my arm and began nibbling persistently at my (sweaty) skin. I can’t think what they were up to but I told the witnesses that the bees recognised me as a beekeeper and were welcoming me to Nepal.
Kaman Singh and I rode in to Khandbari today to see a friend of his who was supporting a friend of hers who was ill and had been admitted to Hospital. Nepal is not a rich country and friends and family carry out general nursing duties for patients in hospital. When we returned fairly late in the afternoon KS set off with a bunch of his pals to harvest a delicacy from the wild. Oringal, the Hornet we know as Vespa velutina. The boys somehow suffocated the hornets with smoke and recover the nest, which is in the shape of a beach-ball about 15” across, in a sack. About an hour and a half after dark they arrived home and to exclamations of delight, produced the nest. The nest is made of a paper like material and comprises round horizontal plates joined together about an inch apart. The larvae and pupae are incubating in cells on the upper surface of the plates.
Ten or so of us sat in a circle and carefully uncapped the cells then shook the larvae and pupae onto a large woven plate. It took something like an hour and then the ladies took over and cooked the goodies. First they boiled them for 3 or 4 minutes then fried them. The meal was ladled into “duna” a small dish made from the leaves of a particular tree held together by splinters of bamboo. I was a bit squeamish at first but found that the larvae tasted really good and ate two helpings with relish. I must admit I just couldn’t stomach the one or two full grown hornets that found their way onto my duna, they tasted much the same but were oddly tough and crunchy. If famous French chefs were aware of this delicacy, French beekeepers might have one problem less.
Houses in Nepal
Bamboo is an amazing resource in Nepal, and almost certainly throughout Asia. It’s use as scaffolding, sometimes as working platforms and sometimes supporting huge weight during the construction of concrete buildings, amazed me. Whole dwellings except for their thatching can be of bamboo. The walls are generally plastered inside and out with a mixture of soil and cow dung, the plaster penetrates the woven lathes of the bamboo and I’m told is good for at least 10 years. Decking constructed of Bamboo is very strong and allows the rain to pass through if it’s exposed, but in this situation will only last about 4 years or so. The bamboo buildings are often used as living quarters or as barns or cattle sheds.
Most of the fencing encountered is made of bamboo, it’s used to make a wide variety of baskets, furniture, ladders and a variety of canopies. The list goes on!
The walls of most houses are constructed of soil dung and rocks then plastered and painted with a locally obtained whitewash. Upper storey walls are often bamboo thickly plastered. Ground floors are laid with the same materials on top of a bed of rocks and roofs are thatched or quite frequently corrugated galvanised metal. Windows generally have no glass and are fitted with shutters to keep the worst of the weather out. Ram Bahaddur Rai’s house where I’m a guest is a single storey and built as described above. The ceiling in my room is made of 3”+ diameter bamboo lengths laid side by side supported by 3”x4” joists at 14” spacing and on top of that a layer of soil and dung about 5” deep. The very thick ceiling and generous roof ventilation keeps the rooms below pleasantly cool despite the corrugated galvanised covering which would get very hot at times.
In bigger conurbations and along important roads around Kathmandu and the terrai (lowlands bordering India) much housing built since the early seventies is of concrete. The steel reinforcing is I believe not manufactured in Nepal but all the other components are, mostly locally available and calling for only basic transport by tractor and trailer. The structures are generally a set of square pillars supporting one or two floors. The walls between the pillars are often of locally obtainable material or sometimes bricks which may come from a little further afield. Houses in Nepal, especially the concrete ones are generally much more spacious than houses in the UK and have generous balconies and a large open roof flat and ideal for parties etc. Gardens are usually large except in Kathmandu where they are a little more crowded but nothing like a housing estate in the UK.