From the Danfe guesthouse where we are holed up in the middle of the Ilam tea plantations the sound of the school next door is deafening, but hey there are worse sounds than excited kids.
This morning, after a relaxing breakfast, I wandered past the school and followed a road off the edge of the Ilam spur. The road descended through terraced rice paddies and groves of bamboo for a couple of kilometers, losing perhaps 600m in height.
The first landmark was a giant, ancient, tree, perhaps a fig but my botany is limited. 3 old men sat on the seat below it looking down the valley. The river was roaring below. Size wise it reminded me of the bigger Tararua rivers and made me yearn for a tube.
Just past the big tree there is an archway signifying entrance to the Shred Seti Devi temple. I take this, having heard of the possibility of monkeys in the jungle. I found this one spooky, especially when I descended an old hewn stone stairway covered with creepers to find myself at the mouth of a cave where worn old flags flapped in the breeze of a waterfall. I enjoyed the forest though, and the spot, overlooking a bend of the river. Descending a single track that sidles down from the temple I also found a lively group of birds, slow in flight, with stocky brown bodies but the funniest fuzzy white mohawk heads.
I worked my way down the left bank of the river, sometimes climbing high to stay on the track. At one spot I passed a couple of young fellas enjoying swimming at another an old man crouched on a stone in the river scrubbing his clothes. The old man had a small workshop on the river bed where he sorted or broke up stones to the same size. The butterflys were attracted to this place, yellow and orange specimens fell like leaves from trees. The bigger black type charged around more certainly.
From the track at one stage I could see the tea gardens, far far above. It was much hotter down low and I was pouring with sweat. The next house reached was notable as it had a prime spot in a cluster of fruit trees and m two ponds sitting in front of it. Soon after this was a road which I followed up and around to the spur below Ilam.
Passing time was easy, munching almonds and looking for viewpoints of the gorge below. At one point I was surprised as a goanna like creature rushed from my path, at another my shared desperation with the grasshopper stuck inside my shirt would have been amusing for any onlookers.
Overall a great half day mission from Ilam to check out the local surroundings and I am getting plenty of ideas for the last few days we have before we set off towards Kanchenjunga again.