Yesterday we trekked from Ilam to the holy lake of Mai Pokhari. The Nepali weekend is Saturday, so we made the most of it, setting off early from the town square after a breakfast of "puddie and alle" (fried bread and curried potato)with milk tea.
We had a full jeep, Dr Colin, Dr Hannah; and her partner Tom who is teaching some English at local schools. Tom had made the acquaintance of a couple of young Nepalis, Cecile and Sandip, who were also keen for a day out.
The jeep part of our trip was short, just ten minutes (maybe 3km). Before we were dropped at a small village (Kibilati bazaar) just before the road to Taplejung finally crosses the Ilam spur and starts sidling around the next valley. The route to Mai Pokhari leads up this spur. Just follow the jeep track (you can drive all the way) and look for tracks that cut the corners. At one stage we followed the town water supply pipe straight up, another time the power lines. Cecile introduced us to the ginger and cardamon plants, my spice botany is sadly lacking. I tried to explain that we get all our spices dried and in small boxes. These are the most lucrative crops for local people as the tea plantations are controlled by big corporates and government.
It took us about 3 hours at a slow pace to reach the lake. A sign at the lake shows it is designated as a wetland reserve (RAMSAR even) which is pretty cool, and apparently there are "warty newts", though we didn't see any. The immediate lake surrounds are forested and there is a good track around it for a short stroll. Don't get your hopes up for a pure piece of nature, this is still a bit low in the foothills...and this is a popular religious site
And just a few photos of the local people of Ilam...this place if full of people! I am writing this from my breakfast shop watching the market day slowly crank up. My adventure plans for today are to descend to the valley north of Ilam where apparently there is a temple with monkeys. Then wander down the river to a confluence and another temple...I will let you know how it goes...