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Singing and dancing in the Himalayan rain

Updated: Oct 28, 2022

But mainly dancing...

Phakding's Shangrila Lodge delivers just one shower for the group, but more exciting is the chance to try the first Momos of the trip. Go for steamed, not fried and you're away in a hack. A series of splinter groups have formed around the dining room: all terribly amicable and still painfully polite. Those who are rooming together sit close to each other. Nationalities mix in a great big UN of sorts. The group in the corner, a group of six, laugh and offer each other a taste of their lunches. The Momos are very shareable, the RaRa soup, less so. Local women with great big smiles and warmth in their eyes nod from the kitchen as people pass by. They are preparing meals for seventeen hungry souls in a small scullery kitchen amid chatter and happy laughter.

For anyone who hasn't got enough hiking into their legs for the day, there is an additional trek offered for the afternoon. To be fair, the route from Lukla to Phakding is not too onerous and arriving in time for lunch means that there is plenty of appetite for the 'top-up' trek. Weather has closed in and the azure skies are now slate grey. The sky is Irish-looking and the rain falls gently. Everywhere around the hilly village you'll hear the roar of the river as it carves its way through the valley below.

Crossing a suspension bridge, the group, in soft drizzle, head for the slopes on the far side of the river. There, the sinewy path is friendly and doesn't take too much out of anyone. It leads up to a settlement that is surrounded by a field full of ripening fruit and veg. Watermelons sit in their bed of clay: fat orbs of juice that'd make your mouth water. There are beans and peas, corn and cabbage. Every inch of soil is cultivated by these hardy mountain folk who know nature and the seasons so intimately. Dreaming of watermelons, the group leaves the lush little hamlet and returns by the same route. The entire trek only takes around an hour and a half. There is still more left in the tank...

And so someone suggests heading up to the Irish Bar, and nobody has to be asked twice. Pahkding's Irish Bar has an influx of seven trekkers who immediately ask for the music to turned up and begin dancing around the charming bar. It is owned by a local man who doesn't speak much English, not a focal of Gaeilge. Tricolours drape from the walls and wear ink left by legions of passing Paddys who scribbled their names. After 'The Irish Rover' plays out, the sounds become decidedly less Irish (unless Tina was from Turner's Cross?), but they are bangers nonetheless, and the posse continues to dance. The youngest member of the group, a brave and brilliant thirteen year old English boy, plays pool and smiles at the emergent craziness that is spiralling around him. Then someone mentions going outside and dancing in the street. No arms need twisting, the remaining troupe of five assembles in the village street in the lashings of rain and dance. They continue in a brilliant symphony of chaos until the locals assemble in their doorways to stare at the scene. The lovely Londoner, who happens to be a fanflippingtabulous dance teacher in real life, requests the barman to put on some Nepalese music to which the troupe continue frolic about. The locals seem even more amused to see these strangers hop about in a downpour. The troupe invite the locals for a bop, but they decline; content on watching from a distance, smiling and clapping every so often. And all this craic on only one round of drink. It is the first night of the trek and already the group have found their feet. And friendship.

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