On Wednesday we got ourselves out of bed once again and made the short trek to what has now affectionately been named ‘Sunspot.’ While the mountains in view of our own Sunspot in Dublin may not be as grand, the meaningfulness of both places holds a place in our hearts. We soaked in the sights and sounds for a bit and then as we found contentment began to individually head back to the school. Clare joined Jay, Emily and me as we detoured to visit a family living a few steps off the path. The father owns a shop in the village and his two daughters have been students at HIC. As is customary we were treated to a cup of chai and took a quick tour of their home and garden. Probably most impressive thus far on the trip has been the hospitality extended to us whether on a planned visit or random drop-in.
This morning we watched the assembly of the youngest students. They recited the same prayers and pledges and then individual kindergarteners and preschoolers would stand in front of their classmates to recite a poem or song in English. You can’t help but smile as each one, with all seriousness and resolve, delivers their lines. Just mini versions of ourselves hoping to impress and please their teachers. We then headed off to classes for the morning to get our final experience of daily life at the Himalaya Inter College.
For the afternoon we rode into the nearest large village, Berinag. It’s about a 30 minute ride along winding mountain roads. The main village itself is visible from the school, especially at night, as it sits on an adjacent hill along the same ridge looking into the valley below. The main street in the center of the town extends for about a half mile and is lined with various shops and cafes. It is busy, but by no means at the level of the big cities like Delhi and we found it easy to walk around. There is one bank and the ATM and it is a very popular spot with a line extending into the street. Cam headed to procure some cash while the rest split into groups to explore and shop. We were escorted by three girls from HIC and they assisted by helping to find the best deals. Most of the shops were similar to what we know as the ‘convenience store.’ They had a few of everything from snacks and sodas to various sundries like toothbrushes and soap. There were also a couple of produce markets filled with local fruits and vegetables, a hardware store, mechanic and furniture store offering only the finest plastic chairs available. The boys ventured to the top of the street and were treated to pekora, a fried cauliflower treat. It would appear that deep frying extends to virtually every culture and we relished the ‘fast food’ taste. At the bottom end of the main street is the original marketplace and it is here that we found more traditional products for sale. There were handmade baskets, ropes and hand forged items. While novelties to us, they are offered as necessary items to the local farmers surrounding the village.
About halfway between Chaukori and Berinag lies the home of our guide Tarun, who had led our hike a couple days back. We stopped to visit his and his parent’s home and farm and shared a wonderful lunch with them and several of our friends from the HIC. It was our first time not eating in a cafeteria and the food was a more traditional representation of what the people in the area eat. It was a pleasant visit and the family took great pride in opening their home to our group.