So far in Nepal, I’ve spent a majority of my time in the city, and I was ready for a bit of a change. At the suggestion of the guys at Sherpa Ra Shah Co., I found the lovely Srijana Farm to stay at in Palpa, a region in western Nepal.
Arrival from Kathmandu
From Kathmandu, it takes about 12 hours to get there by bus. I opted for an overnight bus, thinking they would be as comfortable as the ones in South America. This was a poor assumption to make. The buses may be comfortable by local standards, with padded seats and windows; but for a tourist, this is not going to be a pleasant ride. The buses lack suspension, so you feel all the bumps in the road (and there are lots!), and the windows rattle and pop open, blasting you in the face with cold night air. And Hindi music blares over the loud speaker throughout the ride, preventing you from dosing off.
The narrow seats result in you rubbing, and occasionally getting slept on by, your neighbor the whole time, and your knees hit the seat in front the whole time. Packed with luggage, there is barely any room left for the passengers. I suggest to go for the day bus, because at least you can enjoy the scenery and can sleep when you arrive. At least then you only ruin a day, not a day and a night.
But once I arrived in Palpa, I felt like it was all worth it. This region is in the foothills of the Annapurnas and is scenic, with terraced farms and small villages scattered along the hills. Sajan, the botanist for Srijana farm, met me at the bus station in Tansen and took me by motorbike to the farm, which is about 13km outside of town. Although I am terrified of motorbikes and was death gripping the handle the whole ride, it is a pleasant way to enjoy the scenery. The air here is much cleaner and it feels so fresh in your lungs.
I arrived at 7:30am, so it was still cool but you got an amazing view of the Himalaya range. These are nearly impossible to see from Kathmandu, because of the pollution, but also because it’s in a valley. Here, the elevation is higher and you are awestruck by the beauty of these mountains. I think my mouth was just hanging open as I rode along on the back of the bike.
Rural Beauty at Srijana Farm
After about a 30 minute ride (since its all switchbacks and dirt roads), we arrived at the farm. Bishnu, the guest caretaker of the farm, greeted me right away with a hot cup of chai and a tour of the farm. The farm was built 4 years ago, and is a working farm. You can hear the cows mooing and the goats baaing right when you arrive! The vibe here is rustic and rural, and the main house is a homemade red mud structure with several comfortable rooms. And the views! OMG. The farm is on the top of a hill and has a spectacular view of the surrounding valley and hills. In the morning, you can even catch a glimpse of some of the high peaks in the Himalayas.
But my favorite amenity: the hammocks. They have a lovely covered outdoor patio with a few hammocks for the guests to enjoy while overlooking the view. And with a fire pit just next to it, I know I will be spending much of my time here! I can’t wait to see what the next few days have in store for me!
Pace of Life & Daily Schedule
The pace of life on the farm is slow and the day typically starts with the sunrise at about 6am. There are a few permanent employees who live at Srijana Farm and then hired help from the local villages. They have about 20 cows on site, so the first activity for the morning is to milk the cows. I had done this one other time, on a school field trip of all things, so it was very much a learning experience seeing the farmers work the cows. The reward was obviously getting to drink the milk, which is literally as fresh as it can be. Raw milk is thick, like heavy cream, and tastes slightly sour. So they typically boil it and then use it, making for a rich and creamy chai latte in the morning!
Next up on the agenda is watering & maintaining the plants. Srijana has a large garden full of different produce, including lettuce, herbs, zucchinis, squash, pumpkins, and tomatos, all of which require daily maintenance. Srijana is an organic farm, so they need to deal with pests and weeds by hand, requiring a lot of time. They are also trying out many new crops to see how they stand up to the weather and altitude in Nepal, so staff botanist, Sajan, can always be spotted running little tests or checking on the plants.
Aside from cows, Srijana Farm also has 69 goats, 6 chickens and 2 pigs, all of which need to be taken care of and fed. The goats are the hardest, as they are picky eaters and only like certain leafy green trees. The chickens are easy, but if they graze around, they eat all the produce! So the staff needs to keep an eye on them. And the pigs, a rarity in this part of the world, require a lot of water and their pens need nearly constant maintenance. I’ve never really spent time on a working farm before so I was fascinated by all the processes that are happening simultaneously. It’s a lot to keep track of! I was probably annoying the staff by constantly asking questions about everything, but I find it fascinating!
The owners of Srijana own a large portion of the land on their hill, but there are still some individual families who held out and didn’t sell. I had the pleasure of meeting one of the other families when I stumbled onto their property. In typical Nepali fashion, they immediately invited me in and served me chai tea, snacks and food. Nepalis are so welcoming and friendly, its great!
I wound up hanging out at their house for two hours, talking to the family (through their children who spoke English) and getting to know them. They were asking me all about my life (naturally the first question was “Are you married?”) and vice versa. 4 generations live in this one house! The great grandmother, who was 87, kept smiling at me and then the children would say “My grandmother says you are the most beautiful westerner she has ever seen. Even when you eat you are pretty!” So sweet! It was such a lovely afternoon. Getting to know random local people is always a highlight of my travels.
The best part about the stay hands down was the daily meals. Including in the $22 price of the room is 3 home cooked meals, featuring the produce and meat from the farm. They also make their own cheese and home brew their own local alcohol, which only adds to the experience. This is the best perk of the stay, because Bishnu’s wife is an amazing cook. And with such good ingredients, everything is so delicious!
We had roast chicken one night, with fresh vegetable curry and rice. Breakfast included dal baht, omelettes, local honey and homemade hard cheese. I had the best fresh paneer I’ve ever eaten for lunch one day, mixed with a spicy vegetable curry sauce. Bishnu’s wife also taught me how to make momos, or Nepali dumplings. But the highlight for me was the pork. I haven’t eaten pork since Greece, since Muslims are banned from eating it and Hindus often think pigs are dirty. So this was a major treat. Home grown and home cured bacon? YES PLEASE. I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I tasted the grisly, fatty piece of bacon fresh off the cast iron grill. YUM! They realized how much I loved the bacon & pork belly, and proceeded to serve it to me at every meal. They received zero complaints from me :)
My stay has been so great, I can’t say enough good things about the folks at Srijana. This is exactly what I needed and will certainly be a highlight of my trip. The staff is SOOO friendly and welcoming, and will get you anything you could want or need. The accommodations are comfortable (my pillow and blanket was the best I’ve had since Greece!) and the property is spacious, giving you lots of space to roam around. The hammocks, as predicted, were where I spent a majority of my time, and I managed to finish two books while I was here!
Need a way to clear your head and recenter? Stay on a rural Nepali farm for 2 days and you’ll be good as new! These past two days have been such a joy and an opportunity to slow down and relax. I am so thankful for Jason and his recommendations; I never would have done this otherwise. Another win for Sherpa Ra Shah Co.!