We had seen the beautiful tea plantations, and now it was time to move on and see a slightly different side of eastern Nepal. So we got up, had our breakfast and made our way to the bus stop to catch the 08:00 bus to Dharan.One of the pluses of visiting eastern Nepal around monsoon season is that the views you get are unparalled. The slight fog that sweeps over the hills and across the valleys at times, also give the region a real mystical aura. However a very real issue with this season, is the rain. The rains can really disrupt travel. The 08:00 bus never arrived, and the 09:00 bus arrived just before 10:00. Visitors should be warned that being on a strict schedule for these parts is not the easiest. I certainly wish I had more time or (and) money because relying on public transport was eating into my already pressed schedule.
Suma and I discussed waking up early again to see if we could enjoy a better sunrise, but the cloud cover the night before made us doubtful of our chances, so instead enjoyed a nice lie in. We had a leisurely morning, got our stuff together then bade goodbye to Shree Antu. Our farewell was just as ceremonious as our welcome, and I was presented with a little bouquet of flowers. We got into a shared taxi from the center of town and headed towards Kanyam.We dropped our bags at our homestay and had a quick breakfast before setting out for another day amongst the gardens. The homestay had a different feel to the first, with this one being on the high street above a shop. So as you can imagine, less quaint than Shree Antu, but it was perhaps a better reflection of the living standards of most people in Nepal which was interesting.The sun was out so we decided to walk to the tea plantations rather than taxi. We followed the weaving mountain road flowing out of town, passing through several little village centers and the occasional house set into the slopes. There is a real fondness for colorful one-story houses with rose gardens and picket like fences in eastern Nepal, which, set amongst the backdrop of eternal emerald hills, is extremely pleasing on the eye.After an hour we arrived at Kanyam’s famous gardens. The tea plantations are owned by the state meaning they are better maintained than in Shree Antu, and are absolutely breathtaking. It was here that Suma revealed he used to study photography at university and that he was also employed by Indra Homestay as a photographer for the website.So armed with his camera, we bounded into the gardens and began to roam its winding paths. You could see families picnicking in little openings between the bushes, couples handholding and getting lost amongst the fauna, and of course, Asia wouldn’t be Asia if there wasn’t a seemless tide of young groups clambering through the fields all taking selfies and attempting to get the perfect instagram or profile picture.We wondered for a good two hours before noticing the time and we were still nowhere near ready to leave just yet. It is so easy to lose track of time here. We were a little parched however so we made a b-line for the road and the stalls. Hmmm what to have?We sat there sipping our green tea enjoying the panoramic views and chatting, comparing university life, when we suddenly heard the sound of tires screeching and an orchestra of car and bike horns. Just to our right, a truck that had been transporting tea had dropped some of its cargo. 14 20kg bags of tea were strewn across the mountain road and had caused a pile up.A few of us bystanders ran over and started shifting the bags to clear up the traffic. Most of the bags were undamaged, but one hadn’t been so lucky. It was torn open from top to bottom spewing tea leaves across the road. The driver came over with some gaffer tape, sealed the bag and then walked off back to his truck, leaving the remains lying in the road. Apparently the tea outside the bag was no longer his issue and he drove off.Before I knew what was going on, everyone was up and had left the street. I was left standing alone by the remnants.It was as if the volume had been switched to mute, and I could the feel the surroundings gradually sliding into sepia tone. I was in a ghost town from a Western after some great tragedy had befallen the locals. I could practically see the tumble weed sweeping across the road (although looking back that might have been the tea).Seconds later people began reemerging from their houses and the color started returning. One man came out carrying a wok, another with a big floppy sun hat, and one woman had a basket under her arm. What was going on? The noise levels began to rise and I could hear the stampeding of rushing feet. Suma came sprinting out of a restaurant with a plastic bag followed by other locals all carrying one of their own. Oh. Now I saw. The tea was apparently up for grabs.A few minutes later, Suma and I were walking down the lane back towards our homestay with 250g of Ilams finest loose leaf green tea.We headed back to the homestay via some more tea gardens, stopping along the way for a couple more pictures. We also popped in to a local café to grab another tea, going for black tea with lemon and honey this time, as well as a little restaurant where we ordered noodles with egg. As we waited for the food, I struck up a conversation with some of the local lads outside who are playing a game on a table outside. You will see these tables everywhere in Nepalese villages, with groups of men surrounding them. I didn't catch the name but it is like a mix between pool and air hockey, were players flick some sort of disc at their respective colored discs, trying to knock them in to pockets. It is surprisingly addictive to watch and as I found out, even more addictive to play. It was just a shame my ability didn’t match my enthusiasm.We spent the evening exploring the village we were staying in, and in particular trying to hunt down a nettle soup that Suma highly recommended. He learned that I was a vegetarian and he wanted me to taste a different local delicacy. Most homestays will not serve it due to a lack of demand however, so we would have to look elsewhere. We spent the next half hour popping into people’s homes and opportunistically asking people if they were cooking it that night and if we could join them for a bowl. This was such an incredibly strange way to spend the early evening and definitely a little outside my comfort zone. You’d be considered insane if you tried something like this in the UK. People were extremely friendly about it, but unfortunately no one was cooking any that night. So admitting defeat we went to a nearby restaurant and ordered Daal Bhat and a Gorkha beer.
With smooth ride, we reached Kanyan at 8:40, which is also known as the paradise of eastern Nepal. If anybody chooses single photo of Ilam that must be Kanyam tea garden along with surrounding landscape and crossing highway. Small portion of Mount Kanchenjunga is also visible from there. After spending quality time, we left for Shree Antu.After moving from Kanyam to Antu via Phikkal, we stopped after few minutes to get some gift to our Bike owner dai ;) in nearby roadside shop crossing the way, bought something, packed it, crossed back the road, Sunil jumped in the bike, I unloaded the bag and rested it in the back seat of the bike to keep that gift inside. Immediately after, Sunil moved the bike forward, I thought he moved it just because the bike was parked in the turning but he kept on moving in full speed, I called but the voice didn't reach him. I was left on the roadside.