The four of us took a bus up to the place. Some of our friends from Rantepao joined us for the day, wanting to go for a hike in the area. We found this sign along the road and followed the trail up the hill. The trail- it was more like a dirt road but somehow it seemed to get longer every time I walked up or down it.
Moma Siska's place is pretty primitive. But that's what's charming about it. It's basically Gilligan's Island. The whole part of the house we were in was made of bamboo. The floors were pieces of bamboo broken into ribbons. The whole thing would shake sometimes as you walked through it. About a third of it was more normal wood construction; the bamboo part had been built on later.
You get three meals a day and a place to stay and you pay her "whatever you think it's worth". We all paid about 20,000rp apiece. She would wrap up a mess of Mee Goring (chow mein) in these paper wrappers, sortof wax paper on one side, and you'd unwrap it for lunch and it would still be warm.
At night, she would cook up pumpkin soup and rice and something else simple. On this kitchen. You're looking at a stove, basically an open charcoal fire. There was no chimney, instead the smoke rose up, hit the ceiling which was the same as the roof, and went up. At the peak of the roof there was a hole for the smoke to escape. It was all black from the area of the stove to the escape hole.
We would all sit on the floor and she'd pass around bowls of the food. Typically there was a few other people there; some other travelers that we got along with well. It was a community, like a little family, and it was fun.
One night, Dave saw an old guitar hanging on the wall. He took it down and futzed with it. Many of the strings were broken. He rearranged them and got a playable guitar and started playing and we were all singing. We were all bad at singing but it was fun.
The first night, I went to take a shower at the mandi. In this place, the mandi is in a bamboo sortof outhouse, about fifty feet from the main building. Well, I was pretty new to mandis, and it was raining, and her roof on the outhouse was pretty much a layer of leaves, pretty much vines sortof wrapped around horizontal pieces.
The mandi part was like this: you take a mandi from a building, and break it and throw the big pieces on the grass so they aren't fitting together, but they're roughly in the right arrangement. Meanwhile in the room with me were these tubs of water and somebody else's clothes in them. This is at night, by flashlight.
So I spent all this time with soapy feet, sliding along on the surfaces of the porcelain, which were never level. Trying to not fall into the toilet and to not fall into the people's clothes. It was a challenge and it took a while. When I was almost done, I heard them call out to me to see if I was OK. (There was basically no solid walls between us.)
When I got back they were basically laughing and making fun of me. Moma was there with the guitar singing "Allan, Allan, mandi for a hour". It was funny, even for me.
* Me, salvaged from an exposure disaster.
A lot of what made the place fun was Moma herself. She was spunky and fun and had a good sense of humor. We told her about our experience with the guide to the funeral. I remember her describing guides as "big mouth, little brain". She was just funny.
She was basically living off the land and we were along for the ride.
She had coffee plants right on the property, reachable from the back porch.
And probably there were pumpkins out there.
You could have fit a good twenty people there;
it's just a matter of how nice the rooms are that people got.
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