Tea Gardens and Rainbow Trout
A Visit to Lapsiphedi
by Shivani Sarawagi
Nepal has a long history of tea cultivation, now evolving into a commercialized industry benefiting the country economically and socio- economically. Nepal’s climate is well-suited for the growth of tea through most of the country. However, due to historic reasons, most tea gardens are found in the eastern regions of Dhankuta, Ilam, Jhapa, Therathum, and Panchthar. My visit to the tea gardens was nearer to Kathmandu—Lapsiphedi. I will admit that the journey wasn’t pleasant due to the road constructions, which to be fair, is happening everywhere around Nepal. Nonetheless, traveling with my family and friends made the three-four hour car journey so much more bearable, and definitely didn’t make me mind the constant bashing of my head on the window. On reaching the tea garden, I was left in complete awe, making the ride totally worthwhile.
The vast amount of greenery, the feeling of crisp air, and not to forget, the fresh scent of blooming tea leaves had me taken aback. We walked across the flat hills, surrounded by low verdant bushes. The smell following us through the walk was truly overpowering, but at the same time, soothing. Tea had never been something that excited me, but during my visit there, I was overwhelmed by its exquisite nature. I honestly thought I was in Ilam. The local farmers we met were extremely welcoming towards us. They picked us a few leaves, which we then took to a small restaurant located on top of the tea gardens. It was fairly short walk, but one which I will never forget. Walking up, I noticed small insects soaring through the plants. The entire place was silent, all we could hear was nature—the calming sound of the river below us and the whistling wind around the leaves. In the local restaurant, we asked them to prepare the tea we had plucked out, which I can guarantee was one of the best I have ever indulged in. The sweet, aromatic smell made my body warm in the cold weather. To accompany the scenic view of tea leaves and the warm drink was the alpine scenario straight ahead of us with the perfect snow-capped Himalayan panorama. A view no one would want to miss.
After this, we traveled up a bit towards Chisapani. This is where I saw live trout for the first time. The locals who looked after them had created a farm for these fish to grow and live in. It was almost a parallel of terrace farming because of the way they had created the ponds and water containers. The bottom-most was a mere pond in which little baby trout were present. While looking closely in the water, I could see the vast number of fishes living in there. The most amusing part I found was when I threw in a piece of their food and a huge swarm of fishes attacked the food at once, all trying to get a piece of it. Moving up the levels, the concrete containers became smaller and the size of the fish grew immensely larger, some even scaling up to about 25-30 inches. The entire fish farm was almost set out like an organized maze, steps following to the topmost container. There was fresh flowing water throughout the farm to keep the water oxygenated for the fish, and cleaning it at the same time.
These rainbow trout fish had beautiful coloring of blue-green, along with a pink streak on their side, white underbelly, and small black spots on their back and fins. They were torpedo-shaped, and filled with patterns. The locals who owned the farm were also owners of a restaurant and a small shop. By the end of the day, we were famished and craving for good hot food. The restaurant owner kindly made us one of the best Nepali thalis I have ever had. It consisted of rice, dhal, potato, and cauliflower tarkari, green saag, tomato achar, mooli ko achaar, and to top it all up, warm ghee on top the rice. The food the lady had made was exceptionally wonderful, my mouth waters even now when thinking about it. After we all had filled our stomachs with hot food, it was time to head back. Our drive back to Kathmandu was during the dusk, which created a beautiful twilight—the soft glowing light from the orange sky was absolutely mesmerizing!