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The ladies of Pasiban

Cathy Cooper, 16 January, 2018
On a recent visit to Nepal, photographer Cathy Cooper's eye was well and truly caught by the bright colours and vivid patterns of the ladies' clothes and jewellery.

After a long uphill trek from Teksingh, we arrived in Pasiban, high in the mountains. Not only does this village have spectacular scenery but the house I stayed in with my companions was managed by the women of the village. As we arrived, I spotted three female herders watching us with interest as their goats and buffalo grazed down the hillside.

After dumping my bags, I walked towards them and waved a greeting. They were surprised and a bit shy. I joined them on the grass and introduced myself by pointing a finger towards my head and repeating my name. At this point Karna arrived concerned that I was teaching them rude words in English.

I asked if I could take photos of them and they agreed. They overcame their shyness and even smiled. As a common courtesy, I always ask permission first and then show the image to them afterwards on the back of my camera.

After lunch I went up the hill above the village house and this woman joined me. I loved the vivid colours and patterns of her outfit against the earthy tones of the hills. We both stood looking out over the view. I was contemplating how lucky I was to be in this idyllic place. I don’t know what she was thinking.

Down below my companions were sitting quietly writing their travel diaries when they were invaded by the herders and their animals. From where I was I could hear a lot of laughter. It sounded like a party going on.

Later in upper Pasiban village, I came across this very elegant young woman hoeing potatoes while her chicken ran around her playing games. She was very stylish and co-ordinated and could have been on the cover of a fashion magazine. Then I noticed she was working in bare feet which made my thermal leggings, socks and sturdy sandals look a tad overdressed.

Across the way, these two ladies were standing by a pond. They looked fantastic. I asked Karna why they wrapped tight cotton scarves around their waists. He told me it was to support their backs when working and when carrying babies.

I was wearing my old Nepalese skirt that I bought in Pokhara many years ago. I always bring it when visiting Nepal. I read once that female travellers get more respect if they wear a long skirt. I’m not sure about that but it makes me feel more comfortable and colourful when surrounded by locals in their gorgeous costumes.

The woman in turquoise took her scarf off and wound it around my waist. To check whether it made any difference I would have to do some manual labour.

I picked up a hoe and started digging the ground much to the amusement of everyone. When I took the scarf off to give it back, the woman tried to make me keep it, but I very politely refused, and fortunately no-one was offended.

We had a laugh at my expense and posed in all our colourful glory.

I admired a woman’s pashmina once in India and she promptly handed it to me and wouldn’t take no for an answer. I must be very careful now not to desire other people’s clothes and jewellery when I go travelling. I did have my eye on that embroidered turquoise pashmina next to me though!

Everyday these young girls walked up from the village to the house to help with the cooking etc.

One evening, they put on a demonstration of traditional dancing for us in the dining room. There was much giggling going on before they started. So, my friend and I got up and showed them how British pensioners dance. That reduced them to tears of laughter, but it broke the ice and the show continued.

The next morning, they had our bags in baskets and still giggling continued down the track.

I missed our time with the ladies of Pasiban. They were great fun and I would have liked to have stayed longer.
Cathy's Adventures in Nepal
Freelance travel photographer Cathy Cooper has been kind enough to share her wonderful images and fascinating tales from Nepal with us. If you've enjoyed reading about her experiences with the ladies of Pasiban, then why not take a look at some of her other stories?
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One of the least visited areas of Nepal, the remote Sailung Valley offers accessible walking and simply awe-inspiring scenery, which only gets better the higher you climb! Share in the deeply traditional way of life of Sailung's peaceful mountain communities as you stay in a series of welcoming village guesthouses.
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