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Cycling through the Terai

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In addition to the Tharu village tours, you can also learn about real Terai village life by hopping on a bike and just getting lost on the back roads to the east and west of Sauraha. Stopping at any village and asking “chiya paunchha?” (where can I get a cup of tea?) will usually attract enough attention to get you introduced to someone.

In November, when the rice is harvested, you’ll be able to watch villagers cutting the stems, tying them into sheaves and threshing them; or, since it’s such a busy time of year, piling them in big stacks to await threshing. January is thatch-gathering time, when huge bundles are put by until a slack time before the monsoon allows time to repair roofs. In early March, the mustard, lentils and wheat that were planted after the rice crop are ready; maize is then planted, to be harvested in July for animal fodder, flour and meal. Rice is seeded in dense starter-plots in March, to be transplanted into separate paddy fields in April.

From Sauraha, the most fertile country for exploration lies to the east: heading towards Tadi along the eastern side of the village, turn right (east) at the intersection marked by a health post and you can follow that road all the way to Parsa, 8km away on the Mahendra Highway, with many side roads to villages en route. Given a full day and a good bike or motorcycle, you could continue eastwards from Parsa along the highway for another 10km, and just before Bhandaara turn left onto a track leading to Baireni, a particularly well-preserved Tharu village. From Lothar, another 10km east of Bhandaara, you can follow a trail upstream to reach the waterfalls on the Lothar Khola, a contemplative spot with a healthy measure of birdlife.

For a short ride west of Sauraha, first head north for 3km and take the first left after the river crossing, which brings you to the authentic Tharu villages of Baghmara and Hardi. If you’re game for a longer journey, pedal to Tadi and west along the Mahendra Highway to Tikauli. From there, the canal road through Bis Hajaar Tal leads about 10km through beautiful forest to Gita Nagar, where you join the Bharatpur–Jagatpur road, with almost unlimited possibilities. A good route is to continue due west from Jagatpur on dirt roads all the way to Meghauli, though you may have to ford a river on the way, impossible on a motorbike from June/July until at least late November. Don’t overlook the possibility of an outing to Devghat, either.

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