Every time a thought of a hike or a trek comes into my mind, I get excited. Although, such trips end up with the aching body and burning legs, the memories and experiences acquired then after are rewards for life time to cherish. A trek to Everest Base Camp back in December-2009, hikes in different hilltops around Kathmandu valley and some parts of Nepal at different times have only increased my appetite for travelling on foot.
The plan of hiking to Chisapani was long due as I had been considering it since a long time. The plan materialized this time as a part of Nepali New Year celebration along with my colleagues at Clean Energy Nepal. On 2 Baisakh, 2069 (13 April, 2012) the ‘team CEN‘ (Amita, Andrea, Anjila didi, Deependra dai, Dipesh, Manjit, Pabitra, Prashanta, Suman and myself, the ten of us) embarked on a two day expedition(!). The one hour bus drive from Purano Bus Park in Kathmandu to Sundarijal felt like a never ending ride, especially because the bus moved in a snail’s pace and we were mulling over to start the official hike right away.
It was already 10:30 am and the scorching sun was right over our head as we began the hike. The trail with stone stairs alongside an immense pipe that supplies drinking water to Kathmandu became steeper as we proceeded. I had read somewhere that there are two million staircases in route to Chisapani. I tried to count at the beginning (!) but quickly refrained as the thought of finishing the two million counts seemed to be a crazy task. Then came the gate of the Sivapuri National Park. While buying the entry tickets we were asked; where were we going? How many of us? Is there a booking in the lodge in Chisapani? Which route would we return and so and so. I was puzzled and amazed why the army man needed unnecessary details while some people escaped into the national park without buying the tickets.
Further uphill, after crossing the reservoir that supplies drinking water to Kathmandu we came across a sign that said Chisapani was 14 kilometers away. Up ahead came a small sprawling Tamang settelement, the Mulkharka village. There were a few teashops which sold chyang (local beer) in addition to tea and snacks. We rested in Bire Lama’s shop who complained that because of the newly built motorway to Chisapani, fewer people walked on the trail which led to decreased business in his shop. Some of us drank a few cups of chyang while others sipped glucose water to keep the water level right for the rest of the hike! While on the walk out of village, we saw Blackberry trees on both side of the trail. Prashanta and Dipesh had a debate whether the Nepali name of the fruit was Kafal or Kimbu. The two had a bet of thousand rupees, and Prashanta lost as the name happened to be Kimbu as told by one villager. Fade up of the scorching midday Sun, we took rest in the last tea shop of the village before proceeding further.
Up we reached the Borlang Bhanjyang and the Sun started to hide behind the clouds. The trail passed through a dense forest of Oak, Pine and Rhododendron trees. I regretted not being able to recognize most of the vegetation. We didn’t see any animals, although a few chirping birds broke the silence and cheered us. Our walk after crossing Borlang Bhanjyang was much easier as the trail went downhill rather than uphill. After walking for nearly seven hours a cool breeze in Chisapani welcomed us, our weary journey for the day came to a halt and we geared up for a fun filled evening.
Hot noodle soup and double cups of milk tea offered by our lodge owner washed away all our tiredness and we strolled around the village in the evening. There were only about a dozen houses most of them lodges set in a small hilltop. It was fascinating to find that the village was divided between Nuwakot district in one side and Sindhupalchok district on the other. With the faraway mountains hiding behind the clouds and nothing much to look around we set up a bonfire and started a musical evening. The feast started with sukuti (roasted meat), bhatmas sandheko, red wine brought by Anjila didi all the way from Hongkong and local vodka. Dancing in folk numbers and Hindi item songs (!) along the tunes of madal played by Dipesh took us almost to trance. Dinner with local kukhurako masu was the perfect way to wrap up the evening.
Watching the sunrise with panoramic view of wide Himalayan range was on our menu for the early morning next day. But unfortunate as we were, because of the dense haze and the clouds we could not see any. This made us feel low as most of us had walked all day long the day before to see the mountains and the sunrise. Andrea was much frustrated because he had cancelled his plan to go to Pokhara and joined us after we persuaded him that larger range of mountains could be viewed from Chisapani.
We had yet not decided on which way to return (our options were; the same way we had hiked, or via Sankhu or via Nagarkot). One tourist guide told us that we could reach Nagarkot in six hours and take a bus back to Kathmandu from there or else we could decide in Jhuley whether we should get down to Sankhu and take a bus from there. So, we set out for Jhuley. The day was less exciting but long and never ending. The road until Mani Char came out to be a motor way and we were tempted to take short cuts at times. Some of our group members got lost in the middle of the jungle for some time while taking short cuts. A beautiful pond on the way was fascinating and we felt like savoring the beauty of the watershed for whole day and the night and exploring around. But alas, we didn’t have the camping equipment and food, so we had to leave the place behind and walk ahead unwillingly.
By the time we reached Jhuley, we were completely exhausted. We found a lodge there and asked for food. The lodge owner said it would take about an hour to prepare the meal. We had no option but to wait. In the mean time, we started gazing in the direction of Nagarkot. Sadly, Nagarkot seemed too distant from there. We asked the locals, how long it would take to reach there and they said it would take around four hours. It was already two o’clock in the afternoon and none of us dared to walk up to Nagarkot. There were already rumors of strike in Kathmandu. We had no other choice than to go down to Sankhu in the hope that it would be easier to get back to Kathmandu.
The downhill to Sankhu was much more difficult than we anticipated. Whenever, we asked the locals how long it would take to reach the motorway and find a bus they would say a few hours of walk. The few hours turned out to be good four hours! Nonetheless, we had plenty of fun along the way. Ample amount of ripe ainshelu greeted us in the trail and we almost a competition on who could collect more and eat more! Prashanta and Dipesh again had a bet. This time on whether the crop grown mixed with corn in the terraces was Simi or Bodi. Prashanta again lost but did not pay the money this time too. He had some or other hilarious reasons to justify why he thought it was bodi! Further down, water flowing attractively out of a traditional mill, pani ghatta gave us a chance to cheer up and play around. After full day of walking downhill, we finally caught hold of a bus near Sankhu, the driver of the bus agreed to take us up to Jorpati without ferrying other passengers and with no extra cost. Thus, our two day long trip ended in happy note.
Two days after the trip, as I am writing this travelogue, my body still feels the physical abuse but my mind still craves for more adventures to explore.
To see the photographs of the hike, click: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150791386206648.471950.321783186647&type=1