|Title||2011 Oct – Deerwalk Hiking from Sitapaila to Amitabha Monastery|
|Date||16 October, 2011|
|Total Time||5 Hours|
|Participants||Kapil Raj Pandey, Jeff Gasser, Trilok Acharya, Joey, Ashish Shrestha, Abanish Kayastha, Sachin Karanjit, Pritesh Acharya, Laxman Adhikari, Bhuwan Gautam, Bhuwan Shrestha|
|Photos By||Sachin Karanjit and Pritesh Acharya|
|Report By||Jeff Gasser|
|Creative Support||Sachin Karanjit, Ashay Thakur|
I believe this is the first hiking report ever written by a U.S. participant. I hope it will be up to the standards of the past. We got started bright and early with eleven total hikers. The first people got picked up at 7 am. It was a bit overcast and I was hoping it would not rain. As it turned out, there were just enough clouds to make the temperature extremely pleasant all day. By mid-day, a delightful breeze kicked in and it was extremely pleasant.
We started out day with breakfast at the Bamboo Restaurant just across the street from the Monkey Temple where we would finish our hike. The restaurant was surprised to see a large crowd for breakfast and we had the entire place to ourselves. They had this great U-shaped couch where we were all able to sit around and have a delicious breakfast of toast, eggs and coffee. At about 9, we got started up the road next to the restaurant toward the Buddhist temples we were heading for. We meandered through the local street watching all the mothers getting their children ready for school. I couldn’t help noticing how sharply all the children were dressed in the uniforms comprising a shirt and tie..even the little ones. You couldn’t tell rich from poor and they all looked so cute. I’ll never understand why children in the United States are not required to dress this way for school.
After we had walked for 25 or 30 minutes, we came to our first “shortcut”. The road was on a gradual incline, but Kapil and Abanish decided to hang a sharp left and we went up what seemed like an endless set of stairs. I felt like I was climbing to the top of the Empire State Building. Actual, I think the Empire State Building is shorter. When we got further down the road, it was time for the next “shortcut”. You could see the road would eventually take you up a tall hill on top of which sat two large Buddhist Monasteries. The road was too easy. The alternative route was through terrace farms of rice, maize and mustard. Guess which route we took? As I have learned with all paths in Nepal, they start out fairly wide, and narrow and steepen as you go. It got muddy at times, dense with brush and by the time we were to the top, and many of us had bristles from the brush all over us.
We got to the Druk Amitabh Monastery, but realized we were on the backside of it, so we decided to go across the hill to the monastery. When we got there, the gates were closed and the security guard wouldn’t let us in saying that they were not open on Sunday. We went to several gates, and Bhuwan and then Ashish desperately tried to talk our way in. Bhuwan knew some people inside from work he previously had done and he tried to maximize that connection. We were told to come back in about 90 minutes, so we headed back up the hill past a village and through a seemingly never ending field of mustard plants. We had an objective of getting to the highest point nearby, but there was an army base in the way. We climbed up to the gate only to be turned away. Across from the gate was a house with a “bhogatey” tree. I had never seen them, so Bhuwan purchased 7 for a few rupees. There was a store at the bottom of the hill were we were able to get a chilli and salt mixture that you put on the bhogatey pulp. It was the sourest fruit I had ever eaten. Kind of like grapefruit but much more sour. The combination of fruit with the chilli and salt was an interesting one. After that, we headed back to the monastery only to find the place more locked up than when we left it. This led to more pleas and negotiations between our team of Bhuwan and Ashish and the temple guards. We got all the way to a head guy before he turned us down. This came as no surprise to Laxman who had been predicting this.
After this disappointment, we headed back to another monastery nearby, this time taking the road instead of the “shortcut”. I was shocked to find that the road led right to the main gate! The temple was under construction so they were allowing visitors. The painting was remarkable: flawless and with incredible detail. I don’t think I have ever seen anything like it. It reminded me of the remarkable artwork in St. Peters Cathedral in Rome or the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. What a treat it was to see it. After the photo opportunities, we were going to start our journey down the hill when we were able to negotiate a ride with a local to hop in a van. Abanish and I got to sit in the front seat behind the shattered windshield. This was quite comforting, particularly when the driver almost ran head first into a stone wall. The van was full when we started. And it got even fuller as they started to pick up additional riders as we went down the hill. Eventually we all arrived safely at the starting point.
After about 5 hours of walking, we chose to take the Deerwalk van up the hill to the Monkey Temple. Now that’s my kind of “shortcut”. It was also very beautiful with a great view of the entire Kathmandu Valley. Finally, we were all pretty exhausted, at least I was. We went down the hill to Thakali restaurant and relaxed, had beer and a delicious dinner. We went home both tired and full after a great day.