Theme: Exploring The Heights
Hiking Route: Godavari to Phulchowki
Date: Sunday, November 16, 2008
Hike Coordinator: Vishnu Kshettri
Participants: Aditya, Deepa, Keith, Nitin; Bhuwan, Charan; BasantaT, BhaskarB, PrajwalS, RudraP, SangeetaR, VishnuK
Creative Support: Dijup/Pallavi
Last Sunday’s (November 16, 2008) hike started sleepily (as most hikes do over Winter, may be except a few circa December 2005) but slowly matured into a useful experience for most of us. There were quite a number of guests this time around. In fact D2 staff equaled visitors. Weird – but true. Nitin, Deepa, Aditya and Keith were from India. Deepa introduced herself as a lady “with a Bengali face but a Punjabi build.” Aditya was marketed as the hiker among the consultants. Not by coincidence for he had trekked to the Everest Base Camp previously. Bhuwan and Charan were Rudra’s friends. Charan looked flamboyant with his Hare Rama Hare Krishna headgear that apparently is his trademark, something quite popular in Edinburgh, Scotland where he works as a therapeutic dance teacher. Our friends from India were doubly excited at the prospect of seeing the Himalayas. The plan was to start the hike from Godawari Kunda to Shree Chapakharka Primary School at Jhumachaur, Bishankhu Narayan, Chapakharka, Lalitpur. This is an hour’s incline leading to an open ground with the small school building at the center. Then after reaching the school, eager ones would head south towards Phulchowki (more than 9000 Ft.) whereas the rest would enjoy a pleasant stroll to Lakuri Bhanjyang and come down at Lubu. Eager beavers. Cross-country.
The van stopped at the mouth of the trail near the Godawari Kunda and all entered a nearby restaurant to have a quick breakfast. Eggs, breads, tea, lentil and chickpeas. Tea, coffee followed. Soon after we had settled into the interior of the restaurant and started chatting amongst ourselves, a small European car slowly stopped outside the restaurant. Emerged a lady, and two gents. One of the men was quick to order a black coffee for her. No sugar. She sat in a very model-like pose atop a chair in the driveway and started sipping the coffee. Her gaze pointed to her feet and occasionally looking at whoever was either going into the restaurant or coming out. She was smiling sometimes but otherwise glaring deep into the black waters she was holding. Sugar free black water. Prior to us leaving, we shared casual conversation with her team and learned that they were there to film a music video. Royal Botanical Garden.
Ten minutes since commencing the hike, people were taking off their jackets and sweaters. Twenty minutes into the hike and the groups were clearly separated. Few were at the front working a good pace. Some lay in the middle trying to build a slow and steady rhythm. And the last group was climbing as it was the only option. However the good common thread among all was that all were enjoying. Excited – marching on. The scribe reached the school first after fifty odd minutes of uphill walk. Laid on the ground – soaking in the warm sun. After fifteen odd minutes, Prajwal and Basant arrived and sat down to rest. Fifteen minutes later Rudra emerged and cursed that he was not able to beat the team to the top. He consoled himself saying that he was with the last group but even then managed to come this early. The last ones to arrive after an hour was Nitin, Deepa and Charan. A relief and great joy could be seen in their eyes. Nitin walked about saying that they thoroughly enjoyed the hike with Charan and had managed to strike quality and meaningful conversations. Professional and personal.
A flurry of excited phone calls were sent and received by our Indian friends as they laid down, sat and relaxed in the greens of school yard. It was evident they were enjoying every bit of this experience. Vishnu opened up his bag full of snacks. Tiger cheese – Digestive biscuit. Thank you. Soon after it was time to move on. Deepa commented that she will work out so that next time she can work the same pace as Bhaskar. Then a bet was settled between her and the scribe. “If Deepa can walk from Godawari Kunda to the spot in forty five minutes in one year from now, Bhaskar will sponsor her dinner every day she’s in Kathmandu on that trip. Otherwise she will have to sponsor Bhaskar’s dinner for every day in Mumbai whenever he ends up there.” Bombay blues. Somebody commented that Bhaskar can rest assured that victory is his to keep. But then again, what are the odds of me landing in Mumbai? Empty intuition.
It was decided that Sangeeta would take the Indian delegation to Lakuri Bhanjyang, have dinner at the Country Kitchen and descend to Lubu. The rest of the team would march southwards to Phulchowki. The trail to Phulchowki looked really appealing and towers seemed to be within hair breadth. With thick smiles and ebullient demeanor the two teams bade farewell and split. South node – North node.
As we started to climb to Phulchowki, the clouds desiccated and the white peaks of the Himalayas stretched from the west to the east. Left of Kakani – right of Nagarkot. A rather good fortune for our team heading to Lakuri who got their desires fulfilled. Equally for us – for the sight was simply magnificent. With every feet we gained, the vision got better. Sharp and multihued. The lower hills were blanketed with thick mist while above the haze lay crystal clear Himalayan scenery. From this point onwards the conversation got spicy and light. Charan described how he was miraculously healed of painful back problems by a mere touch of a man (who made his living in a kitchen making “jilebis”) right in the middle of busy Ason. Standing up. Later on, when Charan wanted to remunerate, the man simply asked for love and nothing else. Love – unconditional. Bhaskar shared his experience of working with autistic children at YMCA in San Francisco and Charan agreed that of all the children he has worked with – working on a therapy session with these kinds is the most challenging and rewarding. Bhuvan, Charan, Rudra and Vishnu – being school and college mates at various times – reminisced golden days. Breast milk. Corn liquor. Ginger tea. Rudra described events leading to his wedding day which cannot be disclosed here. Sorry. Ornamental orchids and rented tulips. Somebody lashed out the comment that Japan is the most promiscuous country in the world. Somebody had to be explained what promiscuity really means. Fibrous morality and what not, oh boy. Sacred sacrilege.
Seventy Five Degrees
This was a very good hiking route and seemed remote to the sleeping populace of Kathmandu valley. Going about their daily races with swollen faces. The trail was pleasant without major inclines. Densely vegetated and apt even for pre Monsoon hiking. This we argued must be the hike carved by the Army to bring in the ration from the villages on the north of Phulchowki immediately looking down. The last portion of this trail, however rose up very sharply to meet the gravel road to Phulchowki. We were ambivalent what this really meant. It was because the part of the trail leading up to this point had been excellent. The kind that makes hiking seem like a stroll in the park – while making you gain altitude at the same time.
Sky in the Tree
While we meandered part through the strenuous gravel road and part through clever short-cuts to the Phulchowki tower, Prajwal was quick enough to point us to some of the interesting landmarks in the area. A hollow tree through which the sky could be seen once you stepped into it. The stones that looked like a tiger and his consort. Pond. Football ground. Trail to Bhardeu.
Vishnu Kshettri Injured
Vishnu, Charan and Bhuwan were a bit slow to join us at the Army grounds. It was because Vishnu had sustained a minor niggle on his lower back. He was struggling even to sit down. The Army was nice enough (although we did pay) to provide us late afternoon snack of noodles and tea before we headed down at exactly four in the afternoon. The walk to the bottom of the hill took exactly two and a half hours. One-third of the return journey was after night fall. Foxes – Manoj the driver. Somebody got married at seventeen neither because of love, nor infatuation but because of beautiful hair. Newly paved road. The dusk was almost too intoxicating to keep the mind straight.
We hired a micro-van to drop us at hotel Bir Bhrikuti. The hotel lobby was full of freshmen students of some White college (there are so many of them starting or ending with White) in Kathmandu brought for an orientation and a night-out. We gate-crashed their set buffet and enjoyed a sumptuous dinner. Red Campari. Soda and Hard. Wine. Hot lemon for myself. Somebody ordered orange soda. Bhuwan was shocked to find somebody less than thirty who does not drink. This cannot be, this is amazing he muttered as he sipped and relaxed after a job well done.
Six Plus Eight is Not Fourteen But Elixir of Youth
The most important lesson of the day for the scribe was that six and eight do not add up to fourteen. Manju darling. Silver, blue and black. Food, floor, shirts. Never tinker with unmanaged emotions – has the same effect as opening the Pandora’s box – never know what comes out. Unlearn. Hinged hopes on melting ice and fading opportunity – when will I ever learn? Never ever.