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  • Of litchis and leeches

    Posted on June 13th, 2009 Sheila Yair No comments

    nagarkotWe just got back from a three day track walking from Nagarkot to Katmandu. It is the off season now in Nepal the season of litchis and leeches. Litchis, good, you can get them in the market after you haggle down the special tourist price. Leeches, bad, you can get those for free on any trail in Nepal.

    To get to Nagarkot you need to take two busses, Katmandu to Baktapur, and from there to Nagarkot. Baktapur is known for having the oldest temple in Nepal and also for having an ancient section of the city, but we figure we don’t really want to see those and don’t think it is worth the time. The bus driver lets us off in front of the ancient temple, in Baktapur, figuring that is where tourist go. We realize we have to walk 15 minutes to get to the bus park (the term for bus station) where the bus to Nagarkot is. We are communicating with the locals only on a places name level and pointing hands. As we walk towards the bus park we notice the architecture is getting very interesting. The houses are along very narrow allies with meticulously carved wooden facades full of detail. The streets are coble stone and there are temples with even more elaborate carvings. This is by far the nicest village we have seen in Nepal. As we approach the bus station we look back to see a sign claiming this is the ancient part of town and there is a $10 entrance fee. In Nepal they charge an entry fee for pretty much anything that is of interest, but they usually only have one entrance collecting the fee while every site has several ways to enter. So you can visit somewhere without ever knowing you had to pay. We don’t see anybody manning this entrance, and we don’t look too hard. So unplanned we have seen Baktapur and it was worth every cent of the $10 we didn’t pay.

    We get to Nagarkot in the evening having to hike the last 5 kilometers due to our bus breaking down. Now you might think this is a streak of bad luck but a bus has a 50% chance of breaking down here, more so if the rout goes uphill.

    Nagarkot is a tiny town with half of it being hotels. It is on a mountain ridge facing the Himalayas and attracts many tourists in the high season who come to rest and enjoy the views. We get a beautiful room facing the mountains, in our case facing the deep fog. It is the monsoon season and is constantly fogy. We can’t see the famous Himalayan backdrop from anywhere in Nepal. Monsoon sounds so powerful. I always thought monsoon means this mythical rain with drops the size of humans but it really just means very rainy days for a few months. The beginning of the rainy season means that the weather will be nice until you decide to start hiking… it rained the whole first day of our hike. You get a little wet but it actually makes for very comfortable walking temperature.

    In the morning we walk around town looking for the trail head, once we locate it we pack our bags and start walking. We start with a 3KM descent loosing almost a thousand meters in altitude. The map has no altitude lines so we have no idea on the nature of the trail. We soon learn that we will ascend and descend loosing and gaining hundreds of meters of altitude. The road twists and turns between mountains and huge rivers passing little villages, terraces and corn fields. It is barely passable by a 4X4 and most of the villagers relay on their legs for any kind of transportation. Since our map also doesn’t show any of the forks in the road, it just shows one straight easy to follow black line, we have to ask at each fork what is the way to Chisapani, the place where we plan to spend the night. Now in the villages it is easy but sometimes you reach a fork where you have to wait a bit until someone comes along.

    nagarkotIn these parts of Nepal, just like in space, distance is measured in time. No kilometers exist between destinations only hours. So we are told that Chisapani is 4 hours from here. The thing is we were told that about 2 hours ago. We keep hearing 4 hours from a few people at different times of the day. Can string theory prove this phenomena? I am not sure. Towards dark we decide to just camp at the next suitable place. We are joined by an old guy who walks with us. He keeps talking to us even though we can’t understand a thing. What I wouldn’t give to understand some of what he is saying. We find a nice flat grassy spot off the road and bid farewell to our companion. He keeps pointing up the road saying something but since we want to set camp before it is pitch dark we say goodbye. Thinking of the simple dinner and tent that awaits us we imagine that maybe he was telling us that his family is having a banquet and we are invited to feast with them afterwards he will set us up in the cozy new house his son just built. We set camp and have a can of beans with some bread instead. As we finish eating swarms of bats come flying down from the mountain headed for the valley. They fly swiftly without ever coming close to bumping each other or any rock or tree in their way. I have never seen such precision and quickness.

    We start off our second day. Chisapani seems closer judging by people’s reaction. After a few turns of the road we actually see the place a top a huge mountain. So the place exists, I was starting to have doubts. A local boy shows us a shortcut and walks with us a little, he says this will save us at least an hour. We are glad to leave the dirt road and take a little trail. As we reach Chisapani we discover it is just a few hotels. We also discover it is on the edge of Sivapuri national park and since we are on the edge of the park we have to pay the entrance fee. We pay the fee and decide to cut through the park. We take a beautiful trail that cuts through the forest going over a ridge and in to the Katmandu valley. We don’t see any of the parks famous animals, the mountain tiger being one of them, but hear tons of birds. We stop to camp at a clearing facing the Katmandu valley. We are at the last leg of the trip, only one more descent.

    We see a spectacular sunset and sunrise.

    At the entrance to the park there is a vertical village that lies along a path of about one thousand stairs, we are very happy we are going the other way as the people climbing, even the locals, seem very tiered.

    With shaking knees we reach Sundarijal, the village that is a few kilometers from Katmandu. We have about 5 somosas each to compensate for the long descent and simple basic diet we had for the last two days and get on the bus.

    Now all that is left is to count and categories all the different bites I got. The red ones, the big white ones, the super itchy tiny red dot ones etc.