We have Wednesdays and Saturdays off. Last year when we were here Bibiana, Jason and I got in the habit of going into the surrounding hills for a few hours to clear our heads of the smog and noise.
Our close friend Bishnu Rai (Himalayan Sunrise Trekking) organizes our day walks. On Wednesday he picked up myself, Jason, Bibiana, and Sushila Rai (our colleague from PAHS) and we drove about an hour outside of the city. The road, like most outside of the city, becomes quickly steep, narrow and windy. It is still raining as the monsoon tails off and so from time to time we were slipping in and out of ruts of mud. I was thankful Bishnu had organized a four-wheel drive jeep as there are no guard rails and these roads are barely perched on the steep hillsides.
We arrived at a National park called Kokani (yes it is pronounced like the beer in BC). Our first stop was a monument to the hundreds of people who lost their lives in the crash of a Thai Airlines jet in the 80’s. It was both chilling (to see how many died) and a stark reminder of the fact that air travel into and out of such a mountainous country retains a certain amount of risk.
The first half of the trek was literally slashing our way along a tiny jungle-like path that was completely overgrown with vines and undergrowth. As expected we all had a few stray leeches in our socks and on any exposed skin. The cicadas were deafening and the temperature ricocheted from steamy and hot to cool and pleasant when we got out on the ridge in the breeze.
We walked for about 5 hours along a ridge. Mostly thick clouds that drifted around us like thick smoke embraced us. Occasionally we caught glimpses of Kathmandu city. From that high up the city looks beautiful if you ignore the yellow haze of chronic air pollution. It is easy to see why early visitors to Nepal called this valley Shangri-La.