Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The Mountain Air

To those of you who are wondering if we were walking in the Himalayas, I'm sorry to say the answer is, no we weren't. I'm not sure I would have survived that kind of altitude change so quickly, and so for my health we kept to the "little hills". For me, coming from the unending monotony of flat, which is the country of Bangladesh (Mymensingh is 35 feet above sea level, and about 400 km from the sea). Even the small foothills of the Himalayas surrounding Kathmandu were an impressive sight for me. Philip and I did do a two day walk, although our distances would not indicate only two days. We spent the first day walking around an ancient city which charges exorbitant prices for foreigners to even walk through to the other side. Then we followed roads and trails up a hill to the gorgeous temple of Changu Narayan, a World Heritage Site. It was here that we ate a small lunch of crackers and water, before hiking the next section of trail on the road to Nagarkot. Nagarkot is situated at the top of the hill, and is a tourist attraction because of its beautiful morning scenery and views of the Himalayas snowcapped peaks. Unfortunately for us, the timing of our foray into Nepal coincides with the time when fog often shrouds the views of the Himalayas, but that did not stop us from witnessing some spectacular views. The last 9 km climb into Nagarkot is straight up a small hill, the entire way. And by the time we reached the village having covered some 22 km or so that day, we made our way to one of the many guest houses lining the town at the top of the hill.

Following a beautiful evening and morning on the mountain, surrounded by some of the most majestic mountains on God's great earth, we walked on to Botechaur, where unlike the guidebooks all agree, there is no guest house. And so on we walked. The path from Botechaur was likely the most grueling climb I have ever done. The trail climbed over 600 vertical meters in the space of less than two kilometers. The physical strength of the inhabitants of this land astounds me. We climbed, and climbed, and climbed, stopping many times to catch our breaths but never long enough to sit down, for fear we wouldn't reach the top. But the views were astounding. Having brought enough gear that we could, if need be, sleep on top of the small hill, which I bought just before Botechaur, we walked all the way on to Sundarijal. The descent down the hill was much more gradual than the climb up, and provided good views, but for two exhausted boys, some of them may have been lost a little bit. The final descent into Sundarijal proved one of the toughest of my physical exploits ever. After approximately 40 km of walking in two days, we needed to descend the last few kilometers down rough stairs hewn into the valley, as the sun was setting and our way become less visible. Our legs were shaking uncontrollably but we were nearly there, and as we finally walked in the near dark into Sundarijal and I bargained a taxi price, we both felt an unbelievable feeling of accomplishment.

We climbed into the mountain air, and the hills did not defeat us. We saw the beauty of the surroundings and our bodies did the rest. On a side note, we were so exhausted the next day that we slept most of the day.



Philip said...

and didn't make it to new years. we couldn't even stay awake that long

Marvela said...

Well written article.

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