Seven days in Nepal

Someone once said all you need to trek is a dash of enterprise and a modicum of fitness. I was horror-stricken to discover trekking up Mount Shivapuri in Nepal required a lot more than that.

Samad’s itinerary showed us doing Shivapuri on the last day of our one week stay in Nepal, after we’d explored Kathmadu and some nearby places.

Kathmandu – what an exhilarating, intoxicating city, with its crazy traffic, bustling crowds of people, quaint shopping arcades and narrow winding streets. We wandered around Durbar Square, the heart of the old town, admiring its spectacular palaces and temples, and walked the backstreets and saw stunning temples overflowing with marigolds.

Leaving the city behind we went white water rafting.

The jade-green waters of the Trisuli river were ice cold. After each succeeding rapid, and I counted more than 20, we got colder and more drenched. We ended that risky undertaking by spending a very cold night in a tent by the riverbank.

The following morning we headed for the Gaida Wildlife Camp located in Chitwan National Park, Nepal’s first national national park. So I was told by our guide who gave us a lengthy account of what to see and do in the park. He spoke impeccable English. I was certain he’d gone to school in England but he denied that. We warmed at the sight of our twin-bedded log cabin with attached bathroom with hot running water. Despite the hot water bottles in our beds, we shivered with cold.

We went on an elephant safari to see the endangered one-horned rhinoceros. Although the famous Bengal tiger eluded us, we saw many domesticated elephants and their babies.

We learned about the area’s glorious fauna and flora when we took a walk in the forest one foggy morning in the company of smiling Buddhist monks in saffron robes. During a ride in a narrow boat we passed within a few feet of crocodiles basking on the river bank.

On the morning of our Shivapuri trek we rose before the sun. We had least expected it to rain heavily as that was the dry season. Our guide, Ram Bahadur, strongly urged us to abandon the trek. It would be dangerous, he said, but Samad was insistent. So wrapped in transparent plastic sheets, our makeshift raincoats, we started to climb. A couple of hours later we saw patches of snow. The trek became considerably steeper. The rain stopped and it began to snow. It had not snowed in Shivapuri for 20 years, Ram told us. Just our luck! The snow on the ground became thicker and as we trudged upwards our feet started to freeze. It became harder to breathe as the oxygen level decreased. I staggered on, panting heavily. We reached the top after five grueling hours.

The top was fairly flat with a thick carpet of new snow. There were two Buddhist shrines made of small stones piled up together and decorated with colorful prayer flags.

The clouds parted and the sun appeared and we caught our breath at the spectacular view before us. Piercing the clear blue sky were the soaring peaks of the Himalayan mountains. Here were some of the world’s highest peaks, including Mt Everest, the highest mountain in the world. Though frozen with cold we could not take our eyes off the scene.

We were reluctant to move from there but the guide reminded us it was time to make our descent. We stopped at a military post to have our pack lunch and found six or seven soldiers huddled in wooden beds beneath blankets. They cheerfully welcomed us and immediately chopped firewood to make a fire using a four-gallon kerosene tin. The fire provided welcome relief to our frozen hands and feet.

As we started to leave, we saw three young Japanese girls making their way up followed by ten Nepalese men carrying tents, mattresses, pillows, tables, chairs, cooking utensils, and big bundles of other stuff. The girls were certainly not leaving anything to chance!

The short cut Ram Bahadur took for our descent was steep, treacherous, and tough on the old knees. Night fell quickly and we walked our last mile in darkness and in total silence because, unbeknown to me, Samad was suffering from an acute stomach upset. So he was immensely relieved when we finally arrived at our hotel. We richly deserved our sleep that night.

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