Friday, January 7, 2011

Nagarkot and a view of the Langtang Himalayan Range

The old Toyota Corolla that Sudip drove looked surprisingly clean in a city constantly plagued by layers of dust and smoke. The interior, however, was unkempt and the suspension seemed fatigued. Still, this was the car that took us safely to the peak of Nagarkot, a village at an elevation of about 2000 m and one that promises an excellent view of the Langtang Himalayan Range. Despite his age (I think he must be in his early 20s), it appeared to me that Sudip had held this job for the longest time, judging from his impressive tackling of the sharp bends and narrow lanes, and cognitive cursing the intolerant road users, which I'd found rather amusing. What I'd learnt from him and some of the taxi drivers in Nepal is that, the most important part of the car is not the brakes....but the horn. To a certain extent, I think it’s true.

Nagarkot is located roughly 30 km from the city of Kathmandu, but it took us more than 2 hours to reach the peak. And that's expected when the highways are no more than a pair of uneven roads with vehicles merging from all directions. There were not much to see along the way until we started ascending the mountain. Terraced plantations, trekkers, villagers going about their daily chores and the occasional foreign cyclists were just some of the sights that caught my attention. I checked into a room on the second highest floor of Hotel View Point that, as the name suggested, offered a good view of the Himalayan range. And it was not until the next morning that I came to know that I had a direct view of the rising sun, backing the highest peak in the world, the Everest.

Almost 12 hours earlier, I nearly missed the flight to Kathmandu as I overslept from an exhausting final day at the old workplace and a 10 km run on that very same morning. In a couple of minutes, I managed to stuff the essentials into my knapsack except for the winter jacket, which I'd only discovered while transiting in Bangkok. At the hotel's rooftop, with a panoramic view of the mountains, I shivered under my thinning sweater as the strong wind blew. It must have been below 10 deg C at that time. The thick clouds had reduced the visibility of many peaks, except for the snowcapped Langtang (7246 m) and the 1st (7406 m), 2nd (7150 m), 4th (7102 m) and 5th ( 6950 m) Ganesh peaks. I survived sunset and the only thing that kept me warm was the thought of a Nepali buffet to be served later that evening.

The next morning, I woke up at the crack of dawn when the other tourists were already positioning themselves around the balcony and rooftop for the best view of sunrise. The temperature dropped even lower in the early hours of the morning but it was less torturous now as the body had adjusted itself to the environment. The 3 helpings of rice and curry from the buffet helped too, I guess. Heat from the rising sun progressively evaporated the eastern clouds, increasing visibility of the mountains as if bringing them to life. The lush green of the terraced plantations below us and the chirping of the birds completed this amazing experience.

From the breakfast table, I saw a couple of men washing their cars with much enthusiasm and diligence. Sudip was one of them. Ah, that explained the sparkling clean car. We left Nagarkot for Kathmandu at noon but not before stopping by one of the 3 medieval kingdoms of Nepal - Bhaktapur.


Life for Beginners said...

I could go on rambling about how beautiful your shots of the mountains and sunset are, or how vividly you invoked the uneven roads and compulsory honking for us, the heat from a simple Nepali dinner after a long & cold journey... but I think the best compliment I could give you on your recent Nepal series is that I'm seriously considering going to Nepal too, like this year.

(Devil doesn't know yet. Shhhh...)


Paranoid Android said...

Amazing. Confronted with such majestic beauty from nature, always leads me to reflect on life. Paring down my necessities and priorities which are actually distractions. My last trip to Nepal was more than 15 years ago, with just a back pack and some books and I was never happier than that time, even in relative poverty and solitude.

Unfortunately I got caught in the rat race and am now caught in a tangled web of living a lifestyle that I vowed never to lead. Your post and your lovely photos have inspired me to attempt to untangle my life and reminded me of the idealistic dreams of my youth.

Even if I do not succeed in getting out of the web I spun for myself, at least I can be taken back to a time when I thought the world was really beautiful both physically and spiritually by just reading this post.

J said...

*looks wistfully at the photos*

CUMI & CIKI said...

Love the way you described the driver and the car! Why did u run so on your last day.. aiiyoh, relak abit la brother.. i would ! haha

The scenary and your photopgraphy is amazing. At that time did u wake up to take that final shot and how many tourists were there anyway? way cool.

Oh yar, how was the buffet ar? good food? did it chase the cold away? for your sake, hope so!

choi yen said...

Awesome photo as usual~

HairyBerry said...

kenny, i'm truly grateful for the compliments! they are inspiring! most of all, i'm glad that you enjoyed reading them. as for visiting Nepal, GO! :) i was talking to the deaf one the other day and suggested that we go trek the sacred Gosainkund Lake of Nepal in the future. If jadi, I ajak you sekali ya! Call the devil as well. :)

paranoid android, thank you so much for the reflective comment. i totally agree with you that most of us have tangled ourselves to a lifestyle that may not be what we desire. and that is why i enjoy traveling so much, to observe the different lives that people lead. as general as it may sound, these experiences do impact my everyday life. they help in differentiating the necessities and priorities from the distractions, as you've mentioned. i don't think the idealist in all of us ever dies. it is in the pursue of it that makes life interesting and worth living. let's keep the alive, bro! :) thanks again for sharing your thought, PA!

J, glad you liked the pics! i think Nepal is a great place to visit because it has everything from culture to history to beautiful sceneries. pay a visit one day, ya! :)

cumi & ciki, glad you liked the post! :) haha, i ran on my last day because hmmm...actually, i don't know. perhaps i thought i could sweat out the tears so i wont cry when i leave the office? ok, i took that cheesy line from some movie..haha! i must have taken the sunrise shot around 6 am. the rooftop was full of tourists but towards 7 am, most of them had adjourned to the dining hall. that's the best time for photography, me thinks. hehe. buffet was simply but filling! i kinda miss it....

choi yen, thanks for the compliment! glad you liked the pics. it was an unforgettable morning for me. :)

UnkaLeong said...

*sigh* Wonders if there is room for one in LFB's travelling party. Heheh.

HairyBerry said...

unkaleong, OF COURSE! it'll be an honour to have you in the group! but i don't want to cycle there la, ok? hehehehehe.