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.