Sailesh Dhungana There is a memory imprinted on my mind because of which I could never say “No” to hiking or trekking. It was six years ago. Right after completing my A-levels, I went trekking with my friends to the Annapurna Region – from NayaPul to Muktinath. During the 9 days, we saw the pristine beauty of nature including the magnificent Himalayas. One day I was walking ahead of all my friends and I saw the most beautiful scene I have ever seen. On the two sides of the path were gigantic green trees and right in front was a mighty snow-clad mountain. I have never felt the mixed sense of pure peace, serenity and joy as I did at that moment. Since then, I have always loved being with nature. However, I said “No” to Prasanna dai when he asked me if I wanted to go to this particular hiking trip. The reason was my lack of confidence in me. I am not as fit as I used to be. Two years of eating American junk food has shifted me to the over-weight category and I do not exercise regularly. I was afraid that I would slow the team and embarrass myself. When he asked me again I grudgingly obliged. In retrospect, it was a great decision. On Saturday September 8, 2012 I woke up early for my first Deerwalk Hiking Trip. Although there was a voice in my head telling me I could not do it and I should just sleep at home, I forced myself to go to office. At the office, Neeraj dai, Sawan dai, Abhinav and Abhinayak were playing table tennis. After a while we left Deerwalk around 8:30 am and Ram dai drove us to Bhat-Bhateni supermarket.There we picked up BheshRaj and Sukra dai. We reached Budhanilkantha around 9:30am. All of us were hungry and wanted to eat some snacks. We found a small snack shop and ordered vegetables, doughnuts, tea and eggs. Sawan dai broke a door thinking it lead to the toilet. After finishing our snacks, we went to the gate of Shivapuri National Park. Then, we bought our tickets and entered the national park. At first my heart was filled with fear that I would be a drag but, with the pure force of will, I pressed on. The road dipped below the canopy of green trees occasionally penetrated by shafts of sunlight. Although the road was broad enough for cars, we only saw 2-3 motorbikes. Some of my fellow hikers got tired of the road and we took a shortcut that went vertically upward. It took a test of my endurance but silently I kept climbing. When we reached the road again, I was panting. We had to rest for a few minutes. With rest and some inspirations from Prasanna dai, I was able to move forward. From Muhan Pokhari (the entrance of Shiva Puri National Park), we had to climb uphill to Nagi Gumba, a Buddhist monastery. With a few interruptions, we kept on walking. Innumerable streams and waterfalls crossed the road occasionally and the water was refreshingly cool and rejuvenating. After a while we found the staircase leading to the Gumba (Monastery) and started ascending. Sawan dai’s attempts to count the number of stairs were futile as he kept forgetting the numbers. We saw a scenic view of Kathmandu city from there. Finally, we reached Nagi Gumba and managed to peek in to see giant statues of Buddha nestled in perpetual peace -- ethereal in their abode. From Nagi Gumba, we had to walk through a path that was either straight or going down. The worst was over and we walked more relaxed. It was nice to be away from the crowded environment of Kathmandu City. We talked about different things and developed friendships. Hiking was a great way of bonding with colleagues. We found a gigantic stone wall with initials and plus signs written all over. After cracking some jokes, we took a group photo in front of the wall. Suddenly, we heard a boy singing a Nepali song. Some young villagers had set up sound system and the boy was singing in a fairly good voice. The sound was however a little too loud and the boy kept singing the same song over and over again. We could hear him from a distance. We had reached Tarebhir, the mid-point of our journey. There were some boys collecting small fruits, which turn into beads when they dry up. They showed us the cliff after which the village Tarebhir is named. The cliff looked really formidable and scary. Neeraj dai imagined a rock climbing resort there. After walking a few minutes from the small village, we rested and took out our snacks. We took no time to eat all of it as all of us were starving. The cheese, energy bars and dried meat we had eaten before during our walk was not enough. As soon as we finished eating, it started to rain. We resumed our hiking. I welcomed the light drizzle as it brought the temperature down. However, it quickly turned into a downpour. Four of our group walked quickly whereas four of us took shelter in a place. The view from the shade was wonderful. Bagmati was flowing pure and strong underneath an ancient-looking bridge draped in greenery. The old jungle came to life with the downpour as the trail started to turn into a stream, and it was almost impossible to forage ahead. After the rain subsided, we started walking again. We found some old men breaking stones. I was desperate for a cigarette. So, I asked one of them. He said he only smoked Gold Flakes, an unfiltered and cheap cigarette. I thought it was better than nothing so I took one of his two Gold Flakes. While walking alone, I could not help thinking over and over how different my life was from the old man’s. We reached the Sundarijal dam. The water was flooding over and the way it was flooding over was beautiful. The water seemed like strands of hair, long and majestic. The sun was gleaming over the water making the scene spectacular. After spending some time at the dam we walked downwards to Sundarijal’s main commercial area. We were reunited with our group. Ram dai was already there with the van. After seeing the Deerwalk van, I suddenly realized that I had done it. I was able to hike despite what I had feared. I was ecstatic. I regained my confidence and my passion for hiking was re-ignited. From Shivapuri to Sundarijal, I found more than leg-aches and worm-bites, I found myself again.