Manish Man Singh, Sumit Shrestha, Ujjwal Manandher
Manish Man Singh
Kanchan Raj Pandey
This is a travelogue of a soul that was yearning for a nice hike in Nepal. After joining Deerwalk, if there is a perk I can think of, the opportunity to hike with fellow colleagues definitely ranks at the top of my list. We couldn’t have chosen a better place- Sailung. Sailung (27° 33' 42.12" N 85° 58' 29.58" E), at the elevation of 3192M, was a summit from where you are able to make out with Makalu (5th highest mountain) on the east and dance with Dhaulagiri (7th highest mountain) on the west still keeping an eye on Everest.
7:30AM Started the trip from Kathmandu on our Deerwalk van with our experienced driver, Ram, at the driver’s seat.
9:00AM Stopped at Banepa to quickly grab our supplies and try the best 'Aalu Puri' (Off the oven bread with Potatoes) Banepa had to offer. The trip onward was made specially enjoyable by Bhuwan pouring out his ‘life in my young days’ stories on his life, jobs, successes, failures and of course the parties. Manish was busy making sure we all had good music to listen to. Narendra, obviously, had a late night since he napped a good portion.
11:30AM Reached Mude. We had a wonderful lunch at a local restaurant. It was a little colder than Kathmandu (around 5-6⁰C) but pleasant enough. Now we had to plan our trip to Sailung. The consensus was to reach the Sailung height before the sunset so that we could enjoy it. In order to be at Sailung before 5:30PM, we decided to take a bus ride to Chaichap which was at the base of Sailung.
12:00 – 2:00PM – Bus Ride from hell
On this unpaved road from Mude to Chaichap, we all experienced a very memorable ride. The road was very uneven so the bus not only went up and down but tilted left and right as well. To me, it was as close an experience of a ‘Roller coaster ride’ (without the smoothness) or ‘Roller coaster jolts’ as the real ones. We got out of the bus, exhausted but ready to head up to Sailung.
2:00PM to 3:30PM – Up, up and away
We started climbing a narrow path through fields and settlement. After 30 minutes, we reached Dhunge, the largest settlement around the area. After a good cup of black tea and some local thatta (quick conversations with a good laugh), we headed up. Another half hour of tough climb brought us to Kalopani – the last bastion of civilization before the Sailung summit. A local family invited us with a warm cup of tea (some cinnamon and ginger made it spicy). To our question of ‘How far is it to the top?’, he replied, ‘For your young legs, it will be hour to the top and half hour to the settlement to the other side’. Since we wanted to be at our final destination before it got dark, and it was already close to 3:30pm, we started walking up.
3:30PM to 5:00PM – Summit and love at first sight
No two ways about it. The walk was hard and steep. We had to walk up stone steps, then fields, and then it was just low vegetation grassland. We all walked slow and steady and reached a mini summit, the first ‘ lung’ of the Sailung (meaning Sai-hundread lung -hills). There was a sigh of relief and a joyous outburst from everyone as we took a lot of pictures. It was good to see the rest of the world down below but we knew that there was still more to go.
To note: The Deerwalkers (those that led the pack) were Narendra, Sajjan, Sumit, Kapil and myself with, Ujjwal, Bhuwan were pacing in the middle. Manish was our ‘Ansel Adams’, devouring every spot with his lenses. Kanchan knew the slogan, ‘slow and steady’ wins the race very well.
We headed up passing one lung after another. Now the climb was not as steep but it was still uphill. After close to half hour from the first lung, we reached the top. A Buddhist prayer flag and Sailungeswor Mahadev (another name of a Hindu god, Shiva) were there to bless us all. Cold, and quite frozen, we jumped with joy!! We had finally made it to the top. It was very windy and cold but our exhilaration was overwhelming. We all moved from one side of the hill to the other taking pictures after pictures. Some of us had chosen one corner to reflect on how the day had passed, others were hurriedly taking pictures. All the single folks were asking for a single shot so that they could replace the current picture with this new one for their Facebook. After 20-25 minutes at the top, we knew that we had to head down to the next village. It will be getting dark and we wanted to reach before the day ended.
5:00PM to 10:00PM Eclipse, Fireside chats and Dance
We descended hurriedly downhill to reach Khola-kharka. Khola-kharka was a 7 family basti (settlement) where Sherpas and Moktans had settled. We divided our beds amongst two motels (since one did not have enough beds for all 10 of us). Then it was time for a good fire, good food and some entertainment. As we sat down by the impromptu campfire the villagers built on the front lawn, we sat down with our drinks and gazed at the sky. The sun had just set on the west. But emerging from the north east corner was a bright moon. We immediately realized that this was no ordinary moon. This was the moon that was going to experience very special event. From 6:38pm, the earth was eclipsing the moon and we would have a total eclipse by 8:38pm. What made this year’s last eclipse so amazing was the fact that the moon rode very high in the sky and the eclipse was seen from various parts of the world. We were fortunate enough to see it from Sailung.
What made this year’s last eclipse so amazing was the fact that the moon rode very high in the sky and the eclipse was seen from various parts of the world.
As we sat around eating a typical Dal-bhat-kukhura (Rice-Lentil-Chicken dish), we were witnessing a rare event from a remote location where there was no other lights to speak of. This made the whole viewing of the moon a spectacular event and one to remember for a long time to come. To top it off, we witnessed and participated in a typical Sherpa dance. Wow, what a way to finish off a day!
6:30AM – 7:30AM Final kiss and a goodbye
We were supposed to get up at 5:30AM to head up but I guess we were all tired. I was interrupted many times by Bhuwan’s thunderous, ‘tiger like’ snoring. Kapil thought he did not snore.. Well he was proven wrong. We overslept but quickly got ready to head up. There was no wind; it was chilly but not cold. We were able to climb up briskly and reach the summit just as the sun was rising. The golden rays hit the mountain range all the way from Langtang to the west and Mt.Everest range to the east. The view was spectacular. The frost covered Sailung was like a freshly covered snow slopes with virgin snow. I have never been privileged to such a magnificent beauty. It was a little sad to blow a final kiss and say goodbye.
7:30AM – 1:30PM Downhill to Hell ride
It was downhill from here. Few of us slipped a little more (Manish comes to mind) but we all reached Kalopani in less than 30 minutes. After boiled eggs for breakfast to stuff us till lunch time, (Even though we had asked for 2 eggs, the sauni (restaurant owner) kindly had put 3 eggs per person), we headed down to the bus station at Dhunge. When we reached there, they told us that the only bus that leaves town departed at 10AM. We had no other transportation. When we asked when did the bus leave, someone on the side of the road said that it was just a few minutes ago. He said, if you run, you will make it. This is where my experience of running came into play. I did not believe that I could reach a bus by running behind it but they told me that the bus would stop at the next station. So I ran and ran. Luckily, I did not have to run far. In less than a kilometer, the bus was parked. We were able to get in. I asked Bhuwan if he wanted to walk while the bus got ready to move. Bhuwan really thought this was a short walk in front of the bus until the bus reached us. So he said, ‘why not?’ and joined me. We had walked for more than 45 minutes before the bus caught up to us. This shows how slow and bumpy the ride was. After a grueling 2 hour ride, we reached Mude.
1:30PM to 7:00PM Sweet end to a beautiful romance
After a nice snack from our leftover eggs, we settled for a nice dal-bhat-kukhura again. This restaurant run by a Tamang couple was clean and they were eager to please. After a good meal, we were driven by DW’s able duo Kedar and Ram. After a quick rest stop at the Indrayani River we headed home, radio blasting with Nepali classics from Narayan Gopal, Udit Narayan, Tara Devi and others. As I got dropped off, I was humming an old Carpenter’s song:
I'm on the top of the world looking down on creation
And the only explanation I can find
Is the love that I've found ever since you've been around
Your love's put me at the top of the world