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Hiking from Sankhu to Nagarkot via Kattike
Hiking from Sankhu to Nagarkot via Kattike

Yesterday, I joined Vishnu Kshettri, Ravi Sharma, Kapil Pandey, Pravinda Ranjit, Amit Nepal, Pawan KC, and Niraj Shah on the first D2 "Sunday trek" of the season. It is only early September, so the monsoon season is not quite over, meaning that it was still a little wet and the leeches are still present, but not unbearable. After enjoying a nice breakfast at Boudha Square Restaurant, a rooftop café, overlooking Boudha Naath,we set out on our hike to Nagarkot, beginning at about 10:30 am. We started from right after Shankhu Bazaar, and the beginning of the hike was through rice fields, where we passed entire families, working diligently in their farms. After the first half hour, we reached a river that most of us crossed by way of an old wooden, suspension bridge. However, as I approached the bridge, I looked down to see Pravinda and Amit standing in the middle of the stream, with their pants rolled up, enjoying a refreshing escape from the humid air and the hot sun. I was just thinking about joining them, when Vishnu called something to them in Nepali that I didn't understand. I asked him what he'd said, and he replied, "I told them that walking in wet shoes will give them a headache." I don't know if Pravinda or Amit ever got headaches, but they certainly got some leeches, enough to make me not regret my decision not to join them in the river. After crossing the river, we began to gain elevation, hiking uphill for the next hour and a half to Jahar Singh Pauwa. There were two ways to reach the top of the hill, by way of a rocky road or by way of "shortcuts." Of course, since I was accompanied by young, agile and athletic D2 men, we mostly took shortcuts, which were small trails that went straight up, rather than the road that meandered lazily around the mountain like a coiled snake. We arrived at the top sometime a little after Noon, where we stopped inside a tiny, crumbling building for biscuits, beans and Red Bulls. From there, we continued on the road for another hour and a half to a small town called Kattike. By that time the sun was out in full force, and it was a perfect fall day – I could even see the blue of the sky. A slight breeze kept us cool, and the road had opened up, giving us a great view of the Kathmandu valley below, where I could see neat patches of farmland, providing a patchwork of color: green from the square patches of rice and squash, brown from the rows of dried corn stalks, as well as little spots of orange and brown, which were houses. Aside from my periodic, frantic checks for leeches on my legs and ankles, a product of my leech paranoia, it was a very relaxing hike. Ravi was busy snapping photos at every turn, often running ahead to ensure that we had action shots of our group coming up the mountain. Amit, Kapil, Pravinda, and Pawan, sang beautiful Nepali and Hindi songs as they walked, practicing for D2's annual "D2 Fest" in late October, where D2 employees perform various cultural songs and dance. Vishnu, Niraj and I brought up the back of the pack, enjoying nice conversation, the sunshine and the sound of cultural melodies coming from the others in front of us. We were the only trekkers, due to the time of year; we saw no one else, aside from locals until we reached the top of Nagarkot, where we did see a few buses full of Indian tourists. The end of the hike was uphill again, and we climbed uphill for about 15 minutes to Nagarkot Farmhouse Resort, taking the moss-covered, stone steps from there, walking another 30 minutes, reaching the Berg House at the top of Nagarkot a little after 3:30 pm. By that time, we were all happy to see the silver D2 van parked in front of the restaurant where we planned to share an early dinner and drinks, before heading back to Kathmandu. Ram, our driver, was waiting for us, and we took over a small room with plenty of windows, looking out over the beautiful landscape. Everyone shed their wet socks and shoes (Amit found a leech in his sock, a reminder of why I was glad I hadn't ventured into the river at the beginning of the hike). For the next 4 hours, we enjoyed each other's company, as the sun set through one of the windows, creating a bright orange splash of color across the sky that got bigger and bigger, before disappearing completely. The atmosphere was relaxing, and I was flattered by the fact that everyone began to serenade me, singing beautiful Hindi songs about love, women and desire. Kapil and Vishnu were kind enough to translate the lyrics to me, and I was struck by the emotion with which they sang and the romantic content of the songs. These men had amazing voices, particularly Amit Nepal, who I'm convinced will someday abandon computer engineering and become Nepal's next biggest rock star. The singing was not limited to Hindi and Nepali songs; rather, they also sung a range of American songs. I was slightly embarrassed by the fact that they seemed to be able to sing almost any good song from America; whereas, I was limited to joining in on just the chorus. The singing continued all evening, ceasing only for a brief 15 minutes, when our Dal Baht arrived, and we all simultaneously remembered how hungry we were from our hike, eating almost in silence. At around 7:30 pm, we all piled into the D2 van, still singing, where Ram, our sober driver, kindly drove us home, one of the great perks of working at D2- or in my case, knowing people who work at D2. As I stared out the window, still enjoying the soft sounds of the singing voices in the van, I thought about the wonderful day we'd had and my overall trip to Nepal. My flight back to the US leaves this afternoon, and I am reluctant to say goodbye to the country of Nepal, where the kind people, relaxed culture, and breathtaking landscape have left quite an impression on me. I cannot say goodbye to Nepal; rather, I will just have to think to myself "until next time…," as I know that I will have to return to this country and the friends that I've made here. Walking in Cloud Nine

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