Monday, November 5, 2007

Nagarjun Forest

When was the last time you walked 20km?

I think the last time for me was during my 1998 visit to Nepal. Two of my fellow teachers took me out for an all-day trek through the Kali Gandaki gorge. As I recall I was sick in bed the following day.

I think my daily yoga practice helped me avoid that same fate this morning. I was tired, for sure, and my knees and upper thighs a bit tight, but I was otherwise able to function fairly normally today.

Pictured below are two of my classmates – the monks – and our new friend Don at the top of Nargarjuna Mountain, a scared Buddhist site 2017m above sea level. Imagine a set of stairs that took you 2 hours to climb and you've got a good idea of what we did Sunday morning.

We had planned to go just the three of us, but when we got to the main gate we ran into a snag. The mountain is part of a larger forest preserve that also houses a royal lodge and so is fenced-in and managed by the army. To get in the soldiers required that one of us leave an official form of identification, such as a passport, citizenship card, or driver's license. Between us we had nothing. Except for the cab driver.

He offered, for the sum of 1000RPs (about US$16.00) to get us into the park. But rather than wait for us, he offered to walk with us. And so we had a new friend and companion for the day, our driver from Bhaktapur, Don.

I think perhaps he didn't realize how much of his day he'd be spending with us.

At the summit: Phuntsok, Don, Tenzin, and me.

Following our 2-hour ascent we had a picnic breakfast at the summit – fresh baked bread from the guest house, boiled eggs, fresh cow cheese produced here in Boudha, bananas, apples, cookies, and chocolate. Such simple fare is delicious at 2000m. There is a small stupa at the summit at which we paid our respects and thanks for a safe ascent. Phuntsok lit some candles, one of which, he said, was for his idol, Britney Spears. He heard she was suffering quite a lot recently, and so lit a lamp in prayer for her health and good fortune.

It was an overcast morning so there was little to see. Apparently a good stretch of the Himalaya can be seen from here, but we were lucky to see down into the valley immediately below.

There is a dirt road suitable for cars and we followed this down, not realizing that it would take us a while to get back. Four hours, in fact. But it was all downhill and not terribly strenuous or difficult walking. Here we are about 2/3 of the way down, with Kathmandu in the background.

As soon as we got back to Boudha I headed home for a shower, dinner, and a beer. I went straight to bed and slept 10 hours. Tenzin this morning told me that he played basketball with his buddies! Which is what you can do when you're still in your 20's.


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