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From the Jungle to the Himalayan Peaks

January 08, 2023

A view of a volcano and plants

written by Alessandro Ramazzotti

The days in Sauraha, at the outskirts of the Chitwan National Park, have been unforgettable! For the first time, both me and Yana saw rhinos in the wild. Notwithstanding their size and unfriendly appearance, they are – at least from a safe distance – cute and quiet animals, just interested to eat as much as they can and not to be disturbed by anyone. Apart from rhinos, the Chitwan forest was full of deer of different species, running on the side of packs of monkeys. The latter, especially in Nepal, are not an unusual sight, but to see them jumping in the forest is much more exciting than in urban environments. The intense-orange sunset we witnessed the previous evening on the calm river, on the banks of which some crocodiles were warming themselves up, was also worth the long bus ride to this wild town. Hopefully, we’ll have the opportunity to come back; but now it’s really time to go; our time to visit Nepal is limited. It is three in the morning when the owner of the hotel where we stay comes knocking at the door of our little hut: “Your bus is here! Wake up!”. Luckily, we packed the night before, also because they initially told us the bus to Kathmandu would pick us up at four, and this unexpected alarm in the middle of the night is shocking to say the least. We get up from the bed and go out in the foggy jungle night; even the birds are still asleep. The owner of Tiger Tops pressures us to be fast, and leads us to the dining room for a quick breakfast – the usual potato paratha with pickles, accompanied by a cup of hot dudh chai. As soon as we finish, we barely have time for a fast good-bye before being escorted to the minibus that is waiting for us outside of the hotel’s gate. The lights inside are green and cozy, in contrast to the driver’s craziness on the wheel – however, after two months in Nepal, crazy driving doesn’t worry us much anymore. We have about eight hours to spend before arriving in Kathmandu, and while the sun rises, we slowly go back to sleep. At about 12 we arrive in the Kalanki neighborhood of Kathmandu, where the smog and the heat hit us as soon as we step out of the minibus. To make the impact of the city worse, a shouting pack of taxi-drivers assault us, and we need to move fast to avoid them all. Our plan is to go to the Indian Embassy to apply for the visa, which turns out to be a hell of an experience, but at about three in the afternoon we are done with bureaucracy and can go get some food – the first of the day. After visiting Pokhara and Chitwan, the chaos of Kathmandu feels too heavy to bear, and while we enjoy our veggie burger, we plan to continue our journey up north, towards the Langtang National Park. It's about four when we start walking again towards the neighborhood of Balaju, where the bus to Langtang is supposed to stop. Once we reach Balaju, finding the bus stop is more challenging than we expected, but finally we see a row of green buses ready to leave. It must be there! Next to the buses, various ladies are selling snacks and drinks to the travelers; we are the only foreigners on board. After about twenty minutes, we leave the stop and head out of Kathmandu. The air gets instantly fresher, and the uphill road soon allows us to get a beautiful view of the city below. The more we go up, the more the road becomes scarily dangerous: the asphalt disappears, and the width considerably narrows; soon, on one side there is a steep mountainside, while on the other a deep precipice. At some points of the road, we get so close to the precipice, that it feels like we are flying, suspended in the void. Looking out of the window brings adrenaline, and we observe with awe the ticket boy who carelessly leans out of the open door. Luckily, we find only motorcycles coming from the opposite side. After four hours of bumpy, rocky, adventurous road, we decide that reaching the deep Himalayas is going to take too long – also given the fact that the bus we are on does not reach Dhunche, but instead ends the ride at Trishuli. Therefore, when we stop at Kakani, we swiftly hop off the bus, that continues its way in a cloud of dust.
A bark scorpion glowing in the dark
It’s sunset time, and we have no idea about where we are. A group of houses – not many, but not few – surrounds us, and people look at us with interest. We ask to a lady who’s selling vegetables about where we could find a place to spend the night, and she answers that: “This is Lower Kakani; the hotels are all in Upper Kakani!”. Unhappy about her answer, but with no choice, we start to climb up the road. We meet a couple, and a group of soldiers; we pass a food stall and a few houses; and finally, we reach Upper Kakani, from where the view on the hills and the city far below is definitely stunning! The sun is about to set, and while Yana waits for me near the only shop of the village, I go around to ask for prices. There are only five hotels in total, and it doesn’t take me too long to survey them all. In the end, the owners of the first hotel we asked decided to give us a discount – after all, we are the only visitors in Kakani, why miss the opportunity?! The room in the View Himalaya Resort is incredibly cozy, and for 1000 rupees we get a small balcony and a bathroom attached. Moreover, there is unrequested room service. We finally drop our backpacks on the floor, and go out on the balcony for a quick tour of the room: the snowy Himalayan peaks are visible in the distance, and they seem to be saying “Come! Come to us!”. We enjoy every bit of the view and go back inside, thinking about the beauty of waking up in the tropical jungle, and going to sleep with a view on Himalayan peaks! Nepal never stops surprising us.
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