Saturday, February 26, 2011

Hiking Nagarjun

Today I went hiking in Nagarjun National Park, which is located northeast of Kathmandu. I teamed up with Douglass and Max again, from my first hiking trip to the peak of Champa Devi. This time two others joined us, Shelley from England and Julie from Quebec.

From Patan, the trip to the Nagarjun entrance took only about 30 minutes; Max rode with Shelley on his motorcycle, while Douglass, Julie, and I shared a taxi. At the entrance gate we had to buy tickets to access the park (250 rupees, or about $3.50) and read helpful banners meant to inform (22 mammals are found in the park, including barking deer and jungle cats) and intimidate (do not bring poisons into the park, among other things).

Jamacho is the summit, and it is situated at about 7,000 feet. The distance to the summit is 5 kilometers, so the hike is very similar to Champa Devi in terms of both distance and elevation gain. Doug warned us, though, that the path was basically one steep, uphill climb.

Fortunately, just as in Champa Devi, the trail was supplemented with a stone staircase for much of the way. Though still steep and pretty much relentless, the staircase is a bit easier than an earthen path.

Maybe it was because I had some caffeine this morning, but I felt AWESOME during this hike. If it was the caffeine, then I really need to bring it back into my life on a more regular basis. But before I give coffee all the credit, I think a few other factors made this hike easier than Champa Devi. For one, this time I was not coming straight out of the flat prairie of Illinois but instead have had time to acclimatize to the higher altitude. Two, we hiked under a pleasant tree cover until we reached the summit, so the strong sun was not hovering over us. Three, we were a bigger group, with three uncertain stomachs and one hangover among the five of us, so I think the pace was not as breakneck as before.

Here is a view of the summit from a clearing about two-thirds of the way to the top:

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We reached the summit at Jamacho within two hours. Unfortunately, there were no mountain views of the Langtang Range because the skies were hazy. But there was a small Buddhist temple at the top:

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Butter lamps, lit as a prayer offering, marked the entrance:

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And a tangle of prayer flags towered over the top:

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We headed down to a lookout spot to eat our packed lunch:

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Which gave us expansive, if cloudy, views of the entire Kathmandu Valley:

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We left just as the clouds started rolling in:

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And made it back to Patan just as the rain began.

We are all reconvening at Shelley's house this evening to celebrate Max's birthday with a well-earned barbecue.

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