Kathmandu forever


The ribbon of black asphalt curled away into the distance. Gently rolling hills, bald in patches, terraced hillsides stared down into the blue-grey river below. The river, now tumultuous, now placid, now still and murky, strew pebbles of all sizes on the banks. The rocky canyon cut by the irresistible force of water over the millennia loomed nearby. The lorries — mechanical monsters mining sand and rocks to feed the ever increasing hunger of humankind for cities, towns and dwellings — zoomed past and fro. The scars of last year’s floods were still visible on the rocky banks.

The bus climbed up at times, descending to the valleys at others; a microcosm of life. The air conditioner struggled to dispel the liquid heat arising from the river. Banana trees stood sentinel by straggling hamlets. Children played in the soft brown earth chasing chickens and goats. Small streams, thin ribbons cascaded down the steep hillsides to join the mighty Trisuli.

We had set off at half past seven on a glorious spring morning towards Kathmandu. The Annapurna Himals were bathed in a pink glow; softly hazy in the dust blown in from the plains. The rickety bridge over the Bijayapurkhola clattering under the weight of all the vehicles.

Multiple overlapping layers of hills gradually fading away in to the soft distance. The valley lay bathed in soft magical sunshine. Dense fog enveloped us in its thick embrace as we descended from the valley. It was like traveling through cotton wool. Trees were wraith like shapes, restaurants and buildings disembodied ghosts by the roadside. Piping hot jiris and pakoras, puris frying in hot oil. Well dressed gentlemen and ladies savouring morning delicacies over steaming cups of chiya. Fragmented patchwork of fields, declining productivity, exploding population. Forests are being relentlessly converted in to farms, more and more land is being brought under the plough. Denuded hillsides, the top soil being washed away in the monsoon. The scars of frequent landslides were evident on the Rajmarga. The road metamorphosed from a flat smooth asphalt top to a dirt road, to a churning track of slush and back again to asphalt top all in the space of a few meters.

The string theory, grand unification, the origins of the Universe. Multiple valleys of physical constants and solutions for the equations. Many valleys, hills and energy levels; however, only a few were compatible with life. Quantum tunneling and rolling down from the one energy valley to the next. A remarkable unity of form from the very big to the small. Einstein had worked out the basic concepts of General relativity in another beautiful mountain paradise- Switzerland. On previous trips I had seen scores of rafts in all colours of the rainbow scattered on the white sands and putting out into the turbulent waters of the river. Today the banks were silent, quiet and desolate.

Damauli, a flat valley town; dusty and hot with cycle rickshaws plying on the winding streets. The brown hills were scattered with speckles of green, dusty roads were winding laboriously to precariously perched hamlets. Dirt streaked jeeps were resting by the roadside back from bone jarring trips to remote villages. Dumre sprawls linearly on both sides of the Rajmarga; a straggling line of shops, restaurants and lodges. An ordinary, utilitarian place. The turn off to Besishahar and the Annapurna circuit; buses pulling in and out at all odd hours of the day.

The varying moods of the river. The relentless flow of water, unceasing, changeless and yet eternally changing. Can hydroelectricity be the answer to our problems? The eternal dilemma of how to harness the resources of Nature without plundering it. Huge dams alter the natural biorhythms of a river, changing for ever the riparian pulse of life. Wild, unfettered rivers running happily through the densely wooded countryside. Yet we have to harness the river for electricity, irrigation, navigation and a thousand other things besides.

The Riverside Springs Resort at Kurintar was our stop for lunch. A verdant setting by the banks of the Trisuli. Buffet lunch in sylvan settings was perhaps the highlight of the trip. The landscaped gardens, a turquoise blue swimming pool within hailing distance of the Trisuli.

The cottages blended in with the landscape of the inner terai and yet provided all modern facilities. The Manakamna cable car station. Modern cable cars were snaking their way up the steep hillside on bands of steel.

The climb up to Kathmandu valley. The winding line of vehicles at the Thankot check point. Heavily laden lorries puffing their way up the steep incline belching black smoke in copious amounts. It was a delightful and lazy journey between two major valley towns of Nepal. Someone had said that the mid-hills were the real treasure of Nepal. Considering the gently rolling hills, the lazy meandering river, the white sandy beaches, the steeply cut canyons and the small ancient temples I was inclined to agree with the proposition!