There’s a big green blog at the top of my map of Kathmandu Valley. The Shivapuri Watershed and Widlife Reserve has lain temptingly there for months, waiting for me to explore. I finally had a chance last Sunday to breach the green line around it and to head to its summit at 2725 metres.
I paid a taxi 550 Rupees (5.50 Euros) to drive me across town to the Shivapuri Reserve. The taxi itself conked out going up the last hill, fortunately depositing me just 100 metres short of the gate. The air was surprising fresh and cool for May, a sure sign that the monsoon was on its way. At the gate, I gave my name and nationality and paid another 250 Rupees to gain entrance. I then signed in the tourist logbook guarded by an official looking military man.
I knew the map was wrong about the routes up to the peak. Runners had told me to head to Nage Gomba first and that there was a path all the way from there. Such a path was not marked on my map, but I still opted to believe my fellow runners. So abandoning my chart reading, I followed the jeep track that contoured neatly around the mountain to Nage Gomba. Breeches in the forest revealed Kathmandu below me. I was happy to be up high from it all.
What the runners didn’t tell me was that Nage Gomba is a Buddhist monastery and that the path crosses straight across their front garden. I tiptoed across as Buddhist monks knelt in meditation swathed in their red and orange robes.
The path lay behind a sheet iron gate, and then steeply ascended the hill on a course and dry trail. This I followed before the sandy trail turned into a wonderfully smooth run through a cool pine forest. There were no signs to the summit on the map or the ground, so I followed aimlessly, hoping that there wouldn’t be other trails which would demand me to make a choice. Fortunately, the path continued onwards and upwards in a direction that seemed right, though it was hard to tell given that I was closed in by the forest and unable to get my bearings by looking at the surrounding mountains.
After 90 minutes I came to a hermitage that has two saddhus in residence. A handy sign indicated to me one more kilometre that-a-way and the summit would finally be reached.
I was imagining a stunning view of Kathmandu standing at the summit of Shivapuri. Instead a found a mound of stones with a pile of tea biscuits on top huddled within the forest. I figured I must have reached the summit as all the other paths were heading downwards. So I stocked up on some trail mix and drank down some water before heading back to down to Nage Gombe.
Instead of taking the trail all the way back to the park gate, I opted to follow the ridge to Gokarna. This proved a wise choice, the ridge being through a dry pine forest with a bouncy rocky trail that I ran smoothly down. It was one of those trails you just have fun running, not too steep, not too rocky, just one of those you take off the brakes and amble your way across the contour lines. And the trail was all mine, except for the odd woman bringing her cows or goats up into the forest for a spot of grazing.
The trail eventually led me to the town of Gokarna, from where I jumped on a bus back to Kathmandu. My thoughts then turned to the mound of daal bhat (rice and lentils) that I’d happily eat once I finally reached home.