The peel of thunder woke me. I looked at my clock. 5 am. It was starting to get light. But outside the rain was pelting down. Damn. I had planned to do a long run, up Phulchoki summit in the southern part of the Kathmandu valley rim (route found here). But I couldn’t face doing a mountain run in wet and murky weather especially when I had never taken the route before.
I lay in bed contemplating where else I could run to. I had always wanted to do the extended version of my weekday run, out of Kathmandu, down to Khokana and Bungamati, then to keep going south until I hit Tika Bhairav (route found here) . And with the rain still dripping down, I left the house prepared to do this alternate trip, ready for a flat valley run rather than the moutaineous one I had initially planned.
As soon as I hit the streets out of Kathmandu, I saw how much rain had fallen. Ducks were out en masse, waddling and wading around in the newly accumulated puddles on the side of the street. And though I was less than happy with the dank weather oh so reminiscent of home, everyone else seemed happy enough that the rain had come to Kathmandu.
Running out to Khokana, I watched farmers descending on to the fields. The earth was sodden with rainwater, making it perfect for ploughing and planting. Men steered waterbuffalo in straight lines, whilst women separated out rice stalks for propagation throughout the paddy fields.
I kept running south past Bungamati, following the Bagmati River. However to get to Tika Bhairav I knew I had to skip over the ridge to the Nakhkuu River that was due east of the better known Bungamati. Finding a path that would take me across proved more challenging than I expected. The map is littered with trails, but few of them are visible on the ground. Eventually I asked some men on a motorbike and they pointed me towards a path that followed a stream through a forest.
However the path soon turned into a rocky gorge that brought me into a closed in wall of cliffs. I checked the map and found the closely packed contour lines that I ultimately had to fjord. But when my Garmin GPS lost satellite reception, I decided to turn back. I also backtracked when I saw that the vegetation was closing in, vegetation that was inevitably holding hundreds of leeches just waiting to clamp onto my legs.
After a hundred metres, I noticed that I taken the wrong the direction. I had continued to follow the stream when in reality the path had branched off on up the hill. It was by now two hours into my run. And as I climbed out of the river bed, I noticed the clouds parting and the strong sun I’m used back where it belonged.
In the end, the path led me straight into Hunumat, 10 minutes run from Tika Bhairva. I had travelled much further than I had expected, so I decided to celebrate with a drink. Stopping at a local tea shop, three generations of Nepalis came running to my aid.
“Where are you going? Are you alone?”
“Tika Bhairav. Yes I’m going solo”.
But it wasn’t until I got out my camera that they got really interested in me. The grandmother wanted to take a picture, but couldn’t quite work out the viewfinder. Her grandson assisted her and took a snap of me. I returned the compliment and took one of their whole family.
I reached Tika Bhairav (and its quarry full of lorries) with plenty of steam, so opted to run back north towards Bungamati, only this time through the network of trails that run through the trees and beside the irrigation ditches. The sun shone brightly on the newly planted rice fields near Chapagaon, and the clear skies opened up views of the snow capped Himalayan peaks to the north of Kathmandu.
It ended up as a 28 kilometre run, with a bit of rain and a bit of sun, with some flat fields and a few minor climbs. Overall a nice little weekend outing out of Kathmandu.