On Sunday morning bright and early, I met up with Maciek, a Polish adventurer racer who’s in town for the next few months doing an internship with the EU. We took a cab out to Lubhu. Roger, on his “$%#@^-en hard” run had originally run all the way from Kathmandu to Lubhu. But seeing that it was on tarmac, and given that I wanted to cut out some of the 26 miles he covered, the taxi ride was a damn fine idea indeed.
From Lubhu, Maciek and I ran the main road to Lakuri Bhanjhyang following a dirt road that climbed quickly up to the village at the col. The way led through thick forest with insects chirping at deafening levels, enough to make sure I had woken up properly after our early morning start.
After a quick tea / coca-cola stop, we left the road and went right on to a track that skirted along the ridge leading to Pulchoki summit. To our left, we could see deep, beautiful valleys, gorgeously green from the recent monsoon rains. To the right, we kept a close eye on Kathmandu city just to make sure we didn’t get lost. And just to be sure, we kept a close eye on the map to stop us from taking a false trail.
After running some nice and nifty single track that wasn’t on the map, we found ourselves on the main Godawari-Pulchoki road. I had heard this was a long slog of a switchback road that led to the top, and indeed, it was exactly how it had been described.
I had hoped that Phulchoki summit would lay on for us stupendous views of Kathmandu from an altitude of 2765 metres. But the further we climbed, the deeper we sunk into mist and cloud that stuck to the summit like glue.
The top is home to a Nepali army military barracks. Two young guards took our names and nationalities before they would let us through the gates to the peak. After another 500 metres of jeep dirt track, we had to go through another set of heavily guarded gates before we could mount the steps to the top.
“Any chance of a cup of tea?” I wondered out loud to myself as I skipped back down the steps. I had subconsciously seen the sign “Army Canteen” stuck to a small grass hut.
Fortunately an army officer called us over and invited to sit down on some upturned logs. He ordered for us tea and water and coca-cola to refresh us before our run back down. The tea arrived, milky and sweet, with an additional unexpected hit of black pepper. Maciek stuck to his coca-cola and gave me his cuppa, and then mozzied on over to the open air ping pong table and challenged the army personnel to a game.
“The ball doesn’t bounce properly”, Maciek said as he came back, defeated from his match.
“Well of course it doesn’t”, I said. “It’s made of weather proof concrete. And anyhow, I’m sure these guys have practiced far more than you”.
After a few more minutes of refreshments, we took the road that we had ascended on. I knew it was going to be a 14 kilometre repetitive, mind-numbingly boring descent on gravel road to our final destination, Godawari. Maciek wasn’t too into that route choice either. After a quick study of the map and a rapid look around, we decided to run back on the ridge from we had come and follow a dirt trail down that we could see in the distance.
It turned out to be a stupendous idea. The switchback dirt track for jeeps had loads of mossy, rocky single track cut right through the forest for walking villagers and mountain runners like ourselves. We landed in the backyard of the research institute ICIMOD and skipped through the fence to the tarmac road. From there it was a 400 metre job to the minibuses that were waiting to whisk us back to Kathmandu.