“Where do you want to run this weekend?” Roger and Richard asked.
I didn’t mind. Just as long as there were mountains involved and absolutely no leeches, I was up for running anywhere. In the end, we all agreed to head to Jamacho peak, just west of Kathmandu city. At 2095 metres altitude, it’s the fourth highest summit on the rim. And having already bagged the other highest three mountains on the valley edge, I was happy to accept the offer to go up the last remaining one.
Richard, Roger and I paid our 250 Rupees entrance fee at Balaju entrance and headed straight on up the walkers track.
Steps had been built into parts of the steep slope, forcing us to walk up most of the 4 kilometres to the top. The walk gave us the chance to catch up with each other, most of having been away from Nepal over the last few months. I was glad of the others’ company, the thin mist in the thick forest lending a positively spooky feel so early on Saturday morning.
We reached the summit in less than an hour and wandered around the prayer flag covered Hindu temple on top. From there, we decided to take the longer path back to Baraju, going west and then a circular clockwise path to the north.
From the map, it looked like a major jeep track lay in store, the map saying that it was fit for mountain biking. However, after a few kilometres the path got slowly more and more overgrown. First, grass covered the centre of the path, which then descended into a single track. Then more and more bushes reached across the path sides. Next the nettles came, in thick and luscious bushels. We were running so close behind each other that we had no time to warn each other as we ran straight into their stinging leaves.
And despite my request for a leech-free run, the leeches were out on force that morning. We reached a clearing to find leeches having massive parties inside our shoes and socks. Fortunately Richard had brought along a little bottle of savlon. As soon as the orange liquid was applied, the leeches squealed and dropped off, leaving a trail of our blood to mark their feeding place. Or rather, I did most of the squealing. I find leeches so horrible that I can’t help but scream when I see them attacking me. And I’m often too grossed out to physically pull them off my skin.
It was a relief, after 4 kilometres of jungle to get back to the wide and muddy jeep track that no leech could stalk us on. 5 kilometres more and we reached the road, and stopped for some mid-morning tea, pepsi, biscuits and noodles. The last remaining leeches were picked off our legs and fed to the chickens at our feet. And then a final 4 kilometre straight back into Balaju town to grab a taxi back home.
In the end, we covered 22 kilometres of great mountain trail with a 700 metre ascent through thick forest. It’s definitely a place to come back to in the dry season when the leeches are off on holiday.
GPS trail of the route we took can be found here.