I see people travelling a lot. At every holiday opportunity they get, their bags are packed ready to wander off. From beaches on summer to safari travels to some country side experience. People like going anyplace unusual. Just take some time off. As a travel fanatic myself, I get asked one particular question a lot. “Where would you like to travel?” And every time I answer with, “Heaven”. And people think of me getting sarcastic all over. They keep on telling, “Heaven does not exist”. But people dream about heaven all the time. They imagine how it’d feel to be in one. And everybody has their own version of it. Everyone compares heaven to their own place of complete bliss and delight and peace.
Now, you might also wonder what my heaven is, whether I found it or not.
The fact is, when you’ve lived in a megalopolis like Kathmandu for too long; swamping with millions other people pacing to keep up to the rush hour, you might just want to take a little break for yourself. After a long peek into my map, I had options listed out. But unlike shooting darts and letting fate decide for me. I planned on trying a little adventure for myself. With the limited amount of budget my friend and I, tried skipping town for a few days. The Christmas lights hadn’t yet been taken off; carols still chimed the air, when we snuck out of Kathmandu on our motorbike. Only a pair of clothes for change and NRS 6,000 on our pocket, we headed north east of Kathmandu, all the way to Dolkha district chasing the Araniko highway and aligning with Lamosagu Ramechhap Highway. On 31st of December 2012, we took off early around 8am to have lunch by the banks of Sunkoshi River at Dolalghat. We even got ourselves a treat of early netted, freshly fried, delicious, crunchy, spicy fishes. After a belly full lunch around 10am we headed further north towards Khadichaur only to take our ride east for an uphill climb. Even while passing by the beautiful village of Mude along the way, we merely had any idea about the destination we were headed for. We were off to some unknown wilderness depending upon a little of my Google search a night prior. Even though we had a map on our backpack, it was further outdated and did not show much of the newly constructed bridges or roads. Despite of all that, it only took us about 6 hours to reach a cosmopolitan town Charikot from home.
Even though we had few magnificent glimpse of mountains laid right ahead of us, the icy turbulent roads did not inspire us to go any further. With me being the only rider, my back started soaring with pain and we had to stop. Fortunately, we landed ourselves on a newly built motel called “Blue Diamond” which lay right at the edge of Charikot. We got ourselves a room with two beds, attached toilet-bathroom and a cable television for only a surprising price of NRS 200 for a night. Even the cheapest, dirty motels at Sundhara charged the price way above. And before our dinner downstairs, we had a little conversation to ourselves, if the motel lady was a ‘Hot Sherpini Babe’ and had she offered us the hospitality at such cheaper price for some sceptic reason. Though we left the topic for further discussion, we hurried down for a supper which happened to be the by far, cheapest Non-veg dal-bhat for NRS 100 each. And trust me, it was a chicken.
Around that time of the year, all the people around Nepal, especially so called ‘Kathmandu-Basi’ were frustratingly bearing the 14 hours of load shedding implemented by the Government of Nepal. And we were among them. But how lucky were we that the Charikot and its neighbouring village Dolkha did not have to go through all that because of the Tamakoshi River and its hydro-electricity. As soon as our supper ended, in excitement of getting to watch television after a very long time, we rushed back upstairs with a free bottle of hot water. With tiny talkies and long lost gossip (the one mentioned above) our night passed us by keeping us unknown of all the ambiguous events we’d be facing the following day.
It was the New Year 2013, as my morning alarm of 6am beeped and beeped until it woke us up, we freshened ourselves with the hot water available at the washroom and checking out of the motel we headed straight out for our motorbike. After asking directions to a few locals, we proceeded to our final destination. Which, compared to the movie was even more thrilling experience. Through the dense woods in the hills; driving by the snow; riding off road watching the frozen streams and lakes; tyres often skidding on the icy roads we kept on climbing upwards. Supposedly, a two hour ride seemed longer and lonelier than riding into the nightly hours back home. Our motorbike was the only thing swooshing, tearing the quiet and peace of the wilderness. Sun had yet to shine on most of the shady corners of the hills. We could still see the full moon over the sky. On a quick glimpse, it all seemed like the scene in the twilight trilogy. Afraid we might get attacked by blood thirsty vampires and wolves, we kept speeding upwards. Little did we know that, by the time we climb half the hill, our motorbike would quit on us. As we rammed higher and higher, the roads got steeper and our ride slowed down and slowed until a point where finally it halted. I called it the time when my motorbike nearly died. After a few moments of pushing around the dusty road, we figured out it could only carry a single person any further. Unaware of the distance we had yet to travel, we pushed climbed, huddled and did everything possible to get it going. And after spending almost twice the time getting up there, we reached a little village called ‘Kuri-Gaun’. And that was our first step to ‘Heaven’.
The road further only led a few hundred miles. Thus, we decided to rest our ride outside a wooden cottage where we planned on having our breakfast. But unfortunately, the water source in the village had been frozen due to the freezing weather at night. So much for our tea. We just had to move on without them. After pre-ordering for lunch, we decided walking up rest of the hill which seemed up close. As we walked up the Rocky Mountains, through the bushes, we got hungrier and thirstier. Our throats got dry as our bodies got dehydrated. We soon needed water. A little ahead we bent down to get some water from stream, only to find it frozen. Staying right at the bottom of the mountain, we started having doubts about climbing it steep. The mountain top, said to have a shrine of a Hindu deity ‘Bhagwati’; my friend started tuning his prayers to her. To his dismay, no prayers were heard. We had reached the narrow trail crossing a field of buckthorn bushes. The path got narrower and narrower making us lean on the mountain and gasp at the gorge as we kept climbing the mountain. We kept moving on despite few near attempts to downfall from the gorge. A little up ahead, we saw handlebars on the way. Relieved I grabbed on it for support when it, itself needed some. I was lucky to have been saved only by a whisker. Despite all those troubles, we reached up a little flat surface with a shop. “Seriously! A shop on top of a mountain?” Chilly wind was blowing hard on the top as we sat down to drink some water which only brought toothache with its chill. For the final 100 meters was there a small, narrow, steep stairs which curved the top and was open at both sides. Had we slipped anyway, we’d have been goners. We literally crawled on our hands and limbs to climb safely up there. And kissed the earth for our survival.
As I stood up to open up my eyes, to my astonishment, “WHAT A VIEW”. Could see the 360 degree, panoramic view of white shining peaks right over the cloud. It was ‘Heaven’; “KALINCHOWK” was ‘HEAVEN’. As my friend went for a prayer at the temple, I stood there gasping my mouth watching the majestic, marvellous view as far as my eyesight could get. It was surreal experience of sangria-la. I could there find the ‘Bliss’, ‘Delight’ and ‘Peace’. It was my trip to ‘Heaven’, it was where I felt spirituality; it was where a mortal met immortal. And as a gratitude, and a symbol of respect to the nature and beauty of the place, I took off the scarf off my neck and tied it on a pole. After what seemed like never ending 4 hour climb, we conquered the Kalinchowk Mountain at the height of 3800 meters above from sea level. Spending almost an hour on the top, we returned back to the little village of Kuri for a lunch with ‘Dried YAK Meat’. Finally getting down to Charikot for another night at ‘Blue Diamond’ and back to Kathmandu on the 2nd of January.