|Report by||Swechchha Pradhan|
I am not quite sure how I should describe CHITLANG. To start with- it lies just 20-25 kms southwest of Kathmandu, the most urbanized city of Nepal, and yet it is a completely rural area with hardly any modern buildings. Well, at least for me it was something surprising. It’s not the most exotic place I’ve been to and it’s not a tourist-centric place too. Well, not yet. But, it’s beautiful in its own way. Guarded by nature and beautiful landscapes 360 degrees round the place, one is very likely to find serenity and peace in this quick escape.
I guess it was around 9am when the bus dropped us in Godamchowk-Thankot, from where we started our hike. My team, the seven of us had estimated to reach our destination, Chitlang in 3 hours. The early morning rain had turned into a drizzle, favouring our journey. The purpose of this trip was to collect soil samples from Chitlang as part of the ongoing TWAS project in our lab. Though a small jeep could have taken us there within an hour, we decided to walk our way up to there. That helped us enjoy the beautiful landscapes and the nature at its best. This hike in particular was much more arduous than I had imagined but the spirit of my team was commendable. Not to forget, the constant humor that accompanied us; someone amongst us was always cracking jokes, making fun of others or passing a wicked sarcasm. Prajwal dai and Satish dai got busy frequently, showing off their abyss knowledge of every flora on our way. As for us ladies, we kept asking the same question every now and then- “How much longer do we have to walk?” Thanks to the amazing Nikon DSLR lens, we also captured many wonderful pictures. As we walked higher, the weather turned out to be more fantastic. We crossed many hills which were covered with fog and everytime we reached the top of a hill, we could see the clear sky and beautiful forest surrounding us. The cool and sometimes chilling breeze was more than enough to keep us from sweating and chocolate bars were our energy boosters. The best part was when we came across a big flat ground in the middle of a dense forest. The view was breathtaking from there and the serenity was overwhelming. It was like one of those places where in ancient times sages would come to meditate for years. All of us lied down there and some of us even dozed off for a while I guess.
As we came nearer to Chitlang, we saw small houses made of stones and with slanted roofs making up the entire village. It was around 3pm (it had taken us 6 hours to reach Chitlang) when we reached our homestay. Rife with hunger, we turned into voracious feeders at lunch. After resting for about an hour, we decided to explore more of the village and start our project sampling as well. The Newari community, with its rich cultural heritage, was dominant in that place. It was already dark when we returned back to the homestay. In the evening, we treated ourselves with delicious chicken barbeque (Chitlang style), local cuisines, camp fire and refreshments. The hospitality of local people was something worth remembering.
It was a beautiful morning. The sun was already up at 7am. As expected, the previous day’s hike had taken a toll on everyone. Our legs were hurting but that was the least of our concerns. Our destination for this day was Markhu which was one and half hours walk from Chitlang. After a heavy breakfast, we gathered our strength and once again started walking. The journey from Chitlang to Markhu was the most beautiful experience of this trip for me, partly because of the amazing weather and the beautiful walking trails which took us deep into the Salla forest and mostly because of the final destination we reached. We encountered no one throughout the journey. Warm sunlight managed to peak in through spaces between tall trees. We could hear the sound of river gushing beneath the hill. Markhu was basically downhill from Chitlang and sometimes it was very slippery to walk on the wet stones, but we had great pairs of shoes on, everyone of us. Prajwal dai had really switched on the PHOTOGRAPHER in him that day; he took some really amazing pictures. Sunil dai, our GPS expert, had switched on the SINGER in him that day; he was singing through the entire way. I, on the other hand, was just happy to be there, walking and being captivated by blissful nature. As we started descending, we saw the breathtaking view of INDRASAROBAR. It was a huge lake and it was spotlessly clean. It is the first and the largest man-made lake prepared for the Kulekhani Hydro Project. People there said that the lake stretched some 7-8 kms. Certain areas of the lake were separated for fish farming. We could see clear reflection of the sky above and hills around in the lake. Roaming around, we also started sampling. Most of us were enervated but Satish dai’s aka Mr. Mike’s energy was shocking, as if he could dig the entire hill and turn it into a flat land. There was a long suspension bridge nearby connecting two villages on either side of the bridge. It was literally a ‘U-shaped’ bridge with the arms of the U going very up. It was very very windy crossing the bridge. Overall, the ambience was great, relaxing and very peaceful. Unfortunately we did not have much time left for boating, another must-do thing in that place. For lunch, we had the typical daal-bhaat-tarkari but the fish curry was something to die for, so delicious. After that we made our way back to Chitlang once again. We reached just in time to catch the last jeep that took us back to Thankot. Prajwal dai and Atri dai even managed to visit the nearby Goat Cheese Factory in Chitlang. That brought us to the end of our time in Chitlang. On our way back in the jeep, we shared stories of our childhood, cracked stupid jokes and recollected the reminiscences of the amazing place we had just left behind.