It was a perfect afternoon on a perfect mountain top, 30 km west of Kathmandu in Nepal.
We’d travelled in the back seat of an ageing and dusty Black Toyota sedan to Kakani. The lack of seat belts in the car might have given an inkling of the car’s advanced age, but it was mainly the dark exterior that prompted our Nepalese guide to label it, “the Mafia car” suggesting with a hearty laugh, that our driver looked “criminal!”
Thirty odd years ago, the road to Nagarkot Mountain Top and Lookout was narrow, winding and precipitous. Dirt tracks, barely one car width wide, that would be better suited to goats, twisted their way sharply around steep hillsides with never a guardrail to be seen.
Despite this, I was focused less on my safety than on the countryside itself. It looked alive and thriving. Almost every hill no matter how steep, had been heavily terraced and cultivated with crops. Quaint mud-brick farm cottages clung to 80 degree slopes and the mountainous backdrop grew ever more spectacular with each and every bend. I pinched myself.
Was I really here at the top of the world? I marveled at how the puffy white clouds perched high up in the sky were not actually clouds at all, but the Himalayan mountain tops tinged with snow!
Every few kilometres, or so, smiling school children appeared on the roadside, waving enthusiastically at our car, as we passed by. Our Guide informed us that many of the chuldren walk several hours just to reach the nearest school. No School of the Air exists in Nepal. A very different life to Australia, where schools are located in every suburb and in remote areas, lessons with a teacher are given over radio communication, (now, presumably skype), each day.
On reaching Nagarkot Lookout, we were invited to sit on a deck chair at the cliff’s edge. I actually couldn’t stop smiling. I have never seen anything so extraordinary. It is a cliché, but the air was palpably clean and pure. Hauntingly beautiful flute music played in the air adding to the mystical atmosphere.
Sitting and looking out upon the highest mountain tops of the world brought me feelings of tranquility and material needlessness to my head. In those moments, any yearning for material objects and acquisitions completely vanished. Even my materialistic other half, the Moth, agreed that afternoon. We struck up a conversation with another traveler. He was from – wait for it: the Australian Gold Coast. Thousands of miles from home and I meet a stranger who lives less than 60 minutes from my home!
Meanwhile Mudhav, our smartly dressed guide, complete with pristine, ‘Mrs-March” bleached shirt, stated he never gets bored with the mountains. He reads Wordsworth, Keats and other romantic English poetry. He says his presentation as a guide, is different with ‘good people,’ like us.
Again, I smile!
We didn’t anticipate the final surprise that was yet to come.
Nepalese Women Carry the Load
As we sat on that small area of level ground surrounded by precipitous cliffs, enjoying the view at 2200 metres above sea level, two women appeared from below the cliff face, casually climbing up and over the rock incline directly in front of us.
Such was their physical strength they were able to scale an almost, I guess, 80 degree vertical slope, as if they were taking a light stroll.
There is no photo of them, but to our shock we noted they carried large straw baskets down their back, laden to the brim, with potatoes. The basket was held by a narrow rope tied around their forehead. You can imagine our astonishment and our incredulity at the strength of their necks under such a load!
Nagarkot and Kakani can get very cold as night draws near, but the view of Mt. Annapurna, as well as the other mountains that make up this part of the Himalayas: Machhapuchhare, Ganesh Himal and Langtang, are in a word stupendous Mountain Tops. It is very easy to sit and watch those mountains for hours, so mesmerizing is this special part of the world.
My photographs are showing their age and the quality is not so good so I have included two videos to enhance your impression of the area.
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Where is your favourite Mountain Top?
How do you feel when you reach the summit? This motorcyclist loves the countryside too.