KIAS conservation hiking to Jamacho Gumba, Kathmandu

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– Bijaya Luitel

On the 15th of December 2018, KIAS organized a hike to Jamacho Gumba, which is located in the Nagarjun section of the Nagarjun-Shivapuri National Park. There were altogether 8 of us from KIAS that took part in the hike, which we celebrated as an occasion for conservation.

We initiated our journey from Macchapokhari, on the Northwestern edge of the valley-encompassing Ring Road. After a pleasant breakfast at a local inn, we set off for the entrance to the national park, located at a close 10-minute walk from Macchapokhari. There we met up with a large crowd of people, who were students from college, also enjoying their Saturdays by hiking in the national park. After several minutes of delay dealing with bureaucratic niceties, namely the buying of separate tickets, our team set off on the hike.

The initial stretch could only be described as rite of passage, and oh what a difficult rite of passage it was. While there were stairs for our benefit, they didn’t stop the difficulties associated with climbing at an almost 60 degree angle from the off. Many of us were left panting almost immediately and we resorted to drinking water and lessening our pace to soothe our heaving and burning chests. I myself was cursing loudly about the necessity of such steepness so early on in the hike; it appeared to me that it would have been much more apt to have a steady beginning so as to let the hikers get a “feel” for the slopes before introducing climbs requiring much exertion. Although many of the team members duly agreed with my pronouncement, the statement itself however accurate did little to dispel the harsh reality of the actual climb.

After about thirty minutes of grunts, curses and moans we finally cleared the initial steep climb. However, we didn’t stop to rest; we trudged on reluctantly until we reached a field another half an hour later. There we drank water, ate oranges and commented on the wispy smog that encompassed the valley below. We also waited for two of our number to rejoin us – the conservation biologists who were busy admiring the multicoloured birds that could be seen along the trail.

Our short rest in the field soon gave way to the huffing and puffing once more as we set about reaching our destination, the Jamacho Gumba at the top of the hill. It was quite interesting to note that the buffer zone of this national park contained such a sacred site, which was scarcely coincidental. What better way to connect nature and people than introducing a protected area in which the forest is dense, ostensibly teeming with wildlife and contains a famous site to boot? However, we never got to see the park that was teeming with wildlife. Apart from the raucous noise that was being emitted from the horde of students (which mind you was contemptible considering the presence of posters urging people not to make noise), there was nothing to indicate that the place was teeming with animals.

When we reached the Gumba above, we could see the entire valley, a mesmerizing sight. The silhouettes of airplanes as they passed in front of the distant snow-clad mountains created a beautiful scenery; an amalgamation of something man-made and natural which created something special. We were also at the summit of the hill we had, at times, so reluctantly climbed. We could see the valley, a whitish hue emanating from the wispy tendrils of smog that was covering the surface below, with tiny gaps in the white where some building poked through defiantly.

After quite some time taking in the vivid scenery, we settled down for lunch. This was when most of us sat down and rested after the grueling hike up the hill. Meanwhile, the fields around us were filled with people who had also journeyed up the hill, albeit some of them on vehicles. The students were there, jubilantly shouting and annoyingly, littering. Since one of the purposes of our hike was to engage in conservation, we decided to pick up litter. It wasn’t much work though, as we found out that the entire trail had been cleaned only a week prior. Lastly, we took a couple of photos and drank in the last of the mesmerizing sights before deciding to go back down the slopes.

The walk down the slopes was somewhat brisk compared to the hike up. While the journey to the top of the summit had been hard on the chest, the hike down was hard on the knees and toes. While we walked down, we decided to look around in the forest, and pick up litter where we could see it. Most of us were very tired by then and we talked in a rather subdued manner as we trudged along a little reluctantly down the slopes.

That is how our hike took place. Despite the hard work required, we enjoyed it very much. We look forward to conducting more of these hikes throughout the valley and beyond!