After about half an hour ride through the suburb of Pokhara city our bus ran on a bumpy road which meant we were now out of the periphery of the city. We could occasionally catch the glimpses of mountain from our windows on the way. We got off from the bus before a lonely tea shop where we all had a cup of tea. We prepared ourselves for the long walk to Sikles, our destination.
After a few minutes walk on dusty gravel road we found ourselves marching on the white sandy bank of Madi River. The unceasing roar of the emerald water gushing past the rock accompanied our footsteps. The unimpeded view of the white sand spread far to the the bottom of the hills that stood in distant view. The path through the sand often disappeared in the midway while at some places they split into two or three leaving us confused about which one to follow. Luckily our group had a person who had gotten quite familiar with these path through his regular trips to Sikles. Whenever you see the path split into two, he advised, always follow the one that has more footprints, that looks well-trodden. So we walked on, every now and then trying to distinguish which path had received more footfalls of the travelers. The varying designs of the imprints of the shoes planted on the sand were quite a matter of amusement for us.
As the roar of the river became distant we left the bank and sneaked into a forest. A waterfall welcomed us at the entrance of the forest and the trees offered cool shade from the sun that was heating our back. The slightly steep track ran through the forest for sometime. Then we carried on to walk along the bottom of the hill until we came to a small hotel where our lunch was waiting for us. As soon as we finished our lunch and had a short rest we continued on our way.
There stood before us a cobbled staircase rising on a steep hill and god knows where it ended. But we had to reach our destination anyhow and it did not seem reasonable to feel daunted so quickly. We ascended the track. The more we went up the more oxygen our lungs demanded and each succeeding step felt heavier than the previous one. Our body started to ask for rest so often that there was a group of stragglers left behind. Everyone felt drained of energy but the end of the path was still not in our sight.
Whenever we feel short of energy, our stamina seems to fail, nothing can heal us so well as music. Someone among us figured this out and began to sing the Hindi version of “we shall overcome, we shall overcome someday.” Others added, “I do believe deep in my heart, we shall overcome someday.” The surrounding around us was bleak and desolate. The sun was scorching behind us that seemed to soak all the water from our body. Luckily we often came across water taps and chautari, where we sat and looked at the path we had traversed. The sandy bank looked distant and the faint sound of the river could still be heard. So we moved on with songs, photos, rest and an eager hope that the path would end sooner.
As our destination was getting nearer we were greeted by a group of cheerful Gurung ‘aama(s)’ who had come down from the village with snacks for us. But before we could treat our hungry tummy, they put tika on our forehead and hung the garland of fresh marigold flowers around our neck. Then an ‘aama’ phoned one of our group members that had lagged behind. When we saw her held a slightly big screen-touch phone and earphone in her ears we could not help drop our jaws. Even my mom does not know how to use a screen-touch phone properly and earphone is definitely not her cup of tea. After all our friends had come, we walked for another half an hour from there. The dusky view of the village appeared in front of our eyes. The village looked beautiful with the stunning backdrop of Annapurna beaming in the evening light. At that moment only did I realize what it actually meant to be at the lap of a mountain. All of were exhausted but the scenic view of the village immediately made us forget the pain we felt in our feet. Our long wearing walk through the uphill was worthy.
We woke up early the next morning for the sightseeing of the Annapurna range. The guest-house owner hurried us saying that the mountain would be shrouded in clouds soon. Then we again walked for half an hour or so to get to the viewpoint. Never had I seen a mountain so closely before. The whole mountain was in front of me, from top to the bottom, with white snow shining radiantly on its peaks. We were lucky enough to watch an avalanche too. A large bulk of snow seemingly fell off from and rolled down producing a cloud-like shapes on the slope.
Later we went up to a school at the top of the village. From the playground of the school we could see a thick column of houses, with corrugated roof and small courtyard at the front, laid on the slant terrain. The inner part of the village was a puzzling web of cobbled alleys where we could see the villagers going about their business, some took time out to greet us with warm smiles. They talked to each other in Gurung language and many of them carried ‘ghalek’, a traditional bag-like piece of cloth, which hinted at the intactness of the village.
Our short stay in Sikles was truly refreshing. The close communion with the mountain, cool morning breeze and starry sky in the night made us realize how lucky it was to be live in the countryside, close to nature rather than in a crammed, noisy city like kathmandu.