Print Edition - 2019-04-05  |  Food & Travel

Along the fringe of the Valley

  • In Kakani, you can walk off your fill of trout and berries along two distinctly different walking trails, each offering serenity and stunning views.
- Thomas Heaton, Kathmandu

Apr 5, 2019-

Deep within forests and between the steps of terraced farms, corrugated iron roofs signal homes, and life. These houses occasionally flank paths that traverse the hill, and their residents smile as unfamiliar faces pass through. Bumping down the rocky paths north of the Kathmandu Valley, looking over the villages of Nuwakot, the tracks are muddied by the previous night’s rain; it’s rough, but it’s not busy or dusty.

Towards the bottom of the hill, about 500 metres inside one of the valley’s many elbows, sits a rainbow trout farm. With free-flowing cold water from the nearby river, it is one of many in the area dedicated to Japanese rainbow trout. There, Sonam Lama kicks grime from the pool floor, following the cyclical cleaning process of the farm’s 13 terraced ponds. Some pools are clear, others empty, and this one: putrid green. Despite the colour, the concrete pools seem fresh and new, Sonam has been in the business for about nine years. His first farm, close by, was destroyed during the 2015 earthquake, so he moved to his current location and rebuilt.

Everything is quiet relative to the flowing river feeding his farm. While an intense sun shines sporadically through breaking clouds, droplets form on his forehead and his grey jersey begins to soak with sweat. The perspiration speaks to how hard the work is, while his belly might speak to a penchant for his own product.

“It’s an okay business to be in. The money’s actually good, because everyone eats trout,” says Sonam. People regularly make short trips to revel in Kakani’s peace, quiet and sights, as well as to savour these locally-farmed fish. Along the hour-long 25km drive from the capital, the road to Kakani is lined with hotels and restaurants flogging trout in all forms. Closer to the rim’s peak, vendors can also be found roadside, selling the area’s equally sought-after strawberries—some even selling strawberry raksi. But there is more to Kakani than berries and trout.

The area surrounding Sonam’s farm, in Chahare of Kakani Rural Municipality, is primarily farmland and forest. Traditional Tamang housing fashioned from stones and red mud can be seen, but are fewer in number than higher up in the valley. Buddhist prayer flags flap in the distance and occasionally, women appear, carrying freshly milled grain or weeding their gardens. Not far from Sonam’s farm is the Phung Phunge waterfall.

Following Sonam, with a brief stop to grab finger-staining wild blackberries, the views grow as the valley widens. Following the trail and scaling down for a time, the rocks atop Phung Phunge sport bolt-fixed anchors as this 185m cliff is popular among brave canyoning souls. Other than the waterfall, it seems the area is not a tourist hotspot.

Up the hill, around the main township is where most tourists venture, and the brunt of resorts and hotels can be found. Further up the hill and through an Armed Police Force peacekeeping training centre is a peaceful spot away from traffic. Sitting at a dead-end before the trails of Shivapuri National Park, children run around with toys fashioned from sticks and wheels from cut-up flip-flops, dogs laze in the shade, and shopkeepers chat amongst themselves. The only sound pollution is distant marching music. The air is clean with a pleasant wind passing through this small town.

Sitting at about 2,000m, one can have uninterrupted views of both Nuwakot and Deurali from any one of the handful of hotels in the area. And, in any one of those hotels, one can find trout. Grilled, fried, or in a curry, the local trout is sold by the kilogram and advertised with pride. There is also a small stupa and more somberly, the Thai Memorial Park commemorating the 1992 Thai Airways crash that killed 113 people. Aside from these landmarks, the main attraction of the area is its serenity and all-consuming trails.

To work off the kilograms of fish consumed in the area, there is a lot of walking to be done in the Shivapuri-Nagarjun National Park. With two trails to Gurje Bhanjyang, one 11km and the other 7.5km, each offers a different perspective. The shorter route, which should take no more than two hours, offers views of Nuwakot under a Himalayan gaze, while the longer route has views of Kathmandu Valley and takes about two and a half hours. These trails seem untouched by many, with minimal trash, just disintegrating leaves and fallen trees. It’s rare to come across people on these trails in hotter seasons, seemingly reserved for winter walks, which makes stumbling across deer and birdlife more common.

Within the middle section of the trek there is just peace and quiet, while only in the park’s peripheries do sporadic horns interrupt the peace of the easy walk. The national park provides a level of serenity that people travel hundreds of kilometres for, so it’s hard to believe that Kakani is just 25 kilometres from Kathmandu, given its peacefulness.

Towards Gurje Banjyang, however, reality hits, as Kathmandu’s sprawling amoeba appears from behind the brush. Horns sound and dust kicks up, heralding a return to the country’s crazy capital.

Published: 05-04-2019 12:35

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