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A two-part tale: hiking Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park

PART ONE:

I didn’t see any mountains when I was in Nepal, but I did climb a big hill.

Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park is about an hour out of Kathmandu.

Transport within the city is relatively cheap and easy – walk, rickshaw, or taxi. Going further is more difficult. The road network is one of the least developed in the world. Aircraft are a crucial component of the transport infrastructure.

I wouldn’t have been able to see nearly as much of the surrounding area if it wasn’t for a friend who speaks the language and knows his way around.

He really proved his worth at bus stations, which are chaotic with destinations broadcast only by word-of-mouth.

The buses go further than taxis and are much cheaper: around NZ 40 cents per ride.

No doubt child labour helps keep the prices down. Children and teenagers work as ticket collectors and conductors. When the vehicle slows they jump off and advertise the route.

One boy, aged around 15, was particularly good at his job. He was strong and loud. He had a Justin Bieber-style haircut and was wearing a black T-shirt emblazoned with the pop star’s face. Of course, I couldn’t understand what he was saying, but he said it with such conviction.

PART TWO:

Once in the national park we went the wrong way.

We headed up another peak: Chisapani. We paused too often to make it to the top but we saw plenty along the way – terraced fields and whitewater rivers and sprawling forests.

Note to tourists: bring chocolate. We were on our way down when a little face appeared between crops.

“Namaste,” the young boy said. I looked around assuming he was greeting someone else.

“Namaste,” he said again.

Finally, I replied: “Namaste.”

This pleased him as he had another line ready: “Namaste, please give me chocolate.”

Others were quieter but just as curious.

One young girl playing on the porch stopped and stared as we approached, before pressing her hands together to say a silent hello.

We passed children on their way to school, and on their way back again. Their uniforms were neat – shirts and shorts. The girls wore their hair in slick plaits.

So yes, the scenery was beautiful.

But people > places.

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