"You cannot reach Khaptad today".
It was 14.45hrs on October 25 when a local of Chaukhutte of Achham said that.
Early that morning I alongwith my brothers Jiwan and Keshav had set out for trek to Khaptad from Dadeldhura where we were told that shortest way to Khaptad is via Chaukhutte and it takes about 4 hours to reach Khaptad.
Agog to reach Khaptad that day, our excitement was punctured by the locals as many joined to persuade us that Khaptad was unreachable in 4 hours.
"We were told that it takes only 4 hours from here to Khaptad." I said.
"Not even locals would make to Khaptad in 4 hours." Replied locals.
That is when our ego was hurt. We thought that we can trek as fast as locals. And we resolved that we will show them!
After the locals were convinced about our resolution, they helped us in finding local guides.
Alas! Nobody was interested to join us.
Finally, we met an enthusiastic local leader Ram Bahadur Ouji who also happened to be the member of Khaptad Area Tourism Development Committee. He tried to persuade as many people. To his and our dismay, nobody was available. Finally, two teenagers indifferently agreed to join us. One of them Krishna had been to Khaptad and he would go only if Puran could accompany him. Eventually, for Puran too, it would be a tourist visit. Finally at 15.45 hrs, five of us set out on the trip.
We had to cross the highest hill seen on the horizon called Kala Pokhara. We had hoped that if we could cross that hill in daylight, we could make to Khaptad by 20.00-21.00 hrs.
|Picture taken around midnight but before we decided to spend the night in the forest!|
Walking with the moon
We realized that we had made the wrong decision of the trek even before the dusk as we were not even half way to Kala Pokhara. This way was particularly tricky as there was not even trail upto Kala Pokhara. Only from another side of the hill would we find a tourist trail. Krishna was immensely helpful to lead us to the top of Kala Pokhara. However, at one point, he also lost the trail and we had to walk longer to catch the lost trail.
It was already 20.00 hrs, the target we expected to reach Khaptad, when we reached the top of Kala Pokhara. We were not even half way through! Walking past the bamboo bush, fear was already looming over all of us. Most pertinent was a bear jumping out of the bush and attacking us. Besides, there were so many foot trails of wild boar that we had to remain watchful all the time.
There was no going back and target was elusive.
Left with no option, we decided to continue walking through the jungle. After Kala Pokhara, Krishna was also overwhelmed in the night that he was of not much help. Even upto Kala Pokhara, he had not much reliable as he would say it takes half an hour to reach a pass or the hill top and it took upto three half hours for us. Luckily, we were within mobile coverage range and Ram was providing us teleguide service.
We walked and walked and walked in the woods and with the moon. The forest was so intense that we were relying on our torch lights for light despite it being the almost full moon night.
The road not taken
By 23.00 hrs, we reached Sahasralinga, another reference point where we took rest for about 20 minutes. It signaled that we have entered Khaptad area and close to destination. This was so beautiful that we hoped to capture few pictures when we return the same route next day.
There was a sign post 50m from where we were taking rest. Too tired to go and see the sign post, we continued to walk in the direction where we were earlier heading. In just about midnight, we found a shade with an adjacent room. This came like an oasis for us. Overwhelmed with tiredness, hunger and sleep, we decided to spend the night there.
At once, we had hoped to sleep inside the room after warming ourselves with fire. However, after lying on the floor, the cold was so pricking that we abandoned the idea of sleeping and spent the whole night by the fire.
|The place where we spent the night!|
At dawn, we continued our trek to the direction where we were heading. After walking an hour – in fact descending, Khaptad was nowhere in sight. So, I called Ram again.
What bad news do you expect? We had been on the wrong path and we had to return back to Sahasra Linga to catch the right path to Khaptad. Walking back uphill, we realized how we have been doing mistakes after mistakes.
Because of our foolishness not to see the sign post in Sahasra Linga from where we could have reached Khaptad in 1 and half hours, we had invited further troubles.
Mistaken for poachers!
We were in no mood to learn from our mistakes. Instead of coming back to Sahasra Linga despite Ram's repeated request, we tried to circumvent the top and avoid going uphill. We walked North West by making trail ourselves. We had hoped to catch the trail coming from Sahasra Linga.
And there was good news. We could over hear human voices! After 15 hours walking in the jungle, we were hearing human voices other than ours. As we were crying for help, two people were running to us. As they approached closer to us, we realized that they were army men.
We were shocked to know that they had mistaken us for poachers and had run to catch us! Had we not mentioned name of Dila who had reached Khaptad two days ahead of us and was kind enough to help us in managing our stay there, we would have been thrashed by the army men.
Nevertheless, the lieutenant who also happened to be in charge of the army battalion in Khaptad scolded our local guides. It was clear that he was venting his anger indirectly to us.
Finally, he said that he was glad to see us; that we were not attacked by any wild animals; that had we not met them in the right time, we would have reached Bajhang.
Cheerful moments came when we met the team of Dila and knew that we could reach Khaptad in 2 hours. We departed after having some group photos as Dila's team was returning from the trip. Our local guides also chose to return from there as they had Dashain festival the next day in their village.
Piece of heaven!
The Lieutenant was kind enough to assign one army man to guide us. However, the lieutenant probably wanted us to teach some lesson for our previous night's mischief. He told the army man to take us through a trail by a stream. There was literally no trail and we had to keep jumping and skidding by catching twigs of the bushes.
The accompanying army man would say that Triveni is just there but we were so exhausted that we were not taking steps but pulling legs indifferently.
Finally we reached Triveni Dham and beautiful Khaptad had started. We could see army guest houses. Monkeys had descended on the plain and were basking in the morning sun. The whole Patan ground was submerged in the morning dew. It was like gold being covered with silver.
However, these things were not exciting for us as our only motto was to reach the guest house, have some water and food and sleep. We were so much tired that none of us was enthusiastic to photograph two beautiful wild dogs basking in the sun.
|That's the Guest House! The facilities are incredible.|
Finally, we reached the destination and real heaven prevailed upon us. We asked for hot water and each of us drank at least one litre of it. We had drank all the water we had carried during the night and we were literally dehydrated. This was followed by hot black tea with fragrance of herbs. In half an hour, very hospitable and humble guest house operator Lok Bahadur Rawal offered us
magnificently exotic lunch.
We were amazed to find such exotic food in such a remote place. This probably epitomized heavenly feel! If food was heavenly, the sleep was more heavenly!
Read Part II: Exploring Mystic Khaptad!