Last Friday, 27th May, Acclaim Social Club (ASC) organized an outing to Balthali, a small quaint village 40 kms away from Kathmandu, for 3 of its member companies (Catch Internet, Web Experts Nepal and Theme Palace).
The day began like any other normal working day. The weather was nice – sunny with the hint of rain clouds far away but it wasn’t enough to rain on our parade. I was specially stoked because it presented an excellent opportunity to get out of town – to at least get away from the cavalcade of dust and noise that we receive in the name of city expansion. We were working a bit harder than our normal way as we had a 3 PM departure time and the loose ends of work had to be tied before-hand.
After a light lunch, we boarded the bus that was designated to take us to Balthali. We were told that it would roughly take around 2 hours to reach Balthali but considering the ever-present traffic congestions of the valley, we were not counting on that. And thanks to the city traffic, we reached Khopasi an hour later than the anticipated time. However, another curve ball was thrown at us when our bus driver did not know the way to the resort. The locals did point us towards a direction to the resort but it was not fit for the bus to pass. Not only that, while many of us were stretching our bus-cramped backs and inquiring the locals, 4 went off looking for a way on their own. Uttam was leading the group. He is a really dependable person but at times he does things impulsively. Knowing him, we solaced because his astuteness works most of the time. After a few calls and locals’ insights, the right way to the resort was shown but it was a treacherous one. We let Uttam know of our move and then got on the bus. A jeep from the resort came to lead the way.
The way up the hill was breath-taking. The area is thickly forested with luxuriant floras, colorful rhododendron, mangolia and sal trees cover the hill that undulates and opens out to terrace fields. The feeling of being in a pure village like this have a pleasant feeling and worth for knowing the village culture and also promote village tourism of Nepal. After dusk a myriad of flickering lights below the valley of Balthali Village comes alive. The Balthali Village provides an uninterrupted breathtaking view of snow-capped Himalayan Mountains and surrounding high green hills rich in verdant fresh greenery evoke feelings of tranquility and calmness.
Balthali village is closest off beaten trail from Kathmandu which gives you the opportunity to observe the rich Nepalese cultural tradition from and intermingle with the locals. This is like a living museum where you can see even 21st century people working and farming traditional style, heading animal and doing their normal activities.
After a rugged road ride, we finally reached the point where the bus could reach. The jeep, however could reach to a point which was nearer to the resort but it could only fit so much. So, everyone geared up to hike to the resort. We laid our bags and belongings in the jeep, I grabbed my camera and we went off.
We reached there at about 6:30 PM. It was fairly visible. The weather there was comparatively much cooler than the valley. Many even broke their warmer clothes out. I for one was getting amped up with the thought of hiking. The hills and the stretch of narrow muddy paths opened up, inviting and challenging us and to make us realize that city life has softened us all. First, we went down and then up a little and then down. While we were making our way, night slowly crept in until it took over. It was exhilarating. Finally, we reached the suspension bridge. Phew! We took some cool pictures before resuming the hike up-hill. Boy, oh boy, the path was slippery. We guessed it must have rained earlier. What seemed like ages, we finally reached Balthali Eco-Hill Resort at around 7:30 or 8:00 PM (I lost track of time). The property itself sits on top of a hill with no houses distracting the awesome view. It is one of those sprawling retreats dotted around the Kathmandu Valley.
Everyone hurried up to the resort to rest and laid their backpacks. While we were freshening up and resting our swore, sweaty self, Uttam and gang called saying they were at the wrong resort, that too, two hills away. (THE HORROR!).
Turns out there are three resorts with similar names: Balthali Village Resort, Balthali Eco-Hill Resort and Balthali Hill Resort. The itinerary of the trip mentioned Balthali Village Resort and became apparent as a mistake. Poor those guys.
We were given the keys to rooms. I could not wait to get a cold refreshing shower. The room was more like a little house. It was petite and cozy with 2 beds (one double and one single) with an attached bathroom. It was built from bricks, mud and woods resembling closely to a local house. I instantly fell in love with it. After that, I took a shower. The water was so cold that it invigorated me right away, making me forget of the long hike.
After getting re-energised, we headed to the dining hall where the R&R began. Uttam and the gang had finally made their way to us and thence, the feast began. Popcorns, French fries, prawn crackers, sandheyko bhatmas, chicken, etc. where brought to us and they vanished as soon as the servers put them down on the table. Then they got the dinner ready which was followed by a bonfire barbecue with some drinks and lots of music. It continued till around 12 in the morning after that I went to my room.
The next day, another hike was planned. This was down-hill to a nearby Shiva temple. After a breakfast of tea, puri-tarkari (rotis and potato-beans curry) and egg, we headed towards the temple. Many of the guys who had a little too much fun last night stayed back. The down-hill jog was a breeze. We passed many rice fields and houses along the way. We saw some houses that were cracked and some even totaled to a pile. The devastation of the Great 2015 earthquake had not spared this small village of farmers. We then reached the foot of the hill, the junction of the two rivers that surround Balthali – Ladku and Roshi. We opened our shoes and went straight for the river. The cool, crystal-clear water flowing underneath our feet gave us the feeling of heaven on earth. Then on we continued to the Shiva temple. It was built under a huge rock with water trickling from above. We said our prayers and headed back to the resort. Now, the ordeal of hiking up a steep hill was in front of us. The weather was cloudy with a little drizzle. I guess the weather was on our side. Ignoring the intimidation, we scaled the 2.5 km long inclining hill. We could not help but get chuffed on our little achievement. Ah, the little things in life give us big joys.
Again, I took a shower, freshened up and went for lunch. We were asked to check out by 12 PM so everyone hurried with their meals in order to pack their belongings. While we were eating, the weather turned darker and started pouring cats and dogs. We thought of waiting till the rain waned but it showed little signs of doing so. Therefore, the final call was given to all members to get ready and move. As we were moving, the weather slowly cleared and the sun smiled on us again. We traversed on what has to be the most dangerous downhill hike I have ever encountered. The rain had made the muddy path slippery. That was really a challenge. Besides that, the trick back was surprisingly easy. As we all crammed ourselves into the bus, we all longed for the city. It is a strange realization, that tell you that maybe you’re not ready for the hills.
Then off we went.
More than a quarter along the way, Sachet realized two of our group were not on the bus. Turns out, they were still sleeping in their resort room. That was careless of them considering they were informed of our departure. But then I thought the hike must have really gotten to them and on top of that, lunch after a tiring journey does make one lethargic. It was not possible to turn the bus around to receive those two as we were already way ahead on the track. They were asked to come by themselves as we waited for them in Khopasi.
After an hour of waiting, the two arrived and finally we got moving again. This time with no intention of stopping before reaching the valley.
But take nothing from it. Balthali is an amazing getaway. For those who look to go just a little further, gain just a little quiet; it is very enticing. The fact that it is not all too well-known adds to its allure. You know that you will at least find some peace up there.
One of the most intense moments during the entire trip was when we decided to rest while hiking downhill. All of us looked back up to the resort we were staying at and marveled at how far down we had come. It was definitely a weekend well spent; a memory to be cherished for the rest of my life.