Although I-MAN could fly, he had heard a lot about trekking in Nepal, something apparently invented by the many people who wanted to see the beauty of the country, but only for a short period of time. Usually these trekkers brought large packs of stuff, so that they might stay warm while looking for snow covered peaks. But I-MAN was feeling kind of tired as he hadn’t been exercising much and he thought, that after being invited by his friend Unhsib, on a “relatively easy one day trek”, starting at Budhanilkantha Temple and going into the Shivapuri Forest, that he would try it.
Since I-MAN always liked to take public transportation, he decided to meet up with Unhsib, his wife and two other trekkers at the starting point. I-MAN noticed long lines to see the statue in the water. But there were other things to do, such as, check out the bathroom behind the Temple where the statue was. And as these things go, it was comparatively clean. After this short stop and knowing that there wouldn’t be too many bathrooms in the forest, except for as Unhsib said, the international kind, which I-MAN wasn’t clear about, and for now would just let it go, the trekkers started on their journey.
The four men and one women set off on a road, which led to the Forest. Upon getting to the entrance, after a few kilometers, there was the usual ticket window with the locals paying 10 rupees, but there were two types of tickets for foreigners, there were foreigners and other foreigners. Well I-MAN having been in Nepal for some time knew that he was not one of those other foreigners, but was a foreigner. Although I-MAN tried to bargain and indicate that he was living in Nepal for some time, he paid the 250 rupees and went to the main gate manned by a rather large camouflaged policeman. The obligatory filling in a form with name, mobile, time-in and signature took place, but unlike other times, I-MAN was provided with a signed picture of the PM, with a bubble stating, “Welcome to Shivapuri Forest, please take care and do not hike alone as there are a lot of wild pork”.
I-MAN being predominantly a non-meat eater, was curious about what was “wild pork”. For now he let this go and along with his fellow trekkers, found the last vestige of a toilet, and the traveler were on their way. The walk was pleasant, but the trekkers started noticing many steps, one after another, then next one being higher than the last. I-MAN felt his heart pumping, which was a good sign, i.e., knowing that it was still there and in one piece.
Unhsib kept talking about taking large gulps of fresh air, which would last for about a week, given that I-MAN was living in Kathmandu, an area that was known for its pollution. Well, this wasn’t particularly an issue, as I-MAN was gulping as much of the air as possible.
I-MAN decided that he would start leaping up those stairs, which seemed unending. I-MAN wondered why there were so many stairs in the forest, as he thought that trekking meant walking on a dirt path, but given that there were many dirt paths in Kathmandu, where maybe there might have been sidewalks, this all made sense.
I-MAN stopped dead in his tracks mid-way between the 569th and 570th stair as he heard something and thought that it might be wild pork. He motioned to his fellow trekkers to be quiet and stared into the forest. Although I-MAN had never seen a wild pork before he had formulated some idea of what it might look like, as in his past life he had at least eaten pork, mostly in the form of long lean multi-brownish strips, known as bacon. I-MAN imagined many of these bacon strips pasted together so that they looked quite wild, maybe long black hair coming from them, probably Rastafarian style. He wondered though how this thing might walk or run or possibly even fly. But as I-MAN looked again all that he could see was a peacock, cawing and running through the forest
I-MAN felt quite disappointed and took some refreshment as the others said, don’t worry we’ll see some other wild beasts, possibly even tigers and monkeys, but certainly no elephants. That was enough to get I-MAN and the group going again, as they looked upwards towards at least 1000 more steps, but in reality, nobody really knew when they might get to the peak.
Finally though after the 1790th step they reached the peak and I-MAN collapsed in a heap as boxes of Kit-Kats were passed out. I-MAN thought this quite funny and wondered what he would do with a minimum of 35 of the chocolate covered wafer bars. I-MAN preferred Twix and if he was going to eat this many bars and get sick, it really did have to be worth it. He especially thought about the fact that there were only international bathrooms in this area and not much water. Fortunately, when he opened his box he found only one Snickers bar, two bananas, an apple, some digestive biscuits with cream cheese spread and mango juice. I-MAN breathed a long sigh of relief and ate up and then laid down.
I-MAN was awoken to people chanting something about Chairman Mao and as he sat up he could see people waving little red books. I-MAN was ready to defend the Shivapuri peak but then noticed that all of these people had cameras and were busy snapping photos of one another and everything else that they could see. The guys proved to be quite friendly and wanted to take photos with the trekkers and of course they obliged. As the groups set off in separate directions and waved good-bye, I-MAN was glad that he was on the way down the mountain.
I-MAN even had so much energy, most likely from the Snickers bar, the first one that he had probably eaten in many years, that he started screaming like a mountain goat. The trekkers had still not seen any wild pork, nor would they given the goat like screaming, but they did start to see many multi-colored prayer flags. This brought a sense of peace to all, but especially to I-MAN as that Snickers bar had started its own screaming in his stomach. There was hope though as a monastery was said to be close by.
More and more prayer flags, a few more steps but the monastery seemed to be a long ways down the mountain. Finally, the trekkers walked through the doors of the monastery and there on the backside was a large sign with the word TO-LET. I-MAN thought, did they leave out the “I” or did this really mean a place for rent. No matter as I-MAN dashed into what was a bathroom but with a toilet and a big bucket, full of big brown things. I-MAN just closed his eyes and used the toilet, thank goodness.
The monastery grounds were beautiful and I-MAN looked into the temples, and decided to lay down where he fell into a deep sleep, dreaming of past lives in a place called Setsacnal, where there was a lot of food, but some really mean people, who were just waiting for I-MAN to fall on his face, so that they could throw a lot of rotting tomatoes at him. I-MAN had forgotten about this place, but somehow the peace of the monastery reawakened something in him.
The trekkers decided that they had had enough and walked back to the Shivapuri ticket booth where they signed out of the Forest. A car waited for the trekkers and they let I-MAN off so that he could take his bus back to his home.
I-MAN, although his legs felt like jelly, walked a bit more and saw the colors that make this part of the world so beautiful, a place that I-MAN could never, ever get enough of, no matter how hard he tried. Nepal would never be a place to tire of, as there were always more unexpected beauties, lurking in every little crevice.
That night I-MAN dreamt about singing to some music that, with the touch of a button on a microphone would flip on pictures of places in the Philippines. I-MAN was not at all sure what it all meant and thought it quite strange, but he didn’t think much about it, because he knew that, at least, in this incarnation, he would not be a singer.