Friday afternoon. Arun and I walk over to Jhamsikhel to have lunch with Isaac. I need to finalize weekend plans with him. Halfway through lunch, Isaac’s partner Arnaud joins us.
It is time to get away from Kathmandu. Somewhere quick and easy. Green, outdoorsy, a chance to walk a bit maybe, get active a little bit. I had floated the idea to a few friends during the week. Arun said no and Isaac said yes. What’s more, Isaac was eager to take his recently-purchased second-hand gypsy for a long drive. I had browsed online, trying to decide between Trishuli and Nuwakot. Both places were so close to Kathmandu but we had never spent time at either location. If we went for Trishuli, we could raft. Nuwakot had a historic durbar and hiking possibilities.
“Let’s raft,” says Isaac, in between bites of chicken and vegetables. And so it is decided. I make a call and book an overnight stay at a riverside resort. Arnaud has a work thing, so can’t join. Arun does not have a reason. He just does not want to come. I pester him a little bit after the call, but soon give up. Instead, after lunch, we sit at my kitchen-table for a couple of hours, scrolling through Grindr together.
“Let’s invite this one for coffee,” he says, pointing to a profile, and after a few seconds – “But he says he is about to take a nap.”
“Should I bug him too?” I continue, and impulsively, punch a message – “Are you really planning a nap?”
Hahaha, the boy laughs as a response, instantly on with our joke. “So are you two sitting around joking with boys on Grindr?” he writes back.
Arun and I continue the silliness, laughing, chitchatting, sending an online message here and there. I strike up a conversation with someone from Boudha. “He seems interesting,” I tell Arun, “Wants to meet.”
“Go meet him. I’m going over to Jawalakhel to see Amrit and Bob. I guess you are not coming?”
“Let’s see. I’m not going to Boudha. But maybe he’ll want to come over.”
After Arun’s departure, I kill some time reading. When the sun starts to set, I make some green tea and go to the roof. The characteristic bitterness of the tea is well-mixed with honey. I take a sip, glancing at the western sky’s varying shades of copper, and feel the soft potency of the drink gently settling in my stomach.
The boy from Boudha is more than thirty minutes late. It is dark outside when he finally calls. Inside the kitchen, he speaks in a brisk, strident voice. I can’t tell whether it is his natural style or nervousness. But we manage to keep the conversation going for a while. He is twenty-four years old, born and raised in Singapore, works in the fashion industry.
Less than an hour later, I walk him downstairs. He is meeting friends in Thamel. “Keep this between us, OK?” he reminds me once more, alluding to his discretion. He had not even sent a photo, but I had agreed to meet him and take a chance.
The following morning, it is drizzling. But Isaac pulls up promptly at eight. We have decided to stick to our plan. It continues to rain all the way to Naubise, pours even harder at Gajuri. But right as we round a hill and approach Malekhu, the land is dry, not a drop of rain.
The resort is clean and charming, full of bright flowers and green leaves thriving in the monsoon. We lock our bags inside a small cottage perched right above the Trishuli river and climb into a raft at midday. The water level is high and the waves are unruly. But our guide is confident and gives clear directions. We rise up and down with the waves, get tossed around. During calm stretches, I gaze at the deep green hills, appreciating the clear air. Back at the resort, the sound of the river is omnipresent. We laze around in the afternoon, reading, eat early dinner and go to bed.
We do not have concrete plans for Sunday. Over breakfast, we decide to swing through Nuwakot. The weekend is falling into place better than I could have planned. A few kilometers above Bidur, the famous seven-story palace rises above the river valley. I walk up a dirt road through Nuwakot’s old town, enchanted by the ancient buildings.
What stands in front of me is definitely old, but they are all washed clean by the recent rains, and appear fresh in the early morning sun. The wooden beams, partially collapsed stone temples, Nuwakot’s red mud and the vibrant natural beauty! I am thrilled.
We take the Kakani backroads from Bidur and stop halfway for lunch. The road is windier and narrower but the traffic is far less than on Prithvi Highway. Isaac prefers this route as well.
We reach the Balaju outskirts shortly before four in the afternoon. The ring road is gray, packed with trucks, buses and cars, dusty and smoky. Right before the Balkhu cross-section, we pass by a cafe called Classic View. It’s signboard is caked with dust.
We enter Sanepa and drive through Jhamsikhel. Isaac drops me off in front of my flat. I unlock my room and lay on the bed, worn down by the drive.
It was a beautiful weekend.