On December 18, 2010, almost 150 people from all walks of life went back to nature kind courtesy of Chandra Gurung Foundation, Bird Conservation Nepal and WWF Nepal. It was an early morning wake up call for all who participated, with minibuses with the sign, ‘Nature Hike’, picking them up from 6:30am onwards at various points in the city. Bundled up in woolies and parkas, the brave 150 gathered at the gates of Shivpuri National Park in Budanilkantha where they were given a talk by a park official on various things to do with the park. Then, the participants were divided into groups of ten each and those who wished to indulge in bird watching went along with their respective guides into the jungles, while other groups interested in botany went with the botany guide, Dr Laxmi Manandhar. Similarly a large group more interested in heritage and so on tagged behind Anil Chitrakar.

The bird watchers received a couple of binoculars for each group among which was also this scribe. Our group’s guide was Phurkela Sherpa who told me that he was actually a trekking guide who had developed a keen interest in bird watching. Well,  the long and short of it was that it was a pretty long walk uphill which I must admit was not really that difficult as the road meandered its way upwards gently. Besides, getting to know new people was in itself a nice distraction from the rigors of exercising long dormant muscles. At the top, we reached the large monastery where we were served a vegetarian (and perhaps organic) lunch of rice, dal, spinach, broccoli and a spicy pickle by the nuns of the monastery (anis).

After filling hungry stomachs, the now replete 150 settled down on the lawn before the monastery and listened to the organizers as they spoke about the late Chandra Gurung and his works. The emphasis was on mentoring in the senses that it was Chandra Gurung’s wish that new leaders would have to be developed from among the youth if his work in conservation was to be carried forward. It was a fitting talk as there were more of young people than others that day among the participants including many working in INGOs and NGOs. And, as expected there was a definite prevalence of people from the Gurung community as well - answering the call, as it were. Anil Chitrakar was the keynote speaker and well, his short speech was as humorous as it was revealing.

Finally when all was said and done, we started the long hike downhill. I say long because we took another route from the one we had taken when climbing up. It was a pretty long route I must say! But this walk, like everything else that day, was a most pleasant one. All in all, it was a Saturday very well spent and worth repeating from time to time. Three cheers for the excellent management of the organizers!