Like every Nepalese, I have heard the phrase ‘Heaven is myth, Nepal is real’ and it tends to be true for many reasons. Though the Visit Nepal 2020 slogan seems to be on hype, speculations regarding the weak implementation of the strategies for Visit Nepal 2020 still prevail.
And like every tech personnel, coffee and code is the phrase we use in common. Like usual day on weekdays, I arrived at my workplace. Checking emails comes in the first priority followed by working on the tasks we are assigned for a certain project. Conversation in workplace is mostly about project and how to carry it efficiently and it’s conventional enough. But one day, the term ‘picnic’ suddenly popped up. Too excited to explore new places along with colleagues was making everyone smile and we didn’t delay in switching the term ‘picnic’ to ‘trip’ with everyone getting clueless about the place to go for a trip.
Coming out with various options for trip made us excited and we had to make sure that we will be able to resume our work on the first day of the week. Paradise Pokhara has always been a holiday destination for people in and around Nepal. It also has been the gateway to various destinations like Dhampus,Mardi, Siklesh, Ghandruk, Poonhill. But where should people from Pokhara head to rejuvenate their soul and refresh their mind. This made us ponder about the destination. Fun within a limited time and less hassle was what we desired for in the trip which was to be arranged via the organization we are currently involved with as a developer. As there is a saying ‘Great things comes in small packages’, amazing Astam was the perfect destination with the requirements which our team had put forward; limited time, unlimited fun, less hassle and more memories.
On14 February, 2020 we embarked on a journey which gave us infinite memories that took our breath away and it was enough for us to realize that bond makes various things convenient and love is to be celebrated.
Fact: Astam is located approximately 20 km North-west of the town of Pokhara in the foothills of the Annapurna mountain ranges which allows you to see the 360 degree panaromic view of Himalayas comprising of Annapurna South, Mt. Fishtail, Annapurna I and Annapurna IV. There are approximately 80 houses with total population of around 300 people. Agriculture is one of the main occupations in this region which is one of the main attractions for tourism beside the alluring view and organic and Nepalese cuisines.
Reminiscing about exploring Astam:
Day 1: Pokhara to Astam
Our journey started few hours later than we had planned for as we had to buy various goodies besides making sure that everybody was getting picked up in Scorpio which we had booked, from certain locations they were expected to be. Some of our colleagues gathered at Prithvi chowk while some including me waited at Bhatbhateni supermarket along with the goodies we brought there. With the total of 10 people in a Scorpio, we headed towards Hemja at around 3pm. The unpaved dusty road which was under construction was making the visibility unclear. We arrived Milan chowk and the real journey to Astam began. Witnessing the beautiful landscape through the vehicle’s window was a feast to our eyes and making it one of our companions beside our colleagues, we were having fun pulling each other’s leg and there was joy, there was laughter and everybody were carrying a big bright smile along with them, beside the backpacks.
Within an hour of our drive, we were welcomed at the hotel we were intended to stay for a night. The welcome by two Labrador breed pups named ‘Rocky’ and ‘Shooter’ was like cherry on cake as everyone in our team including me has been sort of Cynophilist. The hotel itself was a highlight of this trip. This hotel had a different architecture, in a sense, that it was round and had cottages and hut nearby. The rooms were clean and spacious. By this time, we were hungry and the chefs were busy preparing authentic Nepalese cuisines for us.
After relishing every bite of organic food, we were eager to explore Astam before dusk. Amidst the mustard plants on our way, we were enjoying the alluring scenery from Astam. Mountains were calling us and Pokhara seemed like small model which was exhibited in a form that we could pick houses or vehicles and place it somewhere else like a toy. For a moment, we forgot everything else and escaped with nature.
Astam was engulfed with darkness and flickered with lights when other members from Nipuna arrived. The hotel we were staying for a night was the perfect spot for barbeques along with camp fires and while the staffs of hotel were busy in preparations, we made sure to stay warm as the day had been gloomy as if the sun was also on vacation mood. Project Manager of Nipuna and I had made some arrangements for some team building activities to which some were quite hesitant in the beginning but readily agreed when we revealed our plan regarding the games that we were to be played. With the use of glass and balloons and team divided into groups namely A, B and C, everybody was excited and anxious at the same time to win the games like ‘Blow and Win’ and ‘Cup Collection.’ Air was filled with everyone cheering for the team and it was definitely enough to break an ice, to open up and be ourselves. We also had a nice time playing ‘antakshari’ and musical chair, the mandatory games in the trip of every Nepalese I guess.
We were notified about the dinner and everybody was looking forward to activate the taste buds by the organic ‘Nepalese thali’ in Astam. Day 1 ended with barbeque and drinks followed by everyone being on the floor with their best dance moves to some groovy music. Diminishing campfire was notifying us to have a good sleep as the wonderful morning awaited us.
Day 2: Astam to Pokhara
Expectation to view the majestic Himalayan range couldn’t be a reality as Astam was covered with fogs the next morning. This made me go back to sleep again with an assumption that most of our colleagues were in a dream. After getting ready for a checkout at around 9 am, we had breakfast followed by photo sessions. Expressing a gratitude to Nipuna for this splendid trip and to the hotel for the hospitality they offered, it was time for us to return to Pokhara.
Being aware of the fact that we wished to return by hiking, the owner of the hotel suggested us the road which led to the trails with stairs. The rocky cliffs obviously gave us chills and walking was sufficient to make us realize the sedentary life we have been promoting by being glued to electronic devices. The people we encountered on our way greeted us with smile and kids were screaming when they sensed our presence and even greeted us ‘Namaste’ by calling out names like ‘khairey’ and ‘gora’ which was somewhat funny to listen to. We reached highway by then, exhausted and a bus approaching near us from a distance. We reached Pokhara by bus and the memories from amazing Astam continued to follow us like a shadow.