It's sunrise on Rishal Dara, on Lakure Bhanjyang on the eastern rim of Kathmandu Valley. We are a thousand feet higher than Kathmandu, an hour-and-half drive from the city and yet we could be a world away.
The tranquility, the crisp morning and the abundant oxygen make a heady combination. Last night's thunder shower has cleared the horizon and we can see the bracing green expanse of forests and beyond it, the northern ranges.
We are at the Summit Lodge, as guests of my friend Phunstok Ongdi, absorbing the pleasures of a rural throwback to gentler times. Since driving up here last evening, the stress of that choked up Gotham we call Kathmandu has all but vanished.
Recently, I have begun to value the innate advantages of living in surburbia, USA. It's reduced my immunity to the ravages brought on by all the unsettling paradoxes so pervasive in Kathmandu. The crude, jagged ever-changing skyline, concrete totem poles of a new lifestyle, sit on tackily decorated store fronts, contrasting with the stench and squalour of river side slums. Add the choking atrophy of traffic, the overpowering pollution, the noise and dust, and the shrinking value chain of social courtesies, all plotting to mercilessly grind down your defenses. Eco-compassion is at a premium in the mass-metrometamorphosis of Kathmandu.
All this I can do without, and hence the decision to visit Kathmandu frequently but never stay too long. I've often wise-cracked that I consider myself a "non-returning Nepali". So, it is with deep gratitude that I have accepted this invitation to get away from it all, even for a brief weekend. And what a discovery the Summit Lodge is.
We drive through the congested chaos of the Ring Road, where until recently were pristine green terraces. We make the zigzag climb up the hills past straw-roofed orange huts that still dot the hillsides and farmers tilling their fields welcome us with smiles. The farther you go from Kathmandu, the further back in time you travel to the previous tranquility of the Valley.
The drive ends close to the ridgeline and a short walk past an Ashram leads to the resort. The lodges are perched on a steep ridge, spread in a semi circle around a main double storey house. A neat little wooden balcony invites you, the architectural ingenuity of it all, the tastefulness and simplicity is soothing.
Inside, there are cosy old wood floors and ceiling beams with recycled wood; the roof is thatch. The rooms are spotlessly clean, with warm brick tones, small and functional, and lending a sense of reflective quiet. The only nod to modernity is the bathroom with handheld shower and solar-heated water. Each room opens up to a spectacular vista of the Valley below and the mountains beyond.
I am glad we brought light fleece jackets to ward off the sudden twilight nip. The amber glow of the airport dominates the night city, with dark patches where neighbourhoods are suffering power cuts. There is a fleeting sense of having stolen something sublime from the scenery, because we are not part of that maddening rush down there.
The sincerity and hospitality of the staff are evidenced in their ready smiles. This is not the bland and modern demeanour of posh franchised hotels but a genuine sense of wanting to make the visitor comfortable and relaxed. Again, there is a sensation of regaining something long lost.
At 10, we all head off to our rooms. Sleep comes easily under the stars, as I look forward to my hike next morning..
Tashi Sherpa lives in Seattle, comes to Nepal frequently on business and is a sucker for sixties rock.
Summit Village Lodge