On hiking trails
One of the fun of living in Kathmandu is definitely the presence of the surrounding hills. Never mind if you are bored to the bone with the banal city life, a cool hike in these green hills gives you a refreshing breather. It also charges you with much-needed fresh air, the paucity of which in the city is no news. Besides, the sky is relatively clear these days — more reason to go on a hike. For those not much into hiking, but wishing to go, here are some of the popular places to start up with.
While there is a road leading up to the destination (2,188 metres above sea level), there is also a nice hike route that cuts up the hill, which will take approximately two-and-half hours. As there are no shops and tea stalls along the army-protected forest way (except during festivals), it is suggested that you take your own food. Amidst the green hills, enjoy the crisp, fresh air to breath and the serenity of nature.
The site at the top holds religious importance. During the Nepali New Year, hundreds of pilgrims, mainly Buddhists, throng the site to worship the place. Many also walk up for picnics and other fun activities. It is said that the hilltop is also the place from where Vipashyak Buddha threw the lotus seed of Swayambhu.
There is also a watchtower where you can sit and enjoy a good view of the Capital, trying to locate as one always does, some familiar spots.
Vehicles — public or private — are usually taken up to the entrance of the Shivapuri area, near the famous Vipassana camp, from where the walk mostly begins. Through the army-protected area, a wide vehicle road leads you to Nagi Gumba. There are no tea or food stalls along the way.
An easy walk for around one-and-half hours will take you to the gumba. A careful use of few shortcuts will save you some time.
After you reach the gumba, you can enjoy the serene and spiritual ambience its vicinity
offers. A dose of quiet meditation breathing in the fresh breeze cannot be unwelcome.
If you want to walk more, you can reach the zenith of the Shivapuri hills (around 2,713 meters) and return.
“You can also go from Nagi gumba to Sundarijal via Mulkharka” says Ranjan Rajbhandari, a tourism entrepreneur.
While returning from Nagi gumba, you can take the same route back, or take the downhill route to Kapan. The latter, although little longer, is also very interesting. Do inquire from locals for directions.
The hike to the highest point in the Valley, Phulchowki (around 2,800
metres above sea level), from Godavari will take around two-and-a-half hours. You will find shops only at Godavari.
“Not only a hike for health and fun, the route to Pulchowki also offers excellent opportunity for birding,” says Padam Ghale, a noted trekking entrepreneur. See if you can identify the commonly seen birds there, like velvet-fronted Nuthatch — velvet chest, white stomach
and light blue body — and Great Barbet — light black head and green tail and tip of the wings.
If you are patient and, of course, lucky enough, you can also attract the envy of birdwatchers by getting to see, among others, Nepal’s native Spiny Babbler and the truly beautiful Fire-tailed Sunbird.
There is a military camp at the top, besides a small shrine of Shiva. And yes, the view is excellent — the Kathmandu valley, and, if the sky is clear, a great panoramic view of the
majestic Himalayas. During the winter, there is often snowfall in the area, which looks, not to mention, amazing.
Dhulikhel / Panauti / Namo Buddha
If you start from Dhulikhel (approximately 1,625 metres above sea level) to Namo Buddha, it will take you around two hours. “The route has pilgrimage sites, village culture, and view of Himalayas,” says Rajbhandari.
Namo Buddha is a major pilgrimage site for the Buddhists. It is said that in his past life, Shakyamuni Buddha, who was a Bodhisattva prince then, cut his body flesh and fed it to a dying tigress at that place. A small shrine marks the exact place where this self-sacrifice is believed to have occurred.
There are monasteries and retreat centres to practice meditation. From there if you move on to Panauti, it will take you approximately one-and-half-hours. The walk is simple and you can also take the bus route.
At Panauti, you can enjoy the amazing Newari culture and a cool relaxed walk around the inner town. Then you can return taking a vehicle.
Apart from the routes mentioned, there are many other popular hiking routes you can enjoy — Sankhu
to Nagarkot; Nala to Nagarkot; Champadevi hilltop (around 2,250 metres above sea level), Panauti to Godavari, among others.
While going on a hike, benefit in multiple ways by going with other companions — more security and more fun. And yes, try not to focus
on the tiring aspect of walks, but on how they take you closer to nature with each step. Around the Valley,
there are hundreds of routes you may choose for a hike, so the fun never ends. But the main thing is, just get started right away.