OFF the beaten path in Balthali
For Kathmanduties planning a weekend getaway, it would be fitting to vouch that Balthali is among suitable destinations. For first timers, this village situated Southeast of Kathmandu in Kavrepalanchowk district sounds like any other village; that is until you gather the enthusiasm to actually make it there.
The place itself is not as mainstream as Nagarkot or Dhulikhel and this is its attraction, for you will not be distracted by droves of visitors spoiling the tranquility of the place offers. The village is surrounded by visual delights of lush green terrace farms, orange plantations, pine forests and wild flowers in full bloom. Tamang villages with their beautiful houses dot the landscape and the inhabitants in their daily lives reminisce the remains of a bygone era.
The sunrise is grand and the surrounding view with the lifting fog looked absolutely fantastic. The sensation of fresh air was a reminder of what we had been missing in the city. From hiking and horse-riding to fishing in nearby streams the choices are plenty. In fact; the Lonely Planet describes the Balthali trek to be among the ‘world’s best short hikes without altitude’. The famous landmark of Namo Buddha is a three hour hike away along with many other equally beautiful trails.
Naturally we decided on a morning hike and were offered the services of a local guide. We saw it as a golden opportunity to explore and we were not disappointed. Exploring the beautiful trails and villages with our local guide refreshed our senses and also instilled in us a sincere appreciation for simplicity and generosity displayed by local denizens. Humbled by the generosity displayed by the locals, we returned to our rooms to indulge in hot showers and emerged refreshed to a delicious breakfast that awaited us.
There are several options available to get there. The first option would be to reach Panauti via buses serving the route. These buses can be caught either at Koteswor or the relocated old bus park at Khula Manch in Kathmandu. The ride is approximately 1.5 hours after which you can either choose to hike for another 60 minutes. It should be noted that the ride from Panauti onwards is off road and bumpy. Motorbikes may be used to reach the resort, but suitable off road tyres arerecommended due to possible slippery conditions. The more adventurous can be mountain bike via Lubhu and Lakuri Bhanjyang to Panauti.
The mix of sights in the approximately 40 km road leading to the destination is in itself an experience. En route you will pass through Banepa and Panauti which are towns of historic importance and you will have the pleasure of observing the Newari and Tamang cultures as members of these communities go about their daily lives. For Kathmanduties; the lush green paddy fields and the mellow smell of pine and rhododendron forests may come as refreshment. For the tourism sector the place has always featured as a destination for moderate mini treks. Nearby attractions include Namo Buddha and Khopasi Hydro Project which is among the earliest examples of a river fed energy project in Nepal.
The author is a banking professional, a writer, an adventurer and a travel enthusiast.