I have always been keen on hiking, so, when my best friend, Sarita asked me to go hiking on Champadevi (2285 m), one of the peaks in Chandragiri ridge line situated in the southwest of the Kathmandu valley, I was more than excited. This was the first time we will be traveling with a small and new group of people whom my friend met on a face book page. I was restless the night before the hike, since it had been a long time I hadn’t gone hiking anywhere. When the morning of the hike came, I met with my friend at Jawalakhel and we headed to the old bus park in Kathmandu to rendezvous with the others.
After meeting and greeting the others, all eight of us rode the bus for Daxinkali. We had decided to start our hike near the Hattiban Resort in Pharping. Although the ride was made fun by silly jokes and conversations in the packed bus, ‘And we are here!’ was the sound that I fully woke up to from my semi-slumber.
Thus, we started our slow uphill ascent toward the top, not long since we started we encountered tons of leeches everywhere even though it wasn’t monsoon season. Leeches don’t bother me much till they start sucking on my blood. But there are others who just don’t like them and the girls were definitely not enjoying their company. Many of us ended up with leeches sucking our blood on this hike, where we kept stopping for a sec to remove them all the way to our finish line on the hike.
When we reached the resort, we only spent a couple of minutes there to take a break and to fill our now empty bottles with fresh drinking tap water and to see if there were any more leeches stuck on us before we resume our hike.
Again we continued with the hike, following small trails, through the bushes and finally with the endless staircase that seems to stretch right into the heaven. We did take short breathers in between climbing the stairs and soaking up the view. I think we saw a helipad on top of a small hill, since it didn’t see a ‘H’ sign I said it may be a football ground then out of nowhere and that’s when everyone laughed with the same thought of how in the world would they retrieve the ball that falls in the depth of the forest down below or what if they kick the ball far out into the surrounding hills, the football match would never end even if they had like hundreds of balls to spare. The crowd would cheer for the balls to be kicked out of the hill to another like in a baseball or cricket for the ball to be batted out of the stadium rather than the teams playing the match. This was all in jest of course as that small flat plain on the hill top would be anything but a football ground!
That day we passed by many other small group of hikers on the stairs both locals and foreigners. Even the foreign children around six to seven and ten years were on this hike with their guardians. They were shouting each other’s name from one top of the hill to another who had already came down the stairs alone faster than anyone appearing to enjoy themselves. And why wouldn’t they enjoy doing so or we for that matter, who cannot get to shout our lungs out in the city very often.
After what seemed like an eternity walking up the stairs, we reached our destination, the ground of Champadevi Temple. We offered our prayers to the goddess and settle down on the other side near the temple to have a proper rest. At that time, three Chinese hikers came across us and asked if there is another way down from there, we told them we didn’t know and to see for themselves if there is way if they want to so, that’s exactly what they did.
When we were ready to head back down the hill, the Chinese hikers came back saying there wasn’t any easy trail and were going back the same route opting for the stairs than to be lost. The dilemma lied with us but we decided to venture out into the unknown as we were sure there would be a way down the hill though we didn’t know what kind at the time.
The adventure began mostly with laughs and dark forest with tiny non-existence trails leading us downhill. When we got to a junction where we had to choose a path between the two ahead of us and we didn’t know which one to take, we were in luck as two men just so happened to be preparing a meal for themselves. We asked them if they were also heading to the town and were surprised when they said they were heading uphill to the temple and showed us the path they took to get here. The path they showed us would lead us to Pushpa Lal Park in Machhegaon, Kirtipur. We thanked them and took our leave confident we would get there easily despite their advice to be careful on the way down.
It certainly wasn’t an easy path from the start. The ground would give up on us and same with a very few stones that were there. So we had to be extra careful as not to take a nasty fall. Despite such harsh path or no path in most cases we were in high spirits joking around and laughing every time someone slipped. And slipped we did A LOT! The eldest of the group, Sudeep dai did get a small injury when he supposedly slipped, making it harder for him to crawl back down the hill. We started to wonder among ourselves if took a wrong turn somewhere because the path seemed to be taken only by wild animals of the forest rather than humans. Time and again, we could get the glimpse of the Kirtipur city from the small openings we came across, rejuvenating our determination to get to the town safely.
Leeches had already started to come out from everywhere from the ground, thorny bushes and from the trees. This time we could not get distracted with these little creepy crawlies as we were in very dangerous spot. We could not move around or take our steps freely. My best friend and I didn’t want to deal with the leeches so we started moving faster downhill. It was too slippery and I just couldn’t stand and every time I tried to stand straight, I ended up slipping. Hanging onto the branches and slowly crawling our way down, I needed a lot of help from the strongest of the group, my best friend who didn’t even fall once and was the fastest hiker in the group even on the uphill hike along with another hiker, Pramesh who was a cyclist enthusiast.
While we were making our final decent, we had been separated into three different groups. We would guess where everyone was by the big laughs that would consume the whole hill coming from our fellow hikers. We all could not help but laugh at the situation and the ordeal we were faced to for taking such an uncharted path. At last we saw signs of civilization starting with goats grazing around and a small unfinished house. With a skip in our feet, we arrived at the Pushpa Lal Park.
We all took our socks and shoes off and rested at a corner shop. This was when Pramesh, the cyclist enthusiast, asked if any of us needed ‘Sancho’ herbal mint oil product that helps to get rid of leeches. We were so dumbstruck at that because the first time we encountered leeches we had asked if anyone brought along Salt or Sancho with them and he was the one who cheekily replied “Sanchai cha!” misinterpreting our question “Sancho cha?” into “How are you?” and jokingly answering “Sanchai cha!” meaning “I am fine.” At the time we thought he was being playful but when he handed us the herbal oil all the girls (a shout out to Sarita, Alina, Sujana and Sonika) ended up scolding him for not being serious! At the shop there were three hikers who came down the same trail like us just before we did. They shared their pain relieving aerosol with us and told us that one of them also had slipped while coming down which we could see from his mud covered trousers.
Dead tired by now, we wanted to get some decent full meal before leaving for home. And what better way to satisfy our taste buds and growling tummy than with authentic Newari cuisine from Lahana restaurant in Kirtipur. This is how we ended up walking AGAIN all the way to the jam packed restaurant. Fortunately, there was space for nine of us including Sudeep dai’s brother-in-law who lives in Kirtipur and came to greet us at the park. Filling our almost empty stomach with delicious ‘Newari Baji Set’ and ‘Momo’ along with ‘Tho’ to quench our thirst and soothe our exhausted bodies we started to come alive to make our way back home.
Cherishing the events of that day, Champadevi hike turned out to be quite an adventure for everyone. We made new friends, new memories and for a sec there I thought I was surely going to break a leg or two or bust my head real bad while crawling my way down the hill.
If you are looking for a hike in just one day, I suggest you to take this trail only if you are up for it as it is very dangerous and getting injured would get you in a lot of trouble. Whoever thinks downhill hike is a bore should definitely take this track and see if they come out of it unscathed.
You have been warned!