Shivapuri National Park is widely popular among the people who love to hike and trek in Kathmandu. This is definitely one of the best things to do in Kathmandu. Just for a day’s hike it’s a very tiring but refreshing walk or rather a hike in the lush damp green forest which is totally worth every aching muscle in your legs. I had heard about Shivapuri hike being great and been to Nagi Gompa on an excursion via jeep drive rather than a hike. So, I was pretty excited to finally hike there. Oh God, there is a whole bunch of hikes and treks still on my wish list!
For this trip, my best friend and I grouped with our new friends from Champadevi hiking Alina and Pramesh along with two new people Sailendra and Manish. We gathered together in Lazimpat, Kathmandu near Sangrila Hotel at 6ish in the morning, (I am NOT good at keeping track of time!), had some tea break at a nearby shop which was fortunately opened and served morning tea, afterwards which we headed towards Budhanilkantha our starting point for the hike.
When we got there we took a short bathroom break and also visited the temple where we prayed a little and Alina offered some flowers or was it some rice (or both) that her mother sent to present it to Budhanilkantha, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, worshiped by both Hindus and Buddhists. Be prepared and take first aid kit in case someone gets hurt and not just food for hunger and energy bars. Apparently, we didn’t pray hard enough for our safety on this trip!
From the temple, we walked all the way to Mulpani (You can drive up to here too if you don’t want to walk) the entrance to the Shivapuri National Park where we got our tickets after paying Rs. 10 per person per entry for Nepali nationals as entrance fee (If you are wondering then it is Rs. 250 for foreigners per person per entry.) We wrote our names in the register at the gate and started our hike with a lady already waiting to go to Nagi Gompa but was waiting for other people as the forest houses 19 species of wildlife like Himalayan black bear, leopard, barking deer, wild boar, wild cat and monkeys along with 177 species of birds (Bird watchers’ paradise if one is lucky and knows where to look, you can see at least a few beautiful specimens.)
As the popular saying goes, “Prevention is better than cure.” and I say “Safety in numbers people!” You just have to be faster than one other person at running away! Jokes apart, it’s not like animals are going to attack you without any reason, we city folks hardly get lucky to even get a glimpse of these elusive inhabitants of Shivapuri.
We went our way chatting with the lady and each other. I wasn’t particularly talkative that day, may be because I had to remember to breathe while we climb our way up! Like they say, first few steps are the hardest! We parted ways with the lady after sometime as we were heading for the peak and not the Nagi Gompa. For this trip Alina used ‘Sancho’ to avoid getting bitten by leeches; we thought that was a waste as we didn’t get our blood sucked by a single leech!
After we came upon the steep staircase with no end in sight leading to our destination, we decided to take a break before we got started with our relentless climb up the hill. I think this never ending ascent to the top can even make some oblivious ones cry! It seems like the deeper you get in the forest you are greeted by amazingly tall large trees and thick vegetation which makes you feel like you are in a whole different world especially city folks like us. As you hike through the forest you may or most probably won’t be able to see wildlife in the area but may hear sounds of something pass by, as they are much accomplished camouflage users, rest assured they will be watching tech savvy hikers from behind the veil of vegetation.
When we got to a small clearing we already felt like we were in the Kingdom of Clouds! Staying there for a sec to turn the beautiful scenery into unforgettable pictures, then we continued on with our journey to the top still happy so far.
When we reached Bagdwar, the origin of sacred Bagmati River, where the water comes out of a tiger-shaped spout, we treated Alina’s leg cramps and took another break. Warning: Watch out for your butt! Because if you slip into the pond there, (Chances are one of you will if you are careless enough!) will be in a whole lot of hurt, no matter which part of body you land on, not that instant but when you are getting back down the hill. So, if you intend to get in the small pool, be cautious not to fall, the area around the pool is quite slippery and you can also get injured if you take a nasty fall. This bit of information is brought to you by yours truly based on my own experience of the quick but graceful and later very painful FALL!
Not feeling the pain, all of us left Bagdwar and after another climb up the hill, we finally arrived at a clearing atop the hill (2732m), our ultimate destination. At last we rejoiced for reaching the top and played games and joked around to our hearts content! Now let me to say something about the grandeur of the view of Ganesh, Langtang and Jugal himals in the north and Manaslu in the south from the second highest hill around the valley: Extra CLOUDY with the Drizzle!!!
There you have it! We had no view from there whatsoever. The weather wasn’t kind enough to grant us the incredible view of the mountain range or even a slight glimpse of it that particular day. Still we had the best time there playing in the drizzle just the six of us and the compulsory mid-air shot with five of us which we got in just one shot! After much playing around, we had our lunch which was A LOT. Every single one of us had brought way too much food for this trip!
As we were gearing up to get back down when two hikers informed us that it wasn’t the top! The peak of Shivapuri was the hill close by so we grumbled about having to climb up again to get to the top after deciding to go back down. So, it was to our amusement that we found the supposed peak of Shivapuri was the forsaken house 30 seconds away which all hikers use to get away from the rain and take shelter in. It was like climbing the fence to our neighbor’s yard!
We decided to stay there for a while as we had hours of daylight left and started a campfire because we were feeling cold for which two of the guys went in hunt for a lighter and successfully got it from an unsuspecting soul. Campfire thanks to a lot of effort from Sailendra, others pitched in too, had its own charm, so did staying out in open in the drizzle to have our lunch. Again, we fooled around some more, made ourselves warm by the campfire and took lots of pictures in the broken down hut. Finally, we took our much awaited leave from the top of the second highest hill around the valley. We did extinguish the campfire completely, in case you thought we were careless leaving just like that.
The downhill hike on the wet slippery stairs was quite difficult. Among us, one with the new hiking shoes was getting slipped all the time, I was starting to feel the pain from my fall at Bagdwar and my best friend had left the group behind including me in the middle of the forest as she always gets downhill much faster to avoid the uneasy pain she feels during every descent if her pace slows down. All of us made our steady descent carefully taking few short breaks in between and at our own paces. I knew my friend would be waiting either all the way down at the bottom of the hill or at a crossroad where she had to wait for us to decide on which way down to take. Lo and behold! There she was waiting for us for more than an hour!
The pain was killing me but I managed to get back down safely with all of them to the starting point of the hike and I was relieved to get through the pain and was happy that I get to rest now. We rested some at a nearby tea shop and had tea break again! That’s where we discovered a lighter which we decided to leave behind at the hut for other hikers, Manish brought it back unknowingly, and we had a good laugh about that too, among other things. Afterwards, we got into the micro-bus waiting for us to depart and finally, we all said our goodbyes and headed back home.
So, this turned out to be not just painful but memorable and a fun hike for me. Even without the glorious view of the Himalayas, we all had a blast during the hike. It’s true what they say about the journey itself being important than what awaits us at the destination. I have decided to go there once more in near future, however, without falling in the pool or anywhere else! If you decide to go there take lots of pictures and have loads of fun with friends or whoever you are going with and try not to throw away the trash wherever you like and bring it back down with you or throw them in the designated area. On your way back down to the civilization, be cautious not to slip and fall again on the wet stone stairs. Have a great time and enjoy the scenery!