25th December 2017

Hiking along the edge of the valley

Take a taxi or bus to the Newar settlement of Gokarna (10 km from Kathmandu on the road to Sundarijal from Boudha) and check out the Gokarna Mahadev Temple, also known as Gokarneshwar, with abundance of idols dedicated to numerous gods and goddesses along with some rare idols. This is among those few temples in Kathmandu Valley that has an image of Brahm, who is mostly ignored by temple builders since his task has already been completed as a creator. This three-storied pagoda dedicated to Shiva was built in 1582. The Bagmati River flows beside it and there is an interesting pipal tree which stands on the top of the shrine with a Shiva lingam enclosed in its tangled roots. People who have recently lost their father come here during Gokarna Aunsi (Fathers ‘Day) to pay homage.

After the visit, walk down the road taking the dirt track towards the west (turn left from the main road). This motor road is quite broad and goes along a fence protecting the forest above. When you come across rice fields, take a right turn that’ll lead you to a small tomato farm that practices tunnel farming. Then past the houses, either taking the left or the right, and then climb up and head for the forest seen far above through the rice fields. Avoid the houses and cross the tiny brook (more like a drain) and head towards the pink, long two-storied concrete building (hoping it will remain pink for years to come). Then walk along and pass the house and you can take a breather under the shadow of the bamboo grove After that you come across the motor road that is always in a terrible condition after the monsoon. This is the only serious climb on this hike. At the top, where it meets the other road there located the Krishna Temple next to a large pipal tree. You can stop there for tea, or wait until you reach Phulhari Gumba (monastery) which is headed by the concrete road towards the south. The lovely vegetarian restaurant here would do any resort proud which is located just outside the monastery gates, where delightful vegetarian food is available, and one can sit comfortably upstairs while the monks prepare your meal downstairs. Tea comes in a jumbo mug, and costs a lot so be prepared; two people can easily share a cuppa. Snacks are well stocked up with packaged food and drinks, as there is no shortage of visitors. The monastery itself is a remarkable mix of eastern and western architecture and is embellished with exquisite thangka paintings on the walls and ceilings covered with a variety of colorful mandalas. The structure was designed by a Buddhist American, who by profession is an architect, and the Helambu thangka painters. The painting work alone took 2 years to complete. You can enjoy a grand panoramic view of the valley below at a reasonable pace and can reach Phulhari Gumba within an hour from Gokarna. The alternate route to Phulhari is via the motor road that goes up before you reach Gokarna with spectacular views of Kathmandu valley. After that walk down to the Krishna temple, turn left, and follow the road below the pine trees that climbs up at a slight gradient, from where you can enjoy a pleasant hiking with no hard climbs and great views of the northern half of Kathmandu. The Kopan and Vajrayana monasteries are seen on the left. You will then come across Chunikhel view garden resort that overlooks the valley and it assures that you are on the right track.

After hiking for half an hour, you reach the Forest View Khaja Ghar where one can stop for a beer and snacks. Most of the hiking is along this road. A pleasant surprise on the way is a resting place by the roadside providing a socket for charging your devices. A red light bulb near the roof assures you the presence of electricity. The shy birds, magpies are quiet often seen along this route, displaying their majestic tails behind them as they disappear among the trees above. The dirt roads starts here that go all the way up to Taaray Bhir, a Tamang village on the hilltop which can make another hike for another day. Once you reach the white cliffs, where the road starts going downhill, climb up the narrow path, and you`ll find a plain where you can eat your packed lunch enjoying a bird`s eye view of Budanilkantha. But, be aware of goats there for grazing; they will head straight for your bag if they smell food, and they can be stubborn and hard to chase away. Then a black topped road leads the way down and as you descend, leave the motor road and take the dirt road past the houses near the sharp turn. However, if you don`t feel comfortable walking down narrow, steep shortcuts, take the motor road all the way down enjoying the great views of Budanilkantha. Once you`ve reached down, you will have many roads leading the main road to Narayanthan, which is the alternative name for Budanilkantha. In fact, the former is the more commonly used name among Nepalis. Then walk up to the famous temple of sleeping Vishnu, on the basis of which the place is named. The spectacular statue of Vishnu attracts a large number of visitors and devotees. The massive stone image of the reclining god which is a very skillfully carved out of one rock is surrounded by a pool of water and lies on a bed of snakes. Narayan is one of the many names of Vishnu. The hike can be done in 3 to 4 hours, depending on how much time you spend at the temple and monastery, and can be extended towards the Shivapuri National Park above. If you have money to splurge, head for Park Village (along the main road to Kathmandu) apart from which there aren`t many good eateries except a café or two and a restaurant with superb views just a short distance from sleeping Vishnu. You can catch any vehicles heading back to town. Budanilkantha is the last stop for all these vehicles.

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