Ditch the metalled road and hike through corn fields on a steep hill to reach what has now become a popular getaway for many Kathmandu denizens.
The structure is massive, the view amazing, the chants of the young monks utterly soothing. The calming ambience and an easy access by road just a stone’s throw away from the city has made Seto Gumba quite popular these days. Open only on Saturdays, the monastery sees people flock in hundreds and compete for parking space. But of course, that will not be a matter of worry for us because we’ll be taking the very little known and far more exciting hiking route.
The hike starts from Halchowk and we head all the way up with Armed Police reserve on the left and the grand sight of Nagarjun to far right. The pleasant uphill ends with a steep one which is perfect for a quick rest to admire the view of the valley below. We continue down the same route till a bridge from where we deviate from the paved road and take a right turn through the muddy trails.
Not too far ahead, the locals working in maize fields and colorful nurseries will be amused by your presence and ask if you’ve lost your way. Clearly, not many hikers come this way so you’ll be considered somewhat exotic. Shortly before passing the fields, you will come across an enormous and bizarre rock formation with a small pond on the bottom. Don’t bother going to the pond because behind one of the larger rocks is a make-shift toilet with the drainage leading straight to the water. Instead, try spotting eagle nests on the cliff but be careful to not step on little ducklings crossing your path.
At the end of this graveled path starts our climb on the northern side of Seto Gumba’s hill. It is easy to miss the hardly trodden trail, especially during and shortly after monsoon. Making your way through the tall maize plants, don’t slip on the steep steps of the terraced field. A rocky section towards the top gives you panoramic views of the valley, Jamacho, Swayambhu, Rato Gumba and myriad hills and mountains farther up in the distance on a clear day. See eagles soaring at your eye level, a rather majestic treat to your eyes. When you’re done taking pictures here, move on to the final stretch, essentially a narrow and slippery rato mato trail along the Gumba’s wall. To make matters worse, you’ll be met with a herd of goats grazing here and an obnoxious dog – thankfully caged – barking at you from a distance. As soon as the wall ends, you will reach the paved road, right next to the main entrance to the monastery.
Take some time sightseeing at the gumba, especially the impressive statues of Buddha that leave you awestruck. Have a nice little lunch at the monastery’s café and then make your way back home either the same way or on the motorable road. Diverse landscapes, local cultures, inspiring views and giant statues will surely leave you humbled in today’s hike. !