Just a few kilometers away on the southern front of the valley stands the grand chain of Chandragiri hills. Unlike Shivapuri or Nagarkot, this stunning hill range does not draw hordes of hikers and picnic-goers, ensuring you a peaceful retreat and a refreshing workout throughout. Fr!day explores the four prominent daandas (or hillocks) on the Chandragiri hike.
Make your way to Chobar hilltop through a small white gate next to the imaginatively named Missed Call Café at Chobar Phedi. The stairs from the gate start out easy but get steeper as you climb higher. You can always take it easy and rest at a beautiful chautara halfway, surrounded by rich pine trees and marked with tiny, green vihars. A steeper second leg of climb takes you to Chobar Heights where you get the familiar, sweet smell of incense and the sounds of the gorgeous Adinath and Gandharbeshwar temples. Larger of the two, Adinath is a three-storey pagoda-style temple where it’s rather interesting to note kitchenware nailed to the temple walls and pillars as a gesture of sacrifice. The temple square comes alive every morning with devotees, joggers and hungry, cooing pigeons.
Descend carefully towards the base of Chandragiri from Chobar on narrow steps which are washed away on several stretches by monsoon rains. Following the trial some twenty minutes uphill, we reach the pristine and peaceful village of Bosan composed of traditional houses. The village is blessed with an amazing vantage point from where, weather permitting, you get stunning views of the valley below and the imposing sight of massive Chandragiri right above you. The beautiful Taudaha Lake, which in recent days has gained prominence among young couples, appears serene from here. Moving farther up Bosan’s hill, we reach a Bhagwati temple at the edge of the verdant Chandragiri forest with fenced track that leads to Champadevi peak. The complete silence you find here is broken by the occasional chirps of exotic birds that are quite a spectacle.
White House Daanda
Time to move on towards the next checkpoint: White House Daanda. Take the less trodden route along the edge of Bosan passing Jigme gompa festooned with colorful prayer flags, then ascending on a steep incline that’ll make Chobar’s stairways a fond memory. Keep your mind off the climb with the mesmerizing views of the lush paddy fields beneath bound to give you a temporary relief. Towards the top you’ll find, well, a lone white house owned by a Lama family. If you’re lucky, you will be ushered in by cheerful and elderly caretaker Dil Bahadur who makes a fine cup of tea and lets you feed Luri the pup.
It should come as no shock, since we’ve grown so accustomed to it, that the walls of the reservoir at the top of hill are adorned with messages of true love, young lust and mindless rambles replete with graphic images. Find yourself a nice spot on the edge and lo and behold! You’re greeted with spectacular sights of Himalayan giants. The valley below looks gorgeous, with Chobar and Kirtipur hills dwarfed, and Taudaha shrunk. The green paddy fields look like they’ve been pulled right off a fairytale book.
From La Casa Blanca, descend on a mix of steps and narrow trails along the northern side of the hill to find yourself in Panga – the backyard of Kirtipur. This flat section takes us through fields and poultry farms in a sparsely inhabited town that slowly gets denser as we advance to Kirtipur heights, our final destination. This ancient Newari town is famed for its unspoiled tradition and food. It’s quite an experience getting lost in narrow alleyways of Kirtipur, soaking in the culture, architecture and native lifestyle that seem utterly lost in time. Overlooking the old town is Bagh Bhairab, a triple-roofed temple which draws its name from its tiger-like shape, and a hub for most of Kirtipur’s jatras. Walk down a long flight of stairs behind Bagh Bhairab to reach Kirtipur market where you can catch a bus back after some five hours of exhilarating hiking.
On a monsoon morning, you can choose to either sit on a window ledge with a mug of coffee in hand watching the monsoon rain, feeling all mushy and romantic inside. Or, you can don a poncho and a pair of old sandals to make an ungainly sight of yourself walking on slippery aalis trying not to tip over in the muddy paddy field. And brave fat leeches. Your call. !
The need-to-know index
Approximate time taken to reach there from Kathmandu
5 minutes bus drive from Balkhu to reach Chobhar. Get off at the foot of Chobhar. I’d have suggested walking the two kilometers, if even for warm up, but road expansion and monsoon don’t go too well together.
The hike will cost you no more than Rs. 200 without Lahana., a community run restaurant. With the Newari extravaganza (highly recommended), throw in a thousand bucks.
Bring poncho, hiking shorts, sandals, water and salt (to avert a sticky affair, so to speak).