The pristine Newari village just off Bhaisepati is quite a relaxing walk, especially in winter. Get to explore tranquil post-harvest farms in a foggy morning and pull off a Ram Dev in peaceful picnic spot at the Kali Temple
Langtang and Ganesh Himal glisten in the horizon and a cool morning breeze greets as you sip on a hot cup of tea, basking under the Magargaau Pipalbot, southern tip of Bhaisepati. Take one last glimpse of the mountains seen perfectly clear in the winter morning and head along the long road down towards Khokana’s wide swathe of farms. You won’t find any shops along the route, so make sure to buy some biscuits at the Pipalbot before making a move.
The visibility from Bhaisepati slowly wanes as the fog engulfing Khokana gets denser by the minute. Before you know it, Hattiban’s massif, distant Manaslu and the sun disappear and gives you a vibe like a scene out of a horror movie. For good ten minutes on the graveled road, expect to see or hear no one apart from cooing crows wandering about the farms and indistinct voices coming from afar. Your peace is suddenly disturbed by roaring motorbikes headed to the market carrying milk, bakery and chickens strung by their dozens.
As you walk farther afield, you can spot, though barely, farmers working in the fields and the sight around remains nothing short of mesmerizing. Take a left turn to find yourself between an old paati, a derelict house with only walls standing and an old lady with a stack of rice grains on her back. The community is largely dependent on agriculture and in fact, the village of Khokana is probably one of the last places in Kathmandu to have perfectly preserved farmland. The village is primarily known for mustard plantation, a season in which the entire village turns yellow.
Take a quick pit stop at the pati to breathe in some fresh air while observing local farms running their morning errands. The harvest season is over, so the land is quite barren and all the grains are transported to nearby mills. As the morning progresses, the fog starts to lift slowly and you can see Khokana’s barren farms stretched as far as your eyes can see. Unlike monsoon season which brings the entire village to life, the fields seem utterly quiet and empty. At least the leeches are gone this time around! And navigating around the fields during winter is definitely easier because you can see the trails and don’t risk sinking your leg in foot-deep mud.
The route can get quite confusing if you don’t know which direction to go, especially with myriad trails crisscrossing through the farms. A local will help you with directions to our next stop: Khokana’s famous Kali Temple. You’ll finally be off the farm’s narrow trails and tread on crudely cobbled tractor tracks that lead to the top of a small hillock of the temple. Spot an elderly temple in-charge, one Siddhi Bhagata sweeping the temple floor, who as gleeful and easy-going as he may look, will warn you in a barely decipherable Newari accent that he doesn’t tolerate any loud revelers or romantic couples. Be warned.
Fresh air, gorgeous views and wide spaces at the temple premises would seem inviting for early birds, but only a handful of people seem to flock here during mornings. But we’ll take this opportunity to climb to the roof of one of the temple buildings for a quick meditation. (There are several small temple buildings scattered in the premises, with the main temple structure towards the entrance.) The feeling here is very serene and nothing but chirping birds, whistles of Bagmati River below and frantic pants of joggers on occasion can be heard.
From the temple, we head to the center of the otherwise quaint town of Khokana along the jeep tracks. The town today is abuzz with post-election activities. Observe the hustle and bustle for some time but the hullabaloo is likely overwhelm your senses - perhaps not the best time to explore the town in its glory. And when old ladies start chanting slogans of jindawad and murdabad through bullhorns and rally towards the city, you know it’s time to flee. Find your way to Khokana’s bus station and hop on the next bus to Lagankhel.
An excursion to Khokana’s virgin farmlands is quite a memorable walk and an opportunity to take a respite from the beat-up urban chaos. It’s definitely worth braving the winter cold to head out to the outskirts to experience what Kathmandu seems to have long forgotten - a humble life rich in culture. !
The need-to-know index
From Jawalakhel Carrefour, take a bus heading to Bhaiepati and drop off at the Police beat just as the Bhaisepati gate passes on the left. Take a left turn at the fork to reach Magargaau Pipalbot.
Duration: An easy-paced walk with a couple of breaks in the middle should take no more than 3 hours in total. Start early, around 6-ish.
Food: A light breakfast in Khokana bazaar at the end of the hike includes Newari delicacies like jeri-swari, gwaramari and usuals like potatoes and eggs.
Transportation and food will be a modest 100 bucks.
Good to know: Khokana is renowned for mustard oil. Plan to set off on this walk during December and January to witness the traditional way of oil production. This is also when the entire village turns bright yellow!