There is a special pleasure in finding yourself lost deep in the woods, surrounded by skyrocketing trees. Especially at times when you feel a little lost in life, it is a great idea to stay lost, but in the forests. This was one of the mixed emotions I had when hiking inside the Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park, upto the peak of 2732 meters.
Home to over 120 species of birds, Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park is one the nearest to Kathmandu and a hiking route for beginners, offering very few challenges. Established in 2002 AD, the national park is best known for its biodiversity protection. For those who seek pleasure in walking and embracing nature, it is one of the best places to spend your weekend wandering inside the national park.
I had planned for this hike a couple of weeks ago with my colleagues from the US and France, who were quite excited for their planned treks to the Annapurna Base Camp. After convincing them that a day hike would be a teaser of what they could face for weeks in the mountains, and also an opportunity to explore the nearby destinations in Kathmandu, we agreed on a date. Concerned of the elongated monsoon in Kathmandu, we hoped for a sunnier day, and hoorah! the planned date turned into a perfect early autumn day in the Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park.
We took a taxi from our home and drove up to Panimuhan, the starting point of the national park, which is around 12 km from Kathmandu downtown. After paying the entrance fee of NPR 1300 for foreigners and NPR 75 for a Nepali, as well as hiring a guide (mandatory in case of foreigners) for NPR 1500, we headed up towards the peak.
With nothing but excitement and no clue as to what challenges lay ahead, we started the walk. None of us being an experienced hiker and also first-timers to the place, we started slow. Lush green forests, misty air, and chirping birds welcomed us and accompanied us. We walked quietly, respecting the peace within the forests and reveling in our thoughts, small conversations popping up at times and again, and then falling back on the quietness.
This hike was important to all of us. As we go through different stages of life and face unpredictable instances, we struggle to figure out the next step. The uncertainties of life seem exciting, and at the same time a little overwhelming. As for me, the sudden changes which came with the ending of my working contract, exposing me to unlimited yet unpromising choices, had made me feel a little lost lately. Therefore, I had taken this 9-hour hike as a challenge; reaching to the peak and coming back was an accomplishment for me and to reassure myself regarding my energy, determination, and passion. For my colleagues, this hike was a little extra mile to get to know the place and reassure themselves of their willpower to embark on a longer trek.
Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park, amidst dense forests also offers diverse spots and amazing sightseeing. Nagi Gumba, the first ever monastery in Nepal, was the first stop for us. Shortly after walking for 45 minutes, we reached the Gumba; the front building apparently ruined by the earthquake. The Gumba overlooked the green forest and valley and provided a serene ambiance. The monks wandered around and prayer flags fluttered in the wind.
We continued walking, observing pink and orange mushrooms and century old trees with naturally artistic shapes. We made our way to our next stop, Bagdwar, the source of Bagmati River. Bagmati River is considered a holy river in Hinduism, which flows through Kathmandu Valley. Quenching our thirst with the natural stream water and relaxing for a bit, we further went ahead, targeting the Shivapuri peak next. On the way, we also encountered a meeting with the man who meditated for 5 years in a tiger’s cave. It was an interesting experience to greet him and watch him cook for other visitors. Lack of time didn’t allow us to indulge in conversation, but we left with an amazing feeling.
After a half an hour uphill walk, we reached Tinchule peak lying about 2632 meters. We weren’t lucky regarding the views, but sitting there feeling the white cold mist of air, listening to the sound of nature, and releasing deep breaths took me inside a dream-like moment, like a scene from a book. Then, after a further 20-minute walk, we reached Shivapuri peak. We sat along fellow hikers, shared our story, ate some snacks, and returned back.
The steep stairs for more than 2 hours while returning was the real challenge. Our knees were crumbling at the end of the trip, and yet, the mind remained afresh. Such experiences are more than just hiking as a sport; it brings us close to nature, reminding us of the importance of silence and peace of mind and that the trail in life can likewise be challenging, offering steep hills and stairs But the important thing is to enjoy the journey, realizing the amazing environment that surrounds you, not forgetting to breath, and letting go of your worries.
On a practical note, make sure to abide by the rules of this national park enlisted in the entrance ticket. You must not light any kind of fire, make loud noises that might disturb the wildlife, and abstain from littering. Always take some snacks though, because there won’t be any store to buy basic eateries on the way. Hiking alone is a fun idea, but never a wise choice; hiring a guide would be quite helpful.