I’m in lying in my big bed at Golden Gate Guesthouse at Bhaktapur’s Durbar Square. After walking 3 1/2 hours from Nagarkot to Changu Narayan, the last thing I need is a room on the top floor but the male front desk staff insists. “You pay so much. You should stay room with best view.” So I follow him up to the top floor and indeed, the room and its balcony has a view of the square. He excitedly beckons up another flight of stairs to the rooftop where some laundry is hanging and points to the Himalayas. So top floor, indeed. No rest for my weary feet that had just trodden the 14k trail from Nagarkot to Changu Narayan.
The Road to Nagarkot
Upon arriving from Pokhara yesterday, I headed to the Mountain Trotters office at Thamel to book and pay for my hike with the same guy from whom I booked my car to for a day trip to the Kathmandu Valley several days ago.
Me: How many hours is the hike.
Him: Normal walking is 3 to 3 1/2 hours but because you’re a little fat, maybe 3 1/2 hours for you.
Me: . . .
We close the USD 60 deal.
So I meet my guide whose name sounds like “divirna” outside the tour office at 8am. The car arrives much later driven by a quiet man who looks more like car owner than car driver. We set-off for Nagarkot close to 8:30 already. There isn’t much traffic along the roads out of Kathmandu and soon we begin our ascent up a hill. I thought the road up to Sarangkot was bad but the road we are on is in an even much worse condition. Not only is it much steeper but the asphalt has totally deteriorated leaving much of the road in dirt and rocks. Fortunately, it is not as narrow.
The views from the roadside are beautiful, though.
Finally, we reach the top. My guide and I climb the steps to the viewpoint and come face to face with the vast Himalayan mountain range. While the views in Pokhara feature a couple of peaks, at Nagarkot, you are rewarded with an expansive view of the mountains.
Travel guides boast of how Nagarkot hosts views of Everest. Unfortunately, it’s a little foggy so the views aren’t very clear much more with Everest.
On a small clearing below the viewpoint are some Nepali enjoying themselves dancing to music.
We make our way down in one of the food stalls for some tea, a dhal-like soup and that yummy ring-shaped Nepalese bread. I would have eaten some more but I fear needing to go to the toilet in the middle of the hike.
Back to the car and we make our way down the main town of Nagarkot using a different and better road. We pass by Hotel Mountain View which I originally booked for an overnight stay and I feel relief cancelling my reservation and just spending an hour at Nagarkot as there seems to be nothing to do but to stare at the mountains.
The car drops us off at a point just after the market. We make our way down the side of the road to a wide dirt road that my guide tells me were made by a trekking guides association in Nepal.
We pass through Tamang villages that time seems to have forgotten.
Houses made of mud, chickens clucking on the road, and goats and cows and the occassional pig grazing.
My guide speaks English quite well and we pass the time while walking talking about the caste system in Nepal. After having read and taken up Andre Beteille’s work on the caste system of an Indian village in my PhD class in ethnography, I was elated that I was seeing a living example in Nepal. My guide is Chetri, the caste of warriors. I ask him about the Damais and their being musicians. He is a mine field of information and I learn much.
We continue to walk through villages. Nobody pays much attention to us. They’re probably used to having hikers passing through and taking pictures. It feels good to greet and be greeted with “namaste” as an ordinary everyday greeting and not a New Age or yoga thing. Occassionally, we meet other hikers. None of them have guides but there are at least two of them. I’m solo and I’m bad with directions.
This is a colorfully painted learning center we pass by.
We reach a small temple with beautiful views of the valley. My guide says we are halfway through our hike. Time check– 12:30, an hour and a half since starting at 11am.
We take a break. I revel in the silence and in the views.
We descend the 400 steps to the junction road of Telcot.
We cross the road and up a winding trail along the forest ridge.
The first hour, the trail gradually ascends through a cool pine forest. It reminds me of Mt. Tapulao.
There is a rest stop where 2 Chinese hikers are well.. resting.
I’m not tired so we skip the stop and continue on.
Just in case, there’s this nice little hotel in the middle of nowhere.
This little shack is a pub that opens in the evening and where people in the surrounding villages go to socialize and drink raksi, the local moonshine.
Up these stairs is a baba, a Hindu holy man that my guide says is frequently visited by teen-agers for some weed.
We continue to hike along the ridge with wide views of the valleys. My guide points out some smoke rising from the valley and says those are coming from ovens used to bake bricks.
Goats grazing. It’s like a scene from the pages of a National Geographic magazine.
On the trail were these old women carrying firewood harvested from the forest on their backs. Made me suddenly feel ashamed with my tiredness.
The trail gradually flattens and we pass through the Newari Changu village.
The trail continues to descend until we hit an asphalt road. We cross and ascend the winding road for a few meters and we see the car waiting for us.
We walk a few meters more and we are at the entrance of Changu Narayan Temple. It’s 2:30.
I pay the NR 300 entrance fee and walk through Newari houses that have shops on the ground floor.
Some artisans are busy creating thanka paintings or doing wood work.
Up some stone steps and we are at the UNESCO World Heritage listed temple which is the oldest in Nepal.
Nobody knows when this temple, dedicated to Vishnu, was built but this stone sculpture with writing is dated at around 440 AD.
The temple is beautiful with intricate carvings and sculptures of animals guarding all four entrances.
Surrounding the 2-tiered temple are stone shrines with bas-relief of dieties.
I would have wanted to stay longer but my legs need their rest and I am aching for a warm bath after all the dusty trails so we head back down and into the car for the trip to Bhaktapur where I am spending two nights.
1. I paid USD 60 inclusive of: car and driver for the drive to Nagarkot and the pick-up in Changu Narayan and the drive to Bhaktapur; English-speaking guide who did a fantastic job of pointing out and explaining things and answering my questions.
If you have plans to overnighting in Bhaktapur, it makes sense to combine this hike with Bhaktapur so you get a “free” ride rather than going back to Kathmandu and heading to Bhaktapur at another time.
2. It’s winter so it is still cold even on the trails. I did take-off my jacket at one point to let the sweat on the back off my shirt evaporate.
3. I didn’t feel the need to bring something to eat at the trail. All I had was the snack we had at the Nagarkot viewpoint. No food nor water could be bought alokng the trail so bring your own.
4. The hike from Nagarkot to Changu Narayan is dowhill. The only uphill portion was the first half of the forest trail from Telcot. I could imagine doing the hike in reverse would be more difficult. Generally, the hike is easy. Good for first-timers but you have to be at least used to walking.