The hike begins at Sanga, home to the tallest Shiva statue in the world. With Shiva dominating the horizon, the journey commences with a relatively steep but short switchback ascent of a busy dirt track used by locals travelling between hill settlements.
Exchanging “Namastes” along the way, we emerged onto a broad track which provided a clear view across to the impressive Shiva statue. Passing by recently built houses in the traditional style, the walk continues through small agricultural settlements where people keep goats, chickens, and farm potatoes, rapeseed and rice.
A welcome break from the initial ascent came in one of these small villages, where we sat on benches beside the tiny “hotel” and drank delicious freshly-brewed tea from delightfully brightly colored cups.
Throughout the 10km hike, which took us about 4 and a half hours, including multiple photo stops, we passed farmhouses, rice fields and farmers’ huts. We were joined for a section of the walk by a goat herder and his troupe of cheeky beasts. Passing colorfully dressed ladies carrying impossibly large bundles of crops, local children and families sat on the doorsteps of their homes, the namastes kept coming accompanied by big smiles and a genuine welcome for this red faced, huffing group of somewhat out-of-place westerners.
The terrain is, for the most part, easy going on good dirt paths. There are multiple ascents, but they are intermittent and of relatively short duration, making the route suitable for anyone of moderate fitness, with a good pair of walking shoes. Definitely no flip-flops! At some points the route follows smaller tracks which would be almost invisible without a guide; these are steep at times and the tracks narrow, as they are essentially raised ridges through farmland. At times the route drops through a forest which gives hot walkers a welcome break from the fierce sun (bring plenty of water, a hat and sunscreen!), but there’s a bit of bush-bashing to be done as you make your way through the dense vegetation. A hiking pole is a good addition to your walking kit, although not essential.
This is an exceptionally enjoyable and varied walk. It is not a tourist route and provides a glimpse of real Nepali life in the Kathmandu valley. The scenery never ceases to captivate the imagination, and photographers will have a field day (no pun intended) with the glorious terraces of rice and crops glinting in the sun in the valley below. If you are lucky enough to hike on a clear day (which I was not), these views are flanked by the jaw-dropping mountain backdrop of the Himalayas.
The hike ends in the historic and captivating town of Panauti, where local families are currently being assisted in setting up Homestays where travellers can stay in an authentic Nepali home. Food is provided, and we were treated to the best Dal Bhat I have tasted since my arrival in Nepal. As well as providing a genuine experience for visitors, this is an ecologically sound way for these families to earn additional income, without detracting from Panauti’s character and authenticity.
Author: Helen Armstrong-Smith
Inspired? If you would like to find out more about the Community Homestays at Panauti, you can book from CommunityHomestays.com.