Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Why rainy season is the best time for a hike to Shivapuri

When I say this, you will say that I have gone crazy. But once you go through the thrills of hiking in the rain, you will believe me and Rachel Carson. She says, “A rainy day is the perfect time for a walk in the woods.” 

Torrential rains all night. A slight drizzle in the morning. The morning was not even suitable for a walk on the streets – let alone, hiking to the second highest peak in the Kathmandu Valley. But the spirit was high. All of us, highly energised for the hike, were ready with our umbrellas.

We started from the Budhanilkantha temple, famous for the lying Vishnu idol and notorious for the erstwhile royal family. Due to a belief that whosoever among the royals visits the temple, he would die immediately, none of the royal family member visits the temple.

It was still raining and the environment was misty. As we inched towards the Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park entrance, the thin white clouds above the hills looked like a natural painting of greyish white splashed over the canvas. 

A pair of honey bears
Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park is a treasure trove for nature lovers. It is home to 177 bird species, 102 species of butterflies and 129 different mushroom species. Lucky hikers often get to see deer and if they are luckier a leopard or a Himalayan black bear might turn out of the lonely woods. 

In our case, it was a pair of honey bears (martens). They are famous for feeding on honey and their favourite prey is the Nepali national bird danphe (Lophophorous impejanus).  

As we were busy munching on our lunch box, none could click the elusive animal. It was an opportunity missed.

Leeches and leeches everywhere
However, for blood thirsty leeches it was a thriving opportunity. We were emptying the lunch box and the leeches were filling their appetite. But we were ready to cope with the blood suckers. A packet of table salt we had bought at the start of the hike came to our rescue. Putting a pinch of salt on a leech makes it lifeless.

I learnt two lessons the hard way – if you are hiking to a leech infested woods, don’t forget to apply anti-leech oil to your legs and arms, and carry either salt or tobacco (timur – toothache tree nuts too can be a good option) with you to get rid of the leeches if they are already feasting on your blood. If you need to hike to a leech prone area, make sure that you wear proper shoes. The leeches easily pierce inside the netlike texture of sports shoes.

Once we crossed a height of 1700 metres, there were no leeches in the surrounding. Though we had more than 1000 metres to scale, the climb was much easier with no leeches around. However, the stairs were posing problems. Had it been a route through the forest, it would have been much easier for the legs.
Waterfalls, wild mushrooms and flowers
As every black cloud has a silver lining, hiking in the rainy season has its own charm. You will get to see waterfalls, wild mushrooms and flowers everywhere. Being a nature enthusiast, I clicked each variety of mushrooms and flowers that I found on the way. I was repenting on not bringing a DSLR with me. However, with an umbrella in one hand, the point and shoot camera was much easier to handle.  

Trees laden with old man’s beard
Another delight to watch was lichens covering the trees. The trees in the park are very old and sun’s rays have hard time penetrating the dense canopy. So, like old men, the trees have lichens all over them. The old man’s beard, as they call it, sometimes makes the trees look scary.
The never ending stairs to the peak
The stairs leading to the Shivapuri peak never seemed to end. It was a tiresome walk to the top. I imagined climbing the stairs in a sunny day. Without the sun, the ascent was much easier. Still, we were panting for breath when we reached the top. A height of 2700 m above sea level! 

Yog Ashram for peaceful meditation
As they say, a hard earned victory is worth celebrating, the feeling after reaching the peak was no more than winning a battle. At the peak is a meditation centre, the Shiva Ashram Pashupata Yoga. Not staying behind in the age of technology, the Ashram also has a website ( and a contact email address ( If you are interested to meditate in the serene environs of Shivapuri, mail the caretaker to know more.

After resting for a while at the peaceful Ashram, eating the leftovers in our lunch boxes, we headed for the platform considered as the peak. Walking for just few minutes, we reached an open space. In the middle was a stone platform, almost square in shape. It was a perfect spot for a group picture.

Todke Baba – the sage who meditated in a tree trunk
It took us nearly five hours to reach the peak. Then we started our descent to the Bagdwar – the start point of the holy river, Bagmati.

On the way, we came across a hollow tree trunk. It was huge. On its top, from where the tree was chopped down, few Zinc strips served as a roof. The guide told us that the place was used by a sage from Haryana, India. As he meditated inside the tree trunk, people called him “Todke Baba”. In Nepali, a hollow space inside a tree trunk is called “Todka”. 

The tree trunk has now been deserted and an ashram for meditation has been by the Baba. The place has facilities for staying, meditating and performing yagna (holy offering to the fire). 

Bagdwar – the start point of Bagmati
Descending even further, we came to Bagdwar. The water flowing from the hills is made to pass through canals, finally flowing out of a tiger shaped spout. Taking turns, each of us drank the holy water, pure as nature.

Near the tiger faced spout is a Shiva linga and a green name plate with “Bagmati Ganga” written on it. Nearby is a small man-made pond with a Shiva statue in meditating pose at the centre. A trident with damaru stands next to the statue.
My love affair with the mushrooms and wild flowers
It was time to return. We could have gone to Nagi Gompa, a Buddhist monastery. But it was too late. We increased our pace of descent. It was much easier to climb down the stairs. However, the environment was monotonous.

I came across wild flowers and mushrooms in between and clicked the pictures as and when I saw them. Though seeing all the 129 varieties of mushrooms is an impossible task, you can easily locate more than 20 varieties on the way.

Below is a slideshow of the flowering plants and mushrooms I could click during the hike. 

Flowering plants of Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park

Created with flickr slideshow.

Mushrooms of Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park

Created with flickr slideshow.

Finally, we were at the bottom of the park. From there you can see a nice view of the Kathmandu Valley. Dog tired we rushed to the entrance and then to Budhanilkantha temple where our bus was waiting for us.

Hiking in the rain was a fun and I recommend you too a hike in the nearby woods once the monsoon starts.

I am not the only one to recommend hiking in the rain, below are the ones who echo the same.

Few tips on hiking in the rain

Why you should hike in the rain

How to hike in the rain

Tips for staying dry in the rain  

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