Overlooking the Valley: A day’s hike to ChandragiriGrab your hiking boots and take the trail less travelled to Chandragiri
I remember going to Chandragiri for the first time with my family a few years ago. The cable car had just opened to the masses, so, on a public holiday, we made our way to the popular destination near Kathmandu. However, it was not a pleasant experience: we had to wait in line for over an hour, the traffic was horrible the entire route, which left me with a blinding headache—that’s all I can remember. So, when my friend asked me last minute if I wanted to hike to Chandragiri, I happily obliged. I wasn't going to miss my chance to make better Chandragiri memories.
So, early one Saturday morning, I threw whatever I thought I might need into my backpack and, after a light breakfast, hit the road. Arriving in Kalanki, I met my friend. We then took a bus to Machhegaun, where we would meet the rest of the group. On the bus, from Kalanki to Khusi Khusi Chowk, the number of houses whittled and greenery took their place. This was the green escape from the city, and I knew I needed it.
After meeting up with the rest of the group, the five of us made our way to Chandragiri. It was only 8:30 when we took our first steps, but the sun was already shining brightly. We started the hike from Khushi Khushi Chowk, from where we walked uphill. While we did not know the way, we asked locals who happily gave us directions. Following the route they told us, we reached the road that would take us to an army barracks. The hike was easier than expected, leaving me disappointed, but I was having fun. Overlooking the valley, we were free from pollution and the hordes of people, and it felt good.
We often took breaks, where we could catch our breath and rehydrate. Later, as we kept plodding along the trail, a narrow passage revealed itself—it seemed like a short cut. Overlooking that, and realising we had already been walking for quite some time, we stopped to ask a motorcyclist if we were on the right track. Just 10-minute’s hike uphill, from the narrow passage we just passed, we were told. Taking the steep climb didn’t seem enjoyable, but I was convinced once told it would take over an hour if we stuck to the same path. Following that advice, we started our 10-minute trudge on steep terrain.
On the easier route, I was 20 steps ahead of the rest of the group, but on this route, I straggled behind. The struggle of walking that road was immense, as the previous day’s rain not only attracted leeches but also made the trail’s rocky path slippery. Ten minutes passed, but there was no sign of the temple. Thinking about the locals who would call this climb a short walk, I realised I should not have believed their estimates. Nevertheless, without their guidance, we would have taken a much longer walk.
During the climb, on the short cut, we met other hikers. One Nepali and a Bolivian, both delightful people, came and talked with us. While hiking and chatting, the Nepali reassured us that after we reach the main road, and after the staircase, we would eventually reach Chandragiri. Following an hour’s hike uphill, once we finally reached the main road, where it felt peaceful and serene, the claustrophobic and dense forest gave way to the open sky.
Following a short break, we climbed the stairs and two dogs accompanied us. Lining the staircase, there were many green spaces which seemed perfect for picnics. Given the lack of green space in the Valley, it was tempting to stop the hike short and just lay there to bask in nature’s glory. We were hungry and thirsty; however, with no water and barely any food left, we set course for Chandragiri, occasionally letting our legs rest briefly. While our legs rested, we all regretted not bringing more water to parch our thirst. So, unlike us, be sure to bring enough water—one bottle is not enough. After finishing the staircase, we were on the main road leading us to Chandragiri, and I was thrilled.
The final 20 minutes were harder than the entire hike itself. Drained and exhausted, finally seeing that temple’s roof come into view was a relief. We knew we made it. One more stop before the temple, we decided to take a break and finish the remainder of our day’s food.
Once we reached the temple and received our blessings, we got some more to eat. As we ate, the wind blew past us, cooling us all down, and we sat pondering over the day’s accomplishments.
All tired from the steep day’s walk, we decided to take the cable car down. The five of us got in the same cable car and looked at the trail that we walked—like a river meandering through a thick spread of trees. It was a great day at Chandragiri, unlike my previous experience. The hike was a last-minute decision, and like many last-minute decisions, one that I will never regret.