Nepali Times Asian Paints
Sauntering from Sanga to Sankhu


here's a misconception that a trek has to be a long, hard journey into a rugged and remote Himalayan valley. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, there are excellent trails for short treks right on the Valley rim. Here is one which is off the main trails: the short, sweet walk from Sanga to Sankhu on the Valley's eastern rim.

The hike starts from the mediaeval Newari town of Sanga (30 km east of Kathmandu where the Chinese road leaves Kathmandu Valley and enters Banepa) and climbs north to Nagarkot before meandering down to Sankhu (14 km from Kathmandu) via Kartike Bhanjyang. Take a bus ride to Sanga from Kathmandu on one of the local buses bound to Banepa, or Dhulikhel. They depart every 15 minutes or so from the city bus terminal at Ratna Park.

Kathmandu slumbers in the foggy depths of the valley below, while beyond and above is the entire range of the central and eastern Himalaya: Gauri Shankar, Sisha Pangma, Langtang, Ganesh Himal and the Manaslu family. In about an hour, you are at Sanga, now famous for the Dipendra Police School. There are chiya pasals all along the trail, but you may need tough guts to try out the local alu tarkari or chiura for the hiker's breakfast. Carry sufficient safe drinking water, and although you may be tempted to quench your thirst at the many springs along the trail we would advise against it. You never know who has done what upstream.

The trail from Sanga first leads through the cobblestone streets of the village. It carries a whiff of what the Newari towns of the Valley probably were like before the roads came. At the centre of the town is a little pond flanked by old Newari houses with garlands of red chilli peppers hanging out of the windows to dry. Beside the pond is a small statue of Lord Ganesh, to whom you can pay your respects as you strike off across the terraced fields of freshly harvested rice.

Keep asking the locals for the Nagarkot ko bato. There are many trails, and not all roads here lead to Nagarkot. But if you generally follow the one that is parallel to the ridgeline and goes more or less north you're ok. After an hour or so, you will pass scattered Tamang settlements, where the children come out to sell fruits, or rhododendron flowers when they are in season. By now, you are nearing 7,000 ft, the air is fresh, the views fantastic and the forests near the summit of Nagarkot alive with birdlife. With the winter rains in early January, the snow will be ankle deep at this altitude.

The summit of Nagarkot has an ugly steel view tower -- someone's idea of a tourist attraction. The arrow showing Mt Everest at the top is always pointing in the wrong direction. Besides, Everest is a tiny speck from here and usually obscured by clouds or haze by the time you reach there. If you want to avoid Nagarkot bazaar, walk along the ridge to Changu Narayan, the most ancient temple complex in Kathmandu. Or walk right through Nagarkot and the touts selling postcards, before plunging straight down to Kartike Bhanjyang.

Sankhu is another two hours' downhill, and this is a beautiful part of the trail. By late afternoon the paddy fields are bathed in the golden sun, small rivulets reflect light that is momentarily blinding, the scenic landscape with solitary dogs barking out of nowhere. From Sankhu, you can take the bus to Kathmandu. If you want to be picked up there and dropped off at Sanga by a private vehicle, call Dhakal Baje at Kantipur Vehicle Service - 258129, 241477.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)