KALINCHOWK: Up, Up, and Up We Go!
At the eminent height of some 3800 meters, Goddess Kali resides in the form of Kalinchowk Bhagwati. Surrounded by the spire of mountain ranges like Ganesh and Gaurishankar, it truly is one of the most splendid grandeur of Gods on Earth.
We were six, with three bikes, who rode up to the small settlement of Kuri, where the hill of the Goddess looms large. We began from Kathmandu and the places like Dhulikhel, Dolalghat, Sukute, Mude, Kharidhunga (one of the most, MOST beautiful!), and Charikot lied in our tread.
Let‘s head straight over to the glory of Kharidhunga.
THE MAJESTY AMONGST MAGNESITE
Panorama of the spires of hills crowned with snow. A little below them, a bit hazy to the eyes, a ragged line of green hills. Then, lower still, a clearer line of hill, dominated by the yellowish patches of grass. And there we stood, at the top of yet another of such mounds, overlooking this beauty in diversity of the landscapes that was at play at Kharidhunga.
The earth beneath us felt slippery and the rocks were dark, an augury of the presence of the largest magnesite mine of Nepal under our feet. And the vista, a manifestation that we stood before one of the most glorious sights in Nepal. At that moment, for us, it was the most beautiful place on earth.
THE (DSLR) PHOTOSHOOT: (Courtesy: Sanjeev Dhakal)
The moment called for an extended photoshoot, no doubt. And we couldn’t allow our non-professionalism about a professional camera get in the way (though one of us did know his way with a DSLR). So with our available resources, such as they were, the clicks and poses lasted for about an hour. The sun threatened to crash-land on the horizon sooner rather than later, but who cared! The grandeur of the landscape vindicated our lingering.
The journey resumed with the sun fading away to orange, forming a calm reddish line on the western horizon. The road was narrow, curvy, and the destination still afar. Hence, we guiltily ignored the the beauty that sprawled all across the skies—courtesy, an almost melodic harmony of the dying sun and the random-shaped clouds.
THE DARK RIDE
Dusk found us at Charikot. A quick inquiry informed us that our destination was still about three hours (and some significant off-road ride) ahead. An off-road climb at that.
After a quick discussion, we decided to make the rest of the road that very evening. And, thus, we traveled up one of the most difficult roads I had ever ridden on a bike. In dark.
Had we had any hindsight on the condition of the road, or had there been any more light available to our eyes, it would have been rather difficult for us to make that road. Some sort of psychological affect was inevitable. But the situations, such as they were, led us to travel through the darkness, speeding our way on one of the toughest path.
Finally, we arrived at a small hamlet of Kuri. And within just one and a half hours too! Thank the Gods for the wrong information provided by the local, our trip seemed a little shorter to our minds than it really was.
THE COLD VALLEY
Enter a cold valley. The coldest environment I’d ever faced. Winds, though soft, blew with a sharpness chillness.
Fire became our savior. And hot water. There may or may not have been other things mixed. Later, the hot supper gave a new surge of heat to our wind-chilled bones and the Lady Sleep demanded our attention to her. I couldn’t agree more.
Fortunately, the next day, a day’s bike ride hadn’t had its toll on our bodies yet. However, no matter how tired or rejuvenated, one just cannot simply forsake the warm early morning sleep (magnified by the cold winds of winter). And that is how, and why, we lost our perfect opportunity to watch the sunrise from the Kalinchowk top. Later, only when the sun had ascended above the mountains, did we recollected our vigor to set on our prime destination.
IT’S THE CLIMB!
Stepping out the hotel (or a sort of), we realized that we’d rested ourselves the previous night under the shadows of the great Kalinchowk hill. For the great mound of a hill stood before us, not fifty meters away. The hotel owners said it would take us about one and a half hours to make it to the top. We gave ourselves two. I, personally, gave myself two and a half. See I’m not exactly your average trekking kind of guy.
The entire way up our climb, the snow-capped hills gave its glimpses on the different facades of the horizon. Teasing us, challenging us, almost saying, “Climb! Climb and see me in my full glory!”
And climb we did.
A LITTLE CLOSER TO HEAVEN
I’m not the most pious of persons you’d meet, that’s for sure. But, right there, atop the Kalinchowk hill, before the shrine of Goddess Bhagwati, among the soaring skies, and with the mountain range of Gaurishankar, Ganesh, and Sagarmatha on the horizon (and at our eye-level!), it did feel a little closer to the heaven. A little closer to the God.
THE RETURN (OF THE SIX)
Our timing in terms of season, and the time of the climb, couldn’t have been any more perfect. Being just before the beginning of prime winter, somewhere in the middle of Paush (about the end of the December), the skies were ever clear and the view of the fading series of hills, glowing mountain range, and the vast landscapes appeared to us in their full glory.
At some time past noon, we descended the great hill. Only when we did arrive the bottom, and had our meal, the tiredness of a relentless day’s ride, and the trek, dawned on us. We leaned against our bikes, reluctant to resume our journey. However, the day was not long left, and we had great miles to cover back home.
And, thus, we left the Kalinchowk hill behind us, standing resilient, proud, and in its astounding splendor. We left the hamlet of Kuri, a unique world in its own. We left a place, where a duet of nature and religion resonates one of the truest melodies of beauty and faith among the visitors.
We, without a doubt, were no exception.