Head out to the Pilot Baba Ashram for an enchanting hike

4 min read
09 Oct 2017
4 min read
752 words
Six km south of Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Pilot Baba Ashram is a perfect one-day hike away from dusty Kathmandu

"Didi, does hiking mean walking in the rain?," my cousin, aged eight, asked me. I had taken him along on a hike to the Pilot Baba Ashram, a temple located about six km south of the Bhaktapur Durbar Square. That morning, there had been a heavy downpour, but by the time we reached Suryabinayak Ganesh Temple, the skies had become clear. To get to the ashram, we needed to pass through the jungle behind Suryabinayak Temple. Surprisingly, that trail was shrouded in fog. We trod on. 

The trail to the ashram is fairly easy. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves during the morning walk, with cool, fresh air blowing from Sipadol Village on our left. The trail was dotted with babbling brooks, a variety of trees--like needlewood and utis, among others--and even bushes of rhododendron and some medicinal herbs. En route, we also saw village folks busy collecting fodder and goats grazing in the jungle.

After walking for almost an hour, we reached the entrance of the ashram, which is situated on a hillock of sorts. From its top, you can catch a spectacular view of the hills surrounding Kathmandu Valley and the Suryabinayak jungle we had just walked through. The morning's downpour had cleaned the canopy of the jungle of any dust, and the liquid remnants of the morning shower still hung from the leaves of the jungle's trees. 

We nibbled on some light snacks in the only eatery there, and resumed our journey. After a five-minute walk from the ashram's entrance, we reached Suryabinayak Temple, our destination for the day. Here, local shopkeepers and vendors--mostly Tamangs and Chhetris from the neighbouring village--had patiently been awaiting the arrival of hikers like us, with snacks and locally grown cucumbers, radishes and peaches. 

To enter the ashram's premises, visitors have to pay an entry fee of Rs 10. This fee is collected by the ashram's management committee for maintaining the temple and its premises. Upon entering the premises, you will see a spacious stone-paved courtyard with a two-storey, Shikhara-style temple of Lord Shiva (known as Somnath Temple). Also inside the courtyard are a big indoor meditation hall, a sanctum for Hindu ascetics and a Sanskrit school that imparts teachings from Vedic Hinduism. The temple premises are closed for the public after noon and is reopened in the evening. The ashram also features a backyard, which is open to everyone. We spent an hour inside the premises and soon had to leave because it would soon be noon. 

Our plan was to have lunch at a local eatery in Ghyampe Dada, which is some distance uphill from the temple. But as we headed in that direction, the rains returned. We stopped by a small eatery and drank hot cups of milk tea.

The rains soon turned into a drizzle, by when we'd emptied our tea cups; we resumed our journey to Ghyampe Dada. After walking past a big playground on the top of Ghyampe Dada, where we saw children playing football, locals grazing cattle, and people relaxing, we observed heavy clouds moving past Ranikot Hill, drenching the whole valley. The dark clouds had already started blanketing the sky and masked the village downhill. We decided to head back to the eatery, where a meal of hot dal, bhat, mula ko sinki and juicy chicken curry was waiting for us.

By the time we were done, and the rains had finally gone, the sun too had disappeared behind the hills, and darkness was spreading its veil over the landscape. We then packed our bags and headed back to Kathmandu.