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View from the peak of Mt. Shivapuri.

View from the peak of Mt. Shivapuri.

The day before yesterday, I went on an amazing one day trek at Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park.  Specifically, I climbed Mt. Shivapuri, which overlooks the Kathmandu valley. The peak rises 2732 meters (8963 feet) and the trek length is a bit over 6 kilometers. It’s suggested that you allow 2 hours for the journey up to the top of the peak and perhaps, a bit shorter time for the return trip. At the end of the trail is a Buddhist Temple and Stupa.

My hiking companion, Urizina Copacana.

My hiking companion, Ursina Caminada.

Prior to doing this hike, I met someone at breakfast, Ursina Caminada, who is from Switzerland. She is going to be part of a 9 day “all female” Annapurna trek, but had a few days on her hands before it began. After chatting a bit and getting to know one another at breakfast, we decided that we would do this hike together the next day.

This is an unusual feature of the trail - almost the entire length is constructed of concrete stairs. Ursina and I agreed this must have been "back breaking" work to accomplish, as the trail grade is almost completely vertical, without too many switchbacks. In the United States and Switzerland, trails are almost always constructed of the natural resources found at each park.

This is an unusual feature of the trail – almost the entire length is constructed of concrete stairs. Ursina and I agreed this must have been “back breaking” work to accomplish, as the trail grade is almost completely vertical, without too many switchbacks. In the United States and Switzerland, trails are almost always constructed of the natural resources found at each park.

The trail head begins at a guard house, where approximately a half dozen soldiers stand sentry. For what purpose, I have no idea. The park entry fee cost for foreigners is 750 rupees (almost $7 dollars U.S. currency) per person.  I am glad I always keep a copy of my passport in my wallet because the registration process at the trail head is quite thorough. We had already arranged for our taxi driver to wait for us – the total fee being 2000 rupees (less than $20 U.S) . . . He estimated that it would take us an hour to get to the top (wrong . . . most web sites indicate 2 hours minimum as I noted above); an hour to explore the Buddhist temple and stupa at the peak; and, an hour to return. We still were able to almost “adhere” to his schedule by cutting short our exploration at the top to about a half hour and completing the round trip trek in a little over 3 hours. Regardless, he did not charge us an additional fee.

Taking a break before continuing to the top.

Taking a break before continuing to the top.

Frankly, Ursina and I are in excellent shape and we are both acclimated to high altitude living, thus the trek wasn’t too difficult to complete . . . Conversely, anyone that lives at sea level and/or is out of shape, they would definitely have a problem doing this hike (especially with the lack of trail switchbacks and hard concrete surface).

Ursina and I took a few photos at this ridge, which had an excellent outlook of the surrounding Kathmandu valley.

Ursina and I took a few photos at this ridge, which had an excellent outlook of the surrounding Kathmandu valley.

Shivapuri lies in a transition zone between sub-tropical and temperate climates, The vegetation consists of a variety of pine, oak, rhododendrum, etc., depending on the altitude. Black bears, rhesus monkeys, and leopards are some of the mammals found at the park. There are also 177 species of birds, including 9 threatened species;  102 species of butterflies; and, 129 types of mushrooms.

The beginning of our trek. There are very few switchbacks on this trail. Unlike U.S. and Swiss parks, this Nepal trail ascends straight up.

Up, up, and away! There are very few switchbacks on this trail. Unlike U.S. and Swiss parks, this Nepal trail ascends straight up.

View from the peak.

View from the peak.

The mountain is a watershed for Kathmandu, providing approximately 30 million liters of drinking water daily to the city; with the main sources coming from the sacred rivers Bagmati and Bishnumatii.  The area has always been an important “catch basement” for water, but it wasn’t until 1976, that the government of Nepal established the area as a protected watershed and environmental/wildlife preserve.

On the metal platform.. Top of the world Ma  . . . OK, OK, it's not exactly Mt. Everest.

On the metal platform.. Top of the world Ma . . . OK, OK, it’s not exactly Mt. Everest.

When you reach the top of the peak, you find a metal platform to view the city of Kathmandu and the valley. If not for the constant dust and other airborne pollutants that pervades Kathmandu, you would be able to easily see most of the Himalayan mountain range. Unfortunately, the pollution is so bad, that it’s quite difficult to see beyond the haze that envelopes the city. I thoroughly enjoyed this hike and would recommend it to anyone who is in fairly good shape. Enjoy the photos which follow . . .

Despite the pollution, the views are magnificent.

Despite the pollution, the views were magnificent.

Buddhist Stupa

Buddhist Stupa

Shrine dedicated to Buddhist

Shrine dedicated to Guru Rimpoche, who brought Buddhism to Tibet in the 8th century. I mistakenly thought this was a shrine to Buddha at first, until speaking with the Shambaling hotel owner – she correctly identified this “yogi” as Guru Rimpoche. Thank you!

Colorful drawings inside the temple shrine.

Colorful drawings inside the temple shrine.

The opposite wall inside the same shrine.

The opposite wall inside the same shrine.

Roof line of shrine.

Gold inlaid carvings at roof line of this shrine.

Stupa viewed from the metal platform.

Stupa viewed from the metal platform.

Rear of the shrine.

Rear of the shrine.

Buddhist figure at the base of the Stupa.

Hindu Goddess Lakshmi, who is the goddess of wealth and prosperity at the base of the Buddhist Stupa. I was really stumped why I have seen Hindu Gods and Goddesses at Buddhist temples and the opposite at Hindu temples. This was cleared up somewhat when I spoke to the reception clerk at my hotel, who said that many Gods, rituals, shrines, etc., are shared by both religions. This is a good website to learn more about this goddess:

http://www.koausa.org/Gods/God6.html

The shrine is in very bad shape and donations are not sufficient to repair this and other parts of the shrine that require restoration. This is something that I have seen at all the temples and shrines in Nepal. It is a very poor country and the government has a difficult time providing services to the citizens, much less for maintenance of shrines and temples.

The temple is in very bad shape and donations are not sufficient to repair this and other parts of the shrine that require restoration. This is something that I have seen repeated at all the temples and shrines I have visited. It is a very poor country and the government has a difficult time providing services to the citizens, much less for maintenance of historical landmarks.

Ursina noticed this far earlier than I did - the rhodrodendons are in full bloom. Equally important, they grow on "tree" size bushes. In the United States and Switzerland, you will never find them on shrubbery this size.

Ursina noticed this far earlier than I did – the rhododendron are in full bloom. Equally important, they grow on “tree” size bushes. In the United States and Switzerland, you will never find them on shrubbery this size.

Top of Stupa.

Top of Stupa.

Votive shrines.

Votive shrines.

Nargarjun is considered to be the second most important figure behind Buddha. If you would like to know more about the legendary Buddhist teacher and philosopher, Nagarjun (also known as Nagarjuna), this Wikipedia web site is a good start:

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nagarjuna
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