Picturesque villages and the magnificent Mt. Gauri Shanker make a trek to Kalinchowk worthwhile.
As you alight from the bus in Dolakha, the immensity of Mt. Gauri Shanker rises in front of you like a great wall. A white serrated wall of peaks forms the backdrop to the trek to Kalinchowk. A dirt road runs up to Kalinchowk and to villages beyond it. Sporadic buses and jeeps work this route, crammed with passengers. This form of travel is advisable only if you are either physically unfit to trek, or if your destination is beyond Kalinchowk. The trek is at times rigorous and even monotonous for some stretches, but the scenic delights are not available to those confined in a vehicle.
An hour from the town of Dolakha, the trail passes through picturesque villages. The biggest building in these villages is often a monastery - a colorful structure, standing out amidst neatly raked fields. Prayer flags blow in the wind. A novelist would ask for nothing but a room in these little houses only to spend hours gazing at the mountains each day before penning a complete sentence.
There is only one house between the last village on the trail and Kalinchowk. Otherwise, only pylons that run along the trail remind you that people have been through this place. The trail from here onwards is a bit dreary as the forest shields the mountains from view only to reappear occasionally framed by trees and branches. Wind plays amongst the trees and dry pods of seeds whirr in the wind.
Those who start out from Dolakha around mid-day reach Kalinchowk usually in the evening, just in time to see the mountains glow in the sun’s last light. The sinking sun drags away the light from the refulgent mountains, turning them into silhouettes. Lights come on in the village below. Above, the sky glitters with stars.
To the north of the tiny village of Kuri, which is another name for Kalinchowk, looms a dark hill. On its peak is the shrine of the Kalinchowk Bhagwati, a venerated deity and sister of the equally revered deities of Kavre’s Palanchowk Bhagwati and Kathmandu’s Naxal Bhagwati. The climb to the shrine is tiring, but the view from it spectacular. If tradition is adhered to and the shrine is climbed from the western side, then you have to climb an iron staircase that spans a narrow but deep crevice. However, there is a less frightening path from the eastern side. The shrine, devoid of an idol, is a simple collection of bells hanging from wooden bars and a heap of rusty tridents. A small pit symbolizes the deity, into which you place your lamps and mutter your prayers. Some of your prayers seem to be answered as you rise to your feet and to look at the mountains glistening in the sun.