Holy hike to the sacred Khaptad Plateau

All photos: BHARAT BANDHU THAPA

With the spread of the road network, and airfields coming back into operation, pilgrimage spots like Khaptad are not as remote as they used to be.

Even for people from Kathmandu, this sacred plateau made famous by the Hindu saint Khaptad Baba is now easily accessible, and there are tour groups selling packages that include air fares, hotel stay, meals and tented camps.

Located in Far-Western Province and touching the districts of Doti, Bajhang, Bajura and Achham, the undulating alpine meadows at 3,200 are snowbound three months in a year. It used to be difficult to get to Khaptad, and only local herders and those with helicopters ventured here, like King Birendra who flew here regularly to meet his guru, the Baba.

The holy man himself was an authority in ayurveda and treated patients from the surrounding districts. These days, you do not have to be a king to take a helicopter to Khaptad. Chopper companies offer charters from Doti, Sanfebagar, or even Dhangadi.

However, to mix hiking pleasure with a pilgrimage to Khaptad’s holy Triveni Dham, there is nothing like a group trek. This involves taking a 1.5 hour flight from Kathmandu to Dhangadi and then a 20 minute hop to Dipayal airfield by the banks of the West Seti River.

From the hot and humid valley it is a one hour drive straight up to the historic fort town of Silgadi for a night halt at one of the homestays there. In the evening, the devout can seek blessings at the Shaileswari Temple.

The next morning it is a 1.5 hour jeep ride to the entrance of the Khaptad National Park in Jhigrana from where it is a steep but pleasant forest walk. Fit trekkers will take about eight hours, but it is advisable to break the journey for the night halfway at Bichpani where there are basic lodges.

The next morning it is a four hour walk through thick forests alive with birds to Ghodadaun from where there are spectacular views of Mt Api and Mt Saipal in Nepal and Trishul and other mountains of the Indian Himalaya. Nearby is the tranquil Khaptad Daha with mirror-like reflection of the forests.

Further up the trail is the ashram of Khaptad Swami, who died in 1996 some believe at the age of 130, but where devotees still come to pray at a statue of the spiritual saint at his hermitage. The Swami believed that the tranquility of Khaptad was the ideal place for yoga, and many of the trekkers who come here combine yoga classes with their hikes.

For those who are more interested in the pilgrimage aspect, there are side trips to the Bhageswar shrine in Dipayal and the sacred Baijanath Temple in Achham three hour drive away where Ravana is believed to have cut off one of his ten heads to please Shiva.

The group can fly back to Dhangadi from Dipayal or Sanfebagar to catch the last evening flight to Kathmandu. Those who want to combine a wildlife safari can visit Sukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve before heading back to Kathmandu, which is 12 hour drive away if you do not want to fly.

Buddha Holidays is offering a promotion package of Rs39,999 if there are eight or more passengers.

Buddha Holidays: https://holidays.buddhaair.com/  +977 98513334000     

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