Hike to Pilling
A day hike towards the south from Kagbeni takes you to the town called Pilling. After passing through the Ekalaibhatti (the Lonely Inn) and crossing the windy suspension bridge over the Kali Gandaki River turn towards west and proceed, you will find yourself standing in one the first three towns that Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) has proposed as an ‘alternative trekking route’ to bypass the new jeep road.
A wonderful agricultural village with traditional flat roofs and white prayer flags, Pilling offers wonderful sights to see. Moving up to Palak, there is a lovely central gompa surrounded by wooden windows painted with lions or cronch shells which can give you shelter if you need to take a rest. The painted images are predominant in Palak and Dhakarjhong unlike Kagbeni, Jharkot and Jhong where carved wood images are more popular. From here, proceeding along the waterway takes you to the Raja’s Picnic Grounds which is locally known as Lung Buk.
Walk up the stream and you will be able to see the diverse and colorful flowers decorating the flowerbeds. Follow the pathway occasionally marked by arrows painted (blue or yellow) on rocks and you will find yourself in an oozing cliff with silk khata scarves speckled haphazardly through a tree that looks like a web of cocoons. After about fifteen minutes walk from here comes a chorten where you can see criss-crossed prayer flags and khatas and also a large gaping cave with beautiful yellow primroses at the base of the stairs leading up to it. The cave has a cooking area, a small shrine with photos of the Dalai Lama and other Rimpoches and Lamas upstairs. Along with that, you can find pots, pans, butter lamps, wicks, matches, candles, tea, powdered milk and ramen noodle packets stored neatly here with a sleeping place to its right and small seeping caves of about three to four feet high on its left. There is holy mountain spring water which is meant to be dunk from inside the low clearance cave.
The views of the huge waterfalls high up the steep rock faces and the goats scrambling across the mountain can be seen from the cave and also the sound of jangling of the bells make your time there, all the more special and majestic. The southern side displays the beautiful Nilgiri Mountain while the east boasts of Jharkot and the white walls of the Muktinath pilgrimage shrine. The round trip takes is about twenty kilometers long and might take two to three hours on average.