Day 58 – Location: Gorkha > Bhaktapur; Nepal
We had breakfast in Gorkha on the hotel restaurant’s terrace, looking out over the hazy but attractive view of the hill ranges in the distance.
Then we went for a stroll around the town, exploring its few little temples and the old side streets which reminded me of Bhaktapur, weathered brick buildings with wooden shutters. Gorkha was a quiet little town especially because of the Dasain festival, with shops closed and families spending time indoors together. At one tiny temple we found, a group of kids greeted us. One of the girls, only about 8 years old spoke really good English, asking us lots of questions and even explaining in detail about the god the temple was dedicated to. One day she’ll be a guide I’m sure!
We went to the busy bus terminal and took a local bus back to Abu Khareni, again we got lucky by getting seats for the two hour journey down the valley, but the views were restricted by the low windows. The bus was crammed full as usual. At Abu Khareni we caught a jeep to Dumre, back towards Pokhara – the same route we’d travelled yesterday.
Twenty minutes later we arrived in the busy dusty town, where we found a small local bus to take us to Bandipur. It had been recommended as a peaceful haven with good mountain views so we wanted to check it out. We climbed onto the bus roof and were soon joined by a full roofload of other passengers. The road to Bandipur was steep and had a lot of hairpins. I’d chosen the wrong side to sit, so my views were mostly of trees and walls, whereas Anja had some great views of forested valleys which I had to break my neck to see.
Occasionally we had to duck quickly to avoid low hanging wires and branches. Decapitation is part of the fun here. A guy on the roof started chatted to us. One really nice thing about Nepal is that so many people will just chat to you on the transport.
I got a very numb bum from the uncomfortable roof rails, making a mental note to bring more cushioning next time. Brilliantly the bus conductor climbed up the side of the bus to collect the fares from us roof passengers – moving around like a monkey and hanging on for dear life as we drove by sheer drops and swung around bends! We laughed at the thought of our fat old bus conductors at home doing the same thing!
We swung into the small town which perched on top of a hill-line, offering very nice views in all directions of the hilly surrounded. We were immediately met by an accommodation tout who took us to a dingy hotel nearby, it wasn’t worth it, so we walked into the main street, which had plenty of tourists but no traffic as it’s banned here. We found a basic but cheap guest house which felt more like someone’s home than a hotel – in fact later we met an old guy who told us a few years ago it had been a homestay. The guest house roof looked out onto the big valley below with hills layered into the distance, very nice.
Aside from the very stereotypical aging tourists wandering around with big cameras, the paved main street was very quiet and lined with restaurants with seating on the street, feeling very Mediterranean. The buildings were old and charming and at the end of the street were some nice small bricked temples. We stopped for lunch in one of the restaurants on the street and watched the world go by. There were a lot of serious photographers walking around carrying two or three big cameras each. For the size of the place there were lots of tourists, but they weren’t noisy so the peace was preserved. The town was almost free of the scourge of shouting and car horns, making the atmosphere really chilled.
We dropped into the only paragliding office in the town, which offers sunset paragliding over the hills which sounded great. Unfortunately their instructors were all away on a group trip and wouldn’t return for days, so that was out.
We walked up a road to a larger temple as the sun started to sink. There was recent blood on the floor and a blood trail leading all the way around the temple to one of the side buildings. According to the guide book, during the Dasain festival, goats are sacrificed with the sacred sword which is housed in the temple – it looks like it got a taste of blood today! We followed a little path further uphill and climbed into some terraced fields where Anja hoped we’d get a good view of the huge valley below us. She was right – the view was stunning. We sat down as the sun went down and drank in the atmosphere. Below us we could see from the winding river at the bottom of the valley, to the green hills rising and rising beyond it, to even bigger hills on the horizon. The sense of scale was awesome and we had a full panorama around us.
And then Anja spotted the mountains. We’d only seen cloud above the hills, but looking further up, the Himalayas pierced through them. It was incredible, from here they looked truly massive – the sense of scale was the best I’d seen, as we could see from bottom of the river valley all the way up to the mighty mountains in the distance, which dwarfed all the rest. The occasional horn, shouts and animal noises occasionally wafted up from the valley floor, but otherwise it was very peaceful. Of course we took a lot of photos but they can’t capture the scale and amazing atmosphere we experienced there – it’s one of the best moments I had travelling so far.
As we walked back the sun was going red and vanishing over the ridge, giving us some nice sunset views to the other side of Bandipur. When it got dark we chilled out at one of the street-side cafes until bedtime.