Manakamana and Gorkha

The view back towards Besisahar from the bus.

The view back towards Besisahar from the bus.

Day 57  – Location: Besisahar, Gorkha; Nepal.

26/10/12

Today me and Anja were off to do some travelling whilst she was still on holiday. We got up early for the bus but Rezham didn’t appear, he was going to flag down the correct bus for us. Anja woke him up and we got a later one. I bid goodbye to my generous hosts, and photographed some kids who were playing outside.

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Rezham’s House

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The local bus pulled up and we went on the roof, something Anja had wanted to do for a while. The roofs have a metal rack with a rail around them, and we shared it with some bags. I wedged myself beside some bags looking out to the side. A stop down and an old man joined us up there. At the next stop another man climbed up, but in typical Nepali fashion the bus barely stopped moving and the guy hilariously was left straddling over the old man, holding his arms out in superman fashion grabbing onto the railings to avoid falling off! The poor guys had to endure this for a while until we stopped. Me and Anja were laughing our heads off!

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The views atop the bus were nice – we could see down the green, forested river valley. We passed lots of bursting full buses with people crammed on the roof. I started to need a pee, not the best time to need one.

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Only about an hour to go though, it should be ok, I thought. We hit a traffic jam where a bus had broken down and got trapped for a while. I thought I could hop off to go and pee but the bus kept moving and I couldn’t risk being left behind.

Now that's a narrow clearance!

Now that’s a narrow clearance!

We reached the main road and by now  I was in real pain. We thought it was only around half an hour to our destination, it took over an hour and I could barely hold it in, shifting around in discomfort! Never again! The views down the valley were nice and we were alongside a big river, the Seti. We passed a power station which like most important installations was protected by armed guards (obviously still edgy from the civil war).

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As we wound our way down the valley we finally saw the cable car of Manakamana (Or as I usually call it Manakamamamaananananana as it’s impossible to get right). It goes up to an important temple with good views. We got off the bus and I whipped off my money belt (a decision I’d live to regret!) and ran off to pee in the bushes. As we walked down to the cable car past a huge traffic jam we saw the queue was huge, mostly Indian and Nepali visitors. It would have taken about 2 hours of waiting in the midday sun and we decided it wasn’t worth it as it would be so busy up there anyway. We grabbed some lunch and hopped on a local bus to Abu Khareni, back the way we’d come, so we could get to Gorkha, our next destination.

Manakamana cable car on the right

Manakamana cable car on the right

This bus was totally rammed but they wouldn’t let us on the roof. I’ve never seen so many people on a bus! We were sandwiched with about 20 other people standing in the front section, as about 5 people hung out the doorway. You really couldn’t move an inch and whenever you thought no-one else could possibly fit in, they somehow managed to cram another few people on board, often leaving others on the side of the road because they couldn’t fit. A Nepali teacher chatted to us on the way and explained normally you can get a seat on these buses but because of the festival it was crazy. We changed bus to a jeep where it was so full that we had to stand on the platform over the edge of the road, we had to hold on tight but it was exciting!

Hanging on the back of the jeep

Hanging on the back of the jeep

We transferred buses at Abu Khareni to reach Gorkha up in the hills, a parallel valley to Besisahar where I’d stayed with Anja. We were lucky and found a bus before anyone else got on so got a seat. Unfortunately the views were limited from the low windows. We passed rammed buses and loads of people waiting on the side of the road as we climbed the forested valley, catching glimpses of a good view of Gorkha sprawled out along a high ridge. Most of Gorkha was closed due to the festival. We wandered around the cobbled streets into the old town up the hill looking for a guest house, with charming old buildings, finding a hotel where the woman didn’t speak English and didn’t seem to understand basic sign language for sleeping either. She vanished and didn’t return! Very odd! We went down the hill and found another hotel where the staff actually did work…

It was already about 4pm so we climbed up to Gorkhas main attraction, the old palace on the top of the ridge. This involved over 1500 steep stone steps past little houses and locals, offering great views of the layered hills below.

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The palace ticket office was already closed so we strolled in to admire the ancient tiled buildings. The ground was stained with blood and scattered with feathers from today’s sacrifices. On the other side of the ridge we could see out to the Himalayas which were very nice, and a helpful guard pointed out their names. We watched a lovely sunset as the valleys became layered in shades of darkness, and descended.

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The Himalayas viewed from the temple.

The Himalayas viewed from the temple.

A real baba (holy man)

A real baba (holy man)

The baba gives a tikka to a family

The baba gives a tikka to a family

As I was unpacking, I suddenly realised my money belt was missing from my bag. The last time I’d seen it was before we started taking buses after Manakamana. Inside it was my passport, unused memory cards, some bank cards, medical documents and about 300 pounds in cash – which I’d only taken out a few days ago to last me for the rest of Nepal (as the withdrawal fees are very expensive). I was really annoyed, I’d forgotten to put it back on after rushing to pee, and someone must have stolen it on one of the packed buses where we were stuck like sardines unable to keep an eye on our stuff all the time! I was really annoyed, I’m usually so careful with my money bely, and knew it would be expensive and a hassle to sort out the passport – and the cash was enough to last a few weeks. The good news was that my credit card had fallen out when it had been lifted, so I still had my main source of money intact. In the next few days I sorted out the practicalities that I could, like cancelling the cards, and tried to put it out of my mind and not let it spoil my time with Anja.

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When we went for dinner at the hotel, to Anja’s horror we discovered they were only serving Dahl Baht due to a lack of staff because of the festival. As it’s all she’s eaten for 3 weeks she was desperate for something else! We tried to find another restaurant but everything was closed, except one small hotel which again said only Dahl Baht! Anja pleaded with them for anything else and they said they could do French fries, which she happily tucked into. We headed home for bed.

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