Day 58 – Location: Bandipur; Nepal
In a fit of madness we’d decided to get up at 5:30am to watch the sunrise in this great location. After both struggling a bit we eventually managed to rise and get out whilst it was still dark. The Lonely Planet had suggested a little temple up on the rocky ridge above the town for one of the best views in Nepal, so we climbed the little path that zigzagged up the narrow ridge as it got lighter.
It was pretty cold but the twenty minute walk warmed us up. At the top of the ridge was a little wood with a shrine. From up here you could see around in all directions, in ten seconds you could be at the other side of the hilltop looking at a different view. A western couple were hugging behind the temple, apart from that we were alone up here. A layer of cloud lay above the big valley floor, obscuring it completely, and a river of cloud flowed over the far ridge beyond the town, wisping into nothinginness futher down. Very nice.
Out of the cloud layer protruded the hills, one set looking like a giant hand. And beyond that was an 180 degree view of the snow topped mountains, completely clear. It was the biggest and best view of the range I’d seen yet. In the other direction, the stepped valleys poked out of the cloud cover and cloud wisped over smaller ridges. A magical place for sure.
As we waited, more people arrived, mostly Nepalese tourists. There weren’t many but unfortunately they made enough noise to shatter the peace. Still, it was nothing compared to Sarangkot or Poon hill. The mountains started to line with gold and the sun appeared over the cloudy ridge. Awesome. If you want somewhere romantic to propose, Bandipur is it. We walked back down and went back to bed for a few hours.
After breakfast we set off in search of one of the biggest cave in Asia. The directions in the Lonely Planet were very vague and we climbed up the hill behind the town, saying hello to locals and made our way through a forest for about half an hour in what we thought was the right way, through the mossy trees rammed with spiderwebs. We met an English guy coming the other way who told us the cave was In a completely different direction, great. We backtracked and asked the locals until we were pointed the right way. Unhelpfully the official metal signs pointing the way were mostly missing, probably part of someone’s roof now. We started descending a long flight of slippery stone steps. At a rest stop a local chap asked if we wanted to buy maruina, producing a big ball of the stuff, presumably plucked locally. He joined us down the path for a bit pointing us in the right direction as we chatted to him.
We had been descending for about an hour, passing no one, working our way through a forest traversing the hillside. We reached a junction with no indication of where to go, so we went up, and reached a house with lots of beehives in logs, like I’d seen when trekking. A few guys were there and when we asked for directions an old man tottered out to lead us on a little path in the right direction. He showed us with hand signs which way to go and we continued. After one junction, following the guys directions, we came to another junction with a clear stone path in one direction and decided to go that way. It led to a big rocky outcrop in the forest, with a cave entrance going down steeply into the blackness. This must be it. However, the guide book had said you could hire guides at flashlights at the cave. We guessed as it was the holiday no one was around.
The cave entrance was pretty cool and I clambered down to check out further inside. Unfortunately I’d forgotten to bring my headtorch so I couldn’t get far before complete blackness. I could hear echoey water running inside and at one point faint voices. I shouted hello but got no response. As I’d heard voices, I thought it would be a good idea to wait for the group to come out, maybe there would be a guide we could use or torches. But after half an hour, no one had showed up, apart from some grazing buffalo ravaging the jungle. We gave up and started the long climb back up the hillside. On the way we passed a few other groups with guides plus a small group with climbing equipment and wondered if we’d come completely unprepared.
After navigating a herd of sheep and goats a man was leading up the hill with his dog, we reached the top again and walked in the sunshine to the town, it was mid afternoon now. The mountains were covered in cloud again. We had lunch and Anja chatted to some other Swiss German women on another table, who joined us for a bit. One of them came with us later when we went to see the sunset again. Unfortunately we were a bit late, so settled on the wall of the larger temple which had a good view of the layered hills and valleys. We stayed admiring the orange beauty before us, and I watched day turn to night and the stars come out in the clear sky, as Anja chatted in her native language to the other woman, something which is a rare treat for her out here! Because I don’t speak German the conversation was a soothing background noise. We played Anjas game of spotting faces in the contours of the hills’ silhouettes. We went for a beer and dinner together and called it a night.