On Wednesday, Taryn and I left for a weeks holiday to Pokhara with Uttham (World Youth International Director) and his friend, Binot.
A big thanks to Uttham who arranged for Binot to hire a car and drive us around, keeping us safe and saving us the difficulty of catching the irregular local buses.
First stop was to Manakamana Temple, the sacred place of the Hindu Goddess Bhagwati, an incarnation of Parvati. A cable car up the hill (think Aussie mountain) saves a strenous 3 hour trek and results in stunning views.
At the top, a temple complex is perched precariously on the hill and surrounded by a local mountain community. According to tradition, the Goodess Manakamana grants the wishes of those who make the pilgrimage to the shrine to worship her. We each made a wish, in the hope that the Goddess will grant it.
Second stop was Gorkha, the birthplace of the first King of Nepal and home of the Gorkha soldiers famous for their excellent fighting for Britain in wartime.
The temple-palace stands almost as originally built, high on the mountain edge overlooking Durbar Square. With the fog rising up over the walls, this was a eerie place where you could imagine soldiers and religious leaders meticulously planning the capture of Nepal, India and Tibet.
From Gorkha, we travelled further along the Prithvi highway to Bandipur, a traditional Nepali village. A slow drive up a winding road with fog hiding all bar a couple of metres view found a resort village where Uttham managed to negotiate cheap rates for the four of us. This was my first experience of hot, running water for some time so I enjoyed a delightful shower.
Bandipur is home to the Bandipur Siddha Cave, the largest cave in Nepal and the second largest in South Asia. After an hour climbing steps equivalent to a stairmaster on a high level, we reached the 200m deep cave that extends out into little passages in all directions. Luckily, some cavers with ropes and torchlights joined us so we had a chance to explore some of the normally unreachable sections of the cave.
Our final stop on the tour was Pokhara, where Uttham and Binot left us to enjoy one of the most scenic towns I have ever been to. Combined with the ultra-friendly locals, this quickly became a favourite destination to rival even my home town Melbourne.
A slight detour (who would have thought a tourist path passes through someone’s garden) led us to a local Nepali who introduced us to a delightful waterfall.
Taryn attempted the Karate Kid pose on the edge of our boat, but managed only to fall inside the boat.
The guys at Club Amsterdam welcomed us with popcorn, banana ‘smoothies’ and mouthwatering vegetable tempura.
We ate, and ate and ate.
And we flew high above town with the vultures, or at least with the guys from the Parahawking experience who fly with the vultures.
Thanks to all the guys at Club Amsterdam, to BK for my massage, to the lovely staff at the gem store and to Hotel Panorama (even with some fairly dodgy breakfasts) for making our stay so welcoming and wonderful, even if we had to climb over the fence to get in.