Mitratā – Culturact 2.0 – Around Pokhara with Rtr. Nirmala

It was the 4th day in our Mitratā visit to Nepal. After a hectic 7-hour drive from Kathamandu to Pokhara, our crew had a sound sleep at the accommodation.  But alas! The sleep was disturbed by the alarm which rang at 3.45 am. On a regular day, we would have just snoozed the alarm and waited another half an hour on bed. But this day was different; it was the day that we had planned to visit the iconic locations in Pokhara, and the famous Sarangkot sunrise was the first in our list.

After a quick refresh, we packed ourselves and got ready by 4.45 am. We left Hotel Boma, Pokhara by 5.00 am in the morning and Rtr. Nirmala Subedi joined us on the way. Nirmala is a guide by profession, who has conquered the peaks around Pokhara valley several times. She was the best person we could have asked for the Pokhara city tour. By 5.45 am, we managed to reach the viewpoint at Sarangkot.

Sarangkot is one of the best viewpoints to witness the sunrise in Pokhara. On a clear day, a panoramic sweep of Himalayan peaks including Dhaulagiri, Machhapuchhare, Annapurna II and Lamjung can be seen with the rising sun. Sarangkot is just a half an hour drive away from Pokhara and a must visit place to witness the snowy white peaks transforming into a celestial gold with the sunrise.

To our dismay, it was a misty morning in Sarangkot, where the panoramic view of mountain peaks was covered with clouds. The sun played hide and seek through the clouds, but we soon realized that the chance of viewing a perfect Sarangkot sunrise is remote. Hence, we left Sarangkot by 6.15 am for our next destination, Bindabasini Temple.

Bindabasini Temple, one of the many fascinating attractions in Pokhara, stands atop a hill near Bagar. The temple premise offers a spectacular view of the famous Machhapuchhare mountain as well as part of the magnificent Annapurna range. The white pagoda-style temple is dedicated to Goddess Durga, who is said to be the chosen as a guardian deity of Pokhara. It is believed that this deity was brought to the city of Pokhara by King Siddhi Narayan Shah of Kaski before the unification of Nepal. The pleasant park-like atmosphere surrounding the historic temple provides a great place to relax and enjoy a picnic with the family.

By the time we reached the temple, there were many locals who had turned up to receive blessings early in the morning. Bajans were sung at one part of the temple and the atmosphere was a very pleasant one. Our crew obtained the blessings and decided to leave for next destination. Before reaching Devi’s falls, we made sure to fill our tummies with traditional Nepalese Momos and Aloo Paratha.

According to one of the many local legends, the name is a corruption of Davis Falls. On 31st July, 1969, Mrs. Davis, a Swiss citizen who had been taking a bath with her husband had been swept away to the sinkhole and died. As a memory of them, the waterfall has since been known as Davis falls, which later transformed into Devi’s falls.  Though it was not the peak season, Devi’s falls was gushing down with water that ran into the sink hole below, which created a cloud of tiny droplets in the air. Beside the falls, there is a model of traditional Nepali house and a series of statue of Nepali people wearing traditional costumes, where we went behind and clicked some snaps.

Across the road from Devi’s Falls is the entrance to the famous Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave, where a number of shrines are located. The largest shrine is dedicated to God Shiva. Behind the shrines is the pond, where the gushing waters of Devi’s falls come to a temporary rest, before joining the underground river. The walls around the pond are comprised of limestones, which add vibrance to the cave structure. The stairs down the cave were slippery, hence we made sure to be cautious with our steps. The next destination on our agenda was the World Peace Pagoda in Pokhara.

Built by the Buddhist monks from Japan on the hills above Phewa lake in 1973 to promote world peace, is the World Peace Pagoda of Pokhara. The stupa has two tiers open for the visitors. The upper tier displays four Buddha statues gifted from different countries. One of those statues has been gifted from Sri Lanka. Besides being a temple of tranquility, the site offers a spectacular view of Pokhara City and Phewa Lake with Annapurna range rising from the background. Other side of the stupa offers panoramic views of local villages. Needless to say, that we felt as if we were visiting a local temple in Sri Lanka. On the way downhill, we got the opportunity to taste coffee made out of freshly blended coffee seeds, which had a unique taste. It was a timely boost for our next destination, International Mountain Museum.

International Mountain Museum is another local and foreign tourist hotspot in Pokhara. The museum exhibits mainly three sections: hall of Great Himalayas, hall of world mountains and hall of fame. The museum contains exhibits on famous peaks, mountaineers, different types of communities in Nepal, geology and cultural values of Nepalese people. This visit provided a deep insight into mountaineering and the danger associated with it. The documentary on Everest trek was convincing enough to upgrade one of the items on my wish list, ‘conquering Everest Base Camp’ from a should-do to a must-do.

On the next day evening, we walked along the Phewa lakeside to reach the bus station close to the boat house for the next adventure with Nirmala: a mini-hike from west Damside to east along the river Fusre Khola. After a 15 minute-bus ride, we got down at a junction and walked along Rameshwor Marga towards the Damside power house. At the powerhouse, we turned to a gravel road which runs through the paddy fields that were ready to be harvested.

The Hanging bridge, which is the longest suspension bridge of Pokhara was our next landmark. We were surprised by the depth and the width of river Fusre Khola, where the hanging bridge was built over. Though the length was more, the stability was better than the suspension bridges in Sri Lanka.

On the other side of the river, we experienced typical Nepalese village culture. Farmers who were harvesting and collecting paddy were a common sight during the hike. The experience reminded us nothing less than the rural Sri Lankan villages filled with lush green paddy fields.

Mini Grand Canyon was the final landmark in the mini hike. The landscape was similar to that of Grand Canyon, where river Fusre Khola flows down the deep valley that has walls of inclination of approximately 90. At the viewpoint, we had a good rest and took ample time to click images of the magnificent view. A panoramic view of Machhapuchhare mountain at the sunset added to the glamour, saving the best of Pokhara to the last.

As the evening ambled towards the dusk, we left the Damside to return to the Lakeside. Words were not enough to thank Rtr. Nirmala, who dedicated two days of her busy schedule to show us around the city of Pokhara. With heart-felt gratitude and contentment, project Culturact 2.0 came to a successful conclusion at Pokhara.

 

Rtr. Himantha Alahakoon

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