Gorkha and the Manakamana Cable Car: Day Trips from Kathmandu

For an day trip near Kathmandu, I hopped a bus out of the city in the direction of [intlink id=”550″ type=”post”]Pokhara[/intlink], but got off halfway down the highway at the Manakamana Cable Car. Also known as Nepal’s only cable car. I wanted to ride the car and then spend the night in Gorkha, the original capital of Nepal. Why did I want to do this? No real reason, that’s the beauty of having 2 months to explore a beautiful country with so many things to do like Nepal!

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The Manakamana Cablecar in Nepal

After I jumped off the bus at the right moment, I joined the throngs of local Nepali families heading for the cable car. 25 minutes into the queue, I was at the very front, and about to get in the next car. Suddenly, a man three people behind me decided he, and his five family members, had waited long enough, and pushed their way to the front.

Wait a second… that’s not fair! (Cue my dad making fun of me for my overly active sense of justice and fair play in life)

Luckily, the Nepali woman who was overseeing the safe transfer of people from firm ground to the dangling death crates stepped up and told the man to wait his turn like a well mannered 5 year old. Or I assume that’s the gist of what she said, it wasn’t in English. He got back in line regardless.

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I did get my rightful place on the next car, Thank You Justice!

And we started off.

Then about 17 seconds out of the gate, and over top of the river the whole cable car stopped. Cue the vivid, and graphic, vision of me plummeting to my death in that crate of doom with five strangers all crashing into each other was made worse when the wind picked up and there we were, just blowing in the breeze.

But, like a candle in the wind (comedy credit to the great and hilarious Lizzie as quoted from a text message at the moment), the cable car persevered and we lived to stall not once more, no. Twice more. Terrifying.

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But the ride in the cable car is very gorgeous. It is a top of the line alpine gondola that carries 6 people in each car, as it climbs steeply up the side of a hill, up and over the ridge, and then up an over another ridge that you didn’t even see from the start, so it’s basically a bonus hill!

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Manakamana Devi Temple for the Goddess Bhagwati

When you do get to the real top, you are in the hilltop village of Manakamana, which has decent views of the Himalayas, but is famously the home of the Manakamana Devi Temple, where rumor has it the Goddess Bhagwati will fulfill the wishes of worshippers who make the pilgrimage to come and see her. I’m sure this pilgrimage was more of an actual pilgrimage when people had to actually hike up the hillside to get to Manakamana, instead of riding a high tech, anxiety-inducing cable car that shot up the side in 8-10 minutes. Bhagwati probably feels a bit scammed by the whole thing.

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The temple is commonly known as the wish fulfilling Hindu temple, people come and make all kinds of offerings, mostly food and flowers, but also chickens, pigeons, and goats. And they have these animals conveniently for sale in the bazaar leading up to the temple. Though you can BYO goat on the cable car, it’s an extra 200 rupees charge. I was not in a car with a goat. But I did see goats go into the temple…and not come out. Then I had lunch.

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Visiting the town of Gorkha in Nepal

After taking the cable car back down to the highway, without stalling once, I hopped on another bus to continue further afield to the lovely hill town of Gorkha, which is pretty much the end of it’s road.

Gorkha is actually the ancestral home of the Nepali Royal family, as this is where the clan settled when they originally came fleeing out of India into the Nepal area in the 1500’s. It was a somewhat ambitious, and probably sociopathic, young buck named Prithvi Narayan Shah who invaded the Kathmandu Valley, and basically unified all of what we think of as Nepal today. He did this in the 1760’s by taking over Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, and Patan, the three distinct kingdoms in the Kathmandu Valley. Prithvi then moved his capital to the valley and basically left the town of Gorkha to mop itself up.

I had read that it had a cool Durbar Square perched on a hill ridge that had views of the mountains, so yes I’ll check that out!

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I got into Gorkha right as the sun was starting to go down, so I found a bed for the night and then headed to a patio restaurant for dinner. I ate dhal bhat, watched the last bit of sunset and drank a Gorkha Beer, in Gorkha. Because it just seemed right. And I had had a very long day on local Nepali buses.

A trip to Gorkha and the Manakamana cablecar showed another side of Nepal, where technology met spirituality, and I was stalked by yet another monkey.

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Gorkha Durbar Square in Nepal

The next morning I woke up, packed up my stuff and hiked up to the Durbar Square, which is about 30 minutes up from Gorkha. It’s a pretty contained version of Durbar Squares in comparison to others, but it’s a cool little place, not least of all due to the views to the north to the mountains and to the south over the valleys. There was a goat tied to a post up there, not sure if that goat was long for the world, or maybe he was just a ceremonial gatekeeper. I hope the latter.

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I walked up from Durbar to where there are some footprints thought to be that of an important Buddhist dude. As I was standing above the prints wondering how to angle the picture without getting my shadow in it, a new and distinct shadow entered my peripheral. I slowly looked up, and like that scene in the second Hunger Games when Katniss et. al. look up and find themselves face to face with hideously terrifying blood thirsty monkeys, I too looked up to find myself face to face with a hideously terrifying blood thirsty monkey. Staring at me. 3 feet from my face. And doing scary things with his mouth that was like a silent scream. And while I’m like, 99% sure this monkey was not a mutt sent by the Capital to kill me, I almost peed my pants, and then slowly backed away, grabbed my bag and left whoever it was’s footprints to the monkey. Gah!

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Viewpoint of the Himalayas in Gorkha

To get even further away from this primate pursuer, I climbed up the ridge to the highest point, Upallokot, to a viewpoint to have a clearer and fuller view of the mountains, because you can never see the Himalayas enough. Seriously you can’t. Especially when your other option for the day is to hang out with King Kong. When I came down, I crept back up to the footsteps, constantly checking to see if the monkey was still lurking, took my picture, and then fled the scene. Phew!

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