Monday, 21 April 2008

Manakamana, Nepal

This morning, Monday, I left Chitwan by local bus and travelled back to the Privi Highway and followed it towards Kathmandu, along the mountain-sides with the river far below. This time I was on the side of the bus on the open side of the valley. It was hard to relax, travelling on such a narrow road, with no road-side barriers and heavy traffic with vehicles constantly overtaking each other.

I alighted at a cable-car, built by Austrians 12 years ago, where I met my guide, Kamal, who is to look after me for 4 days. The cable-car travelled 2.8km, climbing 1,000m, to Manakamana, a small village that exists because of the presence of a highly significant Hindu temple. Pilgrims travel from across Nepal, and from India, to give sacrifices and worship at the temple that I found surprisingly small and modest. When we arrived there was a long, very slow moving line of pilgrims with their offerings of food and flowers, and sacrificial animals - chooks and goats - ready to be slaughtered. The temple has many bells around it, and as the pilgrims arrive they ring the bells to announce their arrival to the gods. So the whole effect was quite electric, with bells ringing constantly, the animals bleating and squawking, people chatting, incense smoke filling the air and blood from slaughtered animals covering the stone grounds around he temple.

After a while marvelling at the scene, I headed off with Kamal to climb the hill behind the temple. (Kamal told me that 17% of Nepal is mountain i.e. more than 3,300m, 68% is hill country, and 17% low rain forest, as I had seen at Chitwan. So anything less than 3,300m is a "hill".) It took us most of the afternoon to climb past small, terraced farms and up through the forest to the peak, surmounted by several small temples. We returned to Manakamana, where we're staying in a small, basic hotel.


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