A bittersweet experience.
I had been planning to go to Nepal for a long time. My wish was to witness Mt. Everest and Mt. Machchhapuchhare (Mt. Fishtail ). After a long study and getting information from several sources, I made an itinerary. I wanted to start in the month of March. However, this year, due to Corona, the board exams started in late April and I had to delay my trip.
I planned it to start on 7th of May. It was a 16 days trip. I booked tickets from Howrah to Raxaul in Mithila express. I decided to return by flight from Kathmandu because I thought it would be a hassle to come back again by bus from Kathmandu to Raxaul. I also had a secret hope that the flight would go over the Himalayas, which it did not. May is the end season for Nepal tourism. After that monsoon starts. But unfortunately I found out at the last moment that there were predictions for rain and thunderstorms all over my trip. I felt a little disheartened.
I included Muktinath in my itinerary, and according to the suggestion of my friend I also kept Manang in the plan. I had a plan to go to Nagarkot and Chandragiri from Kathmandu as Mt. Everest could be seen from those places. I hoped I could see a glimpse of Mt. Machapuchhare from Sarangkot. But man proposes God disposes.
The journey started on the schedule date. From Birganj bus stand few buses ply at regular intervals in the morning for Pokhara. Our bus was at 10:30AM. I eventually met a gold merchant in the bus who was full of negativity. He informed us that there was a traffic jam and we might have to spend the whole night on the road. Thankfully it was not such a serious situation and we reached Pokhara only 5 hours late, at 10 o’clock at night. I had previously booked the hotel.
Taking a taxi from Prithwi Chawk I reached the New Elite Guest House at Hallan Chawk,. It was beside Phewa Lake. The owner Purna was a very congenial person. Due to the upcoming election there were few restrictions in Pokhara. Restaurants, shops and pubs were to be closed by 10 o’clock at night. So Purna asked me to go to any restaurant to have dinner, as their establishment was already closed.
Next morning taking a taxi we went to Sarangkot view point, to witness the sunrise. The peaks could not be seen properly as it was partly cloudy. I took snaps of Pokhara. As I had a plan to go to Muktinath and Manang for which we had to get a permit from the Nepal Tourist Board. The first half of the day was spent in doing that. I wanted to go Manokamna temple, but it ended up into a fiasco. I was traveling with an acquaintance who was not interested in visiting Devis Falls, and other scenic places because she had already visited them. So we did not go anywhere except the lake at Pokhara. I consoled myself traveling Sarangkot by cable car arranged by our hotel owner.
Normally I travel alone. This time on request of an acquaintance, I took her with me. I had met her previously at Pathornachuni on my Rupkund trip. She also did a short Uttarakhand trip with another of my acquaintances in the month of February. She said that she traveled and trekked quite a few places in the Himalayas, and she was an ex-employee of Indian Railway, and she had got the job through sports quota. I thought she could be a good companion. I felt completely duped when I started traveling with her. She was neither a passionate traveler nor was she physically and mentally fit for taking the strain of traveling through a self organized tour. Realizing my mistake, I decided to keep patience and enjoy as much as possible in that situation.
After spending two days at Pokhara we caught a bus at 7 in the morning for Jomsom. On the bus I was delighted to meet a French lady who had been staying in Nepal for 14 years and adopted Buddhism. She spoke Nepali fluently and knew every nook and corner of Nepal’s trekking destinations. I felt envious of her. We reached Jomsom in the afternoon. We met a German trekker who also wished to go to Muktinath that day. So he took initiative to arrange a jeep, which we shared. We reached Muktinath when the sun was setting behind Mt. Dhaulagiri and Mt. Tukuche.
Muktinath was quite cold. The name of the hotel at Muktinath where we lodged was Norling. Food was tasty and good. It was near the bus stand. We slept early. Next day after 7 o’clock in the morning we started for Muktinath. My travel companion bathed in the twin kunds and 64 dharas and offered puja. It was actually her prime objective to come to Nepal with me. I offered puja and witnessed the holy deity. I felt blessed to visit there.
Next day was election day. No vehicles would be available. So after coming down from the temple I went to the bus stand to know the bus time to reach Jomsom. I wanted to spend one day at Jomsom and visit Dumba Lake there. But when I went there I came to know that no bus was plying on that day for Jomsom. I had to hire a taxi in a hurry, otherwise we could get stuck at Muktinath for the next day also. Going to Pokhara from Muktinath would take two/three hours longer than Jomsom. And also I was interested in spending one day at Jomsom.
We stayed in a hotel near Jomsom bus stand called the Muktinath Hotel. Jomsom is a scenic place with the view of Mt Nilgiri and Mt Dhaulagiri, Kaligandaki river and apple orchards. Next day being the election day most shops remained closed. Nepal armed forces were patrolling on the roads. We visited the serene Dumba lake after lunch. It was hardly 3/4 kilometer from the center of the small town. The lake is considered sacred by the Buddhists. I lost my camera lens cap while coming back from Dumba lake.
Next day we caught a bus in the morning and reached Pokhara in the afternoon. It started raining after we arrived. Our hotel owner Purna had booked our bus ticket for Besishahar. Spending one night in Pokhara we started for Besishahar at 7 o’clock in the morning and reached at 11 am. There we had our lunch and started for Manang.
Many treks start from Manang. It is a district of Nepal. There are small villages like Dharapani, Chame, Pisang, Braga, Tanki Manang, Khangsar, etc. Every village has its own beauty with snow peaks, Marsyangdi river, and innumerable water falls. Thorang La pass trek, Tilicho lake trek, Khangsar kang peak expedition etc. start from here. Mt. Gangapuna, Mt. Annapurna, Mt. Tilicho, Mt. Khangsar Kang, Mt. Manaslu peaks can be seen from here.
We reached Manang at 10 o’clock at night. Here I want to mention that going to Manang needs a lot of physical and mental strength, and traveling to Manang is quite expensive. It is not a cup of tea for an amateur traveler who travels for comfort and leisure. My Manang traveling experience is another story. *****
Spending two nights at Manang we came down to Besishahar. Here I realized that most Indian ATM cards do not work in Nepal and Bhutan. It was a disaster for me. Next day with the help of our driver and hotel owner we got two seats in the micro-bus for Kathmandu. After reaching Kathmandu we boarded in a hotel at Gangabu, where the bus dropped us. Gangabu is a convenient place and there are many budget hotels for locals, though not for tourists. Tourist area is Thamel.
Knowing my problem of lack of funds, the hotel owner helped me. My son sent him money through IME and he delivered me the cash. I shall remain ever grateful to him. I abandoned my plan for Chandragiri and Nagarkot due to my travel companion’s disinterest. We visited Pashupatinath temple, Swayambhunath temple, Patan (Darbar square), Bhaironath and Bhaktapur Darbar square in three days. We caught our flight for Kolkata from Kathmandu. My hopes to witness Mt. Everest and Mt. Machapuchhare remained unfulfilled this time. Maybe I shall visit Nepal again. But that will surely be a solo trip.