MiscSouth Asia

Waterfalls, Caves, Festivals and the World Peace Pagoda

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Another scorching day and the temperature was pushing the high thirties. So we grabbed a taxi and headed back to Devi’s falls in the hope the driver would have a better chance of getting us there. Sure enough he did, and 20NPR later and we were in. The sound of the waterfall was apparent as soon as we got in and a few minutes later we were facing the ferocity of the waterfall. It was much bigger than I’d anticipated and the kids stood spell bound as I explained the legend. A gorgeous rainbow filled the hole into which the waterfall fell. It was beautiful. It was about 11am and the heat was overbearing, we were all sweating profusely and I started to wonder whether what we had planned later was such a good idea. Across the road from Devi’s falls is a cave called Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave. Expecting some Raiders of the Lost Ark we went into the area where it is and instantly I was told no photo’s. Which was a crying shame because as we stepped down into the cave there were loads of Hindu women all covered in paint which Charlie noticed was crushed coloured rice. They were all holding incense sticks and setting fires and seemed to all be going into and out of the cave. There was music as women danced and sang. It was obviously some kind of festival. Once inside the cave it was darkness except for the lights from incense sticks and the colourful Hindu women. As we got further in I noticed there were male religious guys all throwing about the paint and rice. It really was mystical, I felt very privileged and the kids loved it.

Once outside the cave we sat and had a bit of time to rehydrate before we set off on the days mission – Trek up to the World Peace Pagoda set on a mountain overlooking lake Phew Tal and Pokhara.

Nichidatsu Fujii was a Japanese Buddhist who met with Gandhi back in the Thirties. Inspired by Gandhi he decided to dedicate his life to promoting no violence and set about building Peace Pagodas, huge Buddhist Stupas which were to be a place of peace for all people. The first were in remembrance of the victims of the atomic bombs in Japan and by the year 2000 there were eighty peace pagodas throughout the world – There is actually three in the UK.

The one in Pokhara is on a ridge some 1100 meters high and is accessed from Pokhara by one of three paths. We decided to take the scenic route and so we walked about a kilometre up the road from the cave and set about scaling the mountain. To put things into perspective it is as higher than the highest mountain in England (Scafell Pike) and slightly higher than the highest mountain in Wales (Snowdon) It is about 200m lower than the highest mountain in the whole of the British Isles – Ben Nevis.

So it is of course no walk in the park. So, in thirty eight degree heat and humidity of about 80% we set off up. After about a minute I was dying. I was covered in sweat and keeping it out of my eyes was hard work. Both kids were struggling too and before long we had to rest. The humidity and heat was unbearable. We were sweating so much it was like we had just got out from the shower. It was extremely difficult. We had to rest about every hundred meters and find shade. The scenery was stunning, think rice fields and jungle and you won’t be far off. Every now and again we would pass a rural shack with Nepali people staring at us, trying to say hello, wanting to accommodate us. It was a gorgeous walk, the most stunning walk any of us have ever been on. A couple of hours and about fifteen gallons of sweat later we reached the summit. It was breathtaking. Not just the view but this amazing crisp white huge Stupa was set back behind some lovely gardens. We of course climbed up it and looked down on Lake Phew Tal, the Annapurna Massif set the backdrop and the lake glistened under the clear blue sky, interrupted only by a few colourful wooden boats. Getting up there was an achievement the kids and I will behold for many years. We sat on the Stupa to try and gain some energy from the awesomeness of the situation and it was so tranquil. So quiet, it was a special moment that will probably last me a lifetime.

We decided to take the most direct route back down the mountain which meant trekking through jungle down to the lakes edge. It was very steep and Charlie went for a Burton a few times. Abi thought it was funny until she too met the ground unanticipated. Fully aware there are wild animals which would have loved an Abi and Stu kebab washed down with a bit of Charlie we tried to be quick. Eventually we were at the water’s edge and there was a lone boatman sleeping in his homemade wooden boat. I woke him up and expected a slap, instead I got a smile and a 250NPR price to the other side of the Lake. It’s about a half an hour row and so for just over two quid I couldn’t really complain. He actually had two oars and so I did give him a hand, once I got going we were like a speed boat. I know he was impressed – I certainly was.

The rest of the day was spent trying to replace the billion calories we had lost over a massive Chinese Banquet. That climb did however teach me one thing – we climbed a mountain almost as big as Ben Nevis in sandals and 38 degree heat with just a day sack and a bit of determination. We had no map and no idea where we were going. We just kept walking up in the hope we’d eventually see where we needed to be. We bit off much more than we could chew and we succeeded. I suppose we shot for the moon and hit it.

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