"Better to die than be a coward" - the motto of the world famous Gorkha soldiers.
The place from where the Kingdom of Nepal was expanded by Prithvi Narayan Shah, has a history of courage, bravery, unquestionable loyalty and impressive combat skills. It was Prithvi Narayan Shah who foresaw the Britishers plan to colonize Nepal. After unification of Nepal, with the might of Gorkha warriors, Nepal succeeded in fighting British forces and prevented colonization of Nepal. No wonder the Nepali army is also known as the Gorkha Army as they are the direct descendants of the mythological Kirant tribes who fought and defeated legendary warrior Arjuna in Mahabharata.
This historical place was our destination from Dhulikhel and the ride of 160 km on Prithvi Highway was absolute bliss. River Trishuli never lets the rider off her sight, as she flows parallel to the highway making it one of the most stunning and scenic highways. A fantasy road for every biker as the smooth winding mountain roads unfold dramatic landscapes. Once you reach Abu Khaireni, take a detour and 24 km of curvaceous and uphill roads lead you to the historic town of Gorkha.
We expected heavy traffic on Prithvi Highway as it connects Kathmandu to Pokhara but were pleasantly surprised to find the entire highway pretty much to ourselves. Passing through the villages on the way, we realized that it was the last day of Tihar festival and we saw everyone celebrating Bhai Tika, a festival where sisters apply tika on their brothers' forehead and pray for their long life, health and prosperity.
On reaching Gorkha, we were taken aback by the sight of thunder showers, lightning & wind speed of 80 to 100 km per hour, all this during the month of October. A stark contrast to spectacular view of the sun setting behind mountain peaks a few hours earlier during the day. The thunders faded away early in the morning and our eyes welcomed another surprise - the Gorkha valley being painted milky white by the clouds.
The prime attractions are the Gorkha Durbar Palace and the Kali temple within the same complex, the Gorkha museum & Manakamana Temple.
We rode to Gorkha Darbar & Kali temple perched high up on the mountain. This could be reached either by foot or by road. Be warned, if you choose foot you will have to climb 1700 stone cut steps. We choose the easier option and hit the road and boy! it was quite a treat. The view of the snow clad Himalayan peaks en-route are simply superb. Gorkha, in terms of stellar views, easily surpasses Kathmandu or Dhulikhel. We highly recommend you visit this town. The Palace complex houses the Durbar and Kali temple. The palace has 35 rooms, 105 windows, 62 doors and 5 halls. The Nepali army is stationed here.
On the way to Durbar palace while on one side you are treated with views of the Himalayas , on the other side you are greeted with man's sarcastic answer to nature's beauty- pile of plastic bottles. It is really sad to see how we are slowly ensuring that our future generations do not enjoy even a little bit of Nature's beauty by polluting it to the maximum level possible.
On the way back from Durbar Palace, make sure you stop over at the Gorkha Museum. The museum exhibits the lifestyle, weapons, portraits, utensils of the Shah dynasty. Above all it has intricate and exquisite carved wooden doors, windows & pillars. The red stone structure and the whole complex stands as an unquestionable example of the other side of fearful warriors - their craftsmanship.
The museum attracts hardly any visitors but we were very happy to see 2 kids around 7-8 years old who were waiting patiently for the ticket counter to open. They just had the exact amount of money required for the entry ticket and with the enthusiasm of learning more about their culture, heritage these kids went about admiring everything that was there in the museum and were in awe with all the artifacts. We were very proud to have seen these kids.
If you are a lover of collectibles or looking for a souvenir it would be a good idea to pick up a "Khukuri,"- the traditional weapon used by Gorkha soldiers. In earlier times, it was believed that Khukuri had to taste blood every time it was drawn on the battlefield, if not the owner had to cut himself before placing it back in it's sheath. It is considered a taboo to drawn the weapon out of it's sheath for no reason.
Manakamana Temple- 35 km from Gorkha towards Kathmandu is the famous Manakamana temple. The term Manakamana is drevied from two words "mana" meaning heart and "kamana" meaning wish. Situated atop a hill, this temple can be reached via trekking an unpaved road for four hours or by cable car. We choose cable car which offers a thrilling experience as it climbs the 1300 meter hill at a steep 80 degree angle and reaches the top in a couple of minutes though the wait in the queue for the ride takes a lot of time. In the end, it was completely worth it as the cable car offers breathtaking views of the Trishuli river, Prithivi highway and the valleys around.
Once you reach the other side there is utter chaos and we were taken aback to see so many restaurants and hotels offering free wifi, satellite TV for quite an isolated destination. The temple itself is in a sorry state as the foundation has decayed, the structure has weakened due to earthquakes in the past and the wooden planks are infested with termites.
This temple is famous for wrong reasons though. We were shocked to hear that this temple attracts lots of devotees who pray for a male child. Also, animal sacrifice is a part of Goddess worship in Nepal and this temple sees most of the devotees offering animals for sacrifice.
We checked into Hotel Gorkha Bisauni. This budget hotel is the best in Gorkha with prime location, inexpensive tariff, basic rooms, fantastic views, 24 hr running hot water, exclusive parking, wifi, friendly staff and great service. The hotel offers rooms with attached and common bath.
The hotel balcony can definitely bring out the artist in you. With the various colors in the sky at dawn and dusk, it serves as the perfect place to bring out the paint brush and fill in your canvas with the most vibrant colors that nature has to offer.
If you wish to stay closer to the Palace, we stumbled upon Hotel Brindaban on the way to Kali temple, this hotel offers fantastic views of the Himalayan peaks and is secluded away from the town. However, we were unable to check it out as it was closed during Diwali.
A word of caution- If you are travelling to Nepal during the Tihar festival plan your trip well as the hotels are closed and they wont take in guests during that time. Also make sure you have some packaged food as the restaurants and even kirana stores tend to be closed leaving with no option to purchase food items as well.
Next Stop Pokhara.