by David Woollan
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The temple and small village of Manakamana is situated atop the 1302 metre hill that lies just north-east of the town of Mugling, some three and a half hours by bus east from Pokhara, or about the same time by bus west from Kathmandu. A cable car runs from the cable station of Cheres, just 5 kms east of Mugling to Manakamana in fifteen minutes. It is an exhilarating ride as you pass the river and up two ridges to the top. If you want, you can return by walking down the former well-used track down to its exit on the Gorkha road, just 1 km north of the town of Abu Khareini.
The cable car operates from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., stopping for
lunch break from 12.00 p.m. to 13.30 p.m. On Saturdays and holidays it starts operations an hour earlier. The cost is a hefty 10 U.S. Dollars plus 14% tax for foreigners, and R250 plus tax for Nepalese citizens. This is a return fare. Single fares only apply to a sacrificial goat (R140). Hindu devotees believe that a visit to this temple will bring good luck, so expect to see many animal sacrifices at the temple entrance.
There are many simple hotels and lodges in the village, all charging about R100 to R400 per room. Some even advertise hot water in
attached bathrooms, but many are run down as there was a hotel building rush a few years ago and now that the cable car operates most people do not spend the night in the village. In the quietest months most
restaurants will be closed and food will consist of momos or daal bhat only.
In theory it is possible to walk from Gorkha to Manakamana, passing along the hill-top ridge through forest and paddy, although you would probably need a guide. When I tried to hire a guide for this walk two years ago, the would-be guides were concerned about swollen rivers. So probably this is a walk for the dry season, although it should be an exciting walk of about seven hours or so.
Added note: When the cable car opened in 1998 it was with the understanding that the local people would benefit. Numbers of people visiting the sacred temple have doubled but people walking up the path from Abu Khareini have dwindled to almost zero and scores of lodges and tea houses have lost almost all their business. Perhaps empowered by the Maoists' show of strength against big business, in late August 2001 people from the village stormed the cable car offices and destroyed the computers and ticketing machines. For the first time since they had started operating, the cable cars were silent for almost one week. Even though you can now buy only a return ticket on the cable car, you might like to consider walking up or down the path one way and buy a meal or stay overnight in a lodge
en route to help the dwindling trade of people who built their business without the concept that a giant like a cable car industry could destroy them.