Maatey: Pokhara's hidden gemA spontaneous plan reveals the city's lesser-known beauty.
Not having to celebrate Dashain, one of the biggest festivals in Nepal, is both a boon and a curse. A curse, because while everyone is gearing up for the celebrations, you are overcome by how bland the holidays will be without the mandatory feasting and tika-hopping. A boon, because you are excused from all the social obligations. I was inclined more towards the latter, and hence began my trip to Pokhara.
It was the most obvious destination, but we didn't have much of a choice. As four of us reached Lakeside on the eve of Dashain's tika day, two other friends from Pokhara joined us for an evening on the banks of Phewa Lake for a couple of beers. We knew the next day was going to be slow, as even the bustling Lakeside wouldn't have much to offer on the tika day. But a friend from Pokhara came up with a plan for the day after tika—he offered to take us to Himalayan Golf Course by the banks of Bijaypur river.
We woke up early the morning of our trip. Prajwal Thapa, a friend of one of the friends from Pokhara, was our guide for the journey. We took a bus from Lakeside to Prithvi Chowk, where we switched to the one that goes to Majheripatan. In about 20 minutes, we got off at Chauthey Chowk. From the bus stop, we walked towards the golf course. I was thankful that we had local friends to guide us to the place. When we reached the golf course, it was only 5:30 am. We laid down on the grass and watched the sunrise, as the sound of the river reverberated in the early morning air.
Staying true to the spontaneity of the whole trip, we unanimously decided to take an uphill hike from the golf course after Prajwal suggested that Maatey, a beautiful village, is nestled at the top of the hill that overlooks the river. We began scaling the hill, which for locals must have been a cakewalk, but for an inexperienced group like us, it was a tough clammer. The trail was steep, and by the time we reached Maatey, we were all out of breath.
But it was all worth it. We had barely climbed a kilometre from Chauthey, but the surrounding had changed drastically. As we slowly made our way over the narrow paths, we were surrounded by the traditional houses built using locally available stones and resources—a unique architecture native to Pokhara. Most of these houses had small animal sheds to house their livestock.
The view from Maatey left us in awe. None of us had thought that we would revere in the breathtaking view of the confluence of Bijaypur and Seti rivers. It was a pleasant change from the view of lakes—which the city is famous for. The two rivers with their raging rapids made for a spectacular sight.
The village was a gem of a find, and it was not as washed with commercialisation as most parts of the city. We were the only visitors in this small village. I thought that, maybe, because it was Dashain or too early in the morning. But Prajwal quickly dismissed it—he said not many people know about this place and tourists are rarely spotted here.
That must have been the reason that villagers were quick to recognise new faces. As we passed a woman in her late forties milking her cow in a shed attached to her home, she asked us where we were heading. Within a few minutes of conversation, she offered us fresh milk. My friends jumped at the opportunity, but my lactose intolerance forced me to decline the offer politely.
Although still hidden from the growing number of tourists filling the city, locals are aware of its potential.
"We used to have tourists thronging the village some 10 years ago," said the middle-aged woman, as she served the group glasses of fresh milk. "But we rarely see any new faces now."
Some had even envisioned a business opportunity in the area. Not very far from the village is an abandoned, incomplete property that was supposed to be developed as a premium resort some 20 years ago. Their vision, however, clearly didn't go as planned it seems. But the abandoned resort offers a great view of the beautiful golf course and the river.
The woman suggested we hike down from the village to the banks of Bijaypur if we wanted to dip our limbs into clear water, but warned about treading carefully while descending the steep trail.
The path was indeed sharp, and one slip would have sent us tumbling into the river. We managed to reach the river without incident, and spent time sitting on its banks.
The tranquility, peace and calm that the village offers in abundance is healing. The vast land of nothing but nature overlooking the breathtaking view of the hills and the confluence is certainly very soothing. It revitalises the soul. It is all nature in this far less-travelled corner of the beautiful city, and I was breathing in everything it offered before taking a bus back to the city.