The Rotary Club of Yala organized a family picnic, ‘One Stop at Bandipur,’ in February 2017. The program included a short hike from Bimalnagar to Siddha Gufa and a stay in Bandipur. I am very excited and a bit nervous because I have hardly had conversations with all the members of Yala. I received my ‘Rotarian’ tag just one week before.
Siddha Gufa is located in Bandipur, Nepal. It is the largest cave in Nepal and the second-largest cave in South Asia. So, what is the largest cave in South Asia? Well, it’s ‘Son Doong Cave’ in Vietnam. You might have thought my general knowledge is good enough, but, according to almighty Google, it’s not.
Nearly 25 members from Yala decided to hike to Siddha Gufa from Bimalnagar, while the rest of the group enjoyed lunch at the restaurant. This decision might have been influenced by the tiredness resulting from a 4-5 hour ride on the highway.
Siddha Gufa is a short hike, taking just an hour uphill and 45 minutes downhill. We chose it because it’s easy and safe. Since half of our group consisted of individuals aged 60 years and older, we took it slow. Our goal was to create cherished memories in nature, feel joyous, and foster a sense of connection.
It takes approximately 1200 stairs to reach the entrance of Siddha Gufa. The climb was quite steep. We waited for all the hikers at the entrance. Guides are required, and flashlights are also available for rent. Once we all gathered outside, we bought entrance tickets, hired guides, rented flashlights, and entered the cave.
The cave has a small entrance but is large and dark inside. The cave features some steep descents and ascents. This was an unplanned excursion to explore the cave; otherwise, it is advisable to wear shoes with good grip, with hiking shoes being recommended.
Like all caves, Siddha Gufa also showcases interesting formations created by stalactites and stalagmites. It contains sculptures made from stalactites and stalagmites. These sculptures formed over an extended period due to the deposition of limestone resulting from dripping water.
The guide directed our attention to a particular area in the cave, using a torchlight to reveal shapes with religious significance and others that resembled different individuals. Among them, some took the form of God, one resembled a bird, and there was even one that closely resembled the plumed crown of the Shah dynasty.
Everyone enjoyed themselves inside the cave, despite encountering challenges such as navigating through narrow passages, crawling through tight spaces, and using stairs to move from one place to another. It’s an adventure that can also test your physical abilities.
On the way back from the cave, a small incident occurred: Rtn Sarita Shrestha fell and broke her leg, rendering her unable to walk. A few of us provided assistance to help her descend the challenging 1,200 steps. Initially, we took her to a community hospital, but due to the limited medical facilities there, we decided to transport her back to Kathmandu that same night. However, she chose not to return to Kathmandu that night and instead opted to do so the following morning.
The next morning, she attended a meeting and then returned to Kathmandu.
We hold her in high esteem and are deeply inspired by her. Her remarkable composure in that situation is truly praiseworthy. To be honest, if I were in her place, I doubt I could have remained as composed as she did. At first, all of us underestimated the seriousness of the incident. It was only when she returned to Kathmandu and consulted with the doctor that we grasped the severity of the injury, which would necessitate nearly six months of rest. She truly earns our utmost respect and admiration. Hats off to her!
Kathmandu to Bimal Nagar (on the way to Pokhara) 130-140km and 3-4 hours’ drive