Our group piled into two Jeeps. Five hours, I was told. Though I had walked to Sikles from Tangting before, this was my first time riding in a vehicle along the bumpy road leading from Pokhara. The sun shone perfectly through the trees, but I was grateful when our caravan stopped at a small restaurant two hours from our starting point. When we set out again, I was even more grateful it didn’t take five hours to reach the Gurung village, but only four.
Located in the Madi Rural Municipality, Sikles is one of the largest Gurung villages in Nepal. Hills surround the place: Parche Dada, Kori Dada, and Taprang Dada cast colors across the horizon. Around 700 homes make up this place known as Cheuli (“flat pastures”) in the local Gurung language. Stone walkways lead from house to house, and chickens scurry up and down uneven staircases throughout the village. Wood, used as the primary source for kitchen fuel and heat, is stacked alongside paths and outside of homes.
We reached Sikles in time for afternoon tea and khaja. The Gurung Cottage Guesthouse served heaping bowls of noodles and ginger tea before our group divided up and settled into basic but clean accommodations. In the evening, enormous plates of Nepali food were placed in front of us, with extra bowls of rice and curry set in the middle of the dining table for those with heavier appetites. Vegetables picked from the garden out front were deliciously seasoned, and the aromatic dal was thick and flavorful. After dinner, a bonfire roared in the courtyard, and we enjoyed music beneath a sparkling sky.
Life in Sikles is infused with Gurung tradition. Residents proudly sport cultural attire, men in white criss-crossed bhangra vests and women in colorful lungi dresses to complete daily chores. As in most villages in Nepal, young adults are noticeably absent, with older people and young children making up the majority of the population. Women call from their homes to invite guests inside for a cup of tea. It was clear we were welcome visitors, and our stay was appreciated.
Mornings are to be seized in Sikles. Our group rose early, with a few chasing sunrise and others leisurely making their way up to Sikles Park. The point is an idyllic scene above the village, where the white edges of Lamjung Himal (6,983 m.) frame golden fields and horses graze freely. Rising Dada, an avalanche viewpoint, is about two hours by foot from the village center. Though our group spent the afternoon at the local government school, visitors may also enjoy a visit to the museum to learn more about Gurung culture, or ask to be brought to the place of the “honey hunters.”
What you need to know
Foreigners need an ACAP permit to visit Sikles. There’s one check-post in between Pokhara and Sikles, and another headquarters inside the cultural museum at Sikles. While public buses run from Pokhara, they are infrequent, so be sure to check timetables.
Sikles throws some great melas, or festivals, each year, so you may want to time your visit accordingly to fully enjoy and appreciate the unique culture of the area. The Maghe Sankranti Mela incorporates sports competition and dance into a several-days-long celebration. This festival falls on the first day of Maghe, which is usually around mid-January.
No matter when you travel to Sikles, pack layers! Temperatures can range from 18 to 25 degrees during the day, and drop to 9 degrees at night. Our evening was especially chilly and I was glad to have brought fleece layers and a SmartWool undershirt to keep warm. Carry a refillable bottle for water, too. Guesthouse owners are more than happy to pour hot water for guests.
Though this visit is doable in just a single overnight stay, steel yourself for the Jeep ride. I would recommend two nights and leisure time to enjoy the natural scenery, warm people, and interesting culture. As for guesthouses, be sure to call and reserve a room early during warmer seasons and festival times. No matter when you travel, Sikles will be ready to welcome you with open arms.