Thursday, 2 March 2017

Lumbini

We wake having had more sleep than many previous nights put together. Michael is still not feeling 100 percent, so I am up first for a change. A strange breakfast of puri, mushroom soup, and momos, then we enquire about bus options to Pokhara before setting out for a day of touristing.


Lumbini is refreshingly rural after the succession of cities in India. The park and sacred garden is a vast open space with sparse development and it was a welcome change for us. The day was heating up, and after a short walk down the dusty trails we purchased our ticket, deposited our shoes, and passed through security to enter the grounds of the Maya Devi Temple. The garden is full of reconstructed brick ruins of stupas and monasteries. There are signs warning us to keep off, though ignored by the scamp of a shy brown and white dog who ran across the bricks defying the whistles of the guard. There is a pillar marking the apparent place of Buddha's birth, the site first marked by Ashoka some three hundred years after Buddha's death. Actual excavated ruins inside the temple, which looks more like an archeological dig than a temple, except for the queue of devotees waiting to pray at the altar and view the nativity stone.





We retrieve our shoes, then walk a little further and pass a gold statue of baby Buddha -- a gift from Thailand -- and then carry on to the start of the central canal. I want to walk to the World Peace Pagoda, since we can see it's bright white dome in the distance against the almost blue sky. It's actually a further three and a half kilometres to walk and we have already walked one. I assure Michael that is as far as we were walking along the ghats in Varanasi everyday, only here there won't be anyone hassling us to take a boat. Ironic, as when the canal comes into view we find we can actually ride a boat most of the way.




We pay our 40 rupees each and board the boat and wait while it fills up with a few others. The ride is short and the boat vibrates us senseless, the drivier pushing it into top speed leaving quite a wake behind us. At the other end there is a cluster of makeshift shops and restaurants, but we push on past 5 wandering goats down the dusty path, past lots of construction and then to the Peace Pagoda itself. We remove our shoes once more and walk up the crisp white stairs, then round the structure on each level. Four statues of Buddha, each in a different pose and facing a different direction. There are views over the green yet dusty and dry land.



On the walk back, Michael is close to delirium; too hot, too fatigued and still recovering from giardia, despite this he spots a lone hawk who swoops down to take a drink. We have some pakoras and noodles in one of the makeshift cafes, and after much debate we board the little boat to take us back to the start of the canal. Along both sides of the canal there are temples recently built by many different Buddhist countries. We decide to visit the Sri Lankan and Myanmar ones, both totally different. We would like to have seen more, but they were too spread out and we were too hot and tired, and there was still a long walk back and arrangements to make for tomorrow.



Whilst researching bus options we found out there were two tourist busses, after our experience in local buses yesterday we decide to avoids these. There is the short but windy route through the mountains, or the long fast route via the bypass. One twice the length of the other, but both taking roughly the same 7 hours. At this stage Michael makes the mistake of googling Nepali roads, and then realises just how dangerous they are, reeling off statistics and having flashbacks to watching Rhod Gilbert and Greg Davies driving through Nepal on the TV series 'World's Most Dangerous Roads'. We opt for the long straight route, but then that bus gets cancelled so we then look into the option of hiring a car and driver.

Tonight is a night of two dinners, Michael's appetite is still not back, but I am making up for it. At the first restaurant I have dal fry and Michael has thukpa, then for second dinner we order 10 veg momos to share. But, be the time they arrive, Michael is outside making plans with his friend Nirmal, and when he returns there are only two left for him.

We settle up with the guest house. There has been a power outage in the whole village, which means the room fan isn't working. I am relieved, as it means the room is lovely and warm, but it is too hot for Michael to sleep. It comes back on before long and we have a stressful sleep worrying about the drive tomorrow.