Nepali Road Trip
I’m back at Wild Trak Adventure Lodge on the cusp between the community forest and Bardia National Park. www.wildtrakadventure.com. There are six roomy cabins, a fun garden with bridges, ponds and animals. Last time I was here Johnny Sparshatt was building a unique dining hall with a look out tower. It’s operational with a few details to sort out but coming along nicely. It’s been great to reconnect with Johnny’s partner, Sitaram and his extended family. The kids are mostly high school age and doing well in that category. Others tend to the rice planting which just happened and the fields are growing more luminescent everyday of rain, sun, and humidity.
Due to the logistics of having to return to Katmandu to get our permits for our trek in Upper Dolpa we decided to take a round about motorbike tour to get there including Lumbini, (Buddha’s birthplace), Chitwan National Park, Kositappu National Park, (I’m under the belief that this is the last herd of original genetically undomesticated Water Buffalo with white sock feet and horns reaching 2 meters on the females). After that we head back to Katmandu to get our paperwork in order then return to Bardia for hopefully a jeep trek and a walk through the jungle before flying to Jumla. Jumla is only 45 minutes away by plane but can take three days by motorbike to get there.
It’s monsoon season and the rains are still coming but we are hedging our Upper Dolpa trek by hoping the rains have subsided a little early since they started a couple weeks early but Mother Nature makes no promises and we expect rain and possibly snow for the beginning climb out of Jumla on to Rara Lake and beyond walking over some 5000m passes and into Pokhara in the end. The other option is do the same loop as last year out of Lower Dolpa, awesome enough to bring me back for a bigger loop. We reckon 25-30 days with Porters this time around, horses won’t do the high passes and yaks won’t do the low elevation.
Lumbini has always been on the list but usually not in the mood to add travel hours or days in a cramped bus, most likely over capacity, wrenching on its shocks, brakes, horn, gears and steering from either Katmandu or Bardia to get there. To get there from the East-West 1200 km ‘highway’ down to Lumbini is forty km out of Butwall, a night or two stay and return to Butwall town via two local buses to catch a bus to Chitwan, Katmandu, Pokhara, or further east on the highway to the border National Park of Kositappu. Last year I went to Suklaphanta National Park to the very west with India and now to the east but in the Terrai, the plains and the water shed where rivers overflow seasonally and families go to the river edge together to collect fire wood from the jungle erosion above. If they are lucky they get a log for construction lumber. I took a bus there from Bardia; a local bus from Thakaduwara to the E-W highway and on to Colpor town where the bus ticket kid put me in touch with a ‘friendly’ company ticket office to get to Lumbini. It worked well for most of the run, I had a seat with my bag next to me as the driver dodged Ox, dogs, chickens, people, bikes, cows, three wheelers, potholes, on coming buses with horns blaring a little ditty. Did I mention he also had to watch out for water buffalo, ducks, Jackals, Tigers, Elephant, Sloth Bear, five types of deer, wild boar and their extended families, goats, rivers, land slides, magnificent boulders, and stout ladies and gentlemen carrying massive bundles of grass for their live stock back at home where their extended family finished planting rice and irrigating the fields. Again monsoon season I think it’s a little more of releasing water and sending it on its way at this point. I changed buses. The next bus wanted more money instead of a ticket all the way. I paid and traveled for an hour as the locals did their slow peaceful pace so I made the decision to personally speed up the process for me with the sun going down in an hour. I hopped off and caught a taxi for the last 40 km trip to a Lumbini hotel . Shocker when I got there, not much of a town center. The taxi wanted to drop me off at the mini taxi place for local transport but I refused and said, ‘The deal was Lumbini ‘hotel’. He understood. We went back to the arrow pointing to Lumbini town that I had pointed out prior and we pulled over at a Lumbini gate entrance and the kind security guard wanted to speak English, like so - so many others. He pointed across the street and said, ‘Stay there, I’ll come talk later.’ I took his advice no matter the reasoning. I stayed at the Hotel New Centre Point, Parsa, Lumbini, Nepal. Tel. :071-404087. The husband and wife and I don’t know how many extended family members also helped in and around the place but it was substantial. The wife doesn’t speak much English but my Nepali covers the bare necessities, food, beer, room, toilet, and the simple things. The point was to have a look around and see it’s worth at the moment. Besides the Nepali shrines, pagodas, temples for this site other Buddhist supporters from all over the international scene have put forth their own version of a place of worship, usually in their own tongue, and it’s a peaceful place bar none. I’ll get to that.
My room is painted light blue and has a few bloody squished mosquito tattoos to warn the next victim, me. I didn’t think about it until the lights and power went out leaving me on my bed like an all you can eat buffet. It’s the monsoon season where mosquitos still rule the night even though Malaria has been taken away for the most part. I’m not complaining as much as observing, I’m telling you how it is and I accept or I wouldn’t be here.
Power shedding is daily across Nepal. I arrived in the early evening at the Centre Point in Lumbini and the power was out. A young boy with a puzzled look said to me, ‘power coming, but two hours late’. The Centre Point is 500 Rupee/night for a room. The food is good, simple Nepali, and the refrigerator works whether on generator or ‘e’. The two boys around me spoke English pretty good, the older boys I met had been to university and spoke English just fine. What I didn’t know was the sign out front, written in Nepali, says travel arrangements so I set up a 3 hour tour the next day for a Lumbini Buddha Birth place tour. I was by myself so the boys joined me and acted as tour guides.
We headed out after Nepali tea and a family friend or member showed up, had breakfast and off we went. I didn’t know what to expect but was pleasantly surprised to see how well designed the grounds are. Many countries have put in Buddha Temples all with different designs. Germany, Sri Lanka, Burma, Viet Nam, China, South Korea, India, and many more under construction. Knowing the specific spot where Buddha was born is rather odd.
So I’m out front with the two boys that took me on the tour, a couple of other older brothers or relative workers. I’m sitting at a brown plastic table with chairs talking with the boys and one asks if he can watch a movie. I say, ‘yes’ and I look up and there’s a western woman riding passed us on a bike staring at me as she rode by. She smiled and looked at me for thirty meters. Odd. It might have been something out of an old black and white classic movie or a picture but if ever I felt a déjà vu, this was one of those. The power went out. The power stayed out the afternoon and into the evening. Again the younger boy mentioned, ‘Power coming. Already two hours late.’ Apparently there is a power shedding schedule and then hours added to it every now and again. Refrigeration for meat, dairy, medicine, and more are all connected on a fragile electrical situation nation wide. The Nepali government is trying to add incentives for residence and businesses alike to add solar power and are offering discounts and rebates.
Heading for Chitwan National Park a few hours down the east-west highway. The monsoon rains are here and they are amazing to watch.
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