We all woke up with a pep in our step. We had all been revitalised with the border crossing, a decent meal and our first bit of alcohol in at least a week!
The night before, AJ warned us the kitchen can be quite slow in the mornings, so if we wanted breakfast, to be in the dining room no later than 7:45am for our departure at 830am. Most of us adhered to the advice. I got there at 8am, but I knew I was only going to have a fruit plate that wouldn’t take too long at all. Of course Carol rocks up at 8:15am and orders the biggest breakfast on the bloody menu. We politely suggested trying to suggest she choices something smaller. She was having none of it, and proceeded to order. That’s when my roommate pipped up. She is a lovely and I think quite a polite English girl, but she is well-travelled and can hold her own and this is when she displayed these traits. She said across the table “AJ DID tell all of us on the bus yesterday that you needed to order by 7:45am as it would take half an hour, now your going to make us late!”. The group smiled at each other and we wanted to applaud her for being so direct. Carol ignored her and she and her full stomach was last on the bus.
Our first stop for the day was Buddha’s birthplace in Lumbini. I get secretly excited visiting and learning about other religions. I am not sure if I have mentioned it before, but I went to a Catholic high school. The only thing I look back with found memories from its religion curriculum is the fact we had to learn a little bit about the other religions as well. Maybe it is selfish, but I like to learn about the them and take the good parts to form my own belief system.
We arrived at Lumbini and had a 10 minute walk to the site. Down a dirt path we had to navigate a mixture of beggars, monks, monkeys and other tourists. We removed our shoes and then hopped along the hot path. Inside the white building was an archaeology site of the building and a spot marked where Buddha was born. People had thrown cash and flowers on the spot. Like all things like this, there was nothing visually spectacular but knowing you had visited the area was kinda cool.
Out in the prayer garden was a big bodhi tree with hundreds of prayer flags strung up. As soon as I laid eyes on the flags I automatically felt I now was really in Nepal! I had a little walk on my own to reflect on the meaning of these grounds. I was then joined by some of the others and we played around the trees and long grass, taking photos of each other. We then collected our shoes and trekked over to the golden baby Buddha statue. A gift from Thailand. Then it was back to the bus and we continued on. On our walk back we encounter a family of monkeys on the side of the path. I kept a weary distance as a friends of mine was bitten by one and had to have a course of painful rabies injections. Amanda went closer. She uttered to most amusing comment that made me laugh “Oh look at your big nipples!!” It was true, this monkey had long, pendulous nipples that were funny to look at, but as soon as she said this, it put its hands up in claw positions and growled/hissed at her. She jumped back fast and I was keeled over laughing even harder. Lesson learnt, don’t make comments about a monkeys nipples to their face, they don’t like it!!
After a quick snooze, as the bus drove on, we spotted the huge mountains a head of us. We started to wind our way around them. The scenery started to change to lush green and jungly. We hurtled past trucks and buses. Sometimes on the wrong side of the road. I saw little make shift restaurants on the side of the cliff faces. I wished we could sample some of the local food and as luck would have it, we did! We all were pretty happy at our lunch spot. Aj explained we were going to have an authentic Nepalese lunch. He also advised that the local lady who cooks the lunches still gets excited to see foreigners but tries very hard to play it cool.
We were in awe of the scenery. We sat at a large table out the back of the modest place and were surrounded by mountains, birds and trees. A much welcomed site after India. Large silver plates were placed in front of us of Dal Bhat. It was quite nice and most of us had second helpings. We also had either beer or ciders! On our way out we met “Moo” a beautiful chocolate coloured cow. We all gave her a pat and took selfies. I asked AJ if we could take her with us and just strap her to the roof 😉
For the next 2 nights, we were doing a homestay with the indigenous Tharu community. As we drove into the village perimeter, children would stop what they were doing and wave frantically at us. I loved this and waved back with the same enthusiasm. As we pulled up to our homestay, the villagers who were looking after us for the next few days, came out to greet us. Beautiful floral leis were placed around our necks and red markings on our foreheads. It was quite the welcome!
We were staying in little huts that were made out of clay/mud and dung in the traditional way. The did have a fan and an en suite bathroom. Outside chickens and chicks ran around as well as baby goats and a dog who I nicknamed Borris. It was really cool and I knew I would enjoy our few days here.
The afternoon activity was a bike ride. After looking at the bikes, I knew none where right for my height so I sought alternative entertainment. I found it with a cold frosty beer and my kindle. The group set off with only myself and another chap, Tim left. Later someone came around and asked if we wanted to go with them in the jeep down to the river for sunset. We eagerly said yes, I then hesitated as I still had half of my drink still, “Come, bring it with you!” OK! So we climbed into the safari jeep and bumped along the dirt road through the village with beer in hand. The rice patty fields looked magical with the sun getting low in the sky.
Turned out the ladies were going to the river to meet the bikers with some Chai tea and biscuits. We had arrived before them and at this point didn’t know we were meeting up with the group. As we walked down to the water, I saw in the distance some large animals in the distance. It was elephants bathing in the river! Tim and I set off towards them. When we got there, there were only us, and maybe 4 other people, who were with the elephants. It was one of the most magical things I had ever seen. With the sun setting in the back ground and the colours of pink, purple and bluish hues bouncing off the water. One trumpeted while another threw water over itself. I tried to sit on a rock to observe these marvellous creatures. As I crouched down I could feel my bum and rock was not going to meet from the crouch, so I plopped myself down. I hit the rock and bounced off backwards on to my back, into the sand! I laid there and laughed. I was grateful only Tim and some kids saw that!
The elephants made their way out of the water and across the sand to the grass and disappeared from sight with their handlers. As Tim and I walked back across the beach we saw the rest of the group making their was down to the water. We all swapped stories about the elephants as they saw them up on the grass area. We stood on the rocks having Chai and taking photos of the sunset.
Tim and I then boarded the jeep and drove back while the others rode home. That night we had a little presentation about the national park and what animals live there. The main attractions are Tigers but are rare to spot as the park itself is 900km and there are roughly 120 of them. We were going on a safari jeep ride the next day so we will still optimistic we may see one.
All of the food at the homestay was homegrown and prepared. Because of this we always had to order in advance, so we had ordered dinner as soon as we arrived at 3:30pm. Momos were popular again but I ordered vegetable ones instead of the chicken. Remember I said there were cute chickens walking around the village? I wanted to make sure I saw them again!!
After dinner most went to bed, but myself, Ryno, Stefan and Tim stayed up for a few drinks and played games with the deck of cards that we picked up in India. It was an interesting pack of Karma Sutra cards.
After a few rounds, it was time to turn into bed. I had a nice cold shower to cool myself down and then crawled under my mosquito netted bed. It was the second time I had slept under one and I thought that this would make a great security for kids if they were afraid of “monsters” at night, as I felt a weird sense of security. It was the first night without air con and I struggled, but it reminded me of a balmy Perth summers night. Tomorrow, more local village life.