The journey to Nepal from India on land is well trodden, I have done it myself twice previously in the opposite direction. It follows the route across northern India to Gorakhpur before taking a bus north to the border town of Sunauli. We rocked up tired and managed to haggle a taxi for 1000 INR (£10) for the 2hr drive.
Sunauli, like most other border towns is a skid-mark on a map, a hotbed of scamsters, scumbags and people that would kick you for your last breath. To cut a very long story short, we turned up without dollars and got absolutely screwed for the $25 each visa fee for Nepal. People were coming from all angles, all vying for a slice of my wallet. It was forty degrees, we were completely underprepared for the onslaught and it was an absolute nightmare. The issue surrounded the fact we couldn’t get dollars in Delhi due to mass floods as we were leaving, getting stuck in traffic for 2 hours, and having a train to catch. Nepal only allows visa payments at land borders to be in dollars and so a mission ensued.
Lumbini is a tiny village in southern Nepal that would be ordinarily be completely insignificant if it was not for in this dusty, hot place that Buddha’s mother decided to give birth to the purveyor of peace. In 563 BC Buddha took his first breath and spawned a religion of peace, tranquillity and understand that today, is practiced by around half a billion people.
Situated around a forest, Lumbini village is like a frontier town. Brutally hot, sandy streets, markets, craft stalls and hotels and restaurants. In many ways it was great to be back in Nepal, it was chill level expert, but the heat was unbearable. At 42 degrees C every day we were there and blue skies, the sun burned hard and sapped not just every ounce of energy that we had, but soaked us wet with sweat. By day two we were drinking 6 litres of water each per day, it was hard.
Due to the significance of Buddhism, countries from around the world have built temples in the forest which Lumbini surrounds. A total of 32 actually. Each one a painstakingly beautiful rendition of that countries culture tied in with Buddhist roots The temples are dotted around the forest and so, we hired bikes and spent an entire day cycling.
Usually, when writing the blog I detail what we did, where went, how we did it and lay our travels bare. But cycling through the forest, avoiding monkeys, relaxing in temples, begging for shade, throwing up due to the heat, getting lost, climbing walls, wading through rivers and spending hours and hours riding our bikes; I realised that the day was special to me. It was a day filled with love, adventure, being a family and enjoying life. I have written previously about Lumbini and the facts are largely the same, but this time, for me, for us all, Lumbini will stay with us.
Leaving Lumbini we booked the usual deluxe, air conditioned, WiFi enabled tourist bus straight outta Compton. As expected, it was a shed on wheels held together by rust, sweat and hope with open windows being the only escape from a torturous sweat box. The 6 hour journey to Pokhara took 10, and the only escape from hearing people throw up out of the window thousands of feet off the cliff edge we meandered, was the spectacular scenery. Rice fields, rivers, valleys and gorges and an incredible amount of green filled the entire journey. I have to say though, as the snow-capped peaks of the Annapurna came into view, I had never been more glad to be getting off a bus. We had not just arrived at the most beautiful place on earth, but where we would be meeting up with Gemma and Charlie. We were more than excited.