Wet and Wild - All Across Nepal

When I came back to Nepal after my month long absence, I came back to a new and different Nepal, a green and very wet Nepal. Ah, the monsoon has arrived and none too soon. Just in time to throw up watery obstacles to my well-intentioned plans to take some time off to see the countryside. People here ebb and flow in accordance with the wishes of the rain gods, who seem to take delight and perverse pleasure in giving us one long three month shower. The roads dissolve under the deluge, rivers swell to ten times their original size, the pure, clean Himalayan spring water turns an ugly shade of brown, leeches hide in the smallest puddles, enormous clouds obscure any sight of a massive mountain range towering over us, landslides wipe away homes, roads, people, and everyone is always wet…  

But the rains also sustain the rice crops, turn the hillsides a luscious shade of green, and make traveling interesting to say the least. I was amazed at the changes in just a month at my school. The previous brown dirt path was no now like wading through the rain forest. The mountains were so green beneath the beautiful misty fog settling into the nooks and crannies. The corn I saw planted had grown into gawky teenagers towering over me. The school was no longer on the morning schedule due to heat, because the rains brought cooling breezes. And the stagnant pools of water under the bridge in town had become a raging river. I was told when the alarm blow from upriver, get to high ground as fast as possible. The dam five kms away is overflowing and they are opening the locks, sending a tidal wave through the valley.

Roads are sometimes hard to tell from rivers...


I tried to make the best of it and planned a pilgrimage, a circuit through Nepal, to take in the Terai and western Nepal and circle back to Pokhara. The highlight of my trip, a visit to Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha. And I decided to go by motorbike. My friend Devi and I set off with a small backpack secured to the rack at the rear of the bike by a bunjee cord. I jerk it around to make sure it is secure. I wrap our rain coats over it and tucked them under the bunjee to keep them secured yet accessible in this season of instant deluge.

We started from Pokhara and rode down the extremely familiar stretch to Aaboo Kheireni, passing Damauli and Dumre in short order. None too soon, I am happy that we are traveling by motorbike, when we hit our first big landslide. The Kathmandu - Pokhara highway is constantly plagued by landslides throughout the monsoon, esp the area around Krishnabhir. 

We manage to get through and quite muddy in the process, by rolling up our pant legs and with brute force, pushing it.



After visiting with friends at my school in Aaboo Kheireni, we set off for the Terai. The journey is slow going as we stop to forge rivers, help people cross and frequently detour out of the way for washed out bridges. 

Devi helping some girls to cross the road


But, despite all the delays, slowly and surely I am drawn to Lumbini.

Our motorbike and pack at a kid and cow crossing.



Nepal is a long thin country and divided in half the long way. It straddles the flat as a pancake Indian plains and the roof of the world high altitude Tibetan plateau with great Himalayas in between. One the one side, Nepal has eight of the world's highest peaks within it’s borders with the highly populated foothills snuggled under their shadows. On the other side is the Terai, the flat plains alternately filled with jungles and the country'a  industrial belt. And also home to the birthplace of Buddha, Lumbini.  

Nothing, not even the wildlife will stop me.


As the story goes, Siddhartha Gautama, aka Buddha was born to the king of the small kingdom of Kapilavastu. When he was born, the prophets indicated that indeed a great man had been born, but that he would take either of two paths. If he chose to lead, he would conquer and unite the countries of the world, but if he rejected that life, he would become a world redeemer. His father, anxious to have his son follow in his footsteps secluded him within the palace walls for twenty nine years, at which point, he secretly ventured outside the walled fortress. On his single foray, he saw four things that would change the course of his life. A sick man, a dead man, a poor man and an old man. This led him to renounce the materialistic world and to seek ‘enlightenment.’ His birthplace today, is a constant place of pilgrimage of Buddhists around the globe. Maya Devi, Buddha’s mother was said to have taken a journey from the palace to visit her home and en route stopped at Lumbini, then a quiet, lovely spot for a potty break. She bathed in a small pond on the sight and went into labor. She took a few steps from the pond, stopped under a massive papal tree, grabbed a branch and gave birth to Buddha.

Today, the pond is still there, although in a very renovated form while the tree and previous temple on the spot of the actual birth, were demolished to make way for archeological digs. The spot is a very peaceful and ephemeral place, dotted with a few small monasteries, but give it a year or two and you won’t recognize it. The Buddhist countries of the world are each building large commercial monasteries right near the site and promoting them to tourists with ‘instant enlightenment’ packages. There is also an ambitious plan to build parks, canals and gardens on the sight and turn it into basically a botanical garden/religious theme park. But for now, it remains mysterious and elusive, as enlightment should be…  

Ughhhhh, he says, sticking his tongue out...


From Butwal, we decided to take the beautiful but dangerous Siddhartha highway, cutting up through the Chure Hills and the Mahabharat Range. It was a cliff-hugging, winding trail that alternated between asphalt and mud. A dangerous section indeed. 

We saw a number of road accidents along the way...


But it would take us though the mountainside town of Tansen, a beautiful Newari town, complete with cobblestone streets and pastel colored buildings, temples and wood carved windows, and green grass growing thickly across rooftops.  The town is terribly charming, esp due to its off the beaten path nature. Who dare the highway to come here?

But what a gem...


I had the local specialty, choela and hasko choela (boiled and fried buffalo and duckmeat.) at Nanglo West, a very cute offshoot of the Kathmandu original, taking in the scene in the square from the overlooking balcony.


On the edge of town is a large open field, a mass gathering takes place every evening. Snacks sellers push their carts to the edge of the fields. Families with picnic baskets set out their blankets. Couples walk hand in hand. Kids start games of soccer. Balloon sellers do brisk business. There is a fair happening every day of the year in this open field overlooking the valley.






As we continued our path back to Pokhara, we passed towns like Whaling and Sanjya. We were continually plagued by massive boulders blocking our path and the rivers that diverted their flow to the road. And still other parts, the slightest breeze might have sent us plunging off the cliffside. But it was also indescribably beautiful. But perhaps the one thing that is drilled in my mind, if only for the constant repitition is this wonderful sign, blanketing all of Nepal... I think you can guess what it says...


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