Traveling during festivals in Nepal can be difficult because everyone is traveling and no one is driving! Getting a driver to take us to Lumbini is next to impossible. The plan was for us to depart Pokhara at 8 a.m. but due to festival activities and commitments we don’t get a driver until 1:30. The one we do get is a city bus driver in Pokhara. He tells Jim he stepped in at the last moment because the driver we should have had is drunk. He is an excellent driver but doesn’t know how to get to Lumbini. Thankfully Jim has Maps Me on his phone and I have Pocket Earth on my I Pad. On the way to Lumbini, the driver is very resistant to back seat navigation. When we leave Lumbini to go to Chitwan he is similarly directionally challenged but Jim sits up in the front seat and he is then willing to follow Jim’s directions.
We are now safely and happily in Chitwan, but first – about our visit in Lumbini.
It takes us seven hours to get there. Distance – approximately 300 kms. The roads here are dreadful. At one point we stop at a dubious looking place for a relief break and surprisingly the toilet is very clean. So we all have small cooked snacks at the tiny restaurant. Jim also buys everyone bags of salty junk food snacks – really yummy! We devour everything. By the time we climb back in the van it is dark. The road ahead winds up through some hills, there are no cats eyes, there are enormous potholes, the road is narrow, oncoming traffic keeps high beams on….. we finally arrive in Chitwan at 8:30 p.m.
Our Hotel Ananda Inn seems fine at first but Jim and Claire discover unchanged sheets on their bed. Gross.
In the morning we have an early breakfast and meet our Lumbini guide. Tendi gives him a briefing to not talk too much but to let us see as much as possible in the short time we now have. He does a good job. We see Buddha’s recorded place of birth then rent some electric rickshaws with drivers to whisk us to several of the national temples throughout the park. Germany has a stunning complex. Some other nations have nice temples sitting in weedy unkempt grounds. The park complex itself is quite ramble-sham. The potentially attractive canal is bordered by crumbling wide avenues. The area could be outstandingly beautiful but misses the mark due to inadequate maintenance and planning.
Our guide has a surprise. He takes us to the Canadian temple – which is lovely and sits in clean maintained grounds. Here we have tea with the head monk. He has been to Vancouver and Victoria. We have an enjoyable visit and discover Canadians are welcome to stay overnight. The complex has 18 twin bed rooms and I’m sure the sheets are washed between guests!
We return to the hotel to gather luggage from our rooms and have lunch, then climb back in our van to head to Chitwan.
We arrive before dark at about 5:30. The manager Naran is still here and remembers me from past visits. We’re given a warm welcome, our rooms are lovely and we are soon gathering for dinner and beers.
Our itinerary for the next few days is to go on a day long jungle safari, ride elephants and relax.
For now – good morning from Sapana Village Lodge in lovely steamy warm Chitwan.