To be honest, I would have nixed the Lumbini part of the trip. We are facing down our last year in Nepal, and finally willing to overcome our “but Safaris in Africa are so much better” snobbery to go down to the big national park here and attempt to see some animals.And of course, we can’t just hop on the 15 minute plane ride, see the park, and come home. We have to drive the 6-hour road, because the Subaru would have been sad if it didn't get to go. Despite the fact that the road was so bumpy it actually unscrewed the bolts in the rooftop rack.
Chitwan National Park was great. We stayed at Sapana Village Lodge and really enjoyed it. We have been told by other USAID-ers that they treat their elephants well. After being there, I am not sure this is true. However, we were already there and went on elephant-back safari. The only choice, actually, as the roads such as they are were far too muddy for vehicular transport.
Aside from the sore muscles obtained from making sure hot and wiggly toddler daughter didn’t wiggle right off my lap and fall to her death in a river or mud swamp, we had a nice time. And we didn’t see any of the big stuff (tigers or rhino), but we saw little stuff (monkeys, deer, wild chickens, peacocks), and it was fun.
Then we drove to Lumbini, the famed birthplace of Buddha (haven’t you heard of it?). One of Nepal’s treasures. However, our GPS map isn’t actually that great and didn’t actually have the spot searchable on the map. Sooo, we just kind of went and hoped for the best. Despite being worried (more than once) that we had crossed into India, we did make it, due to my spouse’s uncanny processing and memory of maps.
|Toddlers in stupas|
We arrived, paid our tickets, got a map, and starting planning our visit. Shall we start at the visitor's center? Oh, that's the shell of a building out yonder still going up. How about that museum? Another pile of bricks beckons! So forget the informational stuff, let's just go see the global array of peace pagodas.
So we pile onto 2 bicycle rickshaws, because these lovely buildings are really quite spread out, and it's hot, and neither the 1-yr-old nor the 9-yr-old are acting too excited about this. We hop over to the international temples (and by "hop," I mean the two older men commanding our rickshaws tug and pull us over bumps and walkways for about 5 minutes). The setting was really quite nice, the temples surrounding a man-made lake or canal. We stopped at the Tibetan temple first. The thing about temples and monasteries is, you can't wear shoes. And the thing about concrete is, it's super hot at 2PM on a 90+ degree summer day. Luckily, the Tibetans provided us with a water pump right inside the courtyard, where we and others cooled their toes, heads, etc. The other thing about temples and monasteries is, we've seen a bunch. Especially Tibetan ones. It was nice and cool inside, but we soon ran our way over the burning-coal pavement and made our way to the next one, which looked a lot like the first one. So we decided to rickshaw-it over to the next cluster of monasteries, where we'd find the Australian and Korean monasteries. Those might be different, eh? Yes! They weren't even complete! In fact more than half of the monasteries were under construction.
So... we drag our super-excited kids on to Buddha's birthplace! We again divested ourselves of shoes (but enjoyed grass in the courtyard!); we went through a security check
|Worshippers at Buddha's birthplace|
After a long hot day, a nice tip to our rickshaw drivers, and a night in the hotel with the air-con blasting, we loaded up in the car for the trip home. We would have stayed longer... but there really wasn't more to see. We drove out of the historic area, through fields empty of workers and misty in the morning sun, observing folks decked out in their finest as they went on their way to Dashain celebrations by foot, bicycle, and truckload. We were just marveling at what a great time to drive this was, as we worked our way through the town with zero traffic and uncharacteristically calm streets, when the 1-yr-old blew her cookies (and morning porridge and mostly milk) All. Over. The. Car. Backseat, carseat, windows, dripping in regurgitated baby milk.
A moment of shocked silence ensued. Then a baby wail. Then Husband swerved the car to the side of the road (yay for no traffic!) and mama jumped into action, pulling baby out of the carseat, trying to control regurg-milk drip in the car, and immediately noticing the street-side water pump.
This may be one of the few times anyone has ever given thanks for the lack of central water.
|The infamous water pump|
Since it was a holiday, no one was at the pump. We did draw a few onlookers from the nearby shops and homes (hehe, hey there, how'ya doin'), but I stripped that baby down and cleaned her and her clothing in freezing cold street pump water. (That kid is a really good sport). Husband pulled out the carseat and did the same. As for the car itself, lets suffice it to say some previously worn clothing items were sacrificed, and we had to keep the windows down as much as possible on the way home.
Chitwan was neat to see. Lumbini was one of those not-really-successful trips that I would have said was too much trouble with the family, but thanks to my husband's unquenchable wanderlust will be fondly remembered with laughs, groans, and "remember whens" for a long time.