A Prince Is Born

Lumbini, Nepal
It was a fair schlep to our next destination, and first we had to cross that huge lake again. I had asked about a better (read: drier) way out of Bardia, but apparently the other road round the way was bumpy and horrible. The locals referred to the lake as a “monsoon river” and to our relief, it had in fact dropped to a thin puddle. Once we were back on the main east-west road, there were a number of police checkpoints. The road ran along the perimeter of the park for some 100km and the police seemed to want to give us a receipt (for free) for going through each one. At first I imagined this was to check for illegal trafficking of rare animals, but we noticed they were writing down the time each vehicle got their receipt. Whilst I did not want to collide with a rhino, there was no way I was going to do the posted 40km/h along that whole stretch. I would have been mown down by buses if I had. But were the police doing average time calculations of some kind? It was a mystery.

Google once more took us on a cretinous farm-track route once we left the main road. It had refused to follow the main road to Lumbini so we did as we were told. As we bumped down rocky paths in a southerly direction everything started to feel a lot more Indian. Messy, smelly and with worse roads and matching driving. But eventually we arrived into the fairly neat main street of Lumbini.

So what is Lumbini, and why do people go there? Think Mecca, think Bethlehem and you might be getting warm. Our old friend Mr Buddha (he was a prince back then, I suppose) was born right here in little Lumbini, just north of the Indian border, in southern Nepal. Very much like the town of Bodhgaya we visited in India, Lumbini has a huge number of international Buddhist temples spread around a ‘peace park’. They are so spread out in fact that you shouldn’t try to walk to them. We know this now but didn’t then. This is why most people hire bicycles for the day! In sweltering heat we went to the birthplace of Buddha, which is in the centre of the complex then meandered through the canals and lakes to a few other temples before staggering back to our guest house. Many of the temples are huge and decorative and you really get an international flavour of Buddhism, if there is such a thing. Nickiy also decided to get an international flavour of pain by stubbing her toe so badly on a half-step that her nail came clean off. There was swearing the night before we left town!

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