Woke up before the alarm at 6.20, cold shower (no hot water) then down to breakfast.
Mary and Rob had been bitten to death by mosquitoes so gave them some of my Piriton (antihistamine). We left Chitwan at 8am bound for Lumbini, home place of the Buddha.
Stopped at a little village about 10 minutes away. The village had been there for 1200 years. The villagers survived the malaria epidemic by smoking the cannabis which grows locally all around the village, well that was their excuse! The houses or huts were made from mud and clay.
On arriving at the village 2 boys came to say hello and then they said "Candy". What a cheek! Had a rummage around my bag and found a chocolate bar from the last road trip that I hadn't eaten yet, and gave it to the boys. I gestured that they had to share it. They scampered off a couple of meters and after struggling to get into the packet, the eldest split it into two and they started happily munching away.
At the back of the village there was an animal pen and a vegetable patch. A little girl came to watch us watching the pigs. After two minutes she said sheepishly "Candy". I had another look in the bag to see how much lunch I had left. Found a bag of sweet croissants and in the time it took to get up the girl had been joined by six other children including the two from earlier. I split them so they could share the food equally amongst themselves. Rob made a joke that if we came back in a year, they would have got rid of their village statue of Shiva and replaced it with a statue of me handing out chocolate and cakes to the children!
Back in the coach for 2 hours. After we had a rest stop there was a quiz. Steve is by far in a way the worst quiz master ever. It's so bad it's good! Yet again the quiz was full of ambiguous multi-choice questions which we all had a laugh about.
Stopped for lunch at a school about an hour from Lumbini. There was a shaded area outside the classrooms so we sheltered under there while eating our pack lunches. Quite a crowd of women and children started watching us from doorways and other shaded areas. Various people in our group had left overs, so walked over to the onlookers and distributed them.
The area was very rural and I think foreigners were a bit unusual. In spite of being a very poor area all the school kids had a school uniform. Most of the uniforms were western in style: shirt, tie, trousers (or skirt) and in some cases a jumper, blazer or both - yes a jumper in 32°C! but they didn't seem to mind. Back in the coach for the final leg to Lumbini.
We stayed in the Buddhist pilgrim monastery on the edge of town. Tourists are usually not allowed but Losan knew some people in monk-world and so was able to get us in. After arrival we unpacked and relaxed for a bit before meeting in the lobby.
Today was a cycle tour of Lumbini: Development Trust. It was a 1.5km by 6km square block of land which was devoted to Buddha. Bab's had popped her knee getting down from her bathing elephant so Mary and her were met by a Rickshaw outside the monastery and the rest of us had to walk down to the cycle hire shop. My bike had a dodgie seat and only one break but it seemed to work ok. It was nice to see I could still cycle with no hands when the road (or path) was flat enough.
Losan (our friendly neighbourhood monk) and Steve guided us to the centre where Buddha's birth place was. The actual spot was enclosed in a white castle building. We had to take our shoes off, so I was getting smiles from everyone because I wear odd socks and they were more obvious now. There was a pool at the back called "The Puskarini, The Holy Pond". Steps led down to the murky light jade coloured water. Visibility was only a few centimetres and after seeing a turtle we starred in contemplation wondering how deep it actually was. At that point an absolutely monster fish appeared from no where and then was gone. I think the pond was an up-side-down pyramid and the steps to it were just the first steps of many to the bottom.
The whole park was very relaxing and we sat in a semi-circle surrounding Losan while he talked about Buddhism. He explained how to sit and hold your hands. Then we started to meditate. After listening to Losan talking us through meditation for about 30 minutes I realised that I actually meditate quite regularly at home and in my normal life, I just never referred to it as meditation. The were various members of the group who were very spiritual and bought into the whole ethos of relaxing and sitting around doing nothing, but I'm sorry it's not for me! I use it for sensory exercise - "use it or lose it" (I'll probably get another blog article out of that when I've finished my trip articles.)
During Losan's meditation under the trees in Buddha's garden a lot of people came and sat in our semi-circle. I think they thought "our" monk was a general monk for everyone which was okay at the beginning but the numbers soon grew to include hordes of Indian children who were fighting and disrupting what we were doing so we called it a day. We had the rest of the afternoon to ourselves on the proviso that we had the bikes back by 6.
The park has a long channel of water (or canal) that connected Buddha's birth site in the Sacred Garden to the World Peace Pagoda about 3 km away. Along the canal were the various headquarters of Buddhist factions from around the world. At the end is a World Peace monument with an inscription along the lines of "...Buddha freeing us from the shackles of Gods...". It reminds us that fighting and killing each other over made-up space fairies was no way to behave and we should all just concentrate on keeping ourselves happy by being nice to each other. I had a lot of exposure to Buddhism when I was travelling around Japan and if I had to choose a religion to follow this would be it.
Back on the bikes and the scenic route back to the hire shop. I had caught the sun so I risked an ice lolly! before heading back to the monastery for a shower and dinner.
Drinking and smoking were forbidden at the monastery so a small contingent of people decided to venture out to find somewhere for a post-dinner pre-bed drink. By a strange coincidence the only people who stayed out were from science related professions (engineering, I.T. and analysis). All the nurses, environmental health officers and accountants stayed in. Just had one bottle of Gurka beer (650ml) for 180rs (£1.65).
There was a huge Hindu festival on in the park. A man's voice came over the public address system when we dropped off the bikes. The voice sounded like it was announcing something but then the drums came and the announcing changed into manic Indian ranting, almost like he was trying to whip the audience into a frenzy. Tractors with trailers full of revellers had been driving up to the festival site and back all evening and at 10pm when we wanted to go to bed it was showing no sign of stopping, even manic Indian man was still ranting down the P.A. only now he was banging drums too.
Jon and I had checked the room for mosquitoes before hitting the lights but it was still really hot. The extra noise wasn't helping me sleep. After about an hour the manic Indian shouting and drumming was replaced by 2 voices monastically chanting. This was much easier on the ears and I soon fell asleep.