|Wednesday 20th February
Lumbini is known as the birth place of the Bhudda, and the place is a World Heritage site. This morning we had a couple of hours looking around, and it is a really beautiful, peaceful place. It's a large park and gardens, with a Bhuddist temple, lakes and walks. There were many Bhuddists in their saffron robes that had come to meditate. Many also had their iPhones and state of the art digital cameras, and were taking photos of each other. A strange sight, but then again Bhuddism is a way or life rather than a religion, and many of these people have every day jobs and come here for pilgrimage. It was a slightly sad time for us as John was a practising Bhuddist and would have loved to come to this place. A quiet tear was shed, and we lit candles for our loved ones as we always do when we can. The sun was shining and warm and we enjoyed a lovely couple of hours walking in the parks, taking in the sights and sounds. Burning incense mixed with the smell of wild flowers created a very pleasant, calm atmosphere.
Mid morning we set of for Chitawan National Park which is our next stopping point. This coach and driver are much better, and the roads are also much better, and with very few cars on the roads, the journey was much smoother than yesterday. Frequent stops were made for refreshments and by 4:30pm we were at our destination. Nepal is a huge contrast to India. It is still a poor country, but it appears that the people have a real pride in their towns and villages. Yes, there is still some litter in the streets, but nowhere near as bad as India. The roads and buildings are all maintained well, and the people are genuinely friendly, and curious to see foreigners. At one stop we got into conversation with one young man who wanted to tell us all about his recent trip to Weston Supermare, as well as asking us where we lived &c. The children come to speak and want you to take their photograph, but without the demand for 'photo money'.
The landscape also changed as we went further into Nepal, leaving behind the flat plains of northern India as we started to climb the foothills of the Anapurna range. Where we are staying for Wednesday and Thursday is an eco community, that also supports a village of local people as well as supplying accommodation for visitors such as us. The profits from the hotel go towards maintaining the village, and everything is run on a careful environmental basis. A lot of the food in the restaurant comes from the village, and some power comes from solar panels.
After we got our rooms we went for a group walk to the village which is about half a mile away. The people there were delighted to see us, especially the children who all wanted their photos taken. It was interesting to see how they live there and there is an opportunity for us to sponsor a child's education for a year, which is something that we will do. The wild life here is also incredible, with many species of birds, alligators in the river and wild rhino and bears roaming free, as well as up to a hundred tigers. Tomorrow we have a jeep safari when we hope to see some of these. Tigers will be very lucky, but you never know!