The first free weekend in Budol brings with it the opportunity to explore some of the surrounding area. Three of us leave the centre at around 6 am on the Saturday morning, heading initially for Dhulikhel. The walk takes us through small villages and settlements which often feel as though the pattern of life hasn’t changed for centuries.
Our first port of call however is to visit a hermit who has been living alone at a temple up in the hills for several years. From what we are able to understand, he used to visit the sadhu who used to live there to learn from him, and took up residence when the sadhu died some few years ago. (It helps that one of us has lived and worked in Nepal before and so has more than a rudimentary grasp of the language!) Tea (chiaa) is served, freshly brewed over a wood fire whilst he shares a few words with us. He appears to be serenity incarnate. We are able to explain that we are staying nearby and studying the Nepalese language. There follows an explanation that suggests that wisdom and learning come from within, and not just from the study of language and it’s rules. I suspect I will return here again. (I ask permission to take his photograph, but he declines, suggesting that it will steal a little of his soul).
We take our leave and continue onwards, accompanied by one of the village dogs which has accompanied us since we left Budol. As we reach the outskirts of Dhulikhel, the dog slips away un-noticed and not much after 9.00am we arrive in the centre of the town. Tea and noodles in a local tea shop proves to be excellent not only in terms of food quality, but also for practicing language. I have a few photographs of family and Portsmouth on my camera which were taken just before I left the UK, and which provide a focal point for discussion in Nepalese about who each of the individuals is, and where they fit into my family structure. Inevitably this leads to photographs being taken of the woman in the tea shop and her family. I’m looking forward to returning with prints for them in a few weeks time.
A brief walk around Dhulikhel before heading off to Namobuddah, which proves to be further than we anticipated and necessitates us flagging down a couple of vehicles to help us with the journey. Our final ride in the back of a pick up truck brings us to the foot of a hill walk which still leaves us a couple of hours from our destination.
Upwards and onwards….
….through more villages and fields. The soil appears so barren and dry:- a fact belied by the extensive profusion of greenery. We are clearly a source of interest and amusement to children, as the constant cries of “Hello, where are you from? What is your name?” attest. They are keen to demonstrate their grasp of English, and it seems to throw them a little when we reply with Nepalese phrases. The other English phrase that many of them seem to know is “have you any chocolate?”. We have none, although when we stop at a small Buddhist stupah to drink our water and eat some fruit and nuts that we have brought with us, this appears to be an adequate substitute for chocolate…
“Expect the unexpected” is already something of a mantra here in Nepal, so it should probably not have been too much of a surprise to find ourselves half way up mountainside, looking for a path, when two Nepalese men wave to us showing us the way. As we catch up with them, they offer us a coffee and we follow them to a small resort. It turns out that one of them is general manager of the Namoh Buddah Resort. The resort is owned by a German couple who have been in Nepal for several years and it appears that the aim is for the project to be entirely self sufficient both in terms of food and energy. They currently grow all of their own vegetables and produce their own milk. The owners are currently looking to partner with local farmers to grow a biodiesel crop which will grow on the poorest of soils, and so ostensibly offers an additional, rather than an alternative source of income to local farmers. Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.
Finally arrive at Namohbuddah and the heavens open. Jeevan yestaii chhaa indeed… Fortunately tea and food is on hand as we sit and watch the monks walking around the temple, turning their prayer wheels as they go, seemingly oblivious to the driving rain.
The rains cease at about 4.30 pm and we finally head of back to Panauti, where we hope to be in time to catch the last bus back to Banepa. Nearly two and a quarter hours later with dusk rapidly falling we reach our destination two to three minutes before the bus departs….
Fate has truly been our friend today…..