The Birth place of Buddha and armed Police escort
31.10.2013 - 01.11.2013 10 °C
From Chitwan we travelled to Lambini, the birthplace of Buddha. It is now a World Heritage Site and is visited by Buddhists from all over the world. Before entry shoes must be removed, It's a place I really wanted to visit. The story of Buddha is worth reading, but briefly he came from a privileged family, but came to meditate on the poverty he saw. As a result he came to the conclusion that existence is suffering and the cause of suffering is desire. The taming of desire ends suffering and this can be achieved by following the eightfold path. It is this objective that Buddhists seek.
Suffering is what we experienced on our journey through the Western Highlands on our way to Pokhara. Elections are due in Nepal on the 19 November. Since the Civil War between the Maoists and the Goverment ended in 2006, elections have failed to form a majority Government and the political situation has become very complex. Maoist groups are divided between those who want to be part of Government and those who do not want the elections to take place. So it was that the Maoists called a general strike across the country, on the very day we were travelling from Lumbini to Pokhara .
Although this caused no problem for us as tourists, it did cause a potential problem for our back up team of two mechanics, who if accused of breaking the strike could have found themselves beaten and the truck they were driving which was carrying our luggage burnt out. So at the start of the journey we travelled as a convoy with them in the middle. This managed to get us thought the numerous Police check points, until we got to Butwal. Unfortunately Butwal was our Rubicon!
Here, we were stopped by armed Police who refused to let us go any further without an armed escort and here we waited for what seemed like an eternity. We did however provide the locals with a great deal of entertainment as crowds gathered to witness our plight! Our journey was to take us through the Western Hills which is a Maoist supporting area and after trouble with Police there they were taking no chances with any traffic passing through. Consequently we had a long wait until a convoy had been formed, consisting of a truck, a school bus, some local motorcycles and ourselves, plus around 10 armed police.
By this time it was 2pm and we still had 150 km to go over twisty mountain roads at around 30km per hour. We quickly realised it was going to be a long hardous journey.
We were right. The police had arranged it in sections, so we had to wait for an escort to form between villages as well as Police taking their tea breaks, this slowed our progress considerably. As night fell, we still had at least 50km to go and to make matters worse, it started to rain. Not just any old rain, but at times monsoon type rain.
Sometime after 8pm we arrived at our hotel in Pokhara. Tired, but safe, thanks to the work of our guides, Peter and Lorraine, and some careful riding by the rest of us. We had no desire to suffer any further and retired for beer and contemplation of the meaning of rubicon and the eight fold path.