We leave at 7am for Nawalparasi. GTN have arranged for one of their employees, Laxmi Basnet, to accompany Jilly, Dave and I and she will attend to all logistical arrangements. A driver has been hired to take us there and, of course, our interpreter, Sampada, will be by our sides. We’re all excited to begin our 3 day workshops and there’s also talk of squeezing in trips to Lumbini (Buddha’s birthplace) and Chitwan National Park (for an elephant safari).
Nawalparasi is in the Terai region of southern Nepal, near to the Indian border. A stark contrast to the arctic northern himalaya which boasts the highest mountain in the world. The Terai climate is lush and tropical and we’ve been warned to expect a hot, humid climate +10 degrees centigrade hotter than Kathmandu. We’re told the journey may take 5 or 6 hours, but no one can be sure. We may find the road will be closed due to road works, or maybe not … no one can tell. Everything is unpredictable here in Nepal and nothing is organised in the same way we’re used to in the UK. I find it an ideal place to practice mindfulness. Uncertainty, patience and acceptance is part of the culture here and everyone seems relaxed about that. It sits well with me, as does their attitude towards time keeping. If something starts at 3pm it may start at 4pm or … maybe later (I can already picture my family’s faces when I tell them – they’d agree I’d fit in well here!)
I try to absorb every view and moment of the exhilarating, high speed, break jamming journey, but there’s just too much to take in. Lush green towering mountains, muddy rivers, cultivated hillsides and coloured houses that lead impossibly up the mountainsides. The road is dusty, fast paced, nose to tail with weird and wonderful modes of transportation, like an adult sized kids ride at a fun fair! Brightly decorated lorries as if from the 60s hippy days, non-stop carrying loads from India to Kathmandu send out painted messages of Krishna, Buddha and peace and blessings to all. Our driver overtakes everyone he encounters, even though vehicles are coming in the opposite direction. Everyone moves out of each other’s way following an imaginary Highway Code all of their own, based on nothing but a mutual understanding and a shed load of luck!
I’m surprised how many people live along this highway. There’s unending brick houses, tin houses, tall brightly painted buildings, altars, temples, smartly dressed school children laughing along the roadside in western uniforms, people showering publicly in front of their houses, others sell their wares in an endless choice of roadside shops, old men and women carry impossible loads on their backs, young men stand around smoking (the only 3 smokers I’ve seen). Chickens run around, pigs forage near rivers, goats graze, toddlers hold hands, playing in the street, beaming with joy. Nepalese people really do have the most beautiful smiles!
It’s warm but not too hot …. yet. I see ravines hundreds of feet below and then a mountain that looks like Aberdeenshire’s ‘Clachnaben’. I tell our companions Laxmi and Sampada what I’m pointing at and tell them how high Clachnaben is – they find it funny as they look up at the Himalayan foothills.
Jilly, Dave and I reminisce about our fun evening the night before which we spent with a Nepalese couple, Prakash and Ambika. Prakash had completed his
MSc in public health in Aberdeen a few years ago and very kindly sent me a message inviting us all over to his home. I realise that it’s normal and in the nature of Nepalese people to extend a friendly welcome to strangers who visit their country. Professor Edwin Van Teijlingen, Jilly’s husband, had once been Prakash’s tutor and he’d heard we were in town. We felt like we were in a movie making our way to his home …
Prakash assigned us our mission: ‘I have no address so, give the taxi driver my mobile number, ask him to phone me and I’ll give him directions. See you around 6:30pm’. The journey was fun … and mysterious and involved lots of stops to phone Prakash and ask countless locals ‘where is Prakash’s house?’ The taxi drivers are honest and keen to help and have endless patience. This is just how things are done in Kathmandhu. We arrived safe and sound and were welcomed into Prakash and Ambika’s home as if we’d known them forever. We had a beautiful meal of chicken pieces, Dal-bhat and ice cream and enjoyed swapping stories of life in Nepal with our lives in the UK.
The journey to Nawal Parasi took around 7 exciting hours. We arrive at the paradise-like Lotus Resort in Sunwal and eye up the swimming pool. We are greeted by the happiest face I think I’ve ever seen. Gopal Gautam, the manger shows Jilly and I to our new home … Room 101 … plus lizards!
Suman loads our luggage, Laxmi and Sampada, Prakash and Ambika, Room 101