Dadu Aur Madak

On to Nepal
We left Lucknow with neither escort nor incident. We had decided against shooting for the border in one day. It clocked in at a little over 325 kilometers, but that would have put us at the border crossing late in the afternoon. This is never a good idea, especially when traveling with your own vehicle. The documentation can take a while, and no matter how many photos and photocopies of documents you have there are always one or two more they want that has you running around getting copies made. We elected to do the the 230+ to Gorakhpur and then tick off the 85 kilometers to the border early in the morning. Gorakhpur is the first place that we stayed in India that I could find absolutely nothing positive to write about. First of all, after a relatively uneventful 230 kilometers or so we reached the outskirts of town. As we have mentioned, the day before leaving Lucknow the region had been hit with a late season monsoon. Something to do with a weather anomaly in the Bay of Bengal. The last 3 kilometers into town was the worst pot holed road we had encountered in India (and that is saying something). It was not much more than one continuous mud hole. We are talking a paved road with potholes full of muddy water the size of swimming pools. Those three kilometers took about 45 minutes. We stayed in one of the only two hotels on the road heading out of town for Nepal that were fit for habitation. The only part of Gorakhpur that had anything going on was the strip across from the railroad station. Gorakhpur is a railhead, and a place for travelers headed for Nepal to transfer to a bus. The strip has the only Cyber cafe, and a half dozen seedy hotels and it is teaming with touts trying to hawk trekking and rafting trips in Nepal. In a word, it's a shit hole.
The Land of Karma
The only thing of note that happened in Gorakhpur was when we were walking to the internet place. Animals on the road are ubiquitous, and we had passed perhaps thousands of them. Dogs, cows, and goats will lie down to sleep in the road, and traffic will calmly and quietly drive around them. We had had no pork or beef for about a month-and-a-half, and as we walked down the road we approached a bull and a calf walking along. Karen commented "I sure could go for a hamburger", and I  responded "REALLY!"  It was remarkable because I had been thinking the same exact thing. We were just then coming abreast of the two when the bull turned and butted Karen in the thigh and elbow with his head. He had horns that had the points clipped off but he missed her completely with the horns--one going on either side of her body. It wasn't a hard butt, and she was not hurt at all, but neither of us joke about beef anymore.
We made it through the India side of the border without incident, and they assured us that there would be no problem crossing with the bikes on the return. We cashed our Indian Rupees for Nepal Rupees on the Indian side. You can not take anything larger than a 100 Rupee Indian note with you into Nepal. On the Nepal side we were immediately assisted by a man with an ID badge that identified him as an approved something or other. These guys act as expediters to help with the vehicle paper work, none of which is in English. It turns out he was well worth the 3 bucks we paid him for his services. It seems we had misplaced the small registration cards that Lalli had given us. We had all the contract and insurance papers, and this guy did a perfectly thorough job of explaining to three different levels of bureaucrats that the delivery receipt for the bikes was the document we needed. He aggressively pointed out that it had the license plate numbers as well as the engine and chassis numbers. After an hour or so of back and forth, and of course going for two photocopies, we declared the length of our stay and paid 15 days of road tax, and we were on our way.

Our first stop was Lumbini, about 25 kilometers from the border. Lumbini is the birthplace of Gautama Siddhartha-- The Lord Buddha. Lumbini is a tiny village adjacent to a walled compound about 3 kilometers by 1-1/2 kilometers. This complex is home to the Sacred Garden, at the center of which is the Maya Devi temple, named after Queen Maya Devi the mother of the Buddha. The grounds also are host to a score of Buddhist monasteries from most Asian countries as well as France and Germany to name a few. The shot above is of the Chinese Buddhist Monastery. Below is the Buddha that sits in the entryway.

The Maya Devi Temple (left) houses the ruins of the exact spot where the Buddha was born. To Buddhists, this is one of the most sacred pilgrimages, and visitors come to this tiny town from all over the world.

Above left a monk reclines beneath a sacred tree across the pool from the Maya Devi. At right is the Buddha as depicted in the entrance of the Nepalese Monastery.

After visiting the monasteries, Karen caught this sunset right outside the complex. We were planning to leave the next day, and figured red sky at night was "sailor's delight." That must not apply in this hemisphere. Shortly after dark it began ot rain in earnest, and continued for the next twenty hours. Another late season monsoon.

Fortunately the place we had chosen to stay was the Buddha Maya Garden. One could hardly call staying there an extra day being stuck. The staff there are the very definition of hospitality. While we have encountered extremely courteous people in most of the places we have stayed, the Nepalese possess a warmth that is absent elsewhere. It was also fortuitous for us in that the we met and had lunch with the owner of the place, who together with his father owns a chain of what you might call "boutique" hotels all over Nepal. We would stay at several of them. I amused myself during the rain by taping and photographing the people working on the addition being built behind the hotel. The women in turn were amused by my interest in them. Women work on construction right alongside of the men, often performing the more difficult tasks. I also watched them shovel full large baskets of sand that they carried on there heads to mix the mortar. Not only do they work hard, but they sing and smile while they do it. They seem to derive real enjoyment from there work. We found this little guy at the bottom sitting and waiting on his pop's motorbike. He was really shy, and nothing we tried could get him to look at us.