Part 2 of our visit to Namo Buddha Resort, Dec. 13 – 22.
There is a lot to see around Namo Buddha! Ingrid put us in touch with her favorite guide, Binod, a delightful young man who took us on two challenging hikes out of the resort. The first was down a steep trail through the woods. We passed a simple rock stupa in honor of Rudi, Ingrid’s husband, that overlooked the hills and valleys. A moving memorial to a man who loved this land and culture so deeply.
As we continued down the hill, Binod pointed out numerous native plants as well as invasive pine trees introduced into Nepal by Australia years ago for reforestation. But they have created fire hazards and negatively impacted the water supply. There were native trees covered in epiphytic orchids which would be spectacular to see blooming in the spring. Cary enjoyed sharing observations and ideas with Binod, since she, like him, was an organic farmer.
Click on photos to see full-size.
Binod showed us a native fruit that was used as soap up until modern commercial soap was available.
The people we met while going through town were cordial and always wanted to know where we were from. At one point we sat down for a rest, and a man at the house nearby brought us a plate of fruit. When Cary offered some rupees, he declined to accept them. It was a very friendly atmosphere, all the more because of its spontaneity.
In the village, we passed two elderly women sitting by the side of the road. Binod laughed when one of them pointed to me and said in Nepali, ”Look at her. She is old, but she is walking.” I realized how much I take for granted: my good health and the fact that I am, indeed, walking!
We climbed up the other side of town and stopped in a small restaurant overlooking the valley. We ordered tea and chow mein (“no spicy”). Our repast was eminently peaceful and relaxing, fulfilling our highest expectations.
The next day we ventured further afield. This time we left the resort through the main entrance and turned into a narrow dirt road we had not yet explored. After some ups and downs, we passed an almost-completed huge luxury hotel & time-share complex, which has caused a great deal of consternation among the locals and the ecologists. The concern is about the impact that this resource-intensive operation will have on the groundwater supply for the whole area. Next to the hotel was farmland that had been bought by an urban Nepali, and fenced off for their residence. We had never seen such an imposing chainlink fence, and it showed the stark difference between the rural community and urban newcomers.
We wandered up and down hills and enjoyed the views of the terraced farmland, so typical of Nepal.
One of the interesting stops along the way was an area with a small stupa and one-story school. We arrived as some students were heading home shortly after noon. Binod told us that they were third-graders who had just finished their exams for the day. Exams in the third grade? I don’t remember that!
Along the road we noticed more and more colorful stucco houses.
At last we reached Binod’s family home, nestled with a small group of houses (owned by many of his relatives), and surrounded by beautiful flowers and an extensive organic farm. Getting there was probably our most strenuous hike of the trip!
Upon our arrival, Binod ushered us onto his rooftop.
Binod then proceeded to climb up a passion fruit tree, pick the fruit, and make us a delicious drink. It was, indeed, special and had a most unusual taste.
He also cooked us potatoes and onions from the garden, seasoned with tumeric and cumin, and topped with churro rice (rice that has been rolled out like oats). So simple, and so delicious!
After lunch, Cary and Binod spent a lot of time checking out the wonderful diversity of plants…sugar cane, turmeric, ginger, yams, passion fruit, and tree tomatoes to name a few.
While Cary and Binod were exploring the garden further, I spent my time getting acquainted with Anju, Binod’s lovely 22-year-old niece. We talked while she washed our dishes at the outdoor pump. Having just graduated from college, she was taking exams in the hopes of winning a scholarship to graduate school. Her interests were in the field of language, literature, and general liberal arts, and, eventually, she hoped to become a teacher. I have no doubt that she will succeed.
Our conversation was shortened when Binod realized how late it was and said that needed to head back so we could be home before dark. He called a taxi, but the price was ridiculous and we chose to head to the road to see what came our way. Off we started…just maybe we’d be lucky.
On the way, we visited Binod’s father, who lived close by. We had fun interacting with the school children hanging out at the brightly colored community mill, and then walked through the village on our way down to the main road.
Suddenly, Binod, ahead of us, spotted the school bus that carried his youngest son home from school. It was stopped lower down on the hill, letting children out. Since he knew the driver and felt he could intercept the vehicle, he started running, and was able to flag him just in time. Cary and I began to run, too. Whew! We could not believe our incredible good fortune! As we stepped into the bus, a gaggle of excited children surrounded us enthusiastically. It was total cacophony. Never had I felt so welcomed!
Two teachers sat near me and were eager to hear about our time in Nepal, and one said his mother was my age but couldn’t walk. My age seemed to be a focal point wherever I went. Each time we stopped, the children who left waved at us and some even shook my hand. We were finally left with two little boys who enjoyed practicing their English with us.
I felt exhilarated and peaceful at the same time as I trudged up the steps to the resort. This was a day of surprises and great joy!
We enjoyed occasional interludes with the World Cup during our trip. I have never been a dedicated fan who can sit for hours watching any sport on TV, but I have to say that the excitement and energy produced by this particular passion for football (soccer) was catching and I couldn’t help getting a bit carried away when certain countries were matching with others. History played a role in loyalties and the rivalries were particularly riveting…especially the run that Morocco had against its former colonial invaders. After triumphing against Spain and Portugal, alas, it was beaten by France.
The final was during our stay, and evening festivities were held in Lasho Hall (the conference meeting hall) where an enormous screen had been set up. The fun was watching the reaction of the Nepalis, who were divided in their loyalties and gave a rousing show as the game progressed. They were almost more fun than the game! The dance celebration after Argentina won went on a long time!
Some of our most relaxed times were while we were sitting at a long table on the porch off the upstairs library above the dining hall, reading and writing.
The sky was blue, the clouds stunning, and the sun soothing, I just sat there and feasted my eyes on the lush forest surrounding us. No noise, just a few birds flitting about. I must say that the birds fascinated me, especially the blue-throated barbet that lived in the fig tree. It had a big yellow beak, brownish chest and back, greenish-yellow underparts, and blue-blackish head. Just imagine its piercing call, lasting more than a minute, at which time it often elicited an answer of the same duration from another barbet a short distance away. We had fun timing the birds and wondered if this was a mating call or just joy at eating a delicious fig! What a treat to find such peace and humor in this chaotic world.
Ingrid did not forget her promise to teach us how to make the pumpkin soup we so enjoyed. On our last day, we were invited to the kitchen to watch the chefs expertly chop, saute and make the soup. Secret ingredient? Cashews added to the garlic, onions, celery and ginger, which was sauteed before the pumpkin was added. We left it simmering on the stove to enjoy later. Cary is now on the search for the lighter-colored, firm variety of winter squash they used (which they call a pumpkin). Here are the steps…
One of the absolute highlights of our stay was meeting the other guests, who came from all over the world.
We met several Nepalis who lived abroad, but came home regularly to visit family, especially so their young children could visit their grandparents. Suman and Prativa lived in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Cheryl and Gillie, two jovial women from Brisbane, Australia, each had two sons ages 17-20. They were very excited over the fact that the boys were climbing together in the Khopra Ridge area of the Annapurna Circuit while they were at the resort. It was so much fun to show them our photos from 2018 when we did the same trek, and share where their sons were.
Two young German women, Anna and Katye with whom we spent several hours talking…at dinner and by the fire…are both involved in peace programs in their professional lives, and aware of the dangers inherent in the rise of right-wing parties in their country, as are we in our own country. They were also extremely interested in hearing about why I went to Germany in 1949 with Quaker workcamps to help rebuild after the war, and the people I worked with during that difficult time. It is admirable, I think, the way Germany has faced its past and the years of the Third Reich, rather than pretending it didn’t happen or wasn’t as bad as it was, as we have done with some of our egregious mistakes going back to slavery. But with all the serious conversation and expression of deep shame over the past, both women displayed a spontaneous sense of humor, and filled the atmosphere with joyousness and optimism wherever they were.
Anna and Joe, from England, are an energetic couple who cycled to the resort from Kathmandu (yikes!) in all that traffic, followed by steep climbs. Joe feared he was going to die. Anna, who is determined, and a bit of a daredevil, like Gillie from Australia, had to admit that it was a rather perilous experience so agreed to go back in a jeep. Anna has taught in a private international school in Kathmandu for seven years, and Joe is a teacher in Dorset. Our conversations ranged from politics in the world today to the making of gingerbread houses at Christmas, a specialty of Cary’s years ago. It’s as if we had known each other for years!
These relationships were brief, but not superficial, which made them that more meaningful. We hope to keep in touch over the years.
Thus ends our epic stay at the Namo Buddha Resort. We close with a photo of us with Ingrid, who we so enjoyed getting to know, and look forward to seeing again on a visit in the future!
The final blog post of our travels in Nepal will be about more of our adventures in and around Kathmandu. Namo Buddha will always be in our hearts!