After chaotic packing jamming all our gear into overloaded backpacks, we met Beshow our energetic guide at the hotel reception. His promise of hiring a 4WD Pajero turned into an early 1990’s Toyota Corolla in a very sorry state. The Pajero he said was billowing fumes so not available, of course he did not consider hiring another 4WD, even through he had quoted us for a new one. It was quickly occurring to us that life in Kathmandu for some locals consisted of hustling tourists, the good karma philosophy did not apply to Christians. We were happy that we had only paid a deposit for the tour.
Our journey to Namobudda Monastery consisted of weaving through cars, buses, trucks, bikes, cows, people and honking around each corner, the unofficial driving technique to let people know to get back on their side of the road . The smell of toxic fumes was eye watering and we were initially happy to reach the start of the dirt off road.
Within 5 minutes of slow careful driving we hit deep slimy mud tracks. Our feet could feel the mud and rocks scrape the bottom of the car. We inevitably got stuck and the car quickly overheated and shut down. Within seconds the driver jumped out of the car into the mud with a large metal wrench, this had obviously happened before. It was a scene. The car bogged in mud on a mountain road in the middle of nowhere with the driver in his cheap leather loafers and his best outfit giving the engine a good bang like you used to do when the telly was playing up. To our surprise it worked a treat and he got the engine started again. We got out and gave it a good push and we were out of the mud and off we tootled.
After many twists and turns keeping us on the edge of our seats we reached the Monastery with a sigh of relief. A golden and burgundy edifice perched on the peak of a mountain with breathtaking views of the green valley and blue haze mountains in the background.
We had lunch at the local ‘restaurant’ which reminded us of a road side diner and was surrounded with scruffy dogs waiting for food.
We were escorted to the guest house. It was a basic room with rock hard beds and sheets which we were sure had been used by a few people before. The shared bathroom smelled so strongly of urine you needed to hold your nose walking past. Going in took a lot of courage and desperation and a plunger to flush.
We took a tour of the land and shrines around the Monastery with Beshow. He told us a brief history of the Monastery and the legend behind it.
We found out Beshow did not know much about the Monastery, he had just read the plaque and re-told the story to us. A cheeky fellow I tell you.
There were no monks to be found on the grounds and after speaking with a German fellow volunteering near by he said the monks were on a picnic and that there would be no eating, chanting or mediating. Beshow had disappeared by that time into hiding, the death stares from Chelsea letting him know full well we were not happy he didn’t keep his agreement.
That night we ate with a couple of tourists at the Monastery kitchen. Laughing ironically that we had paid to come all this way to see the monks but they were not there except the few that served us then disappeared.
The Monastery itself was absolutely beautiful. Prayer flags hung from poles and little villages in the valleys twinkled in the night sky like stars. It was a peaceful place. Unfortunately, with Beshow taking us for a ride it had dampened our enjoyment.
This was our first lesson on identifying and trusting touts. We were relieved we had not paid him the full amount agreed upfront. We took away many valuable lessons which we will certainly apply to the rest of our trip.
And if you wanted to know how many monks were actually present, there they are, the unlucky few that were not taken on the picnic.