Buddha boy from Nepal part 1
We first started to hear about the Buddha boy sometime in late November just before we left the United States. It is amazing how fast the news of this type can travel in the Internet age. It took decades and centuries for news of the Buddha to travel around the world. This instant type of news also leads one to be overly skeptical of everything.
We first saw a photo of Ram Bahadur Bomjan the Buddha boy on the front page of the Himalayan Times (In my opinion Kathmandu’s best newspaper) while on our flight from Bangkok to Kathmandu (which was delayed by 2 days and then several hours as the King of Nepal had taken one of the fleet of two planes with him to Africa but that is another story). We thought that it would be very interesting to go and see him and see what all the fuss was about. I was especially curious to see the scene when I saw the photos of Coca-Cola balloons in the impromptu market that had grown up around him. I figured that this would turn out to be some kind of stunt somewhere between the Indians levitating for the tourists below the Red Fort in Delhi and the ill conceived Nepali scams of fake currency that get busted up when they catch someone selling 1000 rupee notes for 600 rupees in the bazaar. But when we heard about a group of friends of ours who were organizing a trip down to see the boy via the oldest road in Nepal we jumped at the chance to join up. With the crew involved we knew it would be a great trip even if this boy turned out to be a total and obvious hoax.
The plan was laid to travel by a rented bus from Kathmandu to Hetauda via the old Tribhuvan Rajpath highway. This was the first road ever built in Nepal. It was built in the late 1950’s by the Indian army and is really an incredible feat. As the crow flies we only had to travel about 45 km (28 miles) but this involved an ascent of about 4000 feet followed by a descent of almost 8000 feet via what is surely the most switchbacks ever laid up together so that the total travel time about 7 and a half hours (including a quick stop to eat rice as one does in Nepal). In Hetauda we stayed at the Avocado Motel, which is a decent place with a nice garden although I guess many of the avocado trees have been cut down to make way for expansion. From Hetauda it is about one and half hours drive to where the Buddha boy is sitting.
After we arrived at the motel and got suitably relaxed we decided to watch a movie about the Buddha boy that someone else had purchased. This was a very amateur style film with shaky camera work and bad sound but the opening 10 minutes was shots of the huge traffic jam that occurred supposedly every day on the road to the Buddha boy. This scared the hell out of us so we decided to get up at 5:30 am and leave as soon as possible. We managed to make it out just after 6 am.
Since we were traveling as a group of “tourists” (I put this in quote since many of us on the bus had been in Nepal longer than the young Nepali soldiers who came on to check us) we were not subject to the crazy checkpoints that Nepalis have to endure. This consists of lining up bus by bus and waiting your turn to get off your bus with your belongings and then walk about half a mile while your bus gets searched. You are also subject to search at several points along your walk. The line of buses looked like it would have added about two hours to our travel time had we not had the magical tourist only banner hung on the front of our bus.
Forty five minutes later we saw the red cloth gate on the side of the road that signaled the beginning of the road through the jungle to the Buddha boy. We were not stopped at the gate and there were only a few people hanging around with no police in site. The track through the jungle was a bumpy narrow dirt road that would be hard pressed to accommodate two buses passing in either direction. Luckily there was no other traffic, our early start was paying off already.
This story continues here.