I’ve driven along some pretty terrifying roads the past few years. My heart rate has gone through the roof while whizzing through late night weekend traffic in Athens. I’ve woven through potholes on a motorbike in the rural hills of Lombok in Indonesia. And I’ve sucked in my breath and willed both myself and the car I’m in thinner when winter descends upon Aomori and the roads shrink down to bare single lanes, flanked by snowdrifts that are at least a meter tall. And then there’s the mountain road between Pokhara and Kathmandu. It definitely does not seem wide enough to accommodate two cars, especially with the huge tour buses and trucks that alternately trundle and race their way along the road. Three feet to the left, and we’d have plunged to a fiery death on the rocks and fields below.
It’s amazing how much good a solid night of sleep can do. After contracting a pretty nasty stomach bug and getting twelve or thirteen hours of sleep so deep that corpses were probably jealous, I awoke on my first morning in Lumbini, Nepal feeling approximately eight million times better. I was positively bursting with verve and vigor, a huge contract from the previous day, when I thought I was going to pass out from walking across the border to Nepal. (Forgot to mention that in my last post. At Sunauli, you make the land crossing from India to Nepal on food. So I can now technically say that I walked from one country to another!)
Unfortunately, my stomach issues were (spoiler alert) not completely over, but at the time, I was back on my feet and thrilled about it. Lumbini is a village famed for being the birthplace of the Sakyamuni Buddha, and I basically just bounced around the giant temple complex. Part of my energy came from my stomach no longer threatening to erupt, but the larger component of my excitement came from the fact that Lumbini is one of the coolest places I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting.
As exciting as my days within Delhi, Jaipur, and Agra were, I was more than happy to escape the frenetic energy of the city for far quieter surroundings. Enter Orchha, a tiny town in Madhya Pradesh with a population of only ten thousand. Compared to the Golden Triangle, Orchha was a completely different world that seemed like it was still enshrined in the past and unspoiled by modernity. For the first time since entering the Subcontinent, my ears weren’t ringing from the constant beeping of horns and I could cross the street without fearing for my life. It was an entirely different world.