A Journey to Remember

VN staff trekking to Bigu Monastery

Bigu, a Buddhist nunnery located on the top of the hill in Dolakha District, is one of our oldest and the most loved placements of all times at Volunteer Nepal. Over the past 10 years we have heard some amazing and remarkably spell-binding stories about Bigu from our staff and volunteers who have gone there.  It became kind of everyone’s (the staff members who haven’t been there) dream to travel to Bigu someday.

The opportunity presented itself when we were plainly discussing some of our active placements and reflecting on our volunteers’ experience. Himal and Saroj who go to Bigu almost regularly shared that it was the time of the year when it snows in Bigu. That triggered our desire and we couldn’t deny ourselves that trip.  It was Sunita, Himal and I who managed to make this a reality. 

It was January 10, a day before our trip, when the atmosphere at the office was different than usual, with small whispering on what to carry, and updating ourselves about the current temperature in Bigu (I doubt anybody worked that day). The talk about the trip was an ongoing fiesta until when we had sorted our workload and left to prepare for the trip.

Our journey started early morning on the 12th when we took an 8 hour bus ride to Gurungthali and hiked for 2 hours to find a wonderful host family in a local village for the night. The next day we hired a jeep, but the steep, rocky and snowy roads made it harder so we decided to hike halfway to the monastery. It sounded adventurous and exciting!  But none of us knew that it would be one of the most adventurous trips we had ever taken.

We wanted to experience the whole of Bigu, so we took the longer route. The villagers no longer take this longer route, so we rarely met or saw anyone walking along those trails. "We are almost there,” said Himal, almost 3 hours earlier and even after hiking for 4 hours, it was hard to believe that we couldn’t see the monastery compound anywhere.  The sun was setting down, it was getting dark and we were trying to figure out our way in the forest, asking, “Himal, do you think this is the trail we are supposed to walk?” No one had a clue where we were and it was pitch dark. With the little battery that each of our phones had, we lit our torch and went rushing through the trails, only to find a dead-end! It was the first time that we were scared to our core thinking we would not make it and would have to spend the night in the forest. But with Himal’s audacity and continuous alertness, we found our way to the monastery. We got lucky and were so relieved hearing the majestic sound of a gong, slowly and rhythmically struck. The tea offered right after our arrival at Bigu was like an elixir. That night we slept like babies.

It felt so good watching Bigu so closely the next morning: the school the nuns attend and the classes that our volunteers help out in, the health post re-constructed after the mega earthquake and the room where the Pooja’s and the prayers take place. Bigu has a lot of things to offer; one can find adventure even in the slightest of things. The moment you enter the realm of the monastery, physically or mentally you become captivated by a grandiose world of generosity and bliss. And so it was for us as we walked our way through the many, many hills and found solace in the monastery.