Friday, April 12, 2013

Royal Trek

Within the program I am doing with GVI, there was a mountain trek paid for as an incentive. The trek I did here is called, "The Royal Trek," which gets its name because the English Prince Charles was one of the first to explore this route. I was expecting to be trekking through one of the Himayla's but didn't realize how long these treks lasted(at least 10 days) so I only had time for a 4 day trek. It was the perfect beginner's trek, it wasn't too difficult, yet it wasn't easy by any means, and while I wasn't walking through Everest or Annapurna or some incredible mountain like that, I still had one of the greatest experiences of my life. The Royal Trek is a 4 day 3 night trek through the hills and mountains that wrap around two beautiful local lakes, Rupa lake, and Bagnas Lake. Our guide's name was Homme a local Nepali guide that works for "Himalayan Encounters" who books all of the trips and extracirriculars for us. Homme was an amazing guide, Sarah (a girl from Minnesota who Trekked with me) and I really lucked out. He was super outgoing and friendly, always made sure we were fed and had plenty of water, all in all he was everything you could ask of a guide. Day 1: On the first day we started out at Bagnas lake, working our way up from the foothills of a mountain to an area called "Lipani" after about 4 or so hours of hiking, we finally reached the top of a beautiful hill in Lipani over looking the Bagnas lake, where there was a field about 100 square yards, and a small little guest house. On the field were about 7 local kids playing soccer along with an adorable baby girl maybe a year and a half old. We arrived at the guesthouse at about 2 pm, and while my guide and Sarah took a nap during the afternoon, I was filled with energy and adrenaline from the trek, so I stayed and played with all the kids all afternoon. They absolutely wore me out, especially when I picked a kid up into the air, naturally all of them wanted to be thrown into the air over and over. I had an absolute blast with these kids, and their crappy little soccer ball which had a whole in it and had to be blown up every ten minutes. I plan to hike back to this guest house again and bring these kids a new ball and some treats. That night we had the typical traditional Nepali meal "Dal Baat" which is rice, lental, and pickle. We sat around with the family, eating and drinking local homemade wine. At first I was a bit reluctant to drink homemade wine from a little village in the middle of no where, but while it wasn't very tasty, it was fun having a drink with the family up there and didn't give you a headache or full stomach at all. Day 2: The second day wasn't quite as eventful as the first, we only did about 3 hours of hiking until we came upon a village, the name of which I don't remember. We stayed in a little lodge/tea shop with a really nice balcony with an amazing few. We got in around 1 pm, had lunch of Dal Baat of course. It rained most of the afternoon so we just relaxed on the balcony teaching each other card games, reading, and drinking milk tea. Our guide really enjoyed the card game Gin Rummy so we played for hours on end. Several other hikers from Australia joined us at the lodge, and we all had a dinner of Dal Baat once again, we ordered the only 3 beers the lodge had, and had a glass of the classic Nepali homemade wine with our new Aussie friends, before going to bed around 8 pm. Day 3: The third day was a really special day. It was one I'm not likely ever to forget and was probably the most special day and night of my entire experience here in Nepal or India. In the morning we got up at about 5 am to hike for about an hour to make it to a viewpoint for sunrise. The sunrise was spectacular, even being half awake. After that we had breakfast, and set off hiking for about 3 hours until we stopped in a village to have a lunch of basically Ramen noodles cooked up with some vegetables and spices. (I wish I would have experimented with Ramen like this in the college dorms.)After lunch we set off for about another 3 hours trekking, making the day in total about 6 hours hiking. The hiking was not what I found so awesome about the day. After lunch our guide offered us to come stay with his wife's parents, his wife's sister and her children. It would not be near as nice of an accomadation as a long would be and it would be about an extra 2 hours hike. Both Sarah and I did not want to offend, and were both fairly excited about the offer. So we finally arrived at a rickety mud house and the top of a hill with an incredible vie of both lakes we had been traveling around (Rupa and Bagnas) with two cows on the side, a couple chickens running around, and two or three goats in a very small field next to the house. Before we could even make introductions with the entire family, the dark clouds that had been following us the previous hour or two turned into a enormous flash thunderstorm. Me sarah and Homme our guide kept to a room on one side of the house looking out onto the porch during the storm. It was some of the strongest wind I've ever encountered, and the rain was falling hard. While we sat safe and dry watching the storm, Homme's in-laws, a man and woman both 60+ years of age were out in the storm securing the house, and wrestling up the animals into their shelters. All the while Homme's sister-in-law was making us tea. We had a perfect view of one of the lakes, and I noticed that there were two boats still on the lake during the storm. I watched them closely, as one boat made it safely to shore, but quit watching the other boat once we got our tea. It wasn't until the next morning that we found out that the boat had sunk, and multiple people had died. A couple days later the official report revealed that 2 children and 3 adults had died on that boat, while 3 others were able to swim and survived. It still really weirds me out that I was watching that boat before it sank, and might of even seen it sink if I it wasn't for the tea. But on a happier note, the storm eventually let off, and we spent all afternoon and night sitting around with our guides family, and I couldn't really explain it but somehow we communicated without even understanding each other's languages. The Mother-in-law made us Dal Baat and wouldn't leave my plate empty until I had eaten at least a couple pounds of rice and had to beg to stopped being served. Homme's sister in Law had two babies who we played with for hours, and also a 14 year old daughter who Homme was trying to "hook me up" with to my polite decline. After dinner we spent hours listening to Nepali music, singing, clapping, and after a full stomach of dal baat, prawn crackers???, and enough home made Nepali wine they had me up with the grand-pa dancing, clapping, and singing along to Nepali songs of which I had no clue what they were saying. The chance to get that deep into their culture, and to connect with a Nepali family the way I did, in such a short amount of time, with such a language barrier was really amazing to me. I spent the next thanking our guide over and over again for such a great opportunity. Day 4: Day 4 doesn't really have much to tell, we got up, had breakfast, and said our farewells to Homme's family, and made our way down the mountain on a 2 hour hike to the bottom to the lake where a taxi picked us up and took us back to Pokhara. The Royal Trek was amazing, while it may not have been the most challenging, or the best scenery you could choose from the different treks in this area, the chance to experience so much of real Nepali culture, the culture outside of the big cities and the tourists, was really an awesome opportunity. As as you can tell from the photos, the scenery was pretty awesome. Thanks to everyone who is supporting me and keeping up with this blog, as always I'm sorry I don't post on here as much as I should! Tomorrow is the Nepali New Year, and I have about 4 days holiday, so in my down time in the next few days I will make another post with the loads and loads of pictures of the kids and places of Pokhara on my camera that I haven't had a chance to upload.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Hello everyone! I am sorry once again for being so bad about updating this blog. I not only lost my USB port to transfer photos, but I also lost my debit card in Delhi two weeks ago traveling from India to Nepal. Losing my debit card made things quite difficult, some friends of the GVI staff in Kathmandu had to meet me outside the airport to give me money to pay for my Nepal visa. Luckily I arrived here in Pokhara Nepal without any other problems. This is now my third week here in Nepal and it has been action packed, and quite busy. The culture here is quite different from India, but this place is amazing. It's easily the most interesting and beautiful place I've ever been to. We all live in a homestay with a wonderful family here, the host father: Pashpati and the host mother: Chetra. The host mother cooks us delicious Nepali meals every morning and night. There are four projects the volunteers here work at; Children's Paradise, Male Patan, "Streets", and Conversation Club. Male Patan is a day care but I don't work there. Every day I get up around 8 am, have breakfast, and make my way down to Children's Paradise. This is a day care run by a really inspiring woman named Bunti. While it is a day care for kids anywhere from 2 years old to about 5 or 6, it is also one of the only places in Nepal that takes in and works with special needs children. There is a girl here named Nikita, who is much older than the rest (11 years) who has spinebiphida?(not sure on the spelling) Basically she has no feeling from the waist down. She has no wheel chair, no control of her bladder or bawl movements. She went to a normal school for her age but after about 3 months the school didn't want to have to "deal with her problem" and sent her back to this day care. She is extremely intelligent, and a very pretty little girl. She sits at one table all day doing a type of home schooling, surrounded by 2-6 year olds. Everyday we work with her on her school work through these homeschool textbooks, doing math, English, science, computer science (although there is no computer), Morals, and General Knowledge, and we also work on motor skills and stretches with her. As well as working with Nikita, there are several boys here with Austism; Arsen, Dipson, Sidat, Aavash, Auisch (spelling?). They all have different severity of autism, different personalities, but they are all amazing kids. When not working with Nikita we play with them and work on their social skills, development, and confidence. After a day from about 10 am to 3 pm, I head back into the "tourist" area of Pokhara we live in called Lakeside. In the afternoons we hold something called "Conversation Club" at a delicious local restaurant called Shanti. The owners allow us to use the restaurant to work with their son Raheet, along with several other children from the area to go over their homework, or just talk, play games, and other activities with them for about an hour everyday. Any kids from the area are welcome to come and partake. There is also another project in the early mornings that I have only been able to visit twice so far called "streets". This is a boys home of about 11 or 12 boys along with the daughter of the woman who runs the home. We get there around 7 am and work with them on their school work for about an hour, and then blow off steam by playing Soccer, (football as I have come to call it) on a nearby field for an hour, before they head to school in the morning at about 9 or 10 am.

The weekends here have been equally amazing. My first weekend here, a few volunteers and I hiked up one of the mountains overlooking Pokhara called Sarangkot. From the top we could see for miles and miles as well as the Himalayas. When we got to the top, we paraglided down to the base of the mountain. It was such a surreal experience, I wouldn't describe it as fly, but more like floating more than a mile above the ground. Unfortunately my camera died that day and I also lost all of my pictures on my phone( that's another story) so I have no pictures on me of paragliding, but will get some from the other volunteers. The next day we traveled to the Tisuli River where we spent a day white water rafting, surrounded by the beautiful mountains of Nepal. The next weekend we traveled to Chitwan National Park, where we traveled down a river in a dugout canoe seeing Crocadiles, we visited an elephant breeding center, and took a forest excursion on the backs of elephants where we saw the most incredible deer, monkeys, rhinos, hogs (woo pig sooie) and more. And finally this past Tuesday was a national Hindu holiday called "Holi" which celebrates the beginning of spring. The entire city along with hundreds of tourists gathered together soaking each other with water balloons, and throwing paint at each other. It was the coolest festival I have ever witnessed, and by the end of the day I was covered in an inch of various colored paints and absolutely soaked. There was a Nepali music festival and parade after parade after parade.
All in all Nepal has been great so far, I am getting very homesick, but the kids I get to work with every day, the beautiful surroundings, and the amazing weekends make everything worthwhile. I will also be starting a four day trek through the Himalayas on Monday. I will try to post pictures of the Trek as soon as I get back. Again I'm sorry for taking so long to post on this blog, and I'm sorry for writing a novel on this post.

Namaste everyone!