In 2011, I spent over three months in Nepal traveling and kayaking in various remote areas. During that time I developed a strong connection and marvel for a country of humble and compassionate people. This wonder brought me back again in 2014, though with different goals. There were still rivers and places I wanted to see, though I always found myself wanting to spend more time staying put in the villages than my paddling partners. From my kayaking experience in the remote district of Dolpa & Humla I knew that I wanted to spend time in area where there were no cars or buses, only walking trails. I wanted to frequent the same houses and get to know the locals and how they got on in their daily lives. I had met so many Nepalis who lived the agrarian lifestyle and radiated some of the warmest smiles I had encountered, it was addicting.
Late November as I wandered the maze of cobbled streets in Kathmandu I found myself in a volunteer office inquiring about teaching opportunities. I had done some shorter stints of teaching in Upper Dolpa & Mysore, India and knew how energetic the young population could be. When the coordinator suggested a working with Sherpas on their English in Kathmandu, I stopped her and explained I wanted to be far from these crowded and polluted streets. So I was place in the town of Surkhe of the Ramechapp District. To get there I would take a 9 hour bus ride, 3 of which were on mountainous roads and then still have to walk about an hour to get to my host family. Having just got off a 24-hour bus from Western Nepal, this commute was quite inviting. The village even overlooked one of my favorite paddling destinations, the Tamba Kosi River.
For the next month I lived with a host family and their 4 adorable children. Every morning I woke up at 6:00 am had a cup of tea, some corn nuts, and walked about half an hour to the school while the sun rose and caste its first light on the Himalayas across the valley. I taught English and Literature in the mornings to the upper level (class 11 & 12) before walking home again for lunch. After lunch, I again took the walk through mustard fields, past chickens & marigolds back to school by 11:00 am for my other classes. The afternoons was filled with English and some Math for the 8th, 9th, & 10th classes. Over 80 students were packed into my 10th class geometry course! In the evenings I returned to my host family for dinner and early to bed. Six days a week the process repeated.
On my days off I was able to explore the incredible landscape that surrounded me. A 7-hour hike brought me to the top of Sailung (3200 meters) and views of the entire Rolwaling Himal Range. A morning sunrise atop the meadows of Sailung with prayer flags snapping all around was a rare special moment in life where time seems to stop. On another weekend I was able to link up with paddlers and run the continuous big water class IV Tamba Kosi River. The endless single track, hospitable guesthouses, & rich culture create a unique area to explore Nepal and yourself.
About a month ago, two very powerful earthquakes and countless aftershocks struck this area and many other parts of central Nepal. My host family was forced to sleep underneath their plastic greenhouse because damage to their home made it too dangerous to inhabit. Since the earthquake, the country I love has been turned upside down with its citizens questioning even the ground they walk on. Even weeks later the entire country slept outside in the rain as aftershocks continued to rattle the fragile infrastructure and their lives. The stream of social media of friends in the country who have shared first person accounts of the disaster has been humbling.
Many friends locally set up grass roots efforts to respond to the some of the most remote and hard hit areas outside of the major centers. First response efforts were led by fellow rafting & kayaking guides who used their knowledge of the area, local connections, & money raised from social media campaigns to save lives and assess the situation. Quickly it became apparent that more long-term projects were needed. Improvised housings would need to be replaced by more permanent structures, & quickly due to the impending monsoon.
Nepal will take many years to rebuild, though one of the constant messages I see from friends is they want to build a better Nepal by the hands of the Nepalis locals. These dark haired short statured Mongols have adapted to live EVERYWHERE in their country. Their resourcefulness and ingenuity of making do with what the land provides is something to marvel at. Their bonds of social security are held together through families and villages.
For a better Nepal to endure they will still need help from the outside. Programs like Medical Trek Nepal & Mandala Organization continue to take in funds and turn donors money into houses. Houses for a better Nepal, more resistant to earthquakes, yet extremely cost efficient. Just $200 is enough to change a family’s life.
Local efforts and outside donations will make an amazing contribution, but Nepal will also need its biggest resource to return, tourist. Tourism accounts for nearly 10% of Nepal’s GDP and has been growing over the past decade. Out of 75 districts in Nepal less than 10 were severely affected by the earthquake. The airport is totally operational and buses in Kathmandu are waiting. If you have a love of the outdoors and mountains, there is no better destination on earth. Nepal has it all and can be done on a shoestring budget, just make sure you like rice & lentils. I can’t wait to get back!
Come climb and Elevate Nepal on Friday, June 19th from 6pm-9pm at Peak Experiences Climbing Center. Enjoy climbing and Nepali snacks while learning more about Nepal’s needs and people. Entrance cost to the event will be a donation to support Nepali earthquake disaster relief. 100% of the money donated will be sent directly to a remote village through Medical Trek Nepal for housing during the upcoming monsoon season.