To begin with, we had a tour of Kathmandu lead by Major Ram, an old friend of Lt. Col Blackford. He demonstrated to us how the two main religions of Nepal live very closely and in relative harmony, as we were shown both Buddhist and Hindu sacred places. We were also able to do some shopping which involved haggling for items with a fair bit of success, followed by a much-needed rest at the Kathmandu Guest House, where we stayed for our first two nights. Here, we met our guides who travelled with us for the rest of the trip.
Our journey then continued with a 7-hour bus ride, (which included a stop to fix the drive shaft box back onto the bus), to the smaller city of Pokhara where we spent one night and visited the Gurkha Welfare Trust. We met John White, an Old Amplefordian, who talked to us about what the Trust does and how it aids the ex-Gurkhas and their families. The work they have done since the 2015 earthquake in Nepal is astonishing and if you would like to read more or donate you can do so by visiting their website: https://www.gwt.org.uk/ . Following this brief, we ventured by bus into the hills along a road no vehicle should rightfully be allowed to travel (this road sustained 5 hours of punishment that somehow it manages to survive every day).
Our destination for that journey was one of the two villages we raised money for, Gilung (the other being Pasgaun). The people greeted us with dozens of flower garlands and we met the school’s Headmaster. After a fairly rough night’s sleep, we saw our first glimpses of the stunning landscape on a tour of the village and were humbled to see the poverty the people lived in. What amazed me the most was how, despite their poverty, they gave us all they could and even opened their homes to us, allowing us to experience the Nepalese way of life in the hills. In the evening we experienced a very energetic dance show, with outstanding performances from Lt Col Blackford and Mr Torrens-Burton; we even had a few dance offs, however I don’t think the Nepalese people were that impressed! The next day we visited the school outside the village, where they put on a show for us as thanks for our fundraising. Here, we said our goodbyes to them by giving out some small gifts to the children.
Then we proceeded to visit three other villages, each offering different experiences, from eating in old tea houses, to trying local delicacies and getting views of the landscape that may occur once in a life time. Between these villages we trekked for several hours with all the hazards of leeches, long drops, blisters and endless uphill steps. However, our spirits were kept high by a rather persistent but friendly labrador and lots of food. Eventually, once we had left the last village, we returned to Kathmandu for a final day to shop and buy some souvenirs.
I learned a lot from my experience with the people in the hills of Nepal, it really exposed how much we consume in our home, and how easy it is to lose sight of how lucky we are for what we have. The Nepalese people savour everything they have and yet still shared so much with us, I was truly humbled by their hospitality. I would like to give my thanks to Lt Col Blackford and all the teachers who made this trip possible and such a memorable experience, along with our guides, who not only lead us, but were great friends to us.