Once again, photos are mostly by Jay and words are mostly by Debbi.
After our trek and a few very restful days in Pokhara,
we journeyed to our third Workaway in the “hills” of Nepal, halfway between Pokhara and Kathmandu. It was supposed to be a ten day adventure of living in a village and helping a young couple and a cooperative of six families with their farms.
It's 3 days later and we are back in Kathmandu.
Yes we had planned on being there for ten days, but after a day and a half, we realized this was not a good fit and we needed to cut our losses. And so on day three we left.
Here’s a short description of what we encountered:
Got on a bus to Kathmandu at the Pokhara bus station,
and discussed with the driver that we needed to get off the bus in this certain place that was not on any map that I looked at. The driver indicated that he understood. Great first step.
Here are a couple photos of people we saw along the road:
After twice reminding the “helper” of the bus (see previous blog about journey to Pokhara) not to forget about us, we were dropped at the appropriate place.
This place was a line of about 5 ramshackle shacks on the side of the road. From each shack, people were selling stuff. People were standing on both sides of the road waiting for various buses, and people were sitting in front of the shacks, just kind of hanging out.
We had been told to go to the right and we would see a “walking bridge” that we needed to cross.
And so we did:
What we weren’t told was that this “walking bridge” was a narrow suspension bridge that crossed over a very wide, raging river.
As proof that this was a raging river, we soon saw some white-water rafters pass by, the white water throwing people out of the raft. We crossed it. It only shook a little bit.
At the other end of the bridge was a village. This picture shows a bit of the shacks, along with the bridge and the village on the other side of the river.
There was a bus there that would leave at 3:00 to take us to our destination, which was about 1 ½ - 2 hours up the hills into the heart of Gorkha District. As it was only 11:30 at this time, we thought we could grab some lunch. But the guy in the shop that sells the bus tickets said there was no lunch there so we had to cross back over the bridge to get to a place that had some food.
Looking at the five shacks and examining their cleanliness level, including the communal water source outside, we decided against eating in the restaurant there and bought a packaged bag of rolls. We ate the rolls along with some mandarin oranges and a granola bar we had with us. Yum.
As we sat and ate our lunch we watched all that was going on around us. There was a group of about six women near us sitting and talking. After a period of time, they all got up and filed into one of the shacks. After a few minutes they emerged, each one carrying a HUGE sack of chicken feed on their back. I saw that each sack weighed 50 kilos. Over 110 pounds. And off they walked, down the little hill to the bridge and over the bridge. This woman below is not one of the sack-carrying women, but I put her in here so you could get the picture.
A little boy of about 4 years old was walking behind a very old man. They had walked off the main highway. The boy was barefoot and filthy dirty. He was hanging onto his ragged pants to keep them up as he walked. His fingers were in his mouth and his nose was running.
After a bit of time of them kind of wandering around, the boy walked away from the old man and stood staring at us. A lady at the communal water fountain talked to him and gestured for him to come over to her. She had him roll up his sleeves of his shirt and handed him some soap and instructed him on how to use the soap to clean his hands and arms. She took the hose and helped him wash his face. She did it in a firm but loving manner, clearly concerned about this boy.
I took our bag of leftover bread and handed it to the lady to give to the boy. He took the bag and hung on to it for dear life. The next time I saw him, he was following the old man back down the highway, a tiny little boy with temporarily clean hands and face, hanging onto the sack of bread.
Finally it was time to cross back over the bridge and get on the bus that would take us to our Workaway. When we arrived at the bus, there was a huge amount of business being conducted. People were exchanging goods for piles of money and the goods were being loaded onto a small, white pickup truck. It was very lively and people were laughing and having a great time with this commerce. The women with the chicken feed were there also, with their sacks having been loaded onto the truck.
We got on the bus and were off. The bus traveled up. And up and up.
The village we were now leaving was in a state of construction. There were huge signs announcing the source of the funding of the construction: Save the Children, UKAID, some Danish church aid, DCA I think it was called. They were building houses for people whose homes had been destroyed in the earthquake of 2015.
In the meantime, we saw that the people were living in corrugated tin shacks that lined the road.
And up we went. On a dirt path. With Nepali music BLASTING from the speakers. Around hairpin turns and into gigantic potholes and over rocks.
Again, I just breathed deeply and reconciled that if this was my time, it would be. I wondered how many buses had toppled off the mountain. I mean hill.
Here is what it looks like in southern Gorkha District of Nepal:
Rooftops of a village we passed:
And people waiting to get on the bus:
Finally, after bouncing around like pin balls for an hour and a half, the bus stopped and we were told we needed to get off. But there was nothing around except for a lady who was motioning for us to get off the bus. And so we did.
Moments later our host came bounding down the mountain (I mean hill) and apologized for being late. He grabbed my bag and started running back up the hill. Jay and I rushed to keep up with him.
As it turned out, this young man, a native Nepali who had spent his youth in the US and Japan, had taken this tiny village under his wings and was trying to help it recover from the earthquake. His intentions were very good, but his execution was not to our liking.
Our tea house accommodations on the trek were luxurious compared to the bamboo hut we slept in at this place.
Forget that there was no heat, with night-time temperatures dipping into the low 40’s. We had already done that during the trek.
Forget that we slept on rough mattresses laid on top of a bamboo floor, (sorry about the blurriness of this photo. It was very dark)
Forget that we ate heaping plates of rice with a small side of curried vegetables for every single meal, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, hunched around a tiny fire outside the makeshift kitchen,
Forget that the latrine was disgusting with no method to clean it,
And even forget that this was really a holding place for young (20’s and 30’s) volunteers to come and get high and drunk every night.
Those were things that made us uncomfortable, but didn’t make us call it quits.
The breaking point was that the host was totally disengaged and uninterested in forming any type of relationship with the volunteers.
My hope had been that we would meet Nepali villagers and get to immerse ourselves in the village while helping with whatever they needed. But this guy just hung out with his Nepali friends, ate with them, and had extremely little interaction with the volunteers. And the volunteers were nice enough, but that’s not why we were there. After the short time we were there we saw that we were not going to be immersed in village life.
To top it off, Jay got really sick the very first night (bad cold). And so, with Jay’s health deteriorating with a second night of cold sleeping, and continued deterioration of both our moods, we knew it was time to say good-bye.
We had a horrific ride back to Kathmandu, on a not-tourist bus, but a Nepali "local" bus, with Bollywood music videos playing on the screen and the music BLASTING for the entire ride.
Once we hit the outskirts of Kathmandu there was a massive traffic jam and the only ONE lane of traffic skidded to a halt. It took us about 3 hours to make it through the city and to the place we needed to get off.
We were so grateful for the taxi driver who got us to our hotel safely and we spent the night watching HBO movies, drinking a beer, and having chicken noodle soup for dinner. I had a splitting headache and Jay fell right to sleep. It will take us a couple days to recover, but then we will get back on our feet and explore this crazy city.
We feel so grateful that, unlike the people we have seen in all these villages, we have the means to get ourselves comfortable in a heated hotel room with a comfortable bed and a hot shower.
And as it turned out, Jay was really pretty sick, and spent the next couple days miserable in bed. But he's all better now and we will be spending the last few days in Kathmandu sightseeing. We will start that tomorrow.
P.S. Several days later...
We have done some amazing sightseeing in Kathmandu. Some of these adventures include a "secret" street food tour and a private tour with a monk (lama) at a monastery with an accompanying trip to Monkey Temple.
Here are just a few pictures of what we did and saw:
One of the dishes we ate on the "secret" street food tour, which was amazing.
Our tour guide was fantastic. He taught us so many things about the Hindu and Buddhist religion. By the way, that metal sculpture looking thing to the right is actually a shrine that people pray at when they have a toothache.
Then the next day we went on an exclusive tour of a Buddhist Monastery, and learned about the life of the lamas there. It was absolutely fascinating. The picture below shows the lama and our guide/translator in front of the monastery.
The monastery where the lamas live and pray was unbelievable.
Jay and the lama are holding a book that is over 300 years old. The pile behind them are all wrapped books that were saved from a nearby monastery that was destroyed in the earthquake. They are being kept in this monastery until the other one gets rebuilt. These books are a national treasure.
One more photo of the spectacular buddhas.
And finally, while we were there, the lamas were praying for someone who had died. The family paid the lamas to pray for this person and we were allowed to video what was happening.
Nepal has been quite an adventure and in just a couple days we will be leaving for Thailand!