Monica emails from Kathmandu

By Nigel Pegler. Filed in volunteer stories  |  
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Monica

25th October

This is only going to be a short email, as I’m feeling pretty weary, so I’ll hopefully do the camping trip tomorrow – suffice it to say, it was great, if exhausting.
We got back to our hotel about 6.30pm, desperate for shower and hairwash, but at reception they couldn’t find my laptop, just the main luggage. I was so upset, and after running up and down to my original room from reception 5 times, up 4 flights of stairs, I was near to collapse. They called in the boss man from front desk who said he would come in, but I asked to give me 15 minutes for shower. Of course, no sooner had the tepid water started to come from showerhead, than there was a knock on my door which I ignored, only to be followed by hammering. I cautiously opened door a crack & peered round , and front desk man said please, can he just have 5 minutes of my time! Needless to say, I asked him to wait till I’d showered! Typical Nepal! Thank God, the laptop turned up in the luggage room , I located it myself! We were so weary, we only celebrated with a small martini & lemonade!
Today, it was back to Naxal…… to complete scrubbing the boys’ rooms (or rather instruct them), and also to take up holey mat from girls’ room, in preparation for new curtains & mat in girls’ room. It’s no exaggeration to say that we must have swept 40+ years of dirt from floor after removing that filthy thing. There was at least 1/2 inch of dust under it. It was mopped and cleaned with disinfectant, with assistance of some of older children who are still on holiday. I also scrubbed the dirt from 4 “Holy Cows” on wall at almost ceiling height (I balanced between unstable bunkbeds)! One of the girls was not allowed to go within 3 feet of them, as it was the first day of her period. It’s certainly different here. So, plan for tomorrow is another treatment with cockroach killer, and phenol, which they use for cleaning.
During course of afternoon, I took two of older children out to shops to buy some twinkling lights which they use to decorate houses for 5 day Tihar festival. Also bartered to get48 big bananas for one pound 50.
So by 6pm, we were really ready for home (it’s getting dark by then, only to be told by one of the boys “There is some badluck for you” Apparently the gate guardman had gone off on his bike somewhere, and locked the room with all our things in, so we couldn’t get in. Added to that, as we were walking round the building, there was suddenly a torrent of cold water from the overflowing water tank above onto our heads!! We were so cold and annoyed. Anyway, 5 lovey boys saw our plight and kept us entertained, loaned us their fleeces (which we’d bought them last week), and shared some of their secrets. Life is not easy for them, to put it mildly.
Anyway, we’ve had a good evening & excellent dinner. Looking forward to tomorrow, which is day for worshipping cows (today was dogs, which were all going around with marigolds round their necks.
I’m taking 2 of boys shopping for veg, and will supervise making a pasta and veg and tomato sauce, followed by a fruit salad
Camping news soon!
Monica

29th October

Have just got back in after a lovely dinner at the home of Ganesh, the head of Board of Governors & his wife. We’ve been back from camping 4 days, and at last have time and energy to put some notes down (we took today off, to do some shopping for our own trek later this week to Langtang area, and also bought the children socks & tights for school. They go back this week after the long holiday.
We had 4 nights camping in the Shivapuri national park, which is just over one hours drive from Kathmandu. It is famous for being the “resting place ” of Lord Shiva (one of the greatest Hindu deities) after he flew from the sacred Mt Kailash in Tibet. The trek was about 43 kms and probably 7,000 feet of ascent!! Much more difficult than last year, but probably overall better. We were blessed with fabulous weather – clear blue skies and sunshine in day, with views of Manaslu, Himal Ganesh & Langtang; and beautiful starry nights -I’ve never seen the milky way so fantastically.
The glow worms and fireflies were amazing, and we were lulled to sleep by the thousands of crickets around us.
We had 18 chlidren, from 8 to 16 years and they were all just great. Hard to believe that the little ones could carry so much on their backs – minimum weight must have been 10kg, though some of us had more. Anne & I struggled with the altitude, as we went up to to 3,000 metres. Thank goodness for the acetazolamide!.
As soon as we got off the bus on day one, it was a near vertical ascent, each of us had about 15 kg – tent, sleeping bags, cooking utensils & food, and, of course a small supply of whiskey & sprite for the first 2 nights!. I did prove to my self though, that I could live for 5 days without coffee! Anne put it very well “This seemed like a good idea from my armchair in Belfast”. Anyway, the bags got lighter, and as the teenage boys became fitter, they offered to carry our tent for us, so it would have been foolish of us to refuse this offer!
The first campsite was in near luxury conditions, with a handbasin undercover & a proper loo. What bliss – except for when Anne lost her wristwatch down the open loo. All I could do was laugh – probably hysteria!. The ground under our sleeping bags was incredibly lumpy, and on subsequent nights I was woken by the cold – apparently several of the children were two to a sleeping bag, with the extra one over them.It was sometimes very windy at night as well, with thunder & lightening in distance.
As it was dark by 6.30 pm, we were usually in bed for 8.00pm, and to our surprise had little problem dropping off! (even after the whiskey was finished)
We were usually up before 6.00am, and waited for the pan of water to boil for tea, followed by egg porridge, sausages, halva, bread & peanut butter. I had my own supply of cornflakes. On the last evening, the rice had finished & the rest had pasta, so I had cornflakes with packet mushroom soup. Amazing how good things taste when you’re hungry!
Of course washing the pots was always in cold water, often near ice cold. Not easy when Santosh, one of the boys in my cooking group had burnt the halva into the pan!
Bacause Shivapuri is a national park, and there are several scout huts about, there are a few memorials there, including Sherpa Tenzing & Hillary.
Anne & I had been a little concerned that Chandra, our Buddhist man from last year, was not going to be there this year, as he’s in USA, but instead we had 4 local men, who were just fabulous. We’d asked them to speak to the children in Nepali, it was more important that they understood than us. The men were so jolly, kind & helpful. we had the same types of games – group working, trust etc as last year, but in the evenings & chat times we sang songs, laughed a lot, and one evening had a campfire (one of the younger boys fell asleep, and nearly fell in, but they don’t get worked up by such minor things here!
On next to the last day, the hike was 6 hours, with just short of 3,000 steps to the summit of Shivapuri Hill (yes, at almost 3,000 meters they call it a hill). The views from top were splendid, and a man was setting up camp there for the night to do puja, or sacrifice. We then descended to the next campsite, which was in a grotty place – damp and dark. Anne & I selected the flattest bit of terrain, but were told we couldn’t set up our tent there, as it was too close to ” Shiva’s lingum”. Yes, so much we don’t know.
The following morning, we chatted with two Holy Men who had lived up there for about 15 years, and meditate about 10 hours a day. We then descended to the source of the famous Bagwati river, which we then walked along almost 2,000 steps down, and eventually to our bus.
No wonder my right hip wa s suffering the next 2 days, but I was surprised to have very bad symptoms of rotator cuff syndrome in my right shoulder. I think both are settling new, and I’m sure won’t recur, as we’ve got a porter for our Langtang trek.
That’s all for now, but I’ll write again before going away, to fill you in on the Tihar festival, which just finishes today.
Love to all
Monica

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