Sunday, 22 November 2015

Goodbye Nepal

This will be my last post on this blog.  My placement has finished, I leave Nepal and return home to the UK later today.  Many thanks to all the people who have been following my blog over the last two years; I hope you have found the posts interesting and informative and enjoyed the photos.

What am I sad to leave behind?
  • Friendly helpful colleagues at GAN Lamjung, that I have been lucky enough to work with. Thank you for your friendship!
  • Students and teachers at the schools I have been working with
  • Beautiful smiling faces of so many Nepali people
  • Bright colours of the women's clothing
  • Never knowing what adventures the next day will bring
  • Sunshine - plenty of it, even during winter months
  • Astounding natural scenery in the hills and mountains
  • Locally grown fruit and vegetables - no food miles!
  • Colourful exotic flowers
Frangipani flowers
Colour and sunshine
Beautiful Annapurna Mountains

What I will not miss?
  • Mad traffic and pollution in Kathmandu
  • The heat and humidity during monsoon time
  • Long bumpy bus journeys on unmade roads
  • Cockroaches!
Remote destination after a long bumpy journey
Nepal is a fascinating country full of rich culture and holding many surprises.  If you haven't yet visited Nepal, make sure you do soon!
I will be coming back here to visit again sometime in the future, but until then "Goodbye".

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Over the Kangla Pass - trek 4

In order to leave the Nar valley we had to cross the Kangla Pass at 5310 metres.  This involved a very long days walk, with nowhere to stay between Nar and Ngawal on the other side.  I don't think we would have made it carrying our rucksacks, but luckily we managed to hire a pony to carry them on the ascent, and then he and his cheerful owner returned to Nar, leaving us to carry them down the other side.

We left Nar before daylight - but not before the threshers had begun their work. Their rhythmic beating woke us around 3.30am!  We walked by torchlight for the first hour, then watched in awe as the sun gradually lit up the mountains around us.

We could see in the distance the position of the pass on the mountain ridge - it looked so far away!
Looking back along the path we followed
It took us 6 hours to reach the pass, and we climbed 1212 metres to get there.  Towards the top breathing was hard because of the altitude and we had to make regular stops. There was snow and ice on the ridge and we passed a half frozen small lake near the top, fed by a tiny glacier.

Our pony man had reached the top well before us, and offered us a cup of hot tea from his flask when we arrived. The pony was munching on a nosebag of oats. The pass was a rocky ridge, covered in ice and snow, with steep drops on either side.  Many of the prayer flags on the chorten there had been weathered to rags by the wind and ice.

What we had not expected was how difficult the descent from the pass would be.  We thought the hard part would be getting up to the top, but going down was equally hard, as the first two hours was on loose scree, and the first hour of that on icy loose scree! From the pass we could see the path winding and zig-zagging through the snow - but there was nothing in this view to give perspective, and it felt a very long way on tired legs.

View looking back at the pass and our decent into the valley.

The descent took us 5 hours and we dropped 1662 metres. Our toes were sore from the constant pressure into the front of our boots.

By the time we reached the village of Ngawal, where we were to stay, we were both exhausted, as this picture of Helen shows!

The one bright point of the descent was the small patch of gentians growing on the hillside. How beautiful they looked amongst the dry brown grass.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Threshing at Nar - trek 3

Nar (middle right) and the surrounding fields
In today's world it is unusual for whole villages to work together as communities, for the benefit of all residents.  However as we walked into the remote village of Nar this is what was happening.  The able bodied of the village were all involved in threshing the barley crop, which had recently been harvested from the surrounding fields and left to dry on rooves in the sun. The atmosphere amongst the workers was one of purpose, everyone had a job to do and there seemed to be no grumbling or shirking.  It was hard work too! The threshing had begun at 3.30am and continued all day until it got dark at around 7pm. Produce from 3 families were threshed each day - and there were around eighty families in total in the village, so many days work!

Barley stalks drying on the house roof.

There were several flattened pieces of land, threshing yards, near our hotel, and there was a buzz of activity there. Teams of around a dozen men, armed with long poles with a rotating flail at the top, were rhythmically beating the barley heads on the ground between them, to remove the grain from the husk.
The men had their heads and most of their faces covered because of the dust.

Dried barley heads waiting for threshing.

The women were on hand to winnow the threshed grain, tossing it into the air from round flat baskets to allow the dust and chaff to blow away.  After several winnowing sessions the grain was packed into yak hair sacks ready to be stored until use.

Winnowing - notice the snow-capped mountains behind

Sack made of yak hair, being filled with barley grain.

As it was two days walk from the nearest road, the residents of this village have to be self-sufficient in their food.  This threshing work is a wonderful example of a community working together for everyones benefit.

Phu - trek 2

A two day walk up the Phu Khola (stream/river), following a narrow gorge, led us to Phu, a remote village not far from the Tibet border.

The scenery along the gorge was stunning - at every turn a new view of interest; eroded rocks and pillars, high snow-capped mountains and even the wild Himalayan 'blue' sheep.

Apart from a couple of deserted winter yak grazing grounds (karka) and their associated flat roofed stone houses, there was no habitation along the gorge.  We had hot food and slept at one isolated house, though it wasn't a hotel.

At another karka two enterprising lads had set up a small cafe/shop where we had tea and biscuits. I'm sure they didn't do much trade, as there were so few people passing that way.

We walked for many hours without seeing a soul, and in one day only saw two muleteers leading their animals.
The path ascended and descended to bypass obstacles such as cliff and landslides. At times we were beside the river, at others high above. We crossed the river several times on precarious-looking wooden bridges.

High above the river
The high mountain scenery around us was spectacular; which ever way we looked there were wonderful mountain views. 

The Phu village and higher valley is guarded by high rocky cliffs, with the river cutting through between them.  
To get into the valley we had to climb a steep rocky hillside up a zig-zag path, and at the top we entered through the archway 'Gateway to Phu'. 

Phu, perched on a small hill in a barren eroded landscape.
The village itself is built on a small hill.  Many families have moved away, down to less remote places, and many houses damaged in the earthquake do not seem to be being repaired. The village houses, built of stone, have flat rooves and seem to be build, one on top of the next, in tiers like a child's building bricks.  The houses are small and dark inside, with very few windows, to minimise the draughts from the bitter wind.  Wood for burning has to be fetched from far away, so a fire for warmth is a luxury. The collected wood is stacked outside each house. Cooking is done on a wood fire and the family congregate around that to keep warm. We went to bed early just to keep warm!
Very few windows in the houses.
The nearby hill has a Buddhist monastery on it, and we walked over there on our rest day spent in Phu. The hillside was covered in chortens, mani stones and prayer flags, and there were good views up the valley of the path leading to Tibet and Upper Mustang. It looks very barren and remote!
The path along the hillside, leading off into the distance to Tibet and Upper Mustang