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Jim returns from Nepal

Jim returns from Nepal

In September 2015 Mountain Kingdoms' Operations Manager, Jim Davies, visited Nepal to carry out inspections of the trekking routes and lodges, plus visit charities and villages Mountain Kingdoms' support. Below is a report about Jim's visit to Nepal and how life is returning to normal following the major earthquake in April.



Jim's report on Nepal


Kathmandu

Upon arrival at Kathmandu airport and meeting my guide I was transferred to the Hyatt hotel which is just north of the airport. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect to see in Kathmandu as most of the TV reports had concentrated on showing damaged or destroyed buildings and temples. I was however very pleasantly surprised, the houses and streets all looked great and were actually in a better condition than the last time I was in Kathmandu a few years ago when they were in the middle of widening the streets to make way for increased traffic.

Lukla, Namche and trekking routes

The flight to Lukla was exciting and went off without a hitch, the smooth landing was a testament to the skill of the select few pilots that trained to fly into this remote mountain runway. After completing our trekking permit formalities we started our trek up to Monjo. The trail was in surprisingly good condition with only a few small landslips evident along the way. These slips were already being worked on by the trail crews and the work had actually been completed by the time I returned to Lukla 7 days later.

There were a few buildings in the Lukla region that showed signs of earthquake damage with about 10% showing damage in the form of cracks or collapsed walls. There are lots of signs of building work going on in the region with porters carrying up building supplies recently flown into Lukla and the stonemasons and builders at work to repair the damage. The feeling in the region is very much of a people looking to rebuild and to get back on with their lives. It’s actually a very positive spirit and it’s fascinating to see the construction of these houses with builders happy to stop and pose for pictures.

After Namche the route shows little sign of damage and most of the houses along the way seem mostly undamaged. There are still buildings that have suffered but these do tend to be older private dwellings that were built using older building techniques such as mud bricks. All of the tea houses that we use are built in a more modern style and have been thoroughly checked and are absolutely fine.

On my trek I got as far as Ama Dablam Base Camp and then it was time to turn around and head back for Lukla. We headed back a slightly different route and again found the trail to be in almost perfect condition, certainly not in any worse state that you would expect after a normal monsoon and again the trail builders were hard at work repairing any sections that needed attention.

It was nice to return to the bright lights of Lukla, with fresh coffee, muffins and also the Rugby World Cup showing in a café. My stay in Lukla was slightly extended due to bad weather but our partners on the ground worked hard at getting my flight rearranged whilst I was free to explore all that Lukla had to offer.

Bandipur

When I did arrive back in Kathmandu I was whisked off to Bandipur, to visit a new lodge our clients will be staying in for two nights on our new Mid Hills & Village Heartlands walking holiday. The lodge is situated on a ridge top about 40 minutes’ drive from Bandipur and offers uninterrupted views of the beautiful terraced landscape on either side of the ridge. The lodge itself is wonderfully designed and the rooms are beautifully furnished. Each room has a veranda overlooking the stunning views towards the Annapurna mountain range in the distance.

Pokhara and Kathmandu

From here my journey took me to Pokhara, one of my favourite towns in Nepal. I could not see any sign of earthquake damage in Pokhara and the town did not seem any different from when I visited 3 years ago. I then flew back to Kathmandu to visit the main sightseeing areas of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur. In Kathmandu I visited Boudhanath Stupa, Swayambhunath Stupa (Monkey Temple) and Durbar Square. The first two sights did show signs of damage with a few of the buildings destroyed at Monkey temple but with the main stupa still standing, it is still a site that is very popular with Nepalese people and is still very much worth a visit. The next site of Durbar Square in Kathmandu was a different story with many of the main temples either destroyed or in need of being taken back down to the ground and completely rebuilt. It was a sad place to be as you have a real sense of how much damage the earthquake caused. The Nepalese are determined to rebuild these important sites back to their original beauty using traditional building techniques and materials. They hope to have all the building work completed within 5 years’ time and the building work has already started.

Boudhanath Stupa actually survived the earthquake without the top of the stupa collapsing but the building was damaged and the decision was taken to rebuild the top section. The building work is well underway and there is a fascinating photo exhibit in the grounds of the various stages of the building work. Again this is still a very interesting site to visit.

Patan Durbar Square and Bhaktapur both also show many signs of earthquake damage with large wooden props used to support the damaged walls of the historic buildings. They are still very important and popular locations for the Nepalese people and there is a great buzz around the sites. A lot of the intricate wooden carvings survived and there is still very much to see at these sites, and of course any entrance fees collected go towards the fund to repair these magnificent areas.

Ginette Harrison School and SHIVA Charity

My next visit was to the Ginette Harrison School near Bhaktapur. This school was set up in the memory of the famous British Mountaineer Ginette Harrison and is a charity that Mountain Kingdoms is very proud to support. I was lucky enough to be shown around each class room of the school which now provides education to around 200 pupils. The school was not heavily damaged by the earthquake but many of the surrounding village houses were destroyed and temporary housing is now being provided to these people via the SHIVA Charity. The school is fantastic and the children are lovely smiley happy kids who genuinely love being able to go to a school and learn. The continued support by Mountain Kingdoms’ clients means that we are able to help provide more facilities and educational tools for these children.

The final visit of my trip was to the farmer and his family who received one of the three cows provided by SHIVA Charity. The money raised for these cows was collected by local fundraising in Wotton-under-Edge just across from our office in our local bakery. The cows are used to produce milk in order for the families to sell and help provide a supplemental income to a family to make life just a little bit easier. It was a privilege to be welcomed in to the temporary structure that the family are now using after the earthquake destroyed their home. The fitting end to my trip was a delicious cup of tea using free milk provided by daisy the cow!

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