LSU ACTION 2017
By Prakash Shrestha: at 2017-04-26 00:00:00
I am a Loughborough University student who came to Nepal with fourteen others to volunteer with HELP as part of an Action Project run by Loughborough Student’s Union (LSU). Our time in Nepal totaled just over three weeks, and undoubtedly it was an experience that will stick with us for life.
The fifteen of us arrived in Timbu, a small village in Helambu, after a fun-filled day of white water rafting and bonding over beach bbq’s with some of the Nepali teachers. The bus journey was bumpy and it felt like we were tipping over the cliff-edge for the majority, but we safely arrived and were welcomed with wonderful food, colourful scarves and gratitude.
Timbu is a tiny little village staggered up a hill, which contained friendly locals and curious children. At 1400m up, the views were incredible and we never got sick of them. Once we had all familiarised ourselves with the area, we settled down for the night in the hostel we would be working on for over a week. We cleaned, painted, sanded, built bunkbeds and painted some more. Though the work was repetitive and difficult, particularly in the heat of the day, our goal was clear and we wanted the outcome to be the best we could achieve. A bit of background: in 2015, a group of volunteers from LSU Action had decorated the very same hostel for girls, meaning they didn’t have to walk for up to three hours every morning and afternoon just to attend Timbu’s secondary school. Less than two weeks later, the 2015 earthquake that devastated Nepal, destroyed the hostel. Two years later, April 2017, there we were decorating a brand new rebuilt earthquake resistant hostel, with exactly the same aim as the team from Loughborough prior to us. And in the end, we really felt our hard work paid off. We hope we provided the girls with the hostel they deserve.
Whilst in Timbu, we were lucky enough to experience the Nepalese New Year, and we were welcomed into the celebrations with food and traditional dancing. Happy 2074 everyone! Some of the local children were very eager to help us out with our volunteer work and as a result we formed some close bonds with them, which made it very hard for us to leave. However, our work in Timbu was complete and all fifteen of us were excited to see what else Nepal had to offer.
After a very kind thank you ceremony from HELP and the local community, we readied ourselves for a very, very tough trek. Trekking in Nepal was unexpectedly difficult for every member of our group. We climbed over 1000m in the first half of the first day. It was an incredible, but hugely testing experience. Views of the snow-topped Himalayas and looking down to see how far we had climbed were probably the two things that helped us overcome the mental challenge of trekking the hills and dealing with the altitude. Although the highest we reached was just under 2700m, it was difficult. Things like sunburn and having to purify water to drink complicated matters for us. In our opinion, trekking is something that everyone can achieve but may not be something everyone enjoys, but certainly worth the feeling of accomplishment that comes with completing a hard days walking.
Our next destination was Kathmandu. We hopped on a bus and did a day jam-packed full of sightseeing in and around Nepal’s capital. First was Nagarkot, which supposedly gives the best views of Mount Everest (without going to Everest itself). Of course, it was cloudy and we could barely see the valley below us let alone the Himalayas, but it was still a pretty awesome view. Bhaktapur is Nepal’s old capital and located on the outskirts of Kathmandu. It is a listed World Heritage Site and it is occupied with intricately detailed buildings, palaces and temples built over a thousand years ago. The beauty and history of Bhaktapur makes it a must-see for visitors.
Once we were done admiring Bhaktapur, we headed to Thamel in Kathmandu. Thamel is the touristy downtown area of Kathmandu; we all ended up spending a lot of our money on souvenirs, presents and clothes before meeting for dinner in an Irish pub. It would seem Irish pubs exist everywhere in the world! Thamel in the evening was a huge amount of fun. We got to see several live bands, and ate and drank like kings and queens. Five of us decided to stay out and experience the nightlife; it was “lit” (very enjoyable). Other highlights of Kathmandu were Swayambhunath (the monkey temple) and Kathmandu Durbar Square (shopping and food district).
Other than Kathmandu, we had the opportunity to visit Chitwan National Park and Pokhara, two other popular tourist destinations in Nepal. Whilst travelling between these destinations, we learned about a concept that we would call “Nepali Time”. In other words, the time it is supposed to take to get somewhere in Nepal is always shorter than the time it actually takes, and this is all down to factors such as traffic, landslides and other unknown phenomena. Some advice to travelers in Nepal – leave yourself plenty of time to travel anywhere! Anyway, Chitwan National Park is home to some of the last remaining Bengal tigers and Indian rhinos. We all went on safari whilst there and were lucky enough to see rhinos, snakes, elephants and other animals! Pokhara is situated next to a massive lake. Nine of our group went paragliding in Pokhara and have said it was worth every penny, the views were insanely beautiful and they all enjoyed themselves despite a few of them being afraid of heights! The rest of us went boating on the lake, and in the afternoon all of us relaxed by the lakeside, which was much deserved after how hectic the past couple of weeks had been.
Before we knew it, home time was upon us. We would like to say a massive thank you to HELP, who organised our time out in Nepal, it was such a memorable experience that would’ve been unachievable without them! Also thank you to Mondo Challenge Foundation and LSU Action who coordinated the trip with HELP. Undoubtedly our biggest thank you goes to our HELP guide, Mohan Tamang. Mohan was with us throughout the trip and answered every question we could possibly come up with and looked after our every need. He always had the biggest smile, and did his best to provide us with everything we could’ve ever wanted to gain from our trip to Nepal. We will miss you Mohan, until next time! Loughborough love x