I was settling into the community, becoming closer with the family and learning a lot about Nepali life!
I would wake up at 5am and be greeted by mum. She would give me a bowl of banana biscuits and a pot of Nepali chai tea. The tea was absolutely blissful. It was made with yak milk and was ever so creamy. Droplets of golden fat would accumulate on the surface; it was like drinking molten brass. Mum spoke no English whatsoever, but her lively expression and spirit could not be misunderstood. It was the first time in my life I have had a rapport with somebody without a single utterance. How often in life can you do that? How often can you make friendships that are purely based on spirit?
Then there was Kali, the daughter. She spoke some English and was very keen to practise. She was outstandingly beautiful, tall and captivating. She is one of the rare Nepali girls who was allowed to go to school. She still helped out happily with family chores, like cutting the weeds from the family farm!
The eldest brother was a trained Gurkha warrior. You'd never think it; he was small, very slim and had a very calm, passive nature. I heard he had physically carried previous volunteers while jogging on the mountain paths - his strength wasn't to be underestimated. He was called Krishna, after a major Hindu god. I taught him and the other family members how to make soap using a home saponification process. We infused it with turmeric and cut them into blocks to sell, making the family a small income.
Aside from these lovely home comforts, we had some adventures to do in the local mountains. On one of my days off, we went to explore the old King's Palace in Nuwakot. It wasn't going to be simple. We would have to trek over many mountains, through forests inhabited by wild leopards. We would also have to cross the raging torrents of Trishuli river over an old, poorly-maintained suspension bridge. Fear hadn't really crossed my mind, it was just nice not to be in the medical centre for a change!
After a very long uphill-downhill-uphill-downhill trek, we reached an ancient village that surrounded the King's Palace. The King's Palace was only abandoned recently, and I wanted to know why. The palace was built in the 1800's by King Prithvi Narayan Shah, as a base of operations while he plotted to capture Kathmandu. Future generations of royalty inhabited the palace, but it was recently made derelict when the Nepali people revolted against royalty, and drove them out of the country. This happened after a power struggle in the family, which lead to the son, Dipendra, killing the many of the royal family in a massacre, including the then king and queen, before shooting himself. This happened only a few years ago!
There's a bit of controversy that the event was staged by a family member, as palace guards reported seeing Dipendra being gunned down before the massacre took place. Perhaps we will never know what truly happened, but it was time to explore the site.
People now live in harmony around the structure. It was a pleasure to see! But it was time to head back down to Trishuli, we needed to catch our bus to go back to Gerkhu. There was only one bus to Gerkhu, we couldn't miss it. Down the mountainside we went!
As we crept through the forest, I was suddenly greeted by the raging river, and Trishuli stacked up around it. Finally, we made it!
As the relief swooped in, it was stopped in its flight. The bus for Gerkhu had gone. We were fucked, well and truly. The only option we had was to walk back up to Gerkhu using the mountain roads and cutting through the forest. This would take a long time, and it was about to get dark. We set off quickly. It was an exhausting climb, and many times I just had to dunk my head into a rice paddy and drink the water! As we started to navigate the forest, the lights were turned out. It was dark. Very very dark.
I didn't pack my torch, after all, I never expected this to happen! We knew which way to go, but the lack of vision made it impossible. What didn't help either was the fact that the forest was notoriously inhabited by leopards. They rarely attack groups of people, but still, a vivid imagination doesn't help!
We stopped for a breather, and I couldn't resist the need for a cigarette. As I pulled out my lighter, I had the solution to our navigation problem instantly. My lighter had an inbuilt LED torch. It was rather weak, but did a superb job of illuminating rubble and debris, and the smooth, red mud which was ridiculously slippery! We made it back eventually, shared our stories with the family, and were out for the count after dinner!
The rest of the stay involved a lot of walking and exploration of the mountainside. I watched dramatic sunrises, sunsets and thunderstorms, and grew closer with the family and their lifestyle.
It was time to head back to Kathmandu for a final few days. I had learned so much how people live off the land, and happily at that! I bid farewell to Bibas and his family, had more flowers thrown at me, and took the bus back to Kathmandu. I was greeted by the gang once again, and we shared our stories from the previous 3 weeks. I had spare time before my flight, so I thought I would venture to the monkey temple, Swayambhunath, perched on a small mountain right in the middle of the city. The temple is decorated with flags and gold, and is crawling with wild monkeys!
I descended the long staircase back into the city, made my way back to the hostel, and collected my rucksack. It was time to bid farewell! It was sad to leave everybody behind, but they had good work to do, and I had a new destination to visit. I would fly to Dubai for my second adventure, which you can read about HERE.
Most of the things I learned about life from this trip didn't hit me right away. In fact, it was 2 or 3 months later, after I managed to compare it to life back home in England. I saw a completely new lifestyle, you may consider it an outlook really. After thinking about this in my damp, unheated bedroom in rainy Wales, everything started to make sense. I pieced together the lessons of everything I had seen and done in Nepal.
The Hindu religion separates people into a system of castes. If you have never heard of the caste system, it is essentially a religious class system consisting of tiers. Upper-caste Hindus are believed to be pure and are descendants of the major Hindu gods. They are often the wealthiest. Lower-case Hindus are believed to be impure and are not to be physically touched by upper-caste people. They tend to have the poorest stroke of luck and live in extreme poverty. It sounds like a barbaric system, almost cruel you would probably think.
However, there is a strange harmony in this system. People are happy with the life that the gods have dealt them, because it was determined by divinity. By appreciating your given role in life, you will be reincarnated as a more superior being. It's difficult to complain about this outlook, because people are thoroughly positive about their lives, no matter how menial or insignificant their individual role is, or how impoverished they are. Perhaps we can learn something from this philosophy.
Now I don't think everybody should be believing they are descendant of divine entities. But perhaps instead we could consider a fatalist model of living. Even if the idea of fate is perceived, could it help you? Could your life be happier and more meaningful by imagining it? If it could be, then who cares whether it's true or not?
Hope you enjoyed the adventure! :)