2014 Trip Blog
This is the blog from the 2014 Jungle Jamboree. Most of the posts were written by the Explorer Scouts on the trip.
Mon, Oct 20, 2014
We got on our pirate bus and drove to Pashu. We walked down the river to where there was a religious ceremony taking place where people burn the dead and float the ashes down the river. We saw a monkey casually walking along beside us, and then he started making monkey noises. We then watched the burning bodies ceremony and listening to the music on the other bank. Three men were dancing for ages with fire. We then walked up the hill to get a better view of the temple and saw lots more monkeys and monkey pooh. It was a very cultural evening but none the less very cool. We were very hungry so we went to K2 chicken and ate chicken. Very yummy! We also played a big game of cheat.
After living patan we went to a small restaurant for lunch. We ate mystery meat dumplings and then got back on the coach and travel to swayambhunr also known as the monkey Temple. To get to the top with had to climb 365 steps at the top we had a spectacular view off the Kathmandu valley. The temple is over 2500 years old and draped with prayer flags. Monkeys are allowed to roam free and are not scared of people. We then headed back to the hotel for a quick rest before dinner.
With everyone jet lagged we were supposed to be up by 8, of course this didn’t happen. After a filling first Nepalese breakfast we headed out to explore Kathmandu.
Our first port of call was a temple where we were all blessed by a living goddess. With red rice on our foreheads we carried on with our journey.
We arrived on a lookout point where we had a chance to take many pictures of Nepalese temples. We entered a temple and spent a long time looking at various artefacts in the museum. We then headed out for lunch
And we were off on the trip. 16 days of poor hygiene and strange food. We got on the coach to Heathrow for 2:30 hours. It was long, hot and tiring. We got to Heathrow and spent ages waiting for them to work out how to make the check in work. They got it working so we checked in, passed through security and boarded the plane. We were spread out throughout the plane by the air hostesses who were still directing people even though there was only one way to go. We spent 7 hours watching films, sleeping and eating rubbish plane food. Touching down in Muscat
Tue, Oct 21, 2014
Woke up early this morning, had breakfast, then we are ready for our journey to Meghauli. What a journey! Hair raising isn’t the word!! After several accidents involving other vehicles and one truck ending far down the bank, in the river, we arrived safely in Meghauli.
We felt very welcome as soon as we arrived in Meghauli. Everyone was keen to say hello and the children wanted to try out their English. We were also welcomed by the Nepalese scouts in a ceremony. Where we were each given a beautiful garland of flowers. The scouts were very friendly, constantly offered to help us carry our bags and wanting to talk. After an amazing sunset it got dark quickly and we had to cover up to avoid mosquito bites! The camp they’ve built here is incredible and we’re currently sitting in the mess hut, waiting for dinner which the Nepalese are kindly cooking for us. We’ve also been admiring the stars which are so much brighter and impressive than back home!
Woke up at 6:30 and fell back to sleep. ‘Oops!’ Then woke up at 7:03 and had an uber quick shower and rushed to breakfast for 7:15. So a casual 15 minutes late. Oopsy. Breakfast was “gurt lush” (Bristolian accent). Then got in bus and looked at the views which were spectacular. Then arrived 8 hours later.
Wed, Oct 22, 2014
Elephant. Safari. A safari. On an elephant. I can’t think of a better set of jungle activities (or at least none I’d care to mention in civilised company). The pure excitement created by the prospect was enough to fend off the horrendous feeling of getting up at 6am the morning after a rather excited and petrol fuelled campfire. For those perhaps slightly less familiar with the concept, you sit on a rectangular platform securely tied on and bordered by a wooden rail as your elephant (in our case Anjeli, 35, Nepal) gracefully tramples through Jungle undergrowth. Despite it being labelled as a rather boring morning by our guide, we saw horned deer, wild boar. Wild peacocks, a serpent eagle and tiger… prints. However the most wonderful thing was how the rider and elephant communicated. The elephant responded with mesmerizing understanding. Overall the experience was absolutely amazing and a wonderful start to a horribly early morning.
We woke up in the morning surprised by the intensity of the rain and the thickness of the fog. We could barely see the ground in front of us. We cut down a bamboo shoot with a sickle, cut it and removed the thick branches. With small bits of bamboo, again cut with a sickle, we created a freestanding mimic flag pole from the plans for the actual one. The was a huge fallen bamboo stalk then Tarzan (aka Newton) walked up the stalk with a sickle and hacked off all the branches on the tree, making his way to the main problem, the leafy end was trapped between a split branch like a slingshot. Newton jammed his sickle in a tree, put his legs on the surrounding trees and tugged. Below, everyone was pulling their hardest. Finally the tree budged but only a little. After a long strenuous time the tree was free so Newton did the same with the trees before and we tugged. The stalk was so long that it reached the crocodile infested lake. Newton pulled out his scythe and climbed down the tree performing amazing acrobatics and instantly hacked at the branches.
Started walking from camp at 8 o’clock. We ventured into the jungle and searched for rhinos and elephants and crocodiles and other cool animals. We then stumbled upon deer and a massive stag. Then suddenly we found a river and had to cross barefooted but sadly got leeches on our legs. Then we sat down for ages at our halfway point, tired and sweaty. Rehydrated and ready to go we set of on our big adventure. Then suddenly out of nowhere a man on a super huge elephant casually strolled right past us. Then we had to cross the river again but Emily jumped on the guides back! Tired and exhausted we stumbled back in to camp.
At around 4:30 we all went up to the friendship clinic where there was an elephant covered in drawings and patterns in chalk. A lot of photos were taken and we got to feed the elephant with sugar cane sticks. With a few people up top we all walked along the road to the main streets. At around half way a small crowd of people came dancing with a lot of people catching up behind them. There were a lot of children running around celebrating the festival. We then all followed this crowd, along with the elephant, to the main street where a lot more people joined in on the dancing. A circle was made as the main dancers took to the middle and took us with them. Women began to sing and we all watched. The procession continued in as we walked back, talking to all the Nepalese children. The main singing women joined us back at camp, singing songs of good luck and welcome, and dancing as the sky grew dark. The evening was full of exciting atmosphere and energetic dancing.
This afternoon we went to the opening ceremony of the local community centre. This all sounds quite straightforward but not in Nepal! Firstly we were greeted by an elephant painted and covered in red and gold finery. I was chosen, with 3 others from a sponsoring company, to ride on the elephant and we set off into town with everyone following. We felt very important high up on the elephant! The band arrived and we danced our way into town with the elephant at the centre of the parade. All the scouts joined in, dancing and jiggling like the locals. When we get to the town we climb down the elephant’s tail and are greeted by the women and covered all over in red tikka. We are given garlands and flowers and more red tikka. The elephant party then participate in the Hindu ceremony to thank the gods and celebrate the community centre. We throw flowers, rice, seeds and red tikka and circle the shrine to our right. After many speeches, lots of dancing and more red tikka we parade our way back to town with Nepalese children in hand. The scouts do us proud and join in without a care in the World. Some of them have mastered the hip wiggle, just like the locals! We depart the elephant and head home ready for more celebrations. Just an ordinary day in Nepal! Who knows what will happen tomorrow….
Thu, Oct 23, 2014
I had been dreaming about it all night and when I woke up I was not disappointed. The jungle is a cruel mistress. Blood, toil, tears, sweat, water, mud, and dung. By the time we were finished all of us were dripping with sweat and out of breath. We marched for hours on end, through ferocious forest, raging rivers and garial infested grasslands. During the expedition, many injuries were inflicted upon our intrepid and of heroes, the majority of which were sustained by man eating invertebrates. A leech’s suck can cause some devastating wounds and, alas, before long many a brave scout was riddled with the withering bloodsuckers. Two hours in AMD the dashing and handsome Ben Whitfield had performed several heart stopping blood transfusions to our moist demons of the jungle. Before long, a miracle beset us. Four horny appeared in the water in front of us. We tried to remain unseen, yet the rhinos scampered swiftly into the gloomy bosom of a darkening jungle. After many hours of suffering we limped back to the camp, just as the blood coloured sun was setting, casting am ethereal haze over Nepal in its entirety, giving us a sense of purpose other than eating drinking and making merry
Bamboo is an incredibly versatile grass. Not only does it look good in your garden but it is also a great element for erecting tents. Today, me along with a handful of able scouts were set the simple task of putting up tents for the soon to arrive Nepalese scout troops. Little did we know the poles and pegs for each had been sold off at local auction. Confused by the nonexistence of the poles we set out to fashion our very own bamboo tent condiments. The process of slicing and dicing using sexy sickles and shiny saws soon brought out the samurai in each and every one of us. Soon the air was filled with fragments of bamboo. As the shards settled, an almost perfect pile of pegs stood proudly at our feet and next to them on a velvet carpet the poles were stacked high! More than 20 seconds later we all stood back and admired our work, the tent finally up and in the ground lay the wreckage of our beaten pegs. We lay down in the grass. To anyone else it may just have looked like we had let rise to a couple of tents, we had done much more for we had each learned that big or small we are all strong and all equal.
In the evening a group of men and women from the village performed traditional dance around our campfire. These were singers, dancers, and elaborate routines. Everyone got involved when the stick dance began, with some picking it up far quicker than others. An entertaining end to a packed day for many, a good time was had by all.
Life is much less troublesome from an elephant’s back. Our only worry being the occasional leaf in the face. From the height of the canopy, we presided over thick jungle, two rivers, vibrant clearings and exhilarating open plains.
It was coming to the first pool where we saw our first rhino! A veritable colossus despite our own ride! Resembling a dangerous, armoured and huge cow. Everyone held their breath as it stood up from its mud bath to regard us. This moment was extended over 5 minutes of silence, before we reluctantly moved off.
After the spectacle of the elephant crossing the river, we found ourselves in a small plain, immediately spotting am eagle and a crane. Then, coming to another waterfall we came across our second and third rhinos – a mother and a baby – that were fairly inquisitive until their sense of smell compensated for their poor eyesight!
Next we spotted two wild peacocks and three white spotted deer in the undergrowth, which were suitably spooked by the creature, which requires 250kg of food a day, which was thundering towards them.
Finally it was time to go home, and we set out across a vast plain with heavy hearts. Then the combination of two distant grey shapes and the eagle eyes of out jungle guide saved the day. Two more rhinos! Another mother and child, barely looking up from their lunch of thick grass. An incredible trip – we saw 5 of the 503 rhino residents of Chitwan National Park!
Much love to all the folks at home
After a short but very bumpy ride crammed in the back of an ambulance. Adam, Alex, Ben W and I arrived at the remote village of Shukanagrar to visit a school. Some new facilities had recently been built, clean, modern and even earthquake proof! We had heard that a scout group was meeting there that morning but weren’t sure what to expect. A huge effort was made to welcome us with flowers and handshakes all round. Then, in one of the classrooms, we helped with the investiture of 31 scouts into a three week old scout group by distributing neckerchiefs and badges. It also involved a lot more salutes and handshakes. We were blown away by how well-behaved, well presented and professional they seemed. They’ve set the bar for the camporee!
(Ed- it’s amazing how far £1000 a year will go, and that includes paying the leaders).
Building a flag pole is not a simple task. The main objective was to build it bigger than last time. Apparently they’re roughly the same.
To start the process we built a model out of mini bamboo. Turns out that none of us are that good at building a model, especially when distracted by a possible crocodile attack. The model was structurally unsound, it didn’t stand up, and the croc didn’t come, turned out it had moved.
The leaders decided that the design of the model was at fault, not us, so they changed it. We moved a selection of bamboo poles to the little island, found some top (which took a lot longer than expected) and got started.
Turns out it takes a long time to build and erect a flag pole. First we had to untangle the rope. Then we had to tie the crossbar, tripod and karabiners together. The final stage was putting up the flag pole. It took a team of scouts and leaders to pull it up and peg it down. But now it stands. My only worry is how we’re going to take it down.
Today an animal of mass destruction arrived and had a bath. First we fed it some apples then the first victims got on its back and were carried into the water where they thought they would get sprayed. But it got worse. The elephant gracefully sat down, like the chilled out dog that followed us (seriously, we don’t know whose it is but now it’s called Roland), and everyone descended into the water. Then it had its first wash. After this the second group came in the same way but this time there was an accident; someone hurt their back. The third group went very differently as the elephant collapsed while Alex was getting on, which left him stuck between her legs so it tried to kick him. Luckily he’s hench so he was OK. Understandably there were no more rides after that. P.S. Ollie says hi.
Alex and Ollie
On the third day of being in Meghauli all the scouts went to the village and cleaned up most of the litter. It was hard work in the heat. We walked through the dusty roads of Meghauli, pulling litter out of the road and the scrubs. Lots of the locals helped us clear the roads. They’ve been helping us since we arrived in camp. When we got back we were all very hot so we got in the river and had a swim and played tag in the water.
The jungle walk was a very enjoyable activity which involved admiring animals such as a loud grumpy Rhino, a crocodile, and a deer. Most of the group had a bloody experience with leeches lurking on their legs. But the views were magnificent and everyone had a good day.
Sat, Oct 24, 2014
The ceremony of blessing my ‘brother’ Sheera today involved: lighting candles made from leaves, by my ‘mother’, and waving the flames around Sheera’s head; sprinkling water over him; and, of course, applying tikka to his forehead. It was all a lot more difficult than it sounds so I did need a bit of help from my mother.
I visited a really friendly Nepalese family, and we basically chilled on their porch. They flooded me with delicious food, but there was so much that I had to stop eventually. Later on they gave me tikka, which is a colourful line of paint on the forehead. It was a bit awkward at first but to be fair they were really nice and the grandma had decent dance moves.
So, tikka, an awesome celebration with my new family. The scout showing me around was also my age. We started off with other guys playing pool, we were hilariously terrible. We then moved into the house where the celebration begun. We poured flowers everywhere and the sister put stars on our heads and gave us gifts, in return we gave 500 rupees.
We ate rice and chicken, peacock and buffalo. Peacock had an odd taste.
Today was the festival of the brothers and sisters – I went to Laximi and Sammins house in the village. It was nice as I was between Ben W and Catherine, all on the same street. Their house was an eye catching white and pink bungalow. Their house consisted of a living room and 3 bedrooms. Behind their house they had a kitchen, shower, toilet, ???. I entered their house through a doorway encompassed by colourful flowers, pictures and paper chains. Laximi lives with her brother, mother, father and grandmother. I was greeted by everyone, then asked to sit and given some sweet tea. We then watched some Nepalese music video and, to my surprise, Gangham Style. I helped the grandmother make leaf bowls that would later be lit in celebration of good health. I and Sammi then went to the village shop to buy a lighter as he had lots of fireworks. After going back to the house Kisthna (her father) and Sammi moved the different medicinal herbs they grew behind the house I sat down on a flowery mat to receive my blessing and my tikka – I even got to put a tikka on someone else! I then received an assertion of Nepalese snacks. After half an hour I was then given lunch of rice, dhal and and mutton. They both laughed at me for 5 minutes for no reason. Even when they stopped they wouldn’t say why. I then met up with Catherine and Ben. Laximi and her friends decided to have a race across a huge field. This was around midday so it was already hot and sticky outside. Once I and Ben had finished we almost collapsed. Next we walked into the clean water project. It is a really ??? water tower project that will deliver clean water to 20,000 people. Afterwards we went back to Laximi’s house where I was offered even more food! Following my fourth meal of the day it was time to say goodbye. Following prolonged formalities Sammi wished me to get even more food.
This family was the most hospitable people I have ever known, accepting a complete stranger into their family. I was treated like royalty all day and felt bad for not helping out more. It amazes me how people with so little are so quick to share everything they have. I got on very well with everyone and there was even talk of marriage! This is by far my favourite day of the trip so far.
‘Today, she put the tikka…’
I got invited by a small Nepalese boy to come to his house to become his brother. It was the final day of the second most important festival, called divali. When I got to his house I met his family and ate with them. They were really nice to me and very hospitable; they made sure my plate wasn’t empty. After eating the boys sat on a matt outside and Abbeshack’s sister were going to put on the tikka. They put them on and I became part of the family.
I’ve visited Yogesh. He was very kind and welcoming when the ceremony was happening as we were sitting cross legged on a carpet. One sister poured water around the carpet. After his they rubbed oil in my hair and poured it in my ears. They then powdered my face. They made a paste of white flour and spread it on my forehead. They then dotted it using coloured flours. They used 7 colours. They also gave me a t-shirt with “I love Nepal” on it and a hat. A brother also invited me to feel “as if I was at home.” Yogesh also offered to let me stay free of charge or my parents if we ever visit Nepal.
Today I was privileged enough to harness the mighty power of the tikka. When waking up this morning, a tear slipped from my sodden lips. I was expected to spend my day with a family I had never met before, celebrating their second biggest festival, trying desperately not to muck the whole thing up. Once I had arrived I was relieved to find that the family was talkative and convivial. I knew the last thing I wanted was to spend 5 hours in dark silence. The family was keen to tour me around their humble abode. The rest of the day ran pretty smooth, with tikka successfully applied and gifts exchanged. I came home that night with the tikka hole in one!!
Muting the alarm at 7:00am, I lay back for a few more minutes of peace. Knocking the sides of the tent on the way back sending a splattering of cold condensation on every inch of exposed skin. Another mysterious day at ??? lay ahead. I walked over to the mess shelter for my usual coffee and bowl of cereal with slightly warm milk and runny yoghurt. Today was the conclusion to a 5 day festival of light culminating in invitations to our host house to join in with the celebrations – a colourful affair resulting in rice starch and coloured powder made from a number of tress and grasses including blue bamboo grown in the cold highlands of the Himalayas being placed on the middle of my forehead and the transaction of gifts and money.
I spent my time with two local kids exchanging anecdotes of our lives. And comparative cultural traditions. Nepal is in the midst of massive change. Since the end of the civil war. Hospitality and generosity seems to be instilled from an early age and the recent abolishment of the caste system has made a significant difference to the native people.
After more generous portions of traditional food we took a walk to the water project. As we walked through the agricultural street, groups of people bustled round mats, gambling with dice. Both children and adults won or lost their money but all with laughter and joy regardless of the outcome.
The 30m concrete structure dominated the sky, towering above any structure near it. As we approached the sprawling bamboo scaffold came into focus. What initially looked like a random wall of poles soon showed an ordered structure of skilled pioneers, skilled in lashings and knots. We walked home before god turned the light out on another beautiful day.
Today I left camp on a motorbike where every bump threw me up and down and all around. I met my new family and they welcomed me with open arms (something that never happens at home, *cough*, mum *cough*) my new dad then made the tea without me asking (take note, first father). I then got to know my new brother and sister. My new sister was a significant improvement on my old one. Me and my brother then took part in the tikka after which I felt blessed and privileged to be accepted and allowed to take part in their family event. They then fattened me up like Hansel through kindness and food which never stopped coming. After many minutes and two goals by Barcelona I was finally allowed to finish the never ending plate of food. I then fought a heroic battle with a frog ninja in the form of a three year old child. After an epic fight I lost with a sword through my chest. My brother, sister and I then began the perilous journey back, walking in the intense heat of Nepal for what felt like forever. So, after five minutes we got a lift on another motorbike even smaller than the first and with no suspension. Upon return to the village centre I was forced into some sort of dancing but was given an amazing hat in return for my efforts to add to my collection back home in Bristol. We attempted to go into the jungle to see a rhino but only made it as far as the football field where I earned the hut frame monkey badge from the goal posts like, you guessed it, a monkey. Then I climbed down for a race across the football pitches and back. Though it was a tough run I emerged victorious then left for camp to finish my tikka.
Oh, and everyone in England: Hello, hope you are having a great time as well, and having lots of fun but not too much fun (pointing to mum and dad).
My adventure started with Hari (one of our leaders) introducing me to Anelum. On the walk there she didn’t really talk much. I must admit I was terrified. I had no idea what was going to happen, who I was going to meet or what was expected of me. In hindsight I shouldn’t have been worried.
When I arrived I was sat down outside their house. They lived in a collection of typical Meghauli buildings: bamboo structures covered in mud (and dung) plaster. I felt slightly out of place, sat with the granddad, watching a family of 14 people work together in perfect harmony. In the light conversation I had with their granddad I was informed that Anelum had cancer in her leg and had only got back from her treatment in India two days ago. The clinic was paying for the treatment for them. After that the conversation died.
Half an hour after I had arrived the grandfather left again and the last 2 members arrived with a guest. Tom Pearson. I was slightly relieved that he had come. It meant that I always would have someone to talk to.
At 11, the ceremony began. I sat bare foot on woven straw mats. I didn’t sit with the women, I sat with the men. I watched as the women applied the tikka to the men’s faces, a line of white cream with coloured powder attached. Then it was my turn, the eldest some applied mine but it was a circle. When I applied the tikka to his head it was a bit wonky but in my opinion it wasn’t that bad.
During the ceremony we were given gifts which we opened after an incredible meal. I was given a beautiful green traditional dress, which I wore. We then went on a motorbike ride. The experience was exhilarating to say the least. We drove for a while and stopped a few times to look at the river. Everything was very beautiful and calm. I loved every second.
When we returned to camp we realised it was five. We were two hours late. I had been on the bike in my dress and rumours had spread. Did you know that according to some, I’m now married! How exciting.
I now have a third sister!!! There, now I’ve got your attention you can read this blog and find out why.
So there I was eating breakfast, minding my own business when the leaders told us that we were going to get invited y come of the villagers to participate in a ceremony involved with the festival of light. As soon as I left the table a girl named Anisha Thala invited me to her home. For 2 hours I watched “The Smurfs 2” until it was time to start. I was offered something called the tikka (hint, it is not a curry) the tikka is when you have different coloured paints and they are dabbed on your forehead. I accepted this offer, as well as Anisha, we had now become brother and sister. We all had great fun and it was a good experience, even if every move I made resulted in laughter!
The hospitality of the people of Meghauli is incredible. I set out this morning with Bhorsa who was apparently my new sister and returned at 14:30 with a new family. The extended family system of living in one house is especially strong in Nepal, and important. Bhorsa’s parents both work in Qatar, and so upon walking through the threshold of her house I was introduced to her aunt and uncle, their 4 year old son, another of Bhorsa’s cousins from her father’s side – who mistook me for an uncle – and her grandmother. I was given the seat of honour outside as the food was prepared, and talked to Bhorsa’s uncle who travelled 80km from the school he teaches in to return for the festival. We discussed the career prospects in Nepal, the state of Nepalese democracy and the importance of the local wildlife before, naturally, we went inside and watched WWE Smack down wrestling on TV.
Perhaps one of the greatest examples of the difference of our two cultures would be a comparison of our houses. Bhorsa’s house was a small bungalow with 2 bedrooms for its six inhabitants, a kitchen and an outside area with a clay floor. However, the space was still ample and was extremely convivial. Next came the ceremony of the tikka, where siblings give thanks to each other. Bhorsa’s uncle went first on a matt in the centre as his wife made a circle of lemon grass oil around him. She then smashed a nut with a stone and took position in front of her husband. Next, she held a template of a playing card with a rectangle cut from it to his forehead, and coloured it with a yellow paste. Then, she added five dots of different coloured powders to the yellow stripe, and handed him a tray of food. Next it was my turn, and resplendent in my tikka and garland of marigolds I handed Bhorsa a gift of 500 rupis and some chocolate in return.
My tray of food was delicious, though my polite conversation was more than slightly demurred by my inadvertently eating a stupidly hot chilli. Pain like I’ve never known. I cried more than great Priam as he saw Hector slayed outside the gates of troy, wailed like Orestes as he learnt of Agamemnon’s cruel demise and wept rivers to rival those of Dido as she watched the Trojan fleet depart from Carthage. Throughout this impressive display, I desperately tried to affirm that the meat was delicious, neurotically repeating the mantra “Khana Mitho Cha” (“the food is delicious”) as if in an effort to save my soul.
After lunch, I was honoured to be part of the family photos taken on Bhorsa’s phone, which were sent to her parents in Qatar. I was touched by how welcoming the close-knit family was to me and am inspired to emulate such an amicable for my own guests, whoever they may be.
The day started with a jump beginning. I got paired with Unkid, a 14 year old Nepalese child. 10 of us walked as a group to the bamboo lodge, a hotel owned by Aspin. We then went in the main village where we played pool and ate star fruit. The Nepalese were amazing but after Adam’s 3 pots in a row we won the UK vs. Nepal match. I then went to Unkid’s house; we talked and headed down to the river. By the time we got back the celebration was ready. They oiled my hair and out beautiful tikka on my forehead. After we met again, we played pool some more and headed back to the football pitch. We had acquired more people by that time and had races before we headed back.
When I got back from the elephant safari, everyone else had already gone with their paired Nepalese brothers to their houses. The last few of us were paired with our “brothers”. After exchanging names and ages we jumped on a motorbike and went along a rocky road. A tikka offering with vibrant flowers and powder, brothers and sisters, and much laughter was followed by a big meal and Nepalese-English translation. Upon crossing a river with just a few bamboo poles across it we got in a truck and went to the street where the others had gone. We all took a long route back – a few of us and a few of them. The whole day was full of celebration and fun.
Mon, Oct 27, 2014
What an extraordinary site it was. The drums were echoing though the jungle, the elephants were decorated to perfection and the flags were raised high into the boiling sun. Standing before us were over 200 Nepalese scouts, smartly dressed and all in order. Everyone’s eyes were fastened to the guests, who included the chief of police, making their fantastic speeches. Afterwards all the scouts stood for the Nepali and British national anthems. There was even a scout song for Nepal which is quite surprising as we don’t have one. Once the ceremony ended everyone knew it couldn’t have gone better.
Today we were invited to the homes of the Nepalese people to receive the tikka. This is a white stripe painted on your forehead by your sister and then a series of coloured dots on the stripe. Since we had no siblings with us, we were given brothers and sisters to go home with. After the tikka we were given piles and piles of very nice, very spicy. I was then invited by my brother to go to the family where Eddie was staying with and then we went up to see the water tower. On the way back we met Alex and we carried on to a mansion house and the gates had spikes on the top and on the bottom but Eddie’s sister pushed the gate and it just opened so we walked in and the owner of the house walked out and didn’t mind that we may have broken in to his house but just asked us to be quiet so he could read.
It’s not every day you get accepted into a new family and a new way of life. I shared a house with a young, friendly boy called Usab. When I came home his family gave me a very warm welcome and it was nice to meet them. After I met his family we went outside across the street where there was a full size pool table He invited his friends over and we had a good game. After the game of pool which, took about 3 hours due to the number of people he invited, we were back to his house and celebrated Divali with his family. It was the first time I had celebrated it and I thoroughly enjoyed it. They painted a tikka on my forehead which was very nice. The food they served was really good. It was boiled goat, boiled buffalo and roasted vegetables. The ambience from Usab’s family and the festival was very warm and joyful. And I would definitely do it again.
Nepal is a very interesting country but what makes Nepal so special is the people. The people of Nepal have an amazing ability to make you feel secure and make you feel welcome. Nepal has shown me and shocked me at how simple things in life are cherished. I was invited to my friend, Sharaz’s house for “The Tikka.” This is a very special event for Hindus and I was honoured to spend the day with his family. The tikka ceremony consisted of his sisters carefully placing tikka on my forehead. The moment will be remembered until I die. With tikka on my forehead I received gifts from his sisters and in return I gave them 500 rupees and some pencils. Then we had a lovely lunch chatting and laughing with his family. Just before I was needed to be back at camp, O was asked to stay at his house for the night, and spend the evening celebrating the last day of the festival of light. Honoured, I said yes and then I guess I got my sleeping stuff and slept the night at his. Thankfully, it was so cool to experience such a big moment for Nepalese culture. All in all the Nepalese people are the most unselfish people, and help put life back in UK into perspective.
It was another blistering hit day as we got dressed in our scout uniforms for the parade. It was clear to us all that our scout shirts were designed exclusively for the UK climate and were grossly inappropriate for Nepal, especially in the plains. Stocked up with water, met up at the friendship clinic with three elephants waiting, ready for their decorations Chalk for drawing and sugarcane for keeping them still. Anjela was there, alongside the two government elephants that lived alongside her. The original plan was to meet the other scout troops on the main drag of Meghauli and march down towards the camp site. But, of course, this is Nepal and plans change quicker than the proverbial. We started marching with the three Friendship Clinic scout groups towards the village behind the elephants. They clearly do marching drills in Nepal…
It was slow going, behind three elephants that stop for snacks and toilet breaks whenever the mood takes them. But we got to the village and I have no idea, really, what happened next. We may or may not have met up with other troops. I’ll never know. We marched back towards the clinic and the camp site with very little clue as to what was going to happen. We’d been here a week and had learned to roll with the punches. My approach was to follow orders and not make a decision for myself. Arriving through the “welcome” signs, we placed ourselves next to the stage and watched as scout troop after scout troop arrived, and watch and watched. Initially we were expecting about 70 scouts from around the local area, but it was becoming clear that this was a slight underestimate. No one really knew and we would have to wait for registration before the final tally was in.
The less said about Nepalese formalities, the better. We have sat through enough speeches to last a lifetime and I’m not going to recount them here. With the flag raised we headed into the camp and everyone started setting up their camps.
After our lunch the UK contingent settled into the first hour of the bases they had been planning for the past 18 months, and I settled into catching up with my blog posts. This lasted a good 10 minutes before I was called in to rescue one of the groups. There were a few miscommunication problems, and they didn’t have enough compasses to make the base work as they wanted. They seemed to be solving the problems themselves though; often high pressure situations are the best way to learn. I observed but didn’t feel I needed to input much. After the first group had left we had a quick chat and they clearly had good ideas to make life easier the next time so I left them to it.
As the speeches had lasted so long, there was really only time for the one activity session. It was a hot day and the UK scouts were desperate for a swim. Cue 200 scouts heading down to the river for a swim. The day before, a ball had been acquired and a game devised, somewhere between volley ball and water polo. It worked with 20 scouts and it seemed to work with 200! Hectic does not begin to describe the scene but no one was hurt and everyone was clearly having a great time. Some of the Nepalese scouts (especially the locals) were very competent swimmers but the scouts who had travelled from the cities had, in some cases, never seen water like that before.
The swim was followed by dinner (Dahl Bhat all round) and then a camp fire. First we had a quick tour of the tents to see what was going on. 10 scouts to a 4-man tent, 15 scouts to 6-man tents, and there were a couple of military tents with 20 scouts in. The conditions were great though, and there certainly wasn’t an element of cramming them in. Hay and foam mats provided a soft ground and stepping over threshold revealed the tents to be incredibly warm. A quick game of cards revealed the scouts to be as friendly as we expected and easy to rile up. Very excitable.
The campfire was to be run by the UK contingent and we taught the Nepalese scouts a number of our favourite campfire songs and they reciprocated with theirs. A great atmosphere and fantastic end to a busy day.
Day 2 started early, I was woken by the Nepalese scout leaders running a PT class for whoever wanted to join, I sadly missed out by my late wake up but in my defence it was 7:00AM. I disappeared after breakfast to pick up tonight’s dinners (a story for another blog post perhaps…) and when I returned the camp was again in full swing. The UK contingents were running their bases like pros and there was little for the leaders to do, fantastic! Lunch was followed by a number of activities the scout rangers (Nepal’s explorers) had built close by to the camp. An underground maze and tyre tunnel. Both went down extremely well with all nationalities present.
Tonight’s campfire was the turn of the Nepalese contingent and they were keen to show of the culture of the country they are so very proud of. There was a great number of very talented dancers, a comedy act and a bit of singing. Some of the UK leaders then introduced the scouts to Anjeli the talented elephant as we thought it was the sketch that translated best (coming soon to YouTube). A few locals even came along to see what was going on and sang us a few songs.
The next morning started with the Scout Om, a way for every scout showing of their religious practice. The Nepal scout symbol was painted in the ground with every religion of Nepal designed into its border (incredibly quickly and neatly). Each religious group then sang one of their songs, as a call and repeat, so everyone there could join in. The UK contingent went with “he’s got the whole world in his hands”.
Taking bets on how much later than our planned leaving time we would be, we settled into the closing ceremony, run by the Nepalese scout leaders. Certificates were handed out to all the participants and there was a mad scramble to say good bye to everyone. Neckerchiefs were exchanges, as were contact details, and thousands of photos were taken. The whole thing finally ended with flag down. Only 2 hours later than planned, we were certainly running on Nepal time.
Buying tailored clothes is an interesting experience, especially in a foreign country. The first step was to buy the fabric. We had an infinite choice of patterns and colours to choose from, or that’s what it felt like anyway. We were told the fabric for the top tunic would have to be patterned and the bottom would match colour in plain cloth. The men didn’t seem to understand this idea.
Once everyone had picked some fabric (which took some time) we went to find a tailor. Most were closed as it was too early, about 9am and the shops would be closed until 10 am. We eventually found one and had our measurements taken. The we paid and left.
We had no idea what we were going to get until the next day. The clothes fit (thank god) and we have been living them.
On Monday Eleri and I were invited to have lunch at Nilam’s house, who had been Eleri’s tikka sister. Nilam was diagnosed with bone cancer in her leg about 2 years ago and was told it would have to be amputated… Losing a leg would ruin her life in rural Chitwan so she decided she would rather not be treated; that was until Kevin was contacted with details of the case and offered for the clinic to fund better treatment in Mumbai. Nilam showed us pictures of herself in Hospital whilst her mother insisted on piling more and more delicious food onto our plates. It was clear from the pictures and from what we were hearing from others that she was incredibly brave and strong willed, smiling though the pain. She has now been back from India for 6 months, her hair is growing back and she’s running around with her friends and swimming in the river! It was a real privilege to meet Nilam and her family, to eat in their home, to hear her story and to find out more about the good work of the Friendship Clinic.
We started the jamboree with an exciting start; elephants, dancing and exotic music. There were speeches and many excited faces. We then started activities, all of our plans crumbled to bits. Every single group lost three quarters of their group to go play volley ball. We adapted out plan each time and lost about half less each time until we were gaining four times as many scouts to our group and it was still orienteering based! We taught them north, south, east, west and bearings. The “15” minute ending ceremony lasted so long we had to leave early, one hour or so in.
The jungle jamboree overall went amazingly well. Everything that hit us we coped with it very well. The Nepalese scouts were lovely, friendly people who always had smiles on their face. The activities they put on for s were really good, for example there was a maze which was made out of bamboo and everyone who did it came out very muddy, Also there was a tyre tunnel which you had to climb up. Overall it was really good.
Our camp activity was based around orienteering – making sedan chairs. We thought it would work well if we got them to make and race them; but there were some problems. Like one group really misunderstood us and started sword fighting with the bamboo. Despite that the ones that actually raced really seemed to have fun and were genuinely interested in what they were doing.
Hike Day 1
Today was the first day of the trekking and it was exhausting. We set off from the hotel at 8:00am and had a very boring coach journey to the start of the Annapurna range. We walked up the hill for the first hour and a half until we got to camp Australia and the view was stunning. We could see all the way down the valley. We had some black tea and a snack before we left for the tea house. The rest of the trek was another hour and a half of gruelling up and down and up and down and we had to stop for frequent breaks to recover. After the total of three tiring but fun hours of walking we finally got to the tea house… where we were having lunch. We still had two hours of even tougher terrain to go. After a very filling lunch and a few arm wrestle matches we set off again on the last leg of the day’s journey. We saw some amazing views of the mountains and the valleys before finally getting to the tea house. It was time to relax
Today was the start of our gruelling trekking adventure. Standing before us at 5000 feet in the air was Mount Fishtail. Hidden and hazardous dangers lay in every crack of the treacherous peak and would probably kill every man or woman who dares set foot upon it.
This was good because we weren’t walking up it. Turns out no one has been up it because the mountain is too sacred to climb. But wait. What am I doing? I’m delivering away from our own amazing trekking adventure.
So there we all were, in a bus, driving into the heart of the vast valley which separated us from the mountain range. To our left we saw rocks, trees and life. To our right we saw more rocks, trees and life. We started up the hill towards Pothana where we would then show our trekking permits. After that, we walked on for three hours until we stopped at a local tea house. It was there where we had lunch and talked about dramatic stuff. It was so dramatic! Once we had lunch (and finished talking about dramatic stuff) we walked on towards the hotel Namaste in Tolka, there we would spend a cold and dark night. I found my room; I then looked at the scenery around me. When I looked at the other side of the valley I could see the beauty of what looked like the trees lightly brushing the mountains behind them. When I looked down I realised how horrendously high up we were which made me sick in the stomach, and when I looked at the sky, all I could see was the sky – nothing else.
So that is the end of part 1 of our amazing adventure. Tomorrow you will have part 2 and hopefully it will be just as dramatic as this one. But until then, Namaste folks.
After a long morning of relaxation, the three invalids made it to their feet for lunch and in the afternoon the two bens went shopping. By tea time we had all regained our appetite and – after a hearty meal – had fully recovered.
The next day, we set out in a jeep to rejoin the rest of the trekkers. We travelled along a road as smooth as a teenagers face with drops plunging down towards the river, hundreds of feet below. The road (which I’m almost certain was featured on BBC’s world’s most dangerous roads) seemed to last for hours; made longer still by the distraught bee trapped in the car with us.
After stopping to free it, we arrived at the end of the road and a small village where we had lunch of noodles and rice. We then walked up through the mountains for an hour and a half to the village of Ghandruk, where we rendezvoused with the rest of the group.
Rafting Day 1
We ate breakfast at our hotel in Pokhara at the early hour of 6:15am, before taking a brisk walk through the city to the Paddle Nepal headquarters. From here we boarded the coach at 7 that would three hours later arrive at our rafting start point on the Kaligandaki River. After a light lunch prepared by our guides in the shade of the bus, we inflated the rafts, got ready, listened to the safety briefing and set off straight into our first rapid. Diain nearly took an early swim as our raft scraped over a submerged rock almost immediately, but once we got going it was great fun (if a little wet), with some stunning scenery to be seen on the way. We had to bypass the “big brother” rapid on foot (having successfully passed through “little brother” a few minute prior) because it was too dangerous, but it turned out to be an experience in itself carrying the deceptively large rafts across the boulders and skree. Long before anyone was ready to do so we stopped to make camp, but content in the promise of a much longer day on the water tomorrow.
Hiking Day 2
For once, I didn’t regret waking up at 5:45 this morning. Stepping out into the crisp air, I was at once awestruck by the view of 7000m high mountains on our doorstep that I had failed to notice last night. The view was stunning – a terraced and sparsely populated green valley crowned by the snow covered mountain – at the only time of day that it isn’t smothered in fog. Slowly, the sun started creeping into the valley and the first rays hit the mountain top at 6:10. The mountain reached its finest at breakfast at which point it summoned all of the valleys sunlight to focus on itself alone, which caused a small cloud of fog to drift across its surface.
Setting off, we very quietly came across a school. For the next hour, we came across its students – boys and girls our age, dressed in red sweaters and black shirts or trousers and a back pack, happily ambling along in groups. They would have looked normal but for the setting – a narrow, rocky and winding trail that straddled the emerald green mountains. Indeed, I saw many students emerge from the dense undergrowth to complete the treacherous climb to the path. It was amazing to see such spirit in the school run so different to my won! We passed though many villages, which were already bustling, and load games of football or volley ball between siblings were not uncommon. With each settlement having such a ridiculous climb to the next, peak fitness in integral to the local way of life – being able to carry huge loads up steep inclines is merely your capability of providing for yourself. As is to prove that long life comes hand in hand with healthy living I was amazed to see a man in his mid-eighties carrying a toddler on his back and conversing with another one, a stretch that would quickly have us all out of breath.
When we reached the bottom of the valley, we had an hour long pit stop in which we had delicious egg and noodle soup, before climbing the other side. Having dodged two flocks of donkeys being herded down the mountain (which filled the valley with the ringing sound of their bells) we reached the top, and were heartened to find a lime green guest house waiting for us there.
Most of us woke up around 6am to see the sun rise above the Annapurna mountain range. After a dramatic photo shoot of the light, we once again contemplated the height of which we were situated. This was followed by a good breakfast and bag packing. We were off by 8, making our way down. Our legs were aching as steep downwards steps made up most of the 2.5 hours. We stopped every 15 minutes or so, making sure we drank enough water! We got to river at 10:30 and crossed the fast running water, over a bridge. Noodle soup is amazing, it gave us all the energy to get all the way to the other side of the valley and reach Ghandruk! We then watched a video about conservation and visited a museum. After some free time which included buying dramatic ???, we had dinner and went to bed as an early start awaited us.
Rafting Day 2
We woke up on a beach, mist high in the remote mountains. We ate bread and scrambled eggs. It was nice; we set off at quarter to nine. We went through multiple rapids and had a nice swimming period before lunch. Lunch was egg salad, bread, rice, water melon. We went through several more rapids before Tim started yanking people from the A-team off our raft. We stopped for the day on a nice beach with a minibar. We couldn’t be bothered to recreate the chess set, so we borrowed Emily’s cards. For dinner we had chips, carbonara and salad.
Hiking Day 3
We all had to get up at 5:30 this morning to invest Sam on the roof of the guest house at sunrise and although we complained a lot the night before, it was most definitely worth it. The early morning view was crazy beautiful – on our right, the dark silhouette of the foothills cut across a spectrum of dawn colours and on our left the sun was just beginning to light up the snowy mountain peaks. After an extra half our in bed, some rushed packing and a hearty trekkers’ breakfast, we were on our way back down the valley. Like yesterday, we were followed by stray dogs but also harassed by crowds of small children once work got out that Eleri was giving out sweets and bracelets. There was a long pit stop for teas and hot chocolates and another for a spontaneous dive into a waterfall pool. We finished our trek after lunch at about 3 o’clock and an hour later found ourselves back at the hotel in Pokhara, where we all appreciated a much needed shower.
This morning had an abrupt start for us all, as our presence had been requested to bear witness to Sam Cohen’s final investiture ceremony to become an explorer. The rising sun illuminated Sam’s fiery mane and the gold hued mountain peaks beyond, as it rose from its nightly grave to cast an ethereal haze on us all. When the scarf had been tied around Sam’s neck, we descended from the mountain top and began our downward spiral tot eh ground. The way was long and hard, thankfully intervalled by several well earned tea breaks. During one said break, Paul and I engaged in an exuberant game of Caram (not dissimilar to pool, but played by flicking small counters). It was a very close match, but ultimately the scouts we triumphant over the leader opponents.
Some Final Thoughts
You do something that changes your perspective on life, and sometimes you don’t. Either way, you learn something. You learn things all the time. Basic things, never forget when you’re running a bath, and the more complicated, fruit ninja doesn’t work in real life. With that in mind I’m happy to say I have learned something in the past 16 days.
I guess the first thing we all learned is that you can never trust airplane food. It’s quite obvious, I know, but an easy mistake for all
The second thing we learned was that littering is less of a big deal here. People don’t like it but no one does anything about it. There is a lot of pollution in the city too. It makes you appreciate how clean the UK is.
In Meghauli we learned that technology spreads. It was slightly surreal to watch the locals walking around their traditional mud huts on smart phones.
Something we all leaned and appreciated was the Nepalese culture for kindness, especially to guests. They were very welcoming to all of us on Divali and at the camp.
One of the best yet simplest things we learned was that you could never judge a book by its cover. Kevin taught us this. His cover is a loud and confident man who always knows a good joke. His book tells the story of a kind and giving man who has given his life to helping others. He is a truly inspiring man.
I hope the things I have learned inspire me to be a better person. I hope they stay with me for the rest of my life.
Time for One Last Blog
We are currently flying not too far from Istanbul on our way back to Heathrow. Our body clocks are all; very the place and we’re trying to figure out how to avoid jet lag. The thought of going home and going into school tomorrow is somehow comforting and terrifying at the same time. After we’ve been to so many extraordinary places and tried so many new things, going back to the same old predictable routine does seem a little bleak. I’ll miss the elephants. They were a particular highlight for me, as well as the amazing views on the trek. I’ll miss the Nepalese accents and language, the enthusiasm to welcome us and practice English, the complete disregard for rules of the road, and being able to go out in shorts at 8pm. Most of all I’ll miss everyone who has been part of the trip, from Kevin and Suriya who guided us through Nepal, to the leaders and scouts who I already knew but have got a lot closer to over the last 16 days. We’ve had to face a few challenges and we’ve shared a lot of laughs. It’s going to seem really quiet at home! Overall, I’ve been left with a tonne of memories and experiences that have given me a personal understanding of, and attachment to, Nepal, its people and its culture.