This Easter, seventeen pupils and four teachers undertook an expedition to Nepal.
After landing in Kathmandu and meeting up with our guide, legend of Bryanston past, Rigzin, we spent the first few days acclimatising to the radically different way of life while also visiting several charities and traditional craft workshops in Nepal’s capital, enjoying dinner at the British embassy, and visiting a Buddhist temple crawling with monkeys.
A cancelled flight to the country’s second city of Pokhara meant an eight-hour bus ride to the starting point of our trek. We set out into the foothills of the Himalayas lead by Rigzin, Sherpa Raj Kumar and a team of porters and kitchen staff who set up camp, carried our large bags and kindly cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner for us (as well as bringing hot tea and warm washing water to our tents each morning). Four days and three nights of trekking brought tired legs, breathtaking scenery, especially when the snowy peaks of the mountains appeared, bloodsucking leeches, jungle footpaths, mountaintop temples and a great deal of satisfaction.
At the end of our trek we were very lucky to be able to stay at the Pavilions, a luxury eco-hotel, that provided much-needed showers, swimming pool and comfy beds. This base was kindly provided to us by Douglas MacClagan and it was with him that we spent the next week, involving ourselves with the various charities he runs and which Bryanston supports.
We cooked a traditional meal of Dal Bhat from scratch (including catching and killing the chickens), worked alongside the trainee chefs at the FAB cooking and hospitality school, and alongside kids who have been helped by the Right4Children project in Pokhara. We spent two days at the Machapucchre school in a small village set in a spectacular valley. It was here that Bryanston pupils played sports with the local students, taught some lessons, took part in some Nepalese dancing, pot breaking and got a good insight into some more traditional ways of life. There is no doubt that the students’ devotion to learning as a way of self-improvement and preparing for a better future was inspirational, and the joy and eagerness they displayed served as motivation for us all on our return home.
Our final day in Pokhara began with a canoe paddle across the lake to Douglas’ ‘tented’ hotel (think glamping++ with aircon) where we enjoyed an afternoon and evening of R&R, and some farewells to our new friends.
We returned to Kathmandu by plane for the last few days of expedition. We visited the incredible world-heritage site of Bhaktapur (site of intricately-carved temples and shrines); the great Buddhist Stupa in the city; and Pashupathi - the Hindu crematorium where we movingly witnessed several funeral processions and the rituals that come with such an event. The last day or so presented opportunities for shopping in the markets of Thamel, a treasure-trove of cashmere, yak wool, silk carpets, teas and spices, Nepali clothing and tie dye T-shirts.
The highlight of the trip for many was the work with the Nepalese children and charities. The trek was at times arduous (especially in leech territory) but fulfilling. The cities were eye-opening and the countryside was unfailingly beautiful. Everyone, pupils and teachers alike, not only enjoyed themselves, but learned a great deal about Nepal and I suspect also about themselves. Namaste.
View the gallery of images here.