Hiking is something that I’ve always loved to do. Now, I know the difference between hiking up Mt. Warning and trekking to Everest Base Camp is substantially different, but when I booked my trek to EBC with Take On Nepal I guess I decided not to dwell on that difference and simply look forward to the adventure that I knew this journey would be. And my god, has it been one hell of an adventure. I honestly couldn’t have chosen a better group to accompany me if I’d had the chance to hand pick them all myself.
Myself and fellow trekkers Gui and Danny were lucky enough to accompany an abnormally big group of 9 Batase locals between the ages of 17 and 21 to the base of the top of the world. All of them were completely sponsored by Take On Nepal to compete in the world’s highest Ultra Trail Marathon, the Tenzing Hillary Marathon, on the 29th of May. Big stuff.
We started our trek with the trademark terrifying flight from Kathmandu to Lukla. The scenery from the plane window was incredible and I confess we passed a little too close to a few of the surrounding mountains to feel 100% secure in the tiny aircraft. Luckily enough the weather was perfect and we landed without any dramas on the side of the mountain at Lukla airport.
I’ve learnt many things over the course of the last 3 weeks of trekking, but perhaps the most rewarding lesson has been that the human body is capable of so damn much. I almost feel as though I’ve conquered enough mountains to have no need of a car or any form of public transport when I get back home to Australia because surely there is no place that I can’t walk. And at sea level? Piece of cake. The feeling of walking for hours on end up, down and then back up again, only to look back and actually be able to spot some minuscule town in the distance where you’d had breakfast or tea that morning is incomparable.
Being able to physically see (on the odd occasion when there weren’t mountains blocking our view) the huge distances we covered during this trek fills you with such an addictive sense of achievement. Although I already had a huge passion for nature and the outdoors, Take On Nepal has helped me uncover a love for mountains and challenging my body in ways that I never thought would be possible, let alone ways that I would actually enjoy.
However, once you start trekking 4000m above sea level and beyond, at times it was hard to tell whether I love trekking or hate it with a passion. The best advice I have to offer anyone who’s considering doing a trek like this one is to DRINK LOTS OF WATER. For someone who only consumes around 2 litres of water on a normal day, being told that I need to drink a MINIMUM of 4 litres per day in the high altitude was a little daunting.
I can honestly say that water is the best cure for everything and that includes high altitude sickness. On the one occasion when I did experience a headache and nausea from the altitude at Dingboche (4200m), sculling a quick 2 litres of water and a power nap was all I needed to make a speedy recovery.
Up until Dingboche, the walk was fairly easy. Don’t get me wrong, NONE of it was flat and for anyone who’s planning on trekking anywhere in Nepal in the future, if your guide tells you that any part of the trip is flat you’ll quickly learn that ‘flat’ here in Nepal is code for ‘ha jokes, we’ve only got 4 mountains to go’. After Dingboche, the altitude definitely makes everything 10 times harder and the key is simply to walk verrrrrry slowly. Unfortunately, for most of the time that you’re physically walking it’s nearly impossible to properly enjoy the breath taking views in every direction. So take my advice and stop. Often.
There’s no point in pushing yourself to the point of exhaustion if you’re not going to stop and smell the roses. This trip isn’t so much about the destination although base camp was pretty cool, but for those of you who don’t know, you can’t even actually see Mount Everest from Everest Base Camp. So relax, take it easy. If you walk 20m and feel completely drained, it’s ok to take a break. If you stumble across a beautiful spot that’s just begging for someone to sit and appreciate it, then why not? You’re in the Himalayas for god’s sake and everyone here runs on Nepali time.
Which means that there really is no time limit and no concrete plan. You’ll make it to wherever you’re going, whether it takes 3 hours or 7. Really, the only difference is that the people who rush end up sitting in a tea house somewhere in the middle of the mountains with nothing to do and no energy to do anything even if they wanted to.
Personally, the hardest days for me were the walks from Lobuche to Gorukshep/Base Camp and the day after for our sunrise walk up Kala Pather and down to Pheriche. The altitude hit me pretty hard and the walk to Base Camp in particular is constantly up and down and damn cold. We experienced a chilly -13 degrees for our sunrise walk to Kala Pather, which was before the wind picked up so who knows how cold it actually got. I was so physically exhausted that day that I wasn’t sure if I could make it back down to Pheriche, but once you get below 5000m you can breathe a little easier and your energy will start to come back.
Highlights of the trip are too many to name. Off the top of my head, following the gorgeous milky river for most of the journey was amazing and a nice slice of home for someone who’s been missing the familiar creeks and beaches of Aus. The countless fellow trekkers that you meet along the way and the sense of comradeship you feel with every single one of them was a great comfort when times were tough and energy levels were low. The dalbaht was delicious. The tea house staff were so welcoming and always keen to teach me new words and phrases. Base Camp was as amazing as I hoped it would be. Walking beside the giants that are the Himalayas was extremely humbling and an experience that I will cherish forever.
Most of all, spending the last 3 weeks with my Nepalise family out here in the wilderness playing cards, sharing meals, taking ‘longcuts’ as they took all the impossibly steep shortcuts, singing songs, constantly laughing, drinking tea, washing clothes, not showering, sleeping early, laying awake listening to people sleeping talking, listening to everyone snoring, learning different languages, drinking more tea and dodging yaks has taught me that home is where your people are and I’ve found some pretty damn great ones through Take On Nepal.
To Anil and Phulmaya, my official guides and friends from the last 4 months living in Batase Village, thank you for your expertise and for all the laughs over the past 2 weeks. Thank you both for being so patient and encouraging during every gruelling step in the high altitude.
To Dinesh and the kids – or more appropriately, young adults – from Batase Village who accompanied us as our porters and also to participate in the marathon, thank you all for keeping us so entertained and for helping us so much when we were physically and mentally exhausted from the walk. You’re strength and endurance is so inspiring as well as a huge wake up call for us unfit foreigners who have all finished this trek with a new thirst for adventure.
To Mane, my guide from the trek I did to Poon Hill a couple of weeks ago and my fellow trekker this time round, thank you so much for everything that you are. Even though you weren’t our official guide, the fact that you so often chose to walk at our slow pace even though the rest of the marathon team sometimes needed a break and shot off ahead proves how professional and dedicated you are to making every clients journey as fulfilling as possible. Thank you for teaching us about the local villages and landmarks along the way to EBC and for recognising my love for flowers and pointing out every possible colour of rhododendron there is. You’re a natural guide and your patience is unparalleled, Take On Nepal is so lucky to have someone like you.
I truely didn’t think that my time here in Nepal could be any more memorable, but thanks to Take On Nepal I’m more in love with this country than I ever would have dreamed and I can’t wait to do it all again next year.
My wife and I had the enormous privilege of visiting Nepal with “Take on Nepal”.
Take on Nepal provided me with a wonderful opportunity to experience village life in Nepal (in the beautiful village of Batase), and also undertake the Annapurna trek accompanied by three experienced and dedicated members of the Take on Nepal team; Samjhana, Dinesh and Anil.
From the moment you arrive in Kathmandu, you are greeted by a representative from the team who provides you with a very warm welcome and friendly smile. This warm friendliness is repeated over and over, daily, throughout your stay in Nepal.
Observing and participating in the school, provided insight and admiration of what is being achieved in education and the effect of immersion of volunteers from English speaking countries.
I was also grateful to be given the opportunity to visit two nearby village medical centres (in Thakani and Manebhanjhang) and be shown the facility and given a brief outline of their community health programs.
I felt very privileged to be given the opportunity to be immersed and observe village life in Batase, and to witness the enormous achievements that have been made to improve the quality of life for Nepalese children through “Take on Nepal” and FHC inc
It was very heartening to see the development program to encourage and support of young women as guides. We witnessed this first hand observing the confidence, compassion and leadership skills of our guide, who also took us on daily walks showing us the foods of the forest.
Although brief, this has been an experience that has enriched my life and I owe this to all those people that we have come in contact with over the last month.
~ Doug Gilchrist
My husband and I have had a month of wonderful experiences through Take On Nepal. First we spent time in Batase Village feeling and living the way of life of the Nepali people. The locals were all very welcoming and accepted us into their village and encouraged us to join activities as much as we felt comfortable. I was impressed with the work of all the people concerned with the education and care of the children accommodated at the Batase Hostel.
The second part is our visit involved trekking the Annapurna circuit with three of the most likeable young people who were full of exuberance and vitality.
Take On Nepal encourages and supports young women to be independent and make their own way in the world where it could be difficult to do so because of cultural and family issues. We had a very strong, committed and mature young lady accompany us on our Annapurna trek. She lead us throughout and proved to be very professional and aware of all our surroundings including our abilities as trekkers.
I have no hesitation in recommending Take On Nepal to anyone who wishes to visit Nepal and in doing so also helps provide encouragement and opportunities for young women of Nepal to fulfill their dreams.
Arriving in Kathmandu was chaotic! Before I left for Nepal I was advised to get off the plane at Kathmandu airport as quickly as I could and head straight for the visa counter as being at the front of the line could save you a 1 or 2 hour wait. As soon as the seatbelt sign was switched off on the aeroplane my only objective was to get to that counter. I’m happy to say I was successfully the first person in line.
Amy and I collected our huge back packs and pushed our way out to the car park. I was beyond relieved to meet the boys that were holding the ‘Take On Nepal’ sign. It meant that I had finally arrived in the country I would be spending the next 6 months in. Greeting us with huge smiles and promising english were 2 of our guides, Anil and Sandip. I’d like to think they were just as excited to meet us as we were to meet them, but that I will never know. We headed to our car and a crowd of men swarmed us and offered to take our bags and put them in the car. We were so exhausted from our flights and bombarded with offers that we allowed them to take our packs and put them into the boot of the vehicle. This was our first mistake and big lesson.
Lesson #1: ALWAYS CARRY YOUR OWN BAGS.
After they had packed the car they waved their hands in our faces for money. I assumed that they were from the company and I had to pay them. I handed them $20. It wasn’t until 20 more hands violently reached out into our car window that I realised I had made a mistake. They weren’t from the company and I shouldn’t have given them anything. Amy and I laughed about it and made a mental note not to let anyone ‘help’ us unless we were prepared to pay them or they’re from the Take On Nepal family.
The car ride to the hotel was very interesting for me. I had never travelled to a third world country before and the poverty I was seeing shocked me. I knew the conditions I would be faced with but it was none the less confronting to witness first hand. The lack of road rules, the intensity of the horn honking and the littered roads and footpaths. Regardless of how polluted and fast paced this city was I was very eager to get in and amongst the small shops, filthy alley ways and smiling people. My adventure had started.
After our guides checked us into Pilgrims Hotel in Thamel Amy and I asked them to help us find sleeping bags, down jackets, a grocery store and a SIM card for my phone. Not only did they do this but they gave us an hour long tour of the best Nepali restaurants, western cafés, bars, and tourist hang out places to ensure that our time in Kathmandu was gratifying. We spent an hour in the sleeping back shop chatting to the staff and exchanging smiles whilst we sipped our honey tea. Anil and Sandip walked us back to our hotel before Amy and I ate dinner at one of the local Nepali restaurants that they suggested we try traditional food at. We ordered Veggie momo, veggie curry and veggie pakauda. We were in heaven. All 3 dishes were delicious. We walked back to Pilgrims and enjoyed a drink on the veranda before going to bed.
The next morning we headed up to the roof to watch the sunrise over Kathmandu. Although there was a lot of fog and the air was relatively polluted it was still a beautiful sight. We devoured our first breakfast buffet at our hotel and fuelled our bodies for a big day of exploring. We walked the streets of Thamel for hours. We bought more momo and pakauda from a tiny cafe in the back streets of Thamel and ate them on the side of the road. We were intrigued by the school children, elders, monks and street dogs that walked past us that morning. We continued to walk the streets and snap photos of everything and everyone.
We came across one young women who founded an organisation that manufactures reusable sanitary pads for females in rural areas of Nepal. She shared her story with us and suggested that we come to her workshop and teach the women English. Sadly, we didn’t get to visit the workshop but I have hope that when Amy returns in February we will be able to spend some time there. After that we learnt our second lesson.
Lesson #2 DON’T BELIEVE MEN WHO TELL YOU THEY’LL TAKE YOU ON A FREE TOUR OF THE AREA AND SHOW YOU A FESTIVAL.
Amy came across a young man who seemed very keen to take us on a tour around the area near his home, to show us some of the smaller temples in Thamel and to take us to a festival nearby. I asked Amy if she thought we would need to pay him but she’s didn’t think we would so the gullible duo followed this man around for an hour. He took us to some tiny temples, showed us some confronting damage to buildings from the earthquake in 2015 and then spoke to us about his art school. Little did we know that the entire time he was leading us towards a shop where he sells very beautiful but very expensive mandalas. We looked at the detailed artworks for 45 minutes before we managed to convince them that we had no money to buy any. The man followed us out and told us he would continue to show us around but by this point I knew all he wanted was money. We decided to find our own way home and gave him a small tip. He wasn’t happy that we didn’t buy any of his art and only gave him a small amount of money.
It had been a long day. I flagged down a rickshaw and we got the slowest, bumpiest and most frightening ride home. The driver got us lost but that was okay. It was a reminder about the challenges we would be facing due to the language barrier. Another adventure for us! Our first full day in Kathmandu was awesome and I couldn’t be happier with my travel buddy, Amy.
Our sight seeing day with the volunteer group and all of our guides was great. We met in the lobby at Pilgrims Hotel before we began our walk to the Swayambhunath, also known as the monkey temple. The Swayambhunath is located on the top of a huge hill overlooking the Kathmandu Valley. The huge troop of monkeys and smell of incense and butter lamps invites you up the 365 steep stairs to get to the temple complex. The stairs were exhausting and I learnt my third lesson of the trip.
Lesson #3 – ALWAYS HAVE A WATER BOTTLE ON YOU.
The air is dusty in Kathmandu and I coughed a lot. It gets very hot very quickly and it isn’t safe to drink water out of the taps. We walked around spinning the prayer wheels and browsing at the small trinket stalls held by the locals before taking photos of the small temples and shrines that surrounded the massive white stupa. We walked down to the world peace pond and had a turn at throwing a coin into the pond for good luck. My aim was off and I was unlucky this time.
On our way to lunch we found Som! He took photos and videos of the group before we ate at a tiny Nepali café and it was delicious. After lunch we split up and some people went shopping whilst others had a nap in the hotel to overcome the jet lag. In the evening we shared a traditional Nepali dinner with our guides, porters and all of the young girls and boys from the village that were lucky enough to be given the opportunity to be competing in a trail running event the next day. I was told about the opportunities the village children and teens are exposed to because of the continual effort and funding from the Friends of Himalayan Children Inc – a non for profit organisation assisting in supporting children and young women in rural villages in Nepal. Communicating with the children was a challenging yet exciting experience. Some of them were very shy but others were outgoing and willing to share their stories and their excitement to be running in the race the next day. I experienced my first ever round table with the entire group and listened to Som talk about what the program aims to do. This night gave me some insight into what I would be experiencing during the next 20 days – and to say I was excited is an understatement.
For the first time since I had arrived in Nepal I was nervous. It was time to hike to Batase. I was super excited but anxious about my foot. 10 weeks before I left for Nepal I fractured my heel bone. The hike to Batase was going to be the only strenuous walk I had done since my injury. We woke up early and ate a huge buffet breakfast at Pilgrims before meeting as a group with the guides, porters and volunteers. The energy in the lobby was crazy! I was eager to experience a hike with the majority of the porters and training guides being females. Everyone was so positive and happy to be together to start our trek.
The mini bus arrived and one by one we filled the seats up, squeezing in the last few people. With our packs strapped to the roof and our water bottles full, off we went on an hours drive to the starting point of our trek -Sundarijal, on the outskirts of Kathmandu. Once we arrived I double-tied my shoe laces and used a squat toilet for the first time! What an exciting experience that was for everyone, haha! The officers took our passports and wrote us a ticket so that we could enter the national park legally.
We had a cup of tea and the porters ate some noodles soup. Soon after we began our walk I engaged in a conversation with one of the women porters – Rita. Rita is an incredibly bright student and an unbelievably resilient young lady. I discovered that durning her past she had faced overwhelming hardships and would still be doing so if it wasn’t for the continual support of the Friends of Himalayan Children Inc. Rita now studies in Kathmandu with other FHC sponsored students in the hope to fulfil her dream of becoming a banker. It was through this discussion that I learnt about the sponsorship program FHC has up and running. It is only $1 a day to sponsor a child living at the FHC hostel in Batase Village and attending the local school. It’s a tiny price to pay for all the hard work that happens in Som’s Village to keep the once neglected children safe from harm and other dangerous issues.
The walk to Batase was the perfect way to bond with our team of volunteers, porters, training guides and Take On Nepal staff. Sharing stories about ourselves and listening to others experiences was a great distraction from the stairs we were waking up. The scenery was beautiful. It was lovely to see us work as a group when one of our team members was struggling. Someone carried her day pack, another person made sure she was drinking enough water, another reassured her she would be fine and everybody walked at her pace. We had several breaks on the way to Chisopani to munch on some snacks and hydrate ourselves. We walked through the jungle, past a monestry and made lots of memories on the way.
I continued to speak to some of our porters about their stories and was shocked with what I learnt. It prepared me for the stories I would hear about in Batase – so I thought. Finally after 6 hours we reached Chisopani. At 2300m, the view of the Himalayas was breathtaking! The beauty of the mountains was juxtaposed incredibly by the remains of buildings that were left from the earthquake. Piles of rubble, wires and rubbish were stacked up on the side of the footpath. It was like nothing I had ever seen before. These buildings were leaning on unbelievable angles. It was insane. I couldn’t wait to take my shoes and socks off and asses the severity of my blisters. To my surprise they were okay!
We were served some noodle soup and everyone was really appreciative of the hospitality after such a long day. Most of us had a nap until dinner time. I showed the women porters Snapchat for the first time and they were entertained until we went to bed. The accommodation at the tea house was nice and homey. Everyone went to bed early to recover from the first day of trekking and to prepare for the second. The next morning we woke up early for the sunrise over the Himalayas. I wore 5 layers of clothing and was still freezing but as the sun twinkled over the ice-capped peaks I decided the cold was worth it. We enjoyed tea together before breakfast. I didn’t feel too well so I decided not to eat a big breakfast. I later learnt lesson number four of my trip.
Lesson #4 – EAT A DECENT BREAKFAST BEFORE HIKING.
I regretted my decision not to eat a sustainable breakfast as soon as we started walking to Batase. I felt light headed and weak the entire walk. On top of the lethargy and exhaustion my foot began to hurt. As much as I wanted to sit down and rest forever, I kept going. My fellow volunteers were great and gave me mandarins and granola bars and the group didn’t walk too fast. We passed 2 schools on our way to Batase and the children were so friendly and cute it excited me even more to arrive in the village. When we did finally make it to Batase I miraculously gained all of my energy back. The adrenaline must’ve kicked in because I was ready to explore the village. We were greeted by Som’s older sister, the other hostel cooks and his Mum and Dad. Their English was poor but their smiles were rich and I was humbled by the welcoming we received.
Chitwan was the perfect way to finish off my first group experience in Nepal. I was surrounded by beautiful people, stunning scenery and a range of incredible wildlife. Once again our guides went above and beyond to ensure that our time here was wonderful. The passion that they showed encouraged me to appreciate the different types of flora and fauna we were lucky enough to see during our exploration. The bus trip from Kathmandu to Chitwan was long and bumpy but totally worth every pothole and toilet break. I babysat an 8 week old puppy the entire journey and he kept me somewhat distracted for the duration of our bus trip so it went a lot quicker than I expected.
The staff at the Jungle Safari Lodge were very attentive and friendly and warmly welcomed us to their hotel. I couldn’t believe that they provided toilet paper and bottled water, to me this was such a luxury. We spent our first afternoon enjoying a delicious meal at the lodge followed by a jungle walk through Chitwan National Park. We attended a cultural show in the evening and were thoroughly entertained by the peacock dance. The next morning we went canoeing in a river full of huge crocodiles. This was the overall highlight of my time in Chitwan. On our way back to the Jungle Safari Lodge we went for another jungle walk and visited the elephant breeding farm. The baby elephants were adorable!
After another tasty meal we headed off on our jeep safari. We were lucky enough to see rhinos, deers, monkeys, elephants and hundreds of species of birds. We went to the crocodile breeding farm and walked around for a while to stretch our legs before hopping back into the jeep. On our last evening in Chitwan we had a bonfire and a couple of beverages before heading to bed. The next morning we shared our last meal together as a group before some of us headed to Pokhara and the others returned to Kathmandu. We took some time to reflect on the incredible journey we had been on together and thanked one another for the support, love and encouragement we had shown one another for the past 18 days.
Although our guides specialise in Everest treks and tours it was a real privilege to have guides who knew so much about Chitwan as well. Their professionalism and passion continued on throughout our entire trip, enhancing the overall experience we shared. The information about where we were, the plants and animals we saw and the people’s stories we heard along the way was clear and concise whilst engaging and practical. This was an awesome experience that I will never forget.
Take on Nepal. Take on hope. Take on love. Take on passion and determination.
These were the unforgettable, irreplaceable and absolutely, breathtakingly beautiful 21 days of my life.
During my trek to Batase Village, I asked my beautiful Nepali sister who was carrying an oversized backpack up the countless stairs if it was so ‘heavy’. She smiled, looked into my eyes and stated, ‘not heavy, happy’. This is what Nepal taught me. This is what transformed me.
4 days after my high school graduation, I got on the plane to Nepal with one backpack. Not knowing who I would meet, what I would eat or what incredible adventures were waiting for me. Even though my plane ran out of fuel and we ended up going to India, not Kathmandu, I was so excited. I arrived in the beautiful mess – Kathmandu with a little bit of fear and a whole lot of anticipation. Touring, trekking, walking and walking, eating dal bhat, chatting and enjoying every step of the way led to our village life. As a student fresh out of high school, it was challenging but absolutely rewarding to become a teacher in a foreign country.
Their eagerness to learn overwhelmed me, their passion to chase their dreams wholeheartedly inspired me. There are too many memories. Far too many. From walking with a wild rhino in the middle of a street, eating amazing street food and riding in a rickshaw like there is not a single worry in this world, canoeing in the misty mysterious morning of Chitwan, walking to the village school with hands in hands, going to the hostel early morning to get flowers in my hair by the wonderful children who make my heart smile, seeing the sunset over the mesmerising mountains with my favourite people, brushing my teeth in front of the Himalayas every single morning, sharing deepest secrets and stories with people that showed me different languages, different cultures don’t matter because hearts can communicate beyond it all, climbing hills, falling in mud, laughing our heads off, knowing how precious tomato sauce and honey can be, going on late night walks, smiling and saying Namaste to every person down the hill, getting licked by goats, drinking lychee juice, trying new meals such as spicy fried grapefruits, having countless Tibetan breads and potatoes, watching the shooting stars over the unforgettable sky of Batase, listening to heart-warming music by amazing talents, eating the most delicious food by cook dhai and drinking countless numbers of tea every day, learning new things every hour, late night chats with my sundar boys that I love so much, being absolutely careless and free and to every single day in Nepal that made me fall in love with life again and again.
How could I possibly describe the happiness I felt into mere words? How can I possibly explain all the emotions and moments I have never felt before? How would I express my joy, my excitement, my utter happiness and the immense love I received from strangers who are now my brothers and sisters? I cannot. I simply can’t encapsulate the phenomenal journey I went on into few paragraphs because every single moment on this trip has made me speechless. But what I can tell you is this. I have met the most beautiful human beings on this planet. So pure. So kind. So sweet. So strong. They made me feel so loved each and every moment. They made me feel so beautiful, free and alive. So valued. So precious.
They gave me so much when they have so little. I will never forget the time when this six year old girl ran up to me and gave her last precious chocolate bar and told me she will never ever forget me. I will always remember the smiles on everyone’s faces when I handed them their printed out their photos and letters from Cairns State High School. I will forever cherish the hours, the seconds, the memories we have created together and my heart aches, my heart breaks into little pieces when I think of their faces. Their smiles. Their eyes. I miss it all so much it hurts. I cherish them every day and remember how I can now call this place another home that I will definitely return to.
I used to exclaim that somewhere in the world, there is some boy or girl, and that some boy or girl has a dream. That some dream can only come true if some day somebody decides to stand up and speak up and do something. I believe that somebody can be anyone. You. Me. Us. Now it is no longer just some boy or girl somewhere in the world. I know these people now. I know their names, their faces, their stories and their dreams. From getting to know them, holding them tightly in my arms, looking into their beautiful eyes has reaffirmed me that we have the power, we have the potential to make their dreams come true. It is possible. It is worth it. So many people doubt our abilities and question how can we possibly, how can one person be capable of anything so great? But now I strongly believe that one extra person can be the difference which will create change.
I saw their potential, I saw how determined and ready these students are to learn and to take on the world. But I also witnessed their pain, their tears and their lack of support and love. We have so much, so much that I felt ashamed of my minuscule problems and complaints. But there is no need to feel so sad, with awareness and realisation, we need to stand together. Now is the time. I encourage, I ask, I urge you to use your talent, your skills, your time and heart for these people that deserve everything good in this world. I wholeheartedly recommend you booking those flight tickets to Kathmandu right now. You will be transformed. You will be renewed. You will be awakened. You will feel the happiness you never ever imagined to encounter. You will realise that this was the best decision you could have ever made. My one advice for you is: be prepared to be emotionally attached to everyone and everything you encounter and when you come back home, you will start planning your trip back. Nepal will become the home you miss.
Everything and everyone on this trip has healed, inspired, touched, challenged and absolutely changed me for the better. There are so many lessons I have learnt on this once in a life time voyage after leaving the toughest year as an International Baccalaureate student. But one stuck with me the whole way through. I realised again and again, I saw many times, I felt over and over how beautiful this life is. Despite our doubts, despite the pain, the hatred, the complications, the obstacles and the heartbreaks, I have learnt that life is beautiful.
Life is so unbelievably beautiful and I am so thankful for everything I have and also have lost. Everything happens for a reason. This trip certainly happened for a crucial reason. I went to Nepal because of my passion in human rights, and I have come back with absolute certainty that I can, and I will devote the rest of my life for those that are unheard, forgotten, mistreated, voiceless, and hopeless and deserve every opportunity to chase their dreams with security and hope.
Finally, I would like to say the biggest thank you from the bottom of my heart to every single person I met on the planes, the buses, the hills, the cities, the villages and the unforgettable moments. But my special thank you goes to the guides. Especially to Sandip, Dinesh, Mane, Phulmaya, Anil and Suresh. They are not just ‘guides’ who give you the best experience, they are my brothers and sisters who I cannot live without. They are my family. They are the people that make my life worth living for. They are why our world is so beautiful. Thank you for holding my hand. Thank you for making me laugh. Thank you for giving me hope. Thank you for teaching me how beautiful life can be. Thank you for looking after me and thank you for making me feel so loved. I love you all so much. I love you guys too much. Even though this trip has ended, my journey, our journey has just begun. So together, let’s TAKE ON NEPAL.
~ Christina Lee, 19 year old, Law and International Relations Student at Australian National University.
Take on Nepal, and this trek, were an ideal match for us. We try hard to support companies that have an agenda other than profit and Take on Nepal certainly fulfils that criteria. They are committed to providing training and employment for the young people of Nepal. As a result we had six teenage, 3 male and 3 female, porters on our trek! For most it was there first big trek and their enthusiasm and physical strength was incredible and really motivated us to keep going throughout the days. In addition to the porters we also had our guide Dinesh whose experience, wisdom and quick mindedness ensured that any situations were dealt with safely and efficiently. We feel very lucky to have had such a merry band with us for this trek.
We found the trek itself challenging. Being from a city located at sea level and then climbing to 4650m was a bit of a shock to the system! However it was well worth it for the amazing vistas provided by the beauty of the Langtang Valley and the tranquillity of the Gosaikunda Lakes. The area is renowned for being less touristy and we certainly found that to be the case as we rarely saw, or interacted with, other travellers.
January 2017, Volunteering Batase Village
After completing a trek in the Langtang Valley I chose to stay on in Nepal for an additional 3 weeks and volunteer as part of the Take on Nepal January group. Living in Batase is such a great opportunity to see and be involved with everyday rural Nepali life. Waking to see snow on towering mountains and having a goat eat your breakfast are just a few of the treats in store for intrepid travellers choosing to step off the established tourist trails.
Our groups guide was Sandip who was always there to assist with any questions or difficulties we encountered. I was especially impressed by Sandip’s fauna and flora knowledge and I even spent a morning bird watching with him around the hills of Batase which was a real highlight for me to have my own personal nature guide!
At the end of the program I deviated from the itinerary and travelled to Lumbini as I had previously visited Chitwan. I chose the option of hiring a private vehicle which was an additional cost that I was willing to cover. Lumbini was a rewarding experience for me and rounded out my time in Nepal very well. I was travelling alone and I felt very safe there. It’s a unique and special place with a lovely vibe. I spent two days walking around amazing temples, meditating and I visited the birthplace of Buddha and the Peace Pagoda. Take on Nepal organised both my transport and accommodation which was fantastic.
My journey at Batase may have ended (for now) but my experience with Take On Nepal was far from over. After saying our final goodbyes to the village we made our way back to Kathmandu via a lovely downhill walk through the surrounding villages, taking the time to look back and have a last glimpse of the snow capped Lantang ranges. I took the time to reflect on my time at the village and the attachment I now have with Batase, thinking about the impact I had on the village and its impact on me.
Soon as Batase and then the Himalayas faded from view we made out way down a winding track to where a Jeep was to pick us up to finish our commute to Kathmandu. I took the opportunity to go ahead and take a run, without doubt the best viewing run I’ve ever had overlooking the green valleys and mountains of greater Kathmandu and also to have some friendly banter with the locals along the way. We were not simply going to Kathmandu to then all go our separate ways, rather we would be departing the next day for Chilean national park.
The bus ride there was an experience in itself, 6 hours on a very bumpy dry road with endless trucks transporting goods between Nepal and India made for a challenging ride, the winding road snaked around a wonderful river with the occasional sighting of keen white water rafters was a nice sight however. Chitwan and its surrounds are a stark contrast to Kathmandu; the cold replaced with a dense fog and humid air amongst the dense forest that makes up the national park.
It was exciting to see signs indicating the presence of Rhinos, Tigers and Crocodiles! none of which I had seen in the flesh. After spending a nice relaxing night in a top notch hotel after an arduous bus ride Sandhip who also happens to be a qualified Chitwan guide gave us a lowdown of the days schedule, first a dawn canoe to spot crocodiles and other marine life, then a jungle walk followed by an elephant and crocodile sanctuary visit and lastly a jungle safari to (hopefully) spot a tiger!
The canoe ride was probably my favourite activity of the day. The morning fog made for a setting of a horror movie except this was real and he crocodiles lurking underneath the fog in the shallow river were real too! For a while we cruised into the mist, nervously looking and semi hoping to spot a crocodile with no luck, however just as we passed close to the river bank a massive man eater was staring us down, no more than 10 metres away! The thing was huge! Luckily he wasn’t in an energetic mood, content at death staring us while our jaws dropped and trembled. An amazing sight! After that I was definitely glad to get back on land, taking a risk with a tiger encounter seemed nothing when seeing the size of that croc!
The jungle walk was not as eventful however with only harmless birds and remnants of termite nests being things to note, however the landscapes of swampland surrounded by dense forest was pleasing. The elephant sanctuary was a divisive and controversial experience for me. Sandhip perfectly rationalised the intent and aims of the elephants held captive there, however seeing them chained up by their front legs and having limited movement seemed like an injustice and approaching torture when considering these animals intelligence. The younger elephants however were free to roam and I was lucky enough to get a few selfies with one and give it a good head rub.
The crocodile sanctuary however has good intent, bringing fish eating crocodiles back from the brink of exctinction in the area to now having healthy numbers. It’s amazing to see these creatures right up front, creatures that literally are dinosaurs, you can see how they have lasted so long with bodies made for hunting! Lastly came the jungle jeep safari and it’s safe to say everyone was looking forward to this! 4 hours we spent eagle eyed in anticipation for the slightest movement in amongst the dense grasslands and jungle landscape.
For a while we didn’t see anything, thats the way these things go, there are no guarantees, however soon enough we spotted different varieties of deer, monkeys and a rhino! Unfortunately no tiger this time but you can look at it as a glass half full or glass half empty situation, at least we saw a Rhino! Soon the sun started to set, not only on the jungle safari, but on the chitwan experience and ultimately our Take On Nepal adventure. We headed back to Kathmandu the following day to spend one last night together, to reflect on an eventful three weeks and to say our final goodbyes.
I think it is just to say that each of us learned a lot about ourselves by opening our eyes and our hearts to Nepal and Batase and it’s wonders, but most importantly we embraced the culture and the people that shape this wonderful country. I speak for myself when I suggest that in the midst of some serious issues involving empowerment and education, the spirit of the people guided by visionary Som and the love and openness they have for one another will succeed in breaking down these walls that are the final hurdles to Batase and Nepal eradicating these challenges. Important in aiding these goals is the help, wisdom and expertise we can give to aid in overcoming the hardships that they face.
To summarise my sentiments on how I felt about this experience would be to say that I had given a lot of my heart and soul to the village because they gave me back so much more with their warm hearts and endearing spirit. I’ve never met people with more gratitude and sustained happiness as the people of Batase. The village showcased this to me and all of the volunteers, making us feel so warm and appreciated. I’ll never forget the innocence of the children of Batase, written all over their adorable faces. It is this innocence which deserves our help and support. Thank you Batase, and thank you Take On Nepal for this amazing experience.
When it was time for me to return to Batase I was given 3 options of travel. I could make the journey on a local bus, hire a jeep or walk. I decided to walk. The next question was – will I walk the longer but easier route or will I challenge myself and attempt the harder but shorter trail. I missed everything about the village and decided I wanted to get there as quickly as possible. I wasn’t sure who was going to be my guide or porter for the trek as Take on Nepal employs a huge range of different runners, porters and guides – especially girls and young women from Batase village – most of which I have had the pleasure of working with previously.
As Take On Nepal and FHC has gained momentum they’ve started to expose the young people of the village to different opportunities that they wouldn’t have been lucky enough to come across without the hard work of Som and his team. For example, involving the girls in trail running is the perfect way to deter them from marrying young and leaving school before they’ve gained a decent education. Trail running motivates and inspires the young women in the district to strive for something more than they expected their future to be like.
It wasn’t until I arrived in the village in November that I understood just how much the young people here love running. It keeps them physically and mentally fit and provides them with a way in which they can move forward from past hardships and struggles. Not only do they get to compete in events and have the chance at being awarded with prize money to put towards their education, health and future employment – it is a great stepping stone to becoming the perfect candidate for a porter. When the young women and girls are old enough and strong enough, the team at Take On Nepal hire them as porters to carry backpacks for their clients.
The exposure to paid work and the experience of interacting with western clients is a life changing opportunity for the females of Batase and something they very much look forward to. Not only does it allow them to carry out a role that has previously been limited to males only, it gives the girls an insight into other possible futures that they can make for themselves if they work hard and strive to overcome the countries social expectation that they need to leave school and be sold into marriage young to support their families. When the young women start to grow up and complete their education at Shree Batase Secondary School, some go on to become guides. They build on their earlier experience as porters and continue to work with western visitors in more demanding roles, leading groups to Batase and on Everest and Annapurna treks.
For this particular trek I was lucky enough to walk with Anjana – a beautiful young lady who grew up in the FHC hostel in Batase. She now lives and studies in Kathmandu with the assistance from the FHC and works part time as a porter and training guide for Take On Nepal. I met Anjana in the lobby at Pilgrims hotel at 6:30am. We took a taxi to the national park – the beginning point of our 1 day trek to Batase.
I had chosen the harder option and was nervous and excited to get started. My ankle had been injured a week prior to our walk but I had my fingers crossed it wouldn’t be too uncomfortable through tour trek. The national park is breathtaking – yes, the stairs literally took my breath away, haha! In saying that, the trail cuts through picturesque villages and gorgeous canopies that are also breathtaking. Anjana was the perfect guide for me. We are similar in age, both love a good laugh and are very open to discussing hardships and triumphs in our lives. She shared her dream to become a teacher and I felt a sense of pride in knowing that I had made a friend in her and would be privileged enough to see her accomplish her goals in the future.
The walk was challenging for us both, although I had 3kgs on my back and she was carrying 11kgs. Not once did she complain, she loves her job. She’s one of the strongest females I’ve ever spent time with. She was professional and full of knowledge about where we were walking, what I was seeing and how many more stairs I had to crawl up. We stopped for water breaks and to catch our breath. We could’ve slowed down but we both enjoyed the challenge and fast heart rate. By the time we reached Chisopani we were starving but it was nothing that a generous serving of Dalbhat couldn’t fix!
Once again Anjana educated me on where we were and what had happened here – specifically how the 2015 earthquake had destroyed most of the tea houses I could see now as piles of rubble. Anjana is only 20 years old, but her promising English skills and expertise about the mountains and their surroundings took me by surprise.
After lunch we continued on our trek to Batase. ‘A little bit of down and a little bit of up’ said Anjana. I said ‘yes I know – Nepali flat’! The trail after Chisopani I had completed before. I was continually amazed at the pace of Anjana considering the size of the pack back she was carrying. The last hour of the walk is always the most enjoyable for me. It is generally all flat and you pass some incredible villages that house young children with smiles from ear to ear. At around 4:30pm we arrive home! The big blue hostel was starring at me and suddenly my smile grew from ear to ear as well. It was an incredible feeling to have walked from Kathmandu to Batase in one day considering I had an ankle injury and hadn’t exercised since I was in the village last. Overall, once again I was thrilled to have had such a great guide and companion and I had learnt so much about the rural areas of Nepal that we had passed on the way. Anjana is a credit to the FHC and her Take On Nepal role models.
21 days was all it took for me to fall in love; with new places, new cultures, new opportunities and most of all new people. There truly are no words to describe how incredible my adventure with Take On Nepal has been and I will forever cherish the countless wonderful memories I now possess with these people. Of course, every volunteer’s experience is going to be completely different just as no two people are the same, nobody’s journey can be the same. However, if you do decide to partake in this adventure with TON, I can guarantee you three things.
1. You will get sick. There’s no point in fighting it. From coughs and runny noses to indigestion and the flu, your body will be challenged by things you may have never experienced before in your life. Coming from coastal Australia (approximately 1m above sea level) the altitude for one was a massive change.
2. Your guides will exceed every single one of your expectations. These people are truly some of the greatest I have ever come across in my life and I am so thankful for their friendship and the countless laughs we shared. In times of sickness or doubt they will become your nurse, your best friend and your saviour in a heartbeat at any moment of the day.
3. Your life will never be the same. The people you meet in the beautiful Batase Village will touch your heart in ways that you never could have anticipated. Seeing the constant creativity and happiness of the villagers has taught me the greatest lesson of all. No amount of money or possessions will ever compare to the feeling of belonging in a community as loving and compassionate as this one.
As sad as it is to leave my wonderful new Nepali family, I can take comfort in the fact that I got to experience something most people never will. I got to live like a local, eat the local food, collect and cut sugarcane, sing and dance by the fire, drink a squillion cups of tea, watch the sun rise and set on the magnificent Himalayan Mountains, write songs, see countless shooting stars, learn a new language, laugh until I cried, teach something valuable, challenge my body, learn so much about myself, sleep on the roof, stroll down the street with a wild rhinoceros, explore the cities, spend a day on a beautiful lake with someone I love and build relationships that will last me a lifetime.
I can’t wait to rejoin the beautiful souls I met in Nepal this coming February. Thank you so much to everyone involved in the program! People like you make this world a beautiful place.
My name is Doug Baker. I am 49 years of age and I live in Perth, Western Australia. I have two kids, both boys and I am divorced. My adventure started many years ago as a child, first reading about Everest and the mountains of Nepal but that turned into a fascination and desire to travel to Nepal. I never wanted to do the package trip where I get to see all the sights but learn nothing of the people. I wanted to learn about the people and to experience how they live. I found out about Take on Nepal from Facebook and thought it was exactly what I was looking for. I am 49 and I have never been overseas so as you can imagine I was one nervous traveller, everything was a challenge and I was nervous as hell! But, from the moment I stepped out of the Kathmandu airport, the first thing I saw was the “Take on Nepal” sign and from that moment until the day I left, I felt safe and was treated not like a guest but as family.
I have had the most amazing experience during my two weeks in Batase. The village changed me in ways that I am still discovering. I was not prepared for what was the most challenging aspect, teaching! It was not easy especially as I was teaching such smart kids who don’t look at the world with a Western “woe is me” attitude. The kids are full of life and are the most respectful kids I have met, don’t get me wrong, if they can get swindle an extra chocolate or sticker out of you they will but they are kind and always up for a song and dance and a game of soccer.
I have come back a better man and a better human, I am sure that everyone who choses to go and do this will be better as well. After my time in Batase, I did the Poon Hill Trek and loved every minute of the hike. My guide Sun, and porter Samjhana were great, they informed me on what was interesting but let me relax and enjoy my hike. One of the best things was Samjhana, she was a young lady from the village and she carried my pack for five days, a truly amazing young lady who has had a very difficult start in life but looks at the world with laughter and with a positive attitude, we can all learn from her. Take on Nepal has given her the opportunity to have a life and not to be a victim of the child trafficking in Nepal. Take on Nepal are saving hundreds of children from the same fate. If you choose to go it will be the most rewarding experience of your life and in doing so you will help people and kids to break the cycle of human trafficking. I will not be surprised to see the first female prime minister of Nepal come from Batase! I fully endorse “Take on Nepal” as I have seen with my own eyes the good they are doing. Do yourself a favour and experience it for yourself.
After the earthquakes hit Nepal in 2016, I got to know Som Tamang and the work of the Friends of Himalyan Children and Take On Nepal through my role as a journalist in Australia. I was determined to help on the ground but as there is usually a rush of assistance after natural disasters, I wanted to wait until I could be of most use. I spent a month in Batase Village and it has truly been one of the best experiences of my life.
My trekking guide, Phulmaya Tamang and trainee guide Samjhana Tamang greeted me with a smile when we met for our two day journey to Batase. After a tumultuous couple of years back at home it was a huge relief to walk in those mountains under a brilliant blue sky with happy guides. I nearly cried when I saw the snow-capped Himalayas for the first time, not realising I would be able to look at that amazing view while brushing my teeth for the next month. Phulmaya went out of her way to ensure my comfort during my whole stay and is a wonderful companion, with whom I will have a lifelong friendship and Samjhana, who shows great promise of becoming a champion runner is an inspirational young woman.
I really liked being able to travel to Batase as an individual rather than as part of a group but I enjoyed sharing my experience with a few other volunteers once in the village. From my first welcome with garlands during the Tihrar festival until my journey back to Kathmandu, I was made to feel so welcome by the FHC and Take on Nepal staff, teachers and children. The accommodation and food well exceeded my expectations and I really felt part of the community while I was there. I loved teaching and helping train staff to manage the sponsorship program. It was very special to teach and visit the home of the girl we sponsor through FHC. Living the Batase Village life is the happiest I have been in a long time and I can’t wait to return with my family.