It has been 7 months ago since my last visit to Nepal. This visit would be a special visit as the Training- and Education Centre for the visually disabled is supposed to be ready soon.
As preparation for this event I had contacted almost all organizations for blind people in Nepal to see if and how we could cooperate.
I did send invitations in advance for meetings including my travel schedule with the request to attend the planned meetings. I am not going to mention all meetings, it would be too much. All together there were more than 52 gatherings. Some I will mention further on.
Last week before departure to Nepal my wife Nel and I packed all luggage. As I fly with Gulf Air I am allowed to take 30kg with me. First attempt for packing: 45 kg. The 2nd attempt still 35 kg and last attempt around 30 kg. Unfortunately I couldn’t take all medical things so there are some boxes left at the attic with me at home ready for transport.
I had a good journey although there wasn’t much room for my legs and the food has been a lot better other times I flew Gulf Air. I flew through London Heathrow, were checks seem to be more strict than it already was, through Bahrain and then to Kathmandu. My luggage arrives on time but I have trouble finding my driver. And yes, plenty ‘volunteers’ that want to bring me to my hotel, that is business. Finally I do find my driver. My Nepalese Sim-card is already there at Hotel Encounter as are the 2 bags with clothes. All together it took me 29 hours of travelling to get to Kathmandu.
Now the party is on…
Next morning I had breakfast in the garden, the Kathmandu Post waiting for me at the table. I read there were a lot of tourists in Lukla that couldn’t fly for 5 days now because of the bad weather. Fog and rain were causing lots of problems. There were more than 2000 people waiting for a flight from Lukla to Katmandu and same amount of people for a trip other way around to Lukla. Eventually it took 8 days before everything was back to normal. Tourists had to sleep on the floor in restaurants and chai-houses before they could be picked up. Quite an ordeal waiting knowing your international transfer date is coming soon.
I had planned 4 meetings that day but 2 were cancelled cos they had forgotten about it. That wasn’t that bad cos it gave me plenty of time to visit the organization for blind at Kathmandu as well as the supplier for the drinkingwater project.
During my last visit I talked with the people at Ulleri, in the hills above Pokhara, on my way to Ghorepani, about the possible start of a waterproject. They were interested. Costs for this drinking water project: 2700 euro. Solar panels were not necessary as there is a hydroelectric station.
I took at taxi back to the hotel where I met many acquaintances, drank lots of chai that I normally never drink at home.
I bought some nice Cd’s and DVD’s for a bargain; a DVD costs € 1, 40 and the quality is good. Costs of Cd’s are approximately 1 to 3 euro.
The next morning I left for Pokhara, 200 km to the West, with a lot of luggage and an extra backpack.
At Pokhara everybody knew I was coming. Having a mobile with Nepalese Simcard makes it all go very smoothly. The owner of Crown Himalayas, Hari, was waiting for me at the buss-station. When the bus stops you get all crazy of all Nepalese wanting to take you somewhere with their taxi and giving hotel advice.
The luggage didn’t fit in the car but was packed on the rooftop. The trip took 7 hours and I wasn’t bored for a minute. At Pokhara I unpacked all my stuff and rearranged it. I had medical supplies for 3 Health clinics. Nowadays it is a lot easier to go to or travel from Jomson by buss or 4W-drive.
It was very crowded at Pokhara because there were also problems due to the weather.
A lot of activities had been cancelled like mountain flights, paragliding and sunrise at Sarangkot: no mountain visible… But the weather was getting better with me arriving there at Pokhara.
I could finish my program as planned and again I got a free permit from Acap. This time they gave a letter mentioning one should help and respect me as much as possible. It wasn’t my idea but it was funny though when Nepalese people were reading the letter.
On my way to Ulleri (2300 meter) and Ghorepani (3000 meter) up in the mountains
Half past 7 I would meet my regular taxi driver, Bishnu. He called at 6.15, saying he had a flat tire and would be delayed. It wasn’t that much of a delay. It was a clear sky and the mountains were really there (being visible at last!). It took about 1,5 hour for our ride to Birethanti, about 45 km. The road was really bad and particularly the last part we had to cross a river and a lot of rocks was amazing. We zigzagged through rocks and water but we made it and it saved me a lot of time in carrying the many luggage.
At Birethanti they are building a new bridge being part of a road planned to Tirkhedunga. I am not pleased about that because they destroy a lot of beautiful nature, forests, and they cross straight through some villages. I have seen this before. At the end it isn’t beneficial for the villages at all.
Tourists will avoid such roads and villages and will go search for other options.
My carrier was already walking towards me which was great cos I had a backpack and two other bags. That is hard to do on your own. At Birethanti I did use some sun block, put on my cap backwards against the sun and drank a cola, and off we went.
I had a small backpack and the carrier had 1 bag (we made one bag of the 2 we had). I was looking forward to see a lot of friends. Every year the number increases. I was very surprised seeing a lodge on wooden poles just before arriving at Tirkhedunga. A new record: it only took me 1 hour and 50 minutes to walk up there. My carrier didn’t arrive yet so I took some time to dry a shirt and drink some cola.
As I had been resting for quite a while already I decided to go to Super View at Ulleri and stay there for the night. As my carrier had to eat dal bhat first I started climbing to my final destination for the day. It took me a bit longer than 2 hours to get there. The people recognized me and I got a fine room. I didn’t bother for showering, tomorrow at Ghorepani.
The school, which is in very bad condition, either wants money for new housing or 15 tables and seats, a laptop and a printer. Despite the fact that it is a small school they want to teach computer lessons at the highest grade (in this place that is class 5). I already have a Nepalese teacher.
They are also very eager in getting the drinking water project started. My conditions are that they have to clean up the mess I discovered, build a facility for the project and buy a stock of bottles.
All hotels will get 20liter bottles of water. So there will be no more mineral water bottles necessary anymore for the future then. All the schoolchildren will benefit of this project: they get clean drinking water!!!
On my way up to Ghorepani I had a meeting with some teachers and I explained them there is only something happening when I receive a plan. I told them I will be back within 2 days.
I asked the chairman of the Management committee were I can buy honey of the wild bees. So it seems he doesn’t only sell it but he is a honeyhunter himself. He will bring a bottle when I come back from Ghorepani.
Ghorepani for 25 years
Yes, this is the 25th year I am visiting Ghorepani. It is a very nice village with good people.
We started a health clinic here and a drinking water station.
Chitra Pun did fall and has a bruised foot and some knee-damage and is in hospital. He will be back in a couple of days. To make it complete there is a power defect due to a truck that hit an electricity-pole. Result: 2 days without power. So I started the solar panels myself as we have to have water in stock. I took some pictures of the equipment. It all kept me quite busy for a while.
Next day I had an important meeting with all committees of Ghorepani together with captain Pun.
He had another meeting in another village and I was not pleased with that. Fortunately he could cancel the other meeting. I gave some medical supplies and checked the accounting of both projects. It looked well. The health post is managing well by itself and the waterpoject is also going great. The water project already had couple of thousands euro profit in April 2011. So I raised my hand and asked for part of the profit as it was a private project of Klaas and me.
They had a good laugh about it…
Of course I was invited to drink chai or coffee at several places, I even got cake with it. In the evening I had a lovely dinner at the hotel of captain Pun. There were as many as 80 tourists in his ever cozy lodge. The food is excellent and well organized. Had a great meal together with Sappana (daughter of Devi) at her hotel and with the captain. For 25 years I have the pleasure of meeting them. I was happy captain Pun was healthy again. Last 1,5 years we didn’t meet but we only talked on the phone. So now captain Pun is back in charge again at Ghorepani.
The weather was not that well. For two days there was no view of any mountains.
It is a pity for all tourists that go to Poon Hill at the crack of dawn to watch the mountains. When there is a clear sky that is a breathtaking view.
Next morning I got up early and had a good walk to Tirkhedunga. Binu and some other people were again waiting for me with flowermala and tika. We will meet again in April 2012 I told them.
Som was waiting for me. The backpack he carried got less heavy. On the way to Tirkhedunga I picked up my jar of honey. The honey seems to be very strong and healing. Prescription is to not take more than 2 teaspoons of it otherwise… I didn’t try it but it seems you can go hallucinating…
After the transition of the tables and chairs I had a short speech and went for a look in the school and the new hostel. The students were going back into their classrooms.
A lot of happy people here again, thanks to the sponsors (KenB). The school asked me for beds, mattresses, blankets and kitchen equipment but I thought for now this was enough.
There are more areas where help is needed. It should not become too easy or common for them.
Back to civilization
After a good breakfast I left with another carrier at 7.30 in the morning. He is a former student of the school. Som, the other carrier, took my backpack to Tirkhedunga when I still had to descend another 500 meters. He left my backpack there and went back to Ghorepani. It was great weather for walking. The sun was not too bright. The new road is bothering me but there are things one has to accept for what it is. Within 2 hours we reached Birethanti and after another 30 minutes Nyapul.
I gave some extra rupees to my carrier. I was waiting for the taxi that should arrive around half past 10. At around 11 his friend came and took me to Pokhara. Bishnu, my regular driver went to a temple by cable.
I had some sore muscles of the descent. Arriving at Pokhara I have to leave the taxi and yes I still have muscles… I could feel them well getting out of the taxi! But it was not as bad as it felt in April 2011.
I visited Acap and asked them to make a letter so tourists understand they cannot leave empty batteries everywhere but preferably take them with them at home. Nepalese people throw those batteries away or dig a hole… with all consequences that come with doing that.
The letter was already set up but Lal P Gurung did not do anything with it yet. Not very promising to me but I will think about what to do about this problem of the empty batteries.
I also want pictures in every hotel at Ghorepani and Ulleri of the water project. That way tourists will understand how the water is made.
Visited Khom and I looked what his contribution can be in addition to the project for the visual disabled. He is willing to support us. With this Pokhara is almost done. Tourists are happy again because the weather has changed into a clear sky again. So they can go parahawking from Sarangkhot again. After some severe rain showers the weather is clear again and the mountainview was stunning. Up to Chitwan we go.
Mr. Hari of the hotel had arranged a taxi for me. Timing was clearly according Nepalese standards. One hour later as expected the taxi arrived at 7.30, a very old Toyota Corolla, I think about 25 yrs old… but it looked still fine. The driver was handling his car with care and he drove well. Sometimes I checked the speedometer: 100 km. At first I thought I had to have my eyes checked at home. But the meter was giving all kind of different speeds ranging from 60 to 80 km. So my eyes were not that bad at all. After 3 hours and 15 minutes I arrived at Sauraha. Fastest time ever.
Susila came rushing with flowers and a tika. My driver was in a hurry to rush back (so no dal bhat) and I was given room 114, in the new wing of the hotel.
It was very hot at Sauraha and there were many mosquitoes at my room. So I sprayed something as precaution as there were no mosquito nets. It seems when you turn on the airco you are not bothered by mosquitoes. I did not try that. Mosquitoes don’t like me and I don’t like mosquitoes.
We introduced ourselves to the women and we also complained about the bad hygiene of the sanitary. The women ensured us they would clean it tomorrow and they would talk it over with the teachers, cos this was not ok. Later on I heard all was cleaned well and that it would not happen again. Next year April I will drop by unannounced.
All other women groups were doing very well, working on subjects like health, hygiene, micro financing (chicken, goats, eggs, horse car, buffalo), wages at collective harvesting, mushroom projects, sewing clothes, birth control and their annual blood donation. They have meetings twice a month and also have courses accountancy. So overall they do a great job. All 3 of the womengroups promised to help me on the projects for the blinds with training, singing and dancing.
On my turn I promised them to send some medical expertise to talk about uterine prolapse.
During my stay I have met a Dutch physiotherapist who was also doing some volunteering work. Besides physiotherapist he is also an acupuncturist. He treats people using very small needles which he put in their muscles. Amazing to see how many Nepalese people already felt a lot better after his treatment. As always good news travels fast so I took some other people to him with astonishing results! Henk, many thanks!!!
The 5 dikes we build are still holding. No floods since many years in Sauraha.
I visited our health post and delivered some medical supplies. I checked if the solar was working again. That was all fine but a sink was defect, it didn’t give any water.
The health post is running great and thanks to a generator and many chemicals, all medication can be preserved at right temperature and much research can be done. Typhoid and tuberculosis is still common around here. Not many patients with dengue but when they have any suspicion on this the person is send through for thorough research.
It was nice to see that Julia Wiebenga is working as volunteer for a couple of months.
The child with the split lip left with its mother to Gorkha and did not have the necessary surgery yet. The surgery is for free but then the child should be there of course.
Vaccination programs are going well. Medication and vaccination are for free.
The other project was also working on the greenhouse. The straw was cut into pieces and boiled. Within 2 days it will be wrapped in plastic and the seeds are going to be put in there. Next time I have to take a closer look at the result.
One day, at around 5 in the morning, one of the staffmembers of the Travellers Jungle Camp hotel heared some noise at the elephant, just near his bedroom. He takes a look and sees a wild rhino walking through the garden and at the lawn towards the fence. As the fence was closed the rhino had to walk back again. With its enormous feet it walked straight into the vegetable garden of Susila and starts eating carrots, lettuce and other vegetables. Eventually the rhino leaves at the backside. This story spread like wildfire through the village. A rhino at Rams garden! When you say it is a pity so many is destroyed and eaten, Ram says not to worry cos the rhino is giving them a living. Without rhinos no Sauraha!
I had several meetings with organizations for visual disabled and with blind/low vision people about cooperation. These meetings were very useful.
The teacher wanted to go to study at the university and she did for one year. She quit studying because she was afraid to lose her job after finishing her study. Now she earns about 13.000 rupees a month (approx. 130 euro). The Braille typewriters of Perskin were nicely lined up next to each other on the cabinet at school. I tried them one by one and the result was perfect: 100% defect!!! What a bummer! Two years ago I had those checked and repaired in Kathmandu. We take two with us at the backseat of Ram his scooter. Next morning it took me 2,5 hours but now they are fixed again.
The defect of the computers had to do with the fact that the mouse and the keyboard were not properly attached to it. The blind plug them in wrong which is kind of logical in a way. So we asked them not to change it anymore now it is all fixed and working well again. Costed me 35 euro.
The other typewriters were also checked. One is working well and the other one needs some small adjustment (tightening a nut). But I did not have the right tool.
Two blind people have had training in teaching computer lessons. Two blind persons were trained in candle-making, something that is part of our plan for the future.
So we had some good meetings and hopefully all will turn out as we agreed upon.
Another good thing was that because of all the meetings we had, we found an eye specialist that works for free. I immediately send a teacher with 3 students to the specialist. It was 40 km by local bus. No problem for Nepalese people but to me it was as I had to bend over the whole time standing in the bus. The seats are that small that no one can sit next to me anymore. Eye specialist Rajendra B Shresta has an eye clinic. He did some research on the 3 students and it was amazing. Two of them can see much more clear now due to some medication. For the other student however there was no treatment possible.
The weather is so bright that one can see the Himalaya from here (Sauraha). Distance is 150 km.
And so after 26 days there my trip to Chitwan, Sauraha ends. Tomorrow I am going to Kathmandu.
Last couple of days at Kathmandu
Still 4 days to go before leaving home again. I had several meetings with several organizations for the blind and we made some agreements in cooperation on some projects.
The water project is also going to be started.
Two days ago I received information through email about Ulleri and today I received information about the progress.
I did some shopping in Kathmandu; a nice pashmina scarf, had a nice ring being made and I have been in Kirtipur where Shashi has a training centre for disabled.
As always I visited Kari of the consulate. It is a habit to visit him both in spring and fall. We chitchat about a lot of things that life has to offer…
My driver Heera took me to his place of birth, Thimi (nearby Bhaktapur).
He showed me an old Buddhist temple of 7 stories high. The temple was build against a hill. There was hardly any maintenance done last 22 years. During my visit two female Monks approached us. They lived here but went back to Thailand for an exam. They lived according the teachings of Buddha. Two other female Monks were already in Thailand. I got some soda with cookies and they asked for some support for this old temple. Heera was very proud of it.
Yesterday the Nepalese newspaper addressed the swine flu had been located at… Thimi, same place I am right now. I am not so troubled about that. We leave this old town and drive through very narrow streets of Thimi.
Nepalese people were washing and packing their vegetables on every corner of the street. Preparing it for sale. It was all pure nature here. No heavy industry with pollution like brick factories.
The streets were that narrow that sometimes we had to move a bicycle or motorbike or ask Nepalese people to stand up… Time has stood still here. The village people make a living of agriculture and selling vegetables. No tourists shops here but only special temples and old buildings.
Around half past two we arrive at Kathmandu again. Naba had arranged a taxi of the tracking agency. All for free. Naba, thank you very much for this
Next day I bought some more things and packed it all for my flight home. My plane leaves at 20.30. The ring I ordered was ready just in time. At 17.00 Heera brings me to the airport by taxi. It was crowded. Many flights were scheduled. They did not even check my luggage.
My first stop was at Doha, with a break of 2 hours, eventually it was 3 hours waiting before my flight to London left. Arriving at London I lost a lot of time because the plane did circle a lot before landing. It was very busy and I had to transfer from terminal 5 to terminal 4: gate was closed half an hour before departure. Fortunately there was another flight available half an hour later as planned. That half hour became a whole hour later.
I couldn’t get a hold on the documents for the taxi home. Put my simcard in phone and arrived more than an hour late at Schiphol airport due to circling above the Noordzee. Luckily my taxi was still waiting for me and I had received sms. I only had to grab my luggage and now my trip has finally ended again. Back to Holland being cold and bleak, and with hail.
Within 3 months I hope to return to Nepal. Just a little break, sort out all I did and make new plans,
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