Follow by Email

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

The Nepali Retreat

Two flights and a couple of taxi rides brought us to the Indian-Nepali Border where we walked across a long bridge over some barren land straight into Kakarvitta, Nepal. It felt great to be in Nepal, a place known for its great capital of Kathmandu, it mountainous beauty and the most famous summit of all, Everest. This border town, Kakarvitta, was just a quick stop (it was meant to be a place to leave) so we bordered a rickety old bus and headed to Kathmandu. With four inches of leg room, an aisle filled with bags (and sometime people) and water dripping on my head from the impressive storm raging over the plains the 16 hour ride was quite the experience. Although the very bumpy bus ride was miserable at times it was unlike anything I have experienced before and arriving in Kathmandu the next morning made it well worth.

I had only known a few basic facts about Kathmandu from my readings prior to the trip, but I don't think many travelers books would have been able to describe the calming nature of this large valley city. Although the city has a population of almost a million people it had a very relaxing and calm feel to its streets. Part of this may have been the strong religious presence, which seemed to primarily be composed of Buddhism, with a magnificent temple (or what they call a Stupa) on nearly every major street corner. I unfortunately know little about Buddhism, but it was clear that its presence that consists of deep meditation and prayer has a significant impact on the city making a wonderful atmosphere of peace. Above is a picture of the Boudhanath Stupa, which is the most sacred Buddhist temple in Nepal and one of my favorite stops.

There were countless other sites we visited that were architecturally magnificent yet never tacky (and I'm sure many that we missed due to a lack of time ). To the right is a picture of the Patan Durbar Square that is a popular tourist destination for both Nepali's and foreigners. Like most places I visit the food is usually one of the things that always leaves a deeply edged memory in my brain and stomach. The numerous cafes filled with the finest coffees, teas, and pastries was a real treat due the uniqueness of each shop and their tasty dishes, along with the fact that in Agartala, India its near impossible to find a mom n' pop cafe. The food highlight was definitely all the buffalo meat. Buffalo jerky, buffalo momo's, buffalo steak, buffalo meatballs, sweet n' spicy buffalo, and my favorite was the juicy buffalo burger. I was impressed by the buffalo and its various forms like Forest Gump was impressed by the shrimp.

Its hard to name one part of the 9 day voyage that was the best, but if you're going to force me to choose then I will have to pick our 3 day, 52 kilometer trek through the Himalayas. This trek just outside of the Kathmandu Valley was just a baby trek compared to great Everest and Annapurna treks in the north, but it was still unlike anything I have done before. The sights of the valley were unreal and the early morning views of the high Himalayas where Everest lies were magnificent. At times the hiking was exhausting climbing to the Chisipani and Nagakot summits, which elevations were around 7,000 feet giving use some perfect views.

Even with the sweat and occasional aches we were spoiled by our great guide, Arjun, who has hiked about every trail in Nepal multiple times over his long career in the mountains. The hotels we stayed at on the summits were also glorious with their grand views and had a charm of a genuine hikers house located in an isolated spot. It was just perfect spending time out in the cool, fresh year with my fellow friends who all enjoyed the peaceful getaway from our busy lives as teachers in India. This trek reminded me of the how beautiful and spectacular nature can be, and how it can rejuvenate the mind and the body.

There is really nothing I would have changed about this adventure except that I wish it was longer, but school calls and there can only be so much fun for now. We're back with our classes as we prepare for final exams, which is a marathon for the students that involves a 2 hour test for 8 straight school days. Even though teaching is very challenging I do not envy my students and I'm just happy to proctor the exams instead of taking them. More traveling fun is soon to return though as we prepare for our pilgrimage around southern India during the summer vacation in the month of May. We will travel to a variety of destinations such as Chennai, Kerala, Goa, Bangalore, Mumbai, the Ajanta Caves, Darjeeling, and more. India is such a diverse country with so many different languages, cultures, and sites to see it'll be thrilling to set off in May.

I would be lying to say being a volunteer teacher is a walk in the park. Some days are very stressful and make you wonder why you are doing what you are doing, while others leave you with a feeling of accomplish that keeps you going. Having the ability to travel a lot during this year is a nice perk of this Extension India program and I really think it gives us a great opportunity to indulge in some self-care, which is vital when working in any field. In case I do not get to blog before I leave for the South, enjoy the spring and I'll fill you in with hopefully a broader taste of India come June!