Behind Everest, the real Nepal in recovery

Five days beforehand I was lying in my beautiful comfortable warm bed on the Gold Coast with Nepal a distant dream and another world away. I had traveled here before but no two trips are ever the same and this was to be true of this adventure. 

Sometimes I think  I am a little crazy but behind Everest, and the proud face of Nepal, is a country in recovery and I want to see if I can help out.

The  helicopter trip to the remote hillside village, seemed like a thrill ride.  It was fascinating and exhilarating traveling over terraced fields high into the Nepalese mountains. The mountains are steep, not gradual and not subtle.  How on earth homes have been built on the rugged terrain is beyond me. 

Helicopter Fulkharka
Catching a helicopter to Fulkharka

The twenty minute chopper ride is the best way to get to Fulkharka (or Phulkharka as it can be spelt) and is far superior to the road trip. While it is only 150km north west of Kathmandu the roads are far from straight and flat and traveling on them is like being in a washing machine. A jeep could make the drive in 6-8 hours, or a bus 8-12 hours, needless to say for me, this time the helicopter WON OUT big time.

I am only here for a few days to help rebuild the school that was mostly destroyed in the earth quake.

This is a clip I took on the way to Lumbini and is indicative of road travel in Nepal. I am very grateful for my Italian fore-father Leonardo Di Vinci for inventing the helicopter (after the road tips I vow never to drive over flying here ever again)!  

Last year, a 7.8 earth quake hit Nepal on Saturday 25th April. It shook the area around Kathmandu. 8000 people died, only two in this village, but many more were wounded.

Getting aid to the affected was a logistic nightmare, as the roads are treacherous at best. Post quake, many roads were impassable with fallen rocks and pit holes. Many people perished in the fields from injuries and cold.

For days after the earthquake the villagers were too scared to re-inter buildings as they were unstable and still collapsing. Smart move in this case as a second earth quake was to hit on 12th May.

It’s not surprising then , as we fly in , that we receive a royal welcome. The whole school comes out to greet us. 

The children come out to greet us in Fulkharka, arriving via helicopter
The children come out to greet us in Fulkharka, arriving via helicopter

The school had 33 buildings and in the earthquake lost 22 buildings.

It’s an inspiring sight and I just wish it had been 9 months earlier and I was there after the quake to provide much needed goods, like blankets, emergency relief and food.

I feel mildly embarrassed by our welcome but soon realise the intrigue is pure gratitude.

In this village, Fulkharka, like many surrounding villages, there is no electricity, no cars and no social service benefit.

People race to greet us as they are truly grateful for us coming to help them.  It’s only a small contribution in their road to recovery but our show of faith goes along way. 

fulkharka damage
earthquake damage Fulkharka

This is my friend Pravin’s home.

Like many homes in the village, it was three stories high, but now reduced to unsafe rubble, many are trying to rebuild.

The scars from the earthquake are still evident and over night I experience my first real life earthquake!

I wake to the ground groaning, mumbling and shaking.

Rapidly working out in my dreamy mind that I am not dreaming, this is not Jurassic Park and I am indeed in the middle of an earthquake. I wake instantly. What can I do? What does one do? I had never dress-rehearsed this before. 

I felt a little naive – entering earthquake territory and all, Mt Everest, the surrounding cousins and the angry earth plates obviously rule the nest here and I was innocently camping on their soil.

Please be kind to me, I remember thinking. 

My little tent
My little tent

Fortunately Mother Nature is kind to me this time and my little A frame tent stays upright.. and no boulders roll in to greet me.

Morning comes and I rise collaborating the night’s event’s with others… “was it really an earth quake?”

Yes a 4.5.

I can’t image the fear the people must have felt last year as the earth shook up and down and side to side. Apparently items were jumping in the air and people were knocked to the ground on their knees. It must have been horrific. Normally seismic activity occurs either laterally or vertically, but last year’s Nepal quake did both at the same time.

They must have felt the end of the world was nigh.

I spend a couple of days helping to concrete over the earth bagged walls.

Cementing the roof in Fulkharka
Cementing the roof in Fulkharka

Progress is slow with earth bagging but the concreting part seems to make an impressionable difference. People have been chipping in and coming here over the last few months to help out.

Notably a French guy, Thomas who is leading the project, a guy from Kansas City called John and volunteers with OURWORLDEXITS. I am here with my friend’s NGO called Journey Nepal.  I only chip in for a few days but could stay and would love to stay and do more.

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Earth bagging is labour intensive but perfect for locations where excavators, cement pumping and other modern techniques are limited. It is also environmentally aligned not that I am an expert. I like the concept, enjoy the process and love seeing it unfold.

When our day’s work is done we can hang out with the locals.

The children are really receptive and open to outsiders.

 I am invited to give an impromptu English class and even have photos on my camera of Australian marsupials. The kids love it (I love it)!

teaching in nepal

My friend’s sister works in the local post office where mail is still delivered on foot and with a smile. I am sure everyone knows everyone’s business here but there is nothing to hide and family is number one. I love it. Very reminiscent of yesteryear and it appeals to my romantic mind.

Fulkharka
French Cricket Fulkharka

I teach the children French cricket -which they pick up very quickly – and tuffs of tumble weed and broken wood is all we need for equipment.

Dhal Bat
dahl bat, the national dish of Nepal

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My friend’s family also treat us to an incredible feast. The local dish is Dhal Bat and as a real treat they cull a chicken.

Cooking up a storm
Cooking up a storm

We cook inside on the wood fired oven and it smells out of this world!

The herbs and spices are amazing: fresh and local grown chilli, garlic, coriander, tomatoes and more. It is a chef’s (and nutritionist’s) heaven. I could write an entire blog about the herbs and food! Truly inspiring.

fresh chicken
delicious chicken curry in Fulkharka

I was a little nervous eating the freshly prepared chicken but there was no need to be. Turns out chicken beaks, chicken meat and the sinew are tasty and really good in a curry. Nothing is wasted and I can see why there are few nutritional deficiencies around here.

My friend's family
My friend’s family

The Nepalese are a resilient race. Strong in adversity yet humble and happy. I haven’t come across any other race as beautiful and well rounded.

Beloved buffalo
Beloved buffalo

Animals are still used to plough the land, and are respected for their produce and spirits. Most Nepalese are hindi so the cow is all sacred and all animals are treated humanly.  Apparently the buffalo get marijuana from the fields for it’s medicinal benefits – makes so much sense to me!

I want to go back and help more.

The experience in these hills are life changing and will remain with me forever.

I was made to feel at home, as one and taken in with love.

I look forward to seeing my new friends again and encourage others to experience what I have before electricity gets to the hills and spoils some of their innocence.

Namaste

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