Nepal, 2019: "the trip of a lifetime"
A Group of AKS students from years 9,10 and 11 made the journey across the globe to experience the sights and sounds of Nepal. After a delayed landing due to thunder storms, the group arrived in Kathmandu and with a short journey through the bustling streets, they arrived at their hotel for the next 2 nights. After an initial welcome from the Sherpas, the group settled down for their first sample of the local cuisine and an early night.
The following morning the group arose early to partake in some sight seeing in Kathmandu, visiting the monkey temple with magnificent views overlooking the city. This is where the group had a tour and very informative talk about the Buddhist religion and significance of the coloured flags and 5 elements. Another highlight of the tour was a visit to Pashupatinath temple, where they learned about the cultural ceremony when people pass to the next life. This was followed by an introduction to the group’s favourite culinary delight, ‘Momo’.
The following day, the group made their way to Sundarijal to start their trekking phase of the expedition. This was a difficult day of trekking as the group climbed for 5 hours up to 3000 meters above sea level and into the clouds. As the group arrived at their final destination for the day, there were able to see first-hand the devastating effects of the earthquake that struck the country in 2015. That evening the students were introduced to some of the local ‘residents’ in their rooms, which included a mouse, a frog and multiple beetles and moths; some felt like they had the wing span of a small bird!
For the following two days the students trekked through undulating rain forest, occasionally getting glimpses of the stunning views below through the cloud. On the final day of trekking the weather took a turn for the worst with the monsoon season in full swing, which brought a persistent deluge of rain. Throughout the trek the students were challenged with the terrain, rain and leeches, but this only served to strengthen and gel the students together as a team, supporting each other through the lows and sharing the highs and achievements.
Following the trek, the group made their way to be beautiful village of Bandipur, where they embarked on a project at a local monastery. On the first day the team were able to acclimatise, trekking to a local lookout point over the village, with views deep into the valley and of the surrounding mountains, this was followed by a visit to the monastery, to meet the Lama and discuss the project for the following day. In the afternoon the team were treated to a tour of a local farm and learned about how the locals managed to grow crops and raise livestock on the side of a mountain.
On days ten and eleven, the team set to work in sweltering heat, erecting a boundary wall for the monastery, this included jobs such as digging earth for the foundations, moving rocks, chopping down trees and digging up roots, as well as building the wall itself. The cooperation, communication and understanding of each other's strengths and weaknesses, laid a great foundation to the success of the project and saw the team complete the original task and start an additional job of clearing space for the foundations for a holy pool to be built at the front of the building. The group were rewarded with ginger tea and the Nepalese version of popcorn - corn on the cob cooked until it popped.
After saying farewell to our grateful hosts at the monastery, the team travelled back to Kathmandu for the final leg of the expedition. The group were able to enjoy some free time looking around the local shops and taking in the sights of Boudhanath Stupa, before preparing for the long journey home.
While reflecting upon his time in Nepal, Lytham said, ‘Overall the trip to Nepal has been an incredible experience and although tough at times, I've loved every minute. One of the difficulties faced by the group was the altitude, meaning the air was thinner during the trek and this made it more difficult to get your breath whilst walking. The high points were how the group interacted with each other and most definitely the food. We learnt about the Nepalese culture, but we also learned a lot about ourselves, for instance, how to manage increased independence and being more self-sufficient. I also learned that as a group, we were more tenacious and adaptable than I would have expected.’
Toby said that his favourite aspect of the expedition was ‘bonding with everyone else on the trip; I didn’t really know most people on the trip apart from Owen and Tom, who I have played rugby with. I enjoyed meeting new people, and through our experiences, we have all formed great new friendships across the group. We really formed a close bond on our group and during the trekking phase, we walked and talked about anything from conspiracy theories to sport, and we always had someone to laugh or have a joke with. This experience has made me realise that I need to be more open-minded in my approach to new people. I need to take more interest in other people outside of my usual group of friends. If I was to give advice to anyone going on a trip like this, it would be to try everything and anything possible. There’s so much you can learn from different people and cultures.’
Upon returning from the expedition, Abe said, ‘I had no idea what this trip would be like, and almost didn’t go, as I didn’t know the people on the trip. I am so happy I went, the people I didn’t know, are now some of my best friends. This intense experience builds friendship bonds that are strong in a short space of time. I also feel that this trip has changed me as a person, as my eyes were opened to poverty and how communities live in other countries. This also brought my attention to the Buddhist religion as we learned about the ideals of the religion, about treating others with respect regardless of who they are and where they have come from. I feel this trip has made me reflect on how I view and treat others and feel that I will do this with a heightened sense of respect in the future, as the experience has taught me valuable life lessons.’
Abe went on to say, ‘I believe that we should all step out of our comfort zone from time to time, as we can learn so much and develop from these experiences.’