In early April, National Geographic Traveller Aus/NZ editor Geordie Torr and competition winner Laura Waters joined a group of Kathmandu Summit Club members for a 14-day ‘Rebuild Nepal’ trek through the foothills of the Himalaya. Having raised funds for the Australian Himalayan Foundation (AHF) as a way of giving back to the communities that they would visit, the group visited schools in the Solukhumbu district to see first-hand some of the work that’s being carried out by rural education and environment NGO REED Nepal, with support from the AHF and Kathmandu, before joining the ‘tourist circuit’ for views of Mount Everest and other famous Himalayan peaks.
As we’re starting to walk further each day now, we’re also getting up earlier, with tea and washy-washy coming at 6am, which means that boots are hitting the track at a bit before 7.30am. Even at that time, we’re still fighting the haze – caused by forest and crop fires across Nepal and the rest of South Asia – for views of the big snow-capped peaks around us.
Our route started out mostly as a horizontal traverse today. Yesterday, we came across some mysterious rolls of thick silver cable and piles of rust-red-painted poles and as we walked this morning we discovered their purpose – the local villages are, it appears, being connected to the grid. While this is obviously good news for the people living in the area, we couldn’t help being slightly put off by the nature of the wire that is being used to bring them power, as it lacks the comforting black insulation you see on power lines back home.
We also came across some more woodcutters at work and a group of young boys carrying big loads of firewood in baskets. The latter had stopped to rest and Gunnedah-based farmer Mark Kesby had a go at lifting one of their loads, estimating its weight at around 25 kilograms.
After lunch, we crossed a number of well-constructed stone bridges and then started heading upwards. It was getting quite hot by now, the heat beating down through the clear sky and then rising off the stones in the path. As we passed through a village, Laura remarked that it was as if we were walking through a cultural demonstration – in one short stretch we passed a woman weaving a mat, a group of men preparing to cut up a freshly slaughtered buffalo and a mother and son beating heads of millet to extract the grain.
By now we had begun to walk through what appeared to be a more affluent area. Most of the buildings had been built using properly cut and shaped stone, and many featured extensive paved areas. We also started seeing more, and more impressive, Buddhist stupas. And sure enough, as we made our way over a rise, we came upon the village of Kharikhola. Located at an elevation of about 2,000 metres, Kharikola is well and truly on the tourist circuit, and it wasn’t long before we were passing well-stocked shops, hostels and, gasp, other Western tourists.
Our campsite was set up on a small patch of flat ground beside one of the guesthouses. The return to ‘civilisation’ brought with it such luxuries as hot showers and power, and we all quickly made use of both. I was particularly pleased to have access to the latter as I was down to my final camera battery.
Our guide, KK, now lives in Kharikhola, and before dinner we all walked down to the teahouse that he runs with his wife when he’s not guiding. There we met his daughter and granddaughter and were each given a glass of his homemade raksi, a powerful, clear distilled alcoholic drink made from millet.
Australian Himalayan Foundation
Kathmandu community partnerships
Kathmandu Summit Club treks