Two British teenagers are spending their time in a remote Nepali village for a good cause.
By Dinesh Wagle
You may think they should talk only about recent Hollywood flicks like Catch Me If You Can. They will do that too, because they have just finished reading the book on that title (they have no time to go to the theater and one of them says the story “is boring”). And when they start talking about providing good education to poor, you may think like “what these ‘kids’ are talking about?” But when you see what these teenagers are doing in a remote village of Rasuwa District to poor school children and their school, you won’t be surprised.
At the moment, James Gould (left) and Martin Baker, both 19, are busy helping upgrade the facilities in a public primary school in Kanjm, Bridim VDC. These guys first time came in Nepal in July 2001 as the members of World Challenge Organization Expedition, a school program that sends students of 16-18 year age group go to different countries to experience the local culture and tradition. They made a toilet in Rasuwa. On the way to the Gosaikunda trek, they came to know that their tour guide Dame Tamang was planning to open a school in Syabru Bensi, the starting point of popular Langtang trek. They promised him to help. After returning to England, they created “The Nepali and Welsh Joint Education Foundation” of which James is the Chairman and Martin is the treasurer, and started raising funds for the noble purpose.
Excited after receiving some money from various sources including prestigious Cardiff High School, both boys came back to Nuwakot three months ago. After talking with locals and evaluating the situation, they decided to add facilities in an already established government primary school then making a new one. “At least government school have buildings and they are already giving education to students”, says James. “Our principal is to work with government schools wherever possible.” Now, the Bridim Primary School, for the first time, has new good benches, a toilet is constructed on its premises, and children are provided with uniforms. There are 25 students and one teacher in the school currently. Both James and Martin volunteered as teachers for some weeks. Continue reading
Stan, Anu and I played cards on the way after we were ‘trapped’ in a hotel by rainfall. The game called “Ass Hole” was interesting. Most of the time, Stan was the AH (sorry to write this, Stan!) where as Anu was President. I challenged Stan for the post of AH frequently and won! (not so happy moment for me!) On the way, we discussed world politics, Nepal’s “People’s war”, and about Information Technology- like why Hotmail was limiting it’s facilities to users, why Yahoo is still good for emails, why the inventor of junk mail filter will be millionaire instantly, and why Google and Froogle are becoming immensely popular day by day. Yes, we cracked some jokes too. Continue reading
That was a high time of our surprise when two (of the four) Israelis came with their flashlights at about 8:20 in the night. That was ‘insane’! One guy was carrying another’s bag. We had left them in Gosaikunda in the morning. Their story goes like this: These two guys left their other two friends (a couple- Israeli boy and an American girl who met in Miami and fell in love) at Phedi (actually this is the place just half an hour away from the Ghopte Bhir (steep) where the ill fated plane crash-landed), about 2 hours away from Ghopte lodges. The girl ’suffered from hypothermia at the pass’ and was unable to walk. Worst, these boys, who were leading the trail, were walking on the wrong way. Luckily (?) they sensed they were talking the wrong route only after an hours walk. Then what they did was like this: they directly descended via steep area without any route. One problem after another was following them. Continue reading
Dinesh Wagle and Gosaikunda lake
After crossing the pass, Dutch were out of sight, and we were slowly descending. Tired of walking on the snow, we were just, we were just going down, without uttering a single world. Suddenly a man appeared a little bit up. He was literally running, he was getting down with bang, bang, bang…We thought, one of the Israeli from another group was that guy. No, we were proved wrong. This Guy turned out to be an American ‘wanderer’ called Stan James. Because of his simple and humorous personality, Stan and we were quickly opening up to each other. The infamous place called Ghopte where a Thai airline plane crashed a decade ago was our destination of the day. The guessing game started. I was saying Ghopte was some three corners away; Anu’s guess was about seven. Stan was with Anu. I was wrong. Even she was wrong! But Ghopte came, at last, as a pleasant surprise to us. There were only two lodges and we were soon eating chapatti in one of them. We talked about books, trails to be taken in the next few days, (Stan’s hometown) Colorado mountains etc.
Note: To get an American perspective of Langtang-Gosaikunda trek, go to Stan’s website, and read a fascinating travel detail.
Dinesh Wagle at the Gosaikunda Pass. On his back below is the magnificent lake Gosaikunda
Crossing over the Gosaikunda pass (4600m) in the morning was an exhilarating experience. The wind last night was so strong that it almost blew away the hotel room I was staying in. A plank on the roof had been shifted from its original position. This Gosaikunda pass is generally considered easier to cross. But we thought last night’s snow would make trek difficult. Thankfully it wasn’t that difficult. We walked over the fresh snow. Some Dutch people with few porters and guides were already ahead of us. They were ‘exploring’ & leading the trail. We were simply following their footsteps which was good as that significantly reduced the possibility of us getting lost. I scribbled my name on so many places that, in the beginning, my companion seemed annoyed by my ‘behavior’. Soon she started following me by writing her name on the snow with her cane. We saw at least four lakes on the pass. They were all completely frozen. I have heard that there are numerous lakes all over the area. It was exciting to see so many lakes at the height of 4600 meters. Later in the evening, I wondered about spending a day or two right there at the pass.
Dinesh Wagle crosses the Gosaikunda Pass. On his back is the magnificent lake Gosaikunda
I EXPERIENCED/SAW FOUR NEW THINGS DURING LANGTANG-GOSAINKUNDA TREK:
1. White and pink Rhododendron flowers: I had not seen pink and white Rhododendron (laligurans) flowers. I chewed some flower petals. They are edibles. Both flowers were beautiful but I liked white flowers more than the pink ones. A walk into the jungle near Langtang village was exciting.
2. Being close to Himal: Seeing Himals (or Himalayas) from so close was another new experience. Standing on the barren land of Langtang valley I could almost ‘touch’ the mountains! A thrilling moment. Climb up to the Kenjing Gomba, not far from the Valley, and you’ll realize that you are surrounded by mountains from all sides. Yes, you are in the middle of the Himalayas.
3. Glacier right under my nose: We tried to climb up to the glacier from Kenjin Gumba but we were unable to do so, partly because we were hungry and mainly because we lost the trail. For about three minutes, we were walking randomly over the thorny bushes hurting ourselves. Cold and strong wind made it difficult to concentrate. We briefly walked through a stream that originated from the glacier which looked near from where we stood. I am sure it could have taken another half an hour for us to reach there. May be more. Walking on the stream was kind of risky but I loved that bit of ‘adventure’. We were well above 4,000 meters which meant it wasn’t easy to breath. The unkind wind made breathing more difficult. I managed climb a small hilltop under the shadow of giant Langtang. I played with the snow and scribbled my name there. The little ‘mountain’ instantly became Mt. DINESH!
4. The Gosainkunda Lake and the Gosainkunda Pass: Both of these places were amazing in their own ways. I walked around the Gosainkunda Lake which has religious significance for the Hindus. Most part of the lake was covered with ice giving the lake a new name: The Frozen Lake. Adventurous souls would have been tempted to skate there had the iced layer been a bit stronger. I did some yoga at the bank of the lake. I also climbed a huge rock near the bank of the Surajkunda, another lake just below the Gosainkunda. The Surajkunda looked more dangerous, deep and dark. That was probably because it wasn’t covered with the ice like the Gosainkunda was.
Dinesh Wagle, hotels of Gosaikunda and the Gosaikunda Lake
The journey to Gosaikunda began from Thulo Syabru in the midday. We met an Israeli couple on the way. The male was having some altitude problems. They were both resting there to be acclimatized. We saw lot of Israelis traveling in groups. Most of the Israelis who come to Nepal are young, just out of compulsory military service (conscription). Almost all hoteliers don’t like them in general because, a hotelier in Thamel, Kathmandu, and one in Gosaikunda told me that they are “very much demanding, they spend less, make noises, and create problems out of nothing.” But I found almost all Israelis on the trekking route as humorous, friendly, nice and outspoken. Some of them seemed little more ‘demanding’ too.
One Israeli group quickly started making joints on their arrival at Gosaikunda. Some of them offered me a puff. I rejected. They insisted that I take a puff or two. I avoided their offer by telling them that the cigarette they were using to wrap was not of my preferred brand. While some prepared the grass others ate ‘daal bhat’. The smokers discussed about their conflict with the Palestine with me. One of them ordered a ’spicy daal bhat’. That surprised me. I knew from a boy in the group that a girl in the group could sing “Ressam Phiriri…” -a popular Nepali folk song. She had come to Nepal only a week before. “She is a music wizard,” a guy member of the smoking group said.
Dinesh Wagle with a yak in Langtang. It was snowing when this photo was taken.
After parting ways with Andrew, Anu and I took a short-cut and rarely walked route for Thulo Shaybru. The day was so long for us that we hardly managed to reach Thulo Shyabru before it was completely dark. That was the most tedious day in our 14 day-long tour. We had forgotten to carry drinking water. No water was available on the four-hour-long steep, all the way up, trail that went through a dense jungle. There was no sign of life- human life- except some that were monkeys (apes) jumping from one tree to another. My assumption was that it would not take us more than two hours to reach Thulo Syabru. I had to amend my guesses several times. I was wrong in my estimates about the distance and time most of the time during the trip. In the jungle, I ate Rhododendron flowers. My companion followed soon. Good for her. The nonstop 14-hour-long trek that day made us very tired. We slept up to 12 am the next day.
We shared our travails of the previous day with the locals. Everyone was surprised to know that we covered the trail in a day.
Dinesh Wagle and the Gosaikunda Lake. It took him about 20 minutes to reach there from the lake below
Langtang To Gosaikunda: A Travelogue! Here is a raw description of my trekking in Langtang area in the first and second week of Baisakh, 2060. I started my journey on Saturday, 19th April 2003.
By Dinesh WAGLE
The real journey- walking part- started from Syabru Bensi, a small town that is connected to Kathmandu by a improvised highway. This town is considered the ‘Base Camp’ for the Langtang Trek. The bus ride to Syabru from Kathmandu was bumpy, terrible, painful, and at times, risky. Limited numbers of buses operated in a day on the highway. Dozens of passengers sit on the top those buses.
Starting with a Spirit: After a small ‘hitch’ in the morning (there was some confusion regarding correct path), our team took the ’speed’ gradually. The team originally included Dutch Mathanja and her boyfriend Tim, his mother Tini, and a Dutch girl of Nepali origin: Anu. In Syabru, Andrew, an Australian university professor was included as the sixth member. Soon, he became so friendly that he, Anu and I were leaving rest of the team from the second half of the second day. We three made it to the Kenjin Gompa in two days while others took half a day more. Continue reading