Saroj from the Leprosy Mission hosts this trip East. It is his first field trip as the LM projects coordinator. On the way out of KTM we pass by a golden statue the largest of its kind. This is someone’s god or representation of God. It has been propped up by bamboo stilts since the earthquake. No more needs saying.
The route takes us through valleys then on hilltops passing and stopping at small communities dependent on farming and the occasional traffic stopping for drinks or food. After 6 hours we arrive in Charikot which is close to the epicentre of the second 2015 earthquake. Beyond here there is nowhere to sleep. None of the hotels here have survived the earthquake either. Over half of this hilltop city is still destroyed. We retrace steps and check in to the new Paradise earthquake-proof hotel. The old one almost survived. It was declared safe moments before a second tremor then was toppled by next the door buildings. The owner also lost his other hotel called Himalaya.
Having visited the famous Dolakha Temple we retreat from the rain to a restaurant where we interview a 2 foot tall boy and learn he is 15 and attends a Korean School. We eat Buffalo Momo and move to a second restaurant built into the hill and descend a level to eat in a wooden booth clinging somehow onto the mountain side. Over the local poison made from Millet, cow fat and topped with burnt rice (they call it Kodo) bits of shredded buffalo and ever so late a meal of Dal Baht with unlimited refills we discuss Nepali culture and education and projects.
In Namdu next morning 50 minutes east on the Jiri road (where the Everest treks used to head from before they build an airstrip at Lukla for quicker access to Base Camp) at we meet Santos from Leprosy Mission. We learn of the local farming cooperative over tea in Namdu centre (5 chairs and a shopfront) the chronic water shortage, we visit the government school that most seeks to include marginalised kids (R-8) and on the way out visit the sub health centre. though there are many needs, permanent buildings to errect, water shortage, school materials and uniforms and bags we did not feel we could contribute anything here that would last: the head master was clinging onto a job he should have retired from years ago, the teachers were more keen to talk to us than attend to their classes, and there were no signs that this was a progressive school that had a vision for excellence.
We left sad and helpless hoping that we might encounter something better elsewhere. It is impossible for us to support a project from a distance without someone local on the ground who will carry a vision towards an outcome. We also realised that we were carrying a couple of less of water in our rucksacks and it didn’t occur to us until late that the health clinic had more need of them than us. We were able to leave some bandages at the school that had been donated from the UK.
After thus fleeting visit we took an alternative route home that followed valleys rather than hilltops. The New Japanese road (20-30 years in the making) was beautiful in design but not really wide enough for two vehicles to pass with ease and due to rockfalls we drove through the river valley bed on one occasion.
And I’m still yet to see any evidence of the Himalaya Mountains surely I thought this journey towards Everest would have borne fruit. Will have to wait another day.