Friday, August 22, 2014

Herefored Expedition Group (HEG) in Nepal 2014.

On the 3rd August, 29 people from HEG arrived in Kathmandu, Nepal to start their 3 week expedition with PoD. HEG is a charity that takes young people all over the world with the aim of providing 'an enjoyable, challenging and rewarding experience' and I think they can be proud of what they achieved in Nepal 2014.

On arrival, I got them all settled into the hotel and then took them for a welcome meal in Kathmandu. I think it's safe to say Kathmandu was a little overwhelming for some of the group and they were all very eager to get to Pokhara, which is much calmer and a lot more chilled out. The following morning we flew to Pokhara. We got settled into Bindu's which is where our volunteers stay and then Prem, our Nepali teacher arrived to give them a two hour basic language and cultural lesson. I was very impressed that many of them managed to pick up some useful simple phrases very quickly which would help them on placement and in the village where the level of English is much lower than in Pokhara.

We then spent the next ten days in Pokhara volunteering at different placements around the city. All in all, we painted 3 schools, which now look fantastic and have provided wonderful learning environments for the children that attend there and has made the teachers very proud. We also took many of the schools and classes on educational trips to places of interest in Pokhara. For example Annapurna Primary School went to the World Peace Pagoda, Shree Prabhat went to the Gurkha Museum and then the bat caves, the Street Kids got to have a picnic in the park, both the Street Kids and Shree Krishna went to Begnas Tal (the 'other lake') and the Street Kids were also lucky enough to have another outing to Sarankot. The group also got involved in farming at Asha Foundation, a local orphanage where PoD supports them by paying their rent of the farmland, and ran a fun informal teaching day at Annapurna Primary School.

During the placement aspect of the trip I was so impressed how hard the group worked, they got stuck in straight away, got the job done and then had a lot of fun with the children. It was lovely to see them all engaging with each other.  And the feedback from the placements has all been very positive.

At the same time that groups were working in Pokhara, we took 10 at a time up to a local village, called Kalabam, for a cultural village stay so they could experience rural Nepal. They stayed with local families in groups of 2-3 for 2 nights 3 days. During this time they learnt a lot about Nepali culture, specifically Gurung and Brahmin cultures, which are the two castes that predominantly live in this village. They got involved in the local school and helped out for a day there, they helped in the farms of their local families, including help to get the sheep in and out for grazing, milking the cows and collecting and harvesting the corn. I think for most, this was the highlight of the trip. Every night they would meet at the 'Chiefs' house (the chairman of the community) where everyone would gather for singing and dancing which the whole group got involved in. On the final day of placement, we took all 29 of the group back up to the village for a closing ceremony and so that every one could say goodbye one last time. I think this was in some was the hardest part of the expedition as it was different from what any one had ever done before, but at the same time the most rewarding.

All too soon, the placement aspect of the trip came to an end, and we were off trekking. We agreed on a fairly short trek, 4 days, and the best trek on offer was Poon Hill in the Annapurna Region which took the group to the height of 3200m (which is higher than both Snowdon and Ben Nevis!). This was tough! I don't think any one in the group found it easy and it was made all that much harder by the constant rain. We had been very lucky during the placements that we had sun most days, especially since it was monsoon, but as soon as we started trekking the heavens opened and didn't stop until we returned to Pokhara. Credit to the group though, this didn't dampen their spirits and the vast majority of them successfully made it to Poon Hill, landslides and leaches weren't going to get in their way! I think every one was grateful of a hot shower as soon as they got back to Pokhara.

The following day, I had planned a rest day for them so that they could recover from the trek, but everyone still had so much energy I organised a sightseeing tour for half the group (we visited the Peace Pagoda, Devi's Fall and the Caves opposite) and Maila (my partner) took the other half for a beginners kayaking lesson on the lake. Everyone really enjoyed themselves and some of the kayakers even managed to learn to roll.

We then went rafting on the Trisuli river, which is usually quite a tame river, but at this time of year it's like being in a washing machine for 4 hours. I think I can say, without a doubt, this was the groups best day. I didn't actually join them in the raft but rather followed them in the bus taking photos when I could. All I could hear as I travelled down were giggles, screams of joy and some random chants! ('Oggie oggie oggie!!)  When they finished they were full of stories about the raft flipping, swimming and how much fun they had. We then had a quick bus ride to our camp, but first we had to walk across a 100m suspension bridge over the river. We stayed in a fixed camp, so we had tents that had real beds in the them! The food prepared by the guides was fantastic and that evening we all had a bit of a party. A mixture of Nepali and English Pop songs blared from the speakers and every one was up dancing and having a great time. All too soon, it was bedtime and we camped next to the river.

The following day we were off to Chitwan National Park. One of PoD's policies is not supporting elephant tourism because of the abuse many of the elephants experience during captivity. Many of the group found it quite upsetting to see these magnificent creatures chained up. However we did enjoy the walking safari and the log canoe ride. During our safari we saw a Rhino, deer, a monitor lizard, two different types of crocodile (one very rare Gharial Croc) and my personal favourite, the wild chickens!

And then we were done with the activities. The next stop was Kathmandu, after a (thankfully) non eventual 8 hour buses journey we made it back to where we began our expedition. I had organised a leaving meal at one of our favourite pizza restaurants in town for everyone to have a celebration.

Today is their last day, and we have organised for them to visit Bhaktapur, which is the ancient city in Kathmandu so they can see Newari culture and visit some temples. Then tomorrow they are off having successfully completed their three week expedition.

I think everyone is exhausted, the group have worked very hard but it has been great fun, and many of us have made great friends along the way. Thanks HEG! I hope to see you again.

You can see more pictures of this trip here. 

If you are part of a school, college, university, group or club and are interested in joining PoD on an expedition, please contact Mike on

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