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The other side of Nepal

Friend­ship bracelets

Octo­ber 6 – 7

For vis­i­tors to Nepal, the city of Kath­man­du is a sideshow com­plete with Hin­du holy men walk­ing the streets, mon­keys grab­bing at your pack at Bud­dhist tem­ples, freak street lore from the days of the hip­pies, funer­al ghats, a soap opera sto­ry of a fall­en king­dom, and so much more – all cap­ti­vat­ing beyond descrip­tion. And for trekkers, the rel­a­tive wealth of the pop­u­lar Ever­est and Anna­pur­na regions brings a cer­tain lux­u­ry to see­ing the high­est moun­tains in the world; we’re talk­ing hot show­ers, com­fort­able beds, cell ser­vice, and the hos­pi­tal­i­ty of the Sher­pa com­mu­ni­ties. Step out­side these places and it is alto­geth­er a dif­fer­ent story.

Along with Moun­tain Mad­ness trek leader Deana Zabal­do, I’m for­tu­nate to vis­it the vil­lage of Tala­marung, a three hour motor­cy­cle ride that takes us out the Kath­man­du val­ley and into rur­al Nepal. Here we vis­it­ed a clin­ic, a school, and an orphan­age, each ongo­ing projects Deana is involved with when not guid­ing in the Himalayas. For me all I offer is a stack of books, some crayons, friend­ship bracelets made by my daugh­ter and friends, and the board game Chutes and Lad­ders;” but, as I soon find out, even such small things have won­drous impact.

Mud left­over from the monsoon

More mud

As we wind our way up, out of the val­ley we pass through an area where all the trees are crooked, some­thing Deana’s friend and co-work­er Neel tells us is the result of a curse put on by a Hin­du deity – an odd spec­ta­cle to be sure. About an hour out of Kath­man­du we final­ly reach the crest where we see the Himalayan foothills spread out before us in lush green ter­races and sub-trop­i­cal forests. Below, the Melam­chi Riv­er winds its way through this deep val­ley, a riv­er soon to be divert­ed with a huge water­works project designed to meet the demands of a thirsty Kathmandu.

Himalayan foothills out­side the Kath­man­du Valley

The beau­ty here, though, belies the pover­ty. The chal­lenges faced here are stag­ger­ing. Through Deana’s orga­ni­za­tion and part­ner­ships with local orga­ni­za­tions we hope we can share the expe­ri­ence of see­ing the oth­er side of Nepal with our climbers and trekkers that join us here. For more infor­ma­tion on how to donate or vis­it please vis­it Deana’s web­site.

Chutes and Lad­ders time for the kids, many of whom come from bro­ken fam­i­lies, are aban­doned, have no fam­i­ly, or come from abu­sive fam­i­ly situations

Deana read­ing Dr. Suess to kids

In addi­tion to learn­ing Eng­lish, the kids now attend school reg­u­lar­ly, are learn­ing bet­ter health care, and are form­ing fam­i­ly bonds with each other

The local clin­ic that serves more than 300,000 peo­ple, some of whom walk for hours just to reach the facil­i­ty, which is under­staffed and lack­ing basic equipment.

To learn more vis­it Deana’s site

- Mark Gunlogson