The other side of Nepal
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
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.
- Mark Gunlogson