Monday, 9 November 2015

Outward Bound

Going up hill through paddy fields.
Last week was KISC’s annual activity week. We have blogged about this before, here and here.
This year, I (Dan) got to complete my full set. I have now been involved in Primary Activity Week (last year), Year 8 (Chitwan jungle in 2008), Year 9 (House building in 2010), Year 10 (Outward Bound resort in 2011), Year 11 (Work Experience visits in 2012), Year 13 (International trip to Thailand in 2009) and now, the full set: Trekking with Year 7.

Despite the ongoing full crisis (see previous blogs here and here), we were able to carry on as normal and our students spread out around the country. I boarded the bus with nineteen Year 7 students, three Year 12 junior leaders and four other teachers at 6am last Monday and we journeyed for 8 hours west to beyond Pokhara. We actually stopped in Pokhara to pickup our trekking team and all the gear. Alongside the 27 of us from KISC we had a support team of 36! 20 Porters to carry our main bags, tents and other camp resources, 7 sherpas/guides plus one head guide and 7 kitchen assistants (who doubled as porters for all the kitchen stuff and most of the food for the week) and head cook.

Trying to be a porter, for 1 minute
Our initial reaction was this seemed like an awful lot of people, but we realised what a blessing this was. With the earthquakes earlier in the year and ongoing fuel situation both impacting tourism significantly we were providing an income to these guys. I got chatting to one of the porters one day and he was telling me his story. He was a cook at a hotel in Pokhara but due to the lack of gas to cook with he hadn’t had work and had to take this work as a porter, this was his first trek. His home had been significantly damaged in the earthquake and he has had to rebuild this year, no doubt taking loans to help, and now the lack of work. We shared photos of our children and wives on our phones and he took plenty of selfies with his new friend.

The ‘support team’ did a great job. Each morning we were woken from our tents with tea at 6am, then a bowl of warm water to wash with, followed by breakfast. As we ate breakfast the porters were loading up the bags and packing up the tents (each porter took 3-4 teachers and students bags). We then headed off each day for our trek. Usually after about 30 minutes or so the porters with the dinning tent and tables and the kitchen crew with all their gear stormed past us, usually in flip flops.

We walked
for between 4 and 7 hours each day. Stopping for a cooked lunch as we caught up with the kitchen crew around the middle of the day. Tuesday was a tough day due to overnight rain and an abundance of leeches and slippery steps. On Wednesday a smaller group of five year 7 students, one year 12, three teachers and two guides broke off to reach the summit of Panchese at 2,500 metres, while the rest took the flatter route to lunch.  The summit just about gave us good views as the clouds shifted around us, but we got fabulous views from our campsite on the last day.

Friday morning view from our campsite
Friday we returned to Kathmandu on another 8 hour bus ride. Tired, but with a great sense of achievement for both us teachers, but mostly for the young students who knew what they had achieved and overcome during a great week.