Working up to the trip in Nepal a lot of preparation had to go into packing and being fully prepared to deal with all the situations we would face up in the mountains trekking as well as in foreign cities, and all the different forms of travelling in between. If I could give a few tips of advice to anyone planning to do the Nepal experiential module through the Sustainability Institute this is how it would go…
Firstly a fully comprehensive travelling medical kit, insect repellants and allergy tablets are a must! Make sure you have a few rehydrates as well in case you get the runs or incase you get too much sun on one of the days as I did! You never have enough sunscreen or soap. But probably most importantly you need to consider that you are going to be travelling to some pristine parts of the Himalaya Mountains and it is best travelling practice to make sure you leave no trace. Ensuring your products are bio-degradable and eco-friendly is important.
We were lucky enough to be given measurements for daily meals that we had to pre-pack, My tent buddy and I decided that we wanted to make life easier and just packed couscous and tuna for the dinners we made on our camping nights. Three weeks of couscous and tuna- I never want to see/smell/eat those two ingredients ever again! I would highly recommend varying the dry foods you bring along to cook for yourself but you don’t want stuff that takes a lot of gas to cook as you will only have a limited supply that will need to be rationed. Snacks are the small daily pleasures and you can never pack enough of these, when you realize you have one more snacker bar at the bottom of your bag the joy you will feel is like a 5 year child when they wake up on Christmas morning and find a pile of presents under the Christmas tree. Pack lightly clothes wise and this means the quality of warm clothing will have to be good. Marino wool vests, a rain coat is essential and long hiking pants. However, on the trip we experienced a variation of warm and cold weather so summery shorts, t-shirts, a cossie etc. are also important to bring along. Lastly make sure you have travel insurance and that you are covered for helicopter evacuation from a remote area as you will at times be in very remote, mountainous areas of Western Nepal. Copies of all important documents are also a must and it’s a good idea to have a waist bag that you can carry money and passports close to you at all times.
While I was on the trip I kept asking myself the following questions…What are the major ideas/feelings which came up for me over the trip?
I felt a sense of hopelessness a lot at first, feeling like I had to come here, analyse the situation, critique it and try think up theoretical solutions. As time has passed I have started to rather look at the beauty they have but also at how hard working the Nepalese are & some of the technologies, ways of life they are starting to adopt because they want them. They want to sell products in a shop that brings a more reliable income then farming. They want cell phones, technology and roads to make life more convenient. I have started to let go of my “western guilt” and instead I am happy to observe the Nepal situation and take home a greater appreciation for what I have.
What did I observe which stands out most?
The lack of formal waste & water systems stood out most alarmingly. I think people here are very efficient with their resources although I wonder if they know the consequences of some of their actions such as throwing their rubbish in the river. I wonder if they understand where that rubbish goes.
A more positive aspect that stands out is the kindness, generosity, warmth and hospitality of the Nepalese people. They are a non-violent nation and don’t seem to have many cases of theft which I assume is a result of Buddhism beliefs and values.
Another positive aspect is how self-reliant and sufficient the villages are with regards to food, energy, housing material and construction skills.
Because of the way of life men and women marry young and take on the responsibilities of starting a family. I met many women my age and younger with a few children and completely independent. It seems the women do a lot more of the household and farming labour then the men.
What has shifted in me?
I don’t carry as much western guilt anymore. I also believe that westernism has brought many great things and made many people’s lives a lot easier. Yes, there are the cons but I feel like I can walk away from this experience not wanting civilization to go backwards but rather with fresh eyes that seek ideas on how we can improve what we have already established. I have also realised that when the correct systems are not in place the knowledge to act a certain way may be present but the system makes it almost impossible to act accordingly. Eg: sanitation,waste. We are aware of the certain negative effects of certain aspects of the system here but as we are immersed in it it is hard to go against it eg. Buying plastic filtered water bottles that will end up in the street. I want to walk away from here with the intention of living by honest, sincere values and live a good life with family and friends close to me. This trip has given me perspective on what really matters in life.
Coming home I realized how easy to is to fall back into the normal routine of my ‘busy’ life in Cape Town and it is very easy to forget the amazing experience as it seems to drift further and further away as a memory. I hope that the photos, my personal journal I kept and the friends I made will be fond reminders of the incredible and once in a lifetime experience I had in Nepal.