After two weeks of intensive training including a 2 day practice trek we are finally ready to receive our venturers…
On day 3 we departed our in country Fieldbase in Kathmandu and boarded a coach. Loading our rucksacks onto the roof of the bus we took our seats and set off. There was an air of nervous apprehension as we made our way out of the gated compound onto the streets of the city. As we crawled our way along the Privithi highway we used the time to get to know one another. We were a mixed bunch of volunteers, including medics, project managers, Nepali host country volunteers and Raleigh staff. The journey was only 45km but we were informed could take anything between 2 hours and 6! We made our way slowly but surely and as we did so the landscape witnessed through the window gradually changed. The density of the shops thinned and gave way to an increasing amount of greenery. After a couple of hours we stopped briefly at a roadside rest area. Pausing for coffee and toilets I witnessed my first shocking episode. I couldn’t understand what it was at first but as the figure slowly made its way towards us I worked out it was an elderly Nepali lady. She wore nothing and clutching only a staff for support made her way towards us. It turned my preconceived ideas of poverty upside down. I felt nothing but sympathy for this poor character. Quickly the shop keepers came out and perhaps fearing for our reaction more than the needs of this lady they quickly covered her up with a blanket and some clothes. It was a very sobering moment and gave me cause for reflection on the rest of the journey.
We arrived an hour later at Baerini where the RIMS training base was located. This was a facility available for groups to hire. It consisted of a large multi-storied detached building which housed the bedrooms, a separate large modern classroom and also a canteen block. It was to be our base for the next three weeks.
We were quickly allocated our rooms. I was fortunately given a twin room with an en-suite shower room which I was to share with Dan our photographer. Immediately after unpacking our training began. Raleigh are a very professional organisation and take their preparation seriously. Every lesson was well thought out and as we worked through the days and weeks my confidence grew. It wasn’t all hard work. We broke for lots of games and “energisers” and we all always looked forward to our mealtimes in the canteen.
The meals were always similar but of a high standard. To say that rice was a staple of every meal would not be an exaggeration and I have to admit that after two weeks I was a bit fed up of it. On a more positive note I was eating loads of fresh vegetables, most of which were grown in the RIMS kitchen garden. We also benefited from morning and afternoon tea breaks. A real treat were the pakoras that were sometimes brought with the tea or on occasion cold fizzy drinks!
It’s undeniable that when you are deprived of something you consume as a matter of course you really enjoy it when you get to have it again. So the Coca Cola I enjoyed on those hot days was the best I have ever tasted.
We enjoyed a few days away from RIMS. Firstly on a two day practice trek where after being shown how to pitch our tents we divided up our equipment and loading it onto our backs headed straight up the hill at the back of our base. It was a tough 3 hour slog uphill all the way. We were all grateful when we finally reached the top. Pitching our tents in the rapidly fading light we got to experience the Nepal we had all imagined. Curious local children mixed in with us as we all enjoyed the views. In the darkness we prepared a meal and reflected on the day whilst eating it. I slept well that night in my shared tent, I was fortunate not to be sharing with any snorers! Waking in the morning I stepped out of my canvas abode expecting a monumental sunrise. I was denied as the visibility was down to around 5m, the misty atmosphere was quite ethereal and I really felt I was transported to a different world. The fog lifted and packing up the tents we all looked forward to returning to RIMS and the facilities it provided. On the decent we practiced our Casualty Evacuation procedures CASEVAC.
Our next trip out was planned for after a few more days training. Our PPV project planning visit was our opportunity to get into the remote communities we would be helping during the longer Community phase. I had been allocated to Chapthok, a remote hillside village about a 3 hour journey away. I will say more about Chapthok in the next post. In order to prepare for the PPV we had some paperwork to sort. So along with Sinead, our medic and Sanjay our Nepali host volunteer (and translator) we put our heads together and planned our trip. I was going to be spending nearly 7 weeks with these two and I am really pleased to say we got on well from the start.
On the day of departure two Raleigh Bravos (4×4 cars) picked us up and we headed out back onto the Privithi highway….