1Kathmandu, a sprawling city of over 49 square kilometres but home to nearly a million.

Considering that the city was hit by a massive earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale only 8 months ago, our experience of it was not tainted by the constant views of rubble and collapsed buildings, but rather filled with the wonderful images of a strong culture and the most amazing people.

Our first day in the city was rather daunting. Constant noise, traffic for miles on end, and a maniac bus driver. However we came to settle in very quickly! We learned that rather than drivers using
hand signals, or indicators for that matter, they beep their horn. Whether they are turning a corner, overtaking someone or saying ‘thanks’ they would give a quick blast of the horn! As you can imagine, it was quite hard to track who was beeping who but eventually we just zoned out of it and forgot the noise was even there!

2Off from the busy main streets throughout the city lay smaller side streets filled to the brim with quite possibly hundreds of small stores and most notably dance bars! The stores which quite literally opened onto the road held many different products ranging from silks and cloths to herbs and spices to fake North Face items to massive Ghurkha knives and swords!
Then came the night, the exact same as the morning but in the dark and twenty times more terrifying! A small ‘taxi’ would appear out of nowhere and miss you by a matter of inches and then continue to fly down these tiny streets! These, accompanied by the constant presence of a man on a rickshaw trying to take you where you need to go made it a very exciting place to be! Another almost nuisance was walking salesmen as I like to call them. Men with tiny violins and other exceptionally weird instruments would follow you round trying to sell you their wares and incredibly high prices! A tiny violin would set you back around 3-4000 rupees – only around £20-25 but still an unusual sight whilst walking round the streets.

We also visited one of the stupa, the largest in fact, in Kathmandu! Hundreds of people walking clockwise around a huge stone structure spinning 3prayer wheels, holding prayer beads and reciting mantras were what greeted us! The smell of freshly burned incense filled the air and beautifully decorated buildings full of religious items were a sight for sore eyes!

If someone ever had the chance to visit Kathmandu, I would highly encourage them to! The constant sounds, smells and sights are really astonishing and the incredibly humble culture and people are truly some of the nicest and welcoming I have ever met! A massively enjoyable experience and one I hope to have some day in the future! (Kathmandu – written by Daniel Butlin)

4On the 11th of December we visited practical action Nepal, which is the centre for Practical Action Asia. While at Practical Action we received a presentation about their work in Nepal, some of the work they are doing is in improving agricultural practises to make farming more sustainable as well as providing energy, water and disaster risk. Some of the new strategies involved in Nepal are the gravity ropeways which allow people to transport food from the top of the valleys to the bottom without having to walk all the way down. Another new idea is a small hydro system which has a wheel that is turned by the river water and it then pumps clean water up to the field to water the crops. In the disaster risk area the main strategies used where the education of people and what to do is there was a disaster. The other main strategy is the strengthening of livelihoods this involves strengthening buildings and ensuring that financial assets are secure. (Practical Action – written by Owen Wheeler)

We moved on from Kathmandu to Phokara, our base for our trekking part of the expedition.

We started our 5 day trek in Nayapul, a one street town with shops, houses and places to get your trekking permit. From here we would make our way up the Modi valley to a small village called 5Ulleri. On our way up to Ulleri we passed over many bridges built by the Ghurkhas, saw some beautifully clear rivers and faced 3200 uneven stone steps. The steps were the definitely the hardest part of the whole trek, they just never seemed to end.  Just under two hours later, clouds were forming in the valley below us and were arrived in Ulleri.

Day 2 of trekking was much easier. We made our way from Ulleri to Ghorepani. Here we had the best views of the trek; all around you were snow topped mountains, it was absolutely gorgeous.

5.10am we woke up the next day to climb Poon Hill to see the sun rise. Those of us, who were brave enough, set off just half an hour later with our head torches on, wrapped up in our warmest clothes to make an hour’s trip up to the summit of Poon Hill. We hadn’t had breakfast; it was pitch black and too cold to move your hands. 3210 metres up, watching the sunrise was an unforgettable experience. This was defiantly one of the highlights the trekking and the whole trip. The experience was something we will never ever forget.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Unfortunately, due to one of our team members feeling a little under the weather, we made the decision not to carry on with our planned trek and
instead stayed in Ghorepani for the day so they could recover. Nonetheless we made the day just as worthwhile. After breakfast, some of our team went for a walk for a couple of hours so we didn’t miss out on the fabulous scenery. Just outside of the tea house we were staying in there was a big volleyball court so after lunch we played volleyball with all our porters and our guides. Unfortunately we lost the Nepali vs Wales match; we were just no match for the incredible strength and stamina of our porters!

On our fourth day trekking we made our way back down to Ulleri. Luckily, the majority of it was downhill it us really appreciate the amazing views Nepal has to offer and realise how much we had actually achieved.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We arrived back in Ulleri in the early afternoon where we had the opportunity to visit the school in Ulleri. We had a tour of their classrooms, library and were able to see one of their dance lessons. The school had such a welcoming and friendly feeling about it and was such a change to any school in the UK. As a team we made a donation to the school to help build a seventh classroom to teach another year group. At the end of the afternoon we had a football match with the children but it was hard to tell what was going on because there were so many people all trying to get to the ball!

13Our last day trekking we made our way back down to Nayapol. Knowing it was our last day trekking may have been a bit of a relief for some of us but
we were all definitely going to miss it. We had met some truly inspirational people and formed some amazing friendships with our guides and porters, which made saying goodbye so much harder.

Spending five days walking next to each other meant that the bonds within our team were strengthened and we got to know each other a lot better. At some points it really tested it us to our limits but it just proved we are all stronger than we think. We learned so much about Nepal as a whole, the Annapurna area we were trekking through and the people who live there. (Annapurna trekking – written by Alys Jackson)14
After our trek, we spent three days in Tashi Ling Tibetan refugee Camp in Pokara. On the first day, we learnt all about the history of the Tibetan people and how they were pushed out of their own country and into Nepal and India by crossing the tough conditions of the Himalayas. Later that day, we visited the Gurkha Welfare Trust and Gurkha Residential home and learnt about the different ways they help the retired Gurkha’s living it rural areas.

15 Whilst we were there we had a talk from the commanding officer about the strategies in placer in Nepal. Some of these included rope bridges and
water pumps they had installed, we were told that it took two years to install each project as they first had to educate the communities about them. Also we got told about how the pensions were paid to the people in more rural parts of Nepal. We had tea at the trust and we gave a donation to the officer in charge. From here we went to the residential home and met some of the elder Ghurkhas and played games with them such as tigers and goats. It was a very enjoyable day and we all had fun meeting and playing games with the elderly people. 16 (Ghurkhas – written by Owen Wheeler)
On the second day at the camp, we were up at 6:30am before heading to a local monastery. Here we were allowed to watch the monks complete their morning prayers, a really spiritual experience.

From here, we visited Shree Gogan Higher Secondary School. We were greeted by children who had come to school on their only day off during the week, Saturday (how do they cope?!), and gifted with silk scarves known at ‘khatas’ which symbolises purity, compassion and the beginning of a relationship.

The school came alive on Sunday morning, when the students were in for assembly.
Assembly took place outside, where everybody lined up in their classes. It involved singing the Nepali national anthem, poems and questions from
students, and lots of stretching!17 18

Something that surprised me was that there were no set lesson times for the whole school. Some lessons started as others were already going on, and it appeared some students would stay in the classroom and would only have a lesson if a teacher turned up.
Half of the school were taught in Nepali medium, and the other half learned in English. We took it in turns to teach some of the younger classes in pairs, which would have been difficult enough anyway, and was made more difficult since the English of the children was quite poor. I have a new-found respect for my teachers because I definitely couldn’t do it!

We also had first taste of celebrity life during our visit, as it seemed the younger children were very interested in getting our full names, along with our autographs. I’m not sure I could handle much of that, either!

My favourite part of our visit was managing to avoid a little bit of painting by being ‘dragged’ into Class 10 to chat with some of the students of the
same age as me, who were also in their last year of school. Nobody in the class had heard of Wales so they were all very interested to find out where we’d come from on the world map!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

One thing that stood out to me was how happy and enthusiastic everyone was to be there, even though they had very little equipment and extremely basic facilities.
The right to an education is something many of us take for granted at home, but in a country where 30% of children don’t get a secondary-level education, and where the standard of teaching is very poor, the students showed lots of ambition and desire to achieve. (Teaching in Gogan High School – written by Ben Leonard)

After this, we were quickly put to work! We were handed sticks with brushes attached – a bit like a scrubbing brush – which we found useful for reaching the high parts of the walls. Getting used to the painting task was difficult at first and we all very quickly ended up covered in paint. We soon
got the hang of it and before we knew it, the first coat and our first day was done. We returned the next day to a full school and alternated in groups between painting and teaching classes of students some English. We were amazed how good their English was. We got straight back to the painting, wanting to complete the project whilst we were there and with the aid of Waleed’s ‘Katy Perry Number Ones playlist’ we quickly finished the second coat with a bit of a sing-a-long. We have since seen photos of the completed building and are pleased to know that the students have been able to return to school and make use of the new classrooms. We were really glad to have been part of this project and feel we have left a bit of Wales in Nepal. The school wanted to pass on their gratitude to the whole school for supporting the fundraising that has been completed to support this excellent project as it will make a big difference to the lives of their students. (Gogan School project – written by Madi Smith) (See the separate report about the project work completed from the Lions Club Annapurna)

22On the final day at the Tashi Ling refugee Camp, we headed back to the school to complete our painting where we were able to attend the schools assembly. It was a real eye-opener to see the students lined up outside, singing their national anthem with enthusiasm and exercising before school began. That afternoon we had a football match with a group of boys from the refugee camp. Wales v Tibet – and Wales won!!

 

Later that evening, we had a culture show. During this, we were shown a number of traditional Tibetan songs and dances – they were all very talented, even though the power kept cutting out due to the lack of electricity in the camp. We then shared a bit of Welsh tradition with them by singing Calon Lan, Bread of Heaven, Sosban Fach and of course the national anthem. This was my favourite day of the trip as it was my 18th birthday and we got to 21celebrate with balloons, cake and glow sticks in the night. As the electricity goes out every evening, we had to improvise with glow sticks and a Bluetooth speak to have our own party – it was a memorable night! A birthday I won’t forget in a hurry! (Tashi Ling Tibetan Camp – written by
Kelsey Duffill)

After this unforgettable experience and such welcoming hospitality shown by the Tibetans, we returned to Kathmandu for the final few days of our journey. We were sad to be leaving more new friends behind, but looking forward to getting back to the hustle and bustle of the city and some last 23minute shopping, with plenty of haggling and a quick whistle stop tour of the famous UNESCO heritage site – Durbar Square.

One of my favourite places we visited was Kopan monastery. The whole experience was one I will never forget. Coming from the loud, chaotic but exciting roads of Kathmandu to a place of serenity was eye opening. From the moment we stepped into the monastery I felt carefree. I noticed the beautiful views, buildings and art. Kopan monastery is a community were people from all around the world come to find peace and calmness. We were greeted by a member of the monastery who took us inside, here we learnt about meditation and witnessed Mr Brown at peace, whilst he slowly fell asleep. We then had a chance to walk around the retreat, finding incredible scenes from the views to the wonderful architecture that Nepal offers.24

We lay in the peace gardens, relaxing and getting a sense of what it means to be at ease. In the end we were very proud to be able to give a donation on behalf of Brynteg School to the monastery. We hope that the money can be used to further continue the tremendous work that the Kopan monastery has already done. I truly believe that everyone should experience something like this at least once in their lifetime as it truly opens your eyes to the wonderful country that is Nepal. I hope that I have the opportunity to visit again as it is truly a remarkable experience.

25Moreover, to see Nepal, with its beautiful culture, food and breathtaking locations is one thing, however being shown how aid is given to some of the poorest people in the world is another. Our Visit to the Department for International Development (DFID) was an opportunity for the Brynteg group to really appreciate the amazing work that goes on in Nepal in terms of improving the quality of life for the Nepalese people. We learnt how DFID’s aim is to work on education, health, road infrastructure and poverty. Being taught that more than 360,000 people now had clean water and sanitation for the first time in 2015 showed how much of an impact the organisation is making. The kind hospitality from the staff of the DFID organisation helped to ensure this was an unforgettable experience. They answered any questions we had and ensured we had the best knowledge possible on why people in Nepal need further aid. We understood the need for organisations like DFID and were honoured to be able to learn about the amazing work that they do. It’s truly a once in a lifetime opportunity to witness how DFID as an organisation is managed and the long term effects it has on people. (Kopan Monastery & DFID – written by Waleed Ahmed)

What an amazing two years it has been! So many highs and lows throughout the planning and completion of this adventure but overall, it truly was a once in a lifetime experience. I want to thank everyone who has been involved along the way from the support of the school, Global Action (the tour company), Tim (our expedition leader), all the staff and friends we made in Nepal and Mr Brown for his support and company along the way, and finally the amazing team of 11 students (Dan, Madi, Ben, Alys, Kelsey, Owen, Waleed, Cathy, Ellie, Meg & Cally) who were so positive, enthusiastic, eager to learn, dedicated, determined, mature and for their fantastic company whilst we were away. You have helped me to make some fantastic memories that I will never forget. Namaste!

26

If you have a desire to travel, I would highly recommend Nepal. It has the most breathtaking scenery, delicious food, rich and abundant culture and some of the nicest, friendliest and most generous people you will ever meet – it is a wonderful place to visit.

Watch this space for future trips that may be offered – they really are the most amazing opportunities.

Mrs Perna

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

If you have a desire to travel, I would highly recommend Nepal. It has the most breathtaking scenery, delicious food, rich and abundant culture and some of the nicest, friendliest and most generous people you will ever meet – it is a wonderful place to visit.

Watch this space for future trips that may be offered – they really are the most amazing opportunities.