23 hours and 3 layovers later, I had finally landed in Katmandu. But after one very stressful day of rushing the crowded and narrow alleyways of the capital in search of the gears we needed, we were already on our way again.
To reach the village where we would be giving away all the supplies, we had to travel a lot. 12 hours of bus to Nepalgunj, then a 45 minutes flight to Jumla Discrict, 5 hours spent in the back of a Jeep plus 5 more hours trekking up in the mountains in complete dusk.
We crashed immediately when we arrived. The next morning was the day we met with the kids. We got there with the teenage boys playing with a deflated soccer ball to finally join them in a match with our new soccer balls we brought for them. As well as new soccer balls we have also provided them with over 500 hand-crafted winter hats and different sorts of useful medicines. Even though we couldn’t speak their language, their smiles said it all.
Christmas was soon to come and for the first time I got to know how it feels to not receive any gift and to not gather with my family around a delightful traditional christmas dinner. But as you can guess, that experience opened my eyes more than anything else. This years, it was my turn to give away and it turned out into an experience that even money can't buy.
The next day was the day we started our treck back toward the closest town but we decided to take a different path and so we headed to Rara Lake where there was supposedly a small airport to fly us back in Pokhara. The National Park of Rara was absolutely outstanding. Virgin forests, unbeaten paths, turquoise water, fresh air and snow peaks in the background. It was honestly one of the most scenic view I’ve ever get to see in my entire life. What makes this area so special and unique is probably the fact that there is no a hundred ways to get there so it’s completely untouched and not touristy at all.
We then reached the supposedly airport about 7 days after we left the school. And yet I’m not even sure if I can call it an airport. Def. airport : A place where aircraft take off and land, equipped with hard-surfaced landing strips, a control tower, hangars, aircraft maintenance and refueling facilities, and accommodations for passengers and cargo. Yep. It was not what we commonly call an airpot. No terminal, no fense around protecting the area, not even a proper termac to allow planes to land and take off safely. There was just a few meters long path full of rocks. We’ve been told that once a plane lands, which you can’t even really tell when, you have to pay the pilot cash in hand to board the plane. That wasn’t super reassuring but that wasn’t my main worry. I was more worried about the snow and a future blizzard that could potentially hit rather than actually boarding a tiny plane on a tiny runway in such rough conditions. Obviously, no facilities to shovel the snow off the termac. That being said, we ended up waiting 4 more days in the hope the snow would melt at some point, sleeping in a local’s house and waiting for the sky to clear up.
The 5th day was the day we’ve started to freak out on a next level. Our situation was getting worse and we started getting sick of altitude illness and malnutrition. At this point we’ve also realized that the snow definitely won’t melt enough to allow the plane to land safely. So after few calls to our embassy and a few days waiting again, an helicopter came to pick us up.
Beside the misadventure we had at the end of the expedition, my 2 weeks in the mountains made me realized so many important things. First, I can survive without wifi or internet for more than 24h and second my personal problems that sometimes appear huge to me are absolutely nothing compared to theirs.
I’ve also discovered that behind the bright and majestic snow peaks hide people and communities whose voice aren't heard in this side of the world. Thanks to our translator, we’ve had the opportunity to hear some crazy stories from the locals we met along the way and that made us think about a way we could create something sustainable to help these isolated communities. Yes, we’ve been stranded. And so are they still.
How a sparkling idea has turned into something great
I believe that stories are powerful. They make us think, they make us care and most importantly they shake up our perspective. And this is how the stories of all these individuals we’ve met on this expedition became the story of Kites Workshop.
Kites Workshop Apparel is a clothing line company created in January 2015 that aims to support rural communities in Nepal by providing them with good wages, support and education. I believe in the suitability and the relevance of this project and I’m mostly super trilled about all the adventures that lay ahead.
Here is a video I made