Reflections on Three Months in Nepal

CT guides Tanner & Kolena have been sending periodic dispatches from the field in Nepal, where they have been guiding our travelers and doing on-the-ground re-con for us this fall. Here’s their final post before they make their way back to the U.S.

Nepal moonlit mountainTime moves in such unpredictable ways. A year ago we never even thought of coming to Nepal. Eight months ago we were exploring this amazing country for the first time. Three months ago we left home to embark on an experience we could have no idea the magnitude of. Looking back always accelerates the passage of time while in unique moments time seems to stand still. It will take time to truly process this whole experience, but as we prepare to reenter a world we left seemingly a lifetime ago, we can take some stock of the experience so far.

Since we last wrote we have further explored the Kathmandu Valley, spent two weeks of bliss trekking in the Solokhumbu Region, and shared meaningful exchanges with a wonder village with wonderful people. Above all other things we feel so fortunate to have spent this time in such a wonderful places.

Chandani Nepal planting in fieldOur most recent visit to Jogatar Village, Chandani was a very moving and meaningful experience. We were accompanied by a family; Dan, Elise, and ten year old Ravi. What makes this family great and unique, among many other things, is that Ravi was adopted from Nepal as a baby and this was his first visit back to his birth-land. It was such an honor to be part of this experience for him and his parents, to see him exploring his roots and having genuine interactions with the people. Our experience in the village was made so much more rich because of them, we are grateful to have had it.

While in the village we were able to participate in some work projects. At the school we gave our hands to help in the construction of a library room that will be filled with books for the kids to read and take home. We followed the lead of Mohan, the local engineer, and his crew and tried our best to not get in the way. Brick by brick, shovel by shovel we started to see the room take shape. Ravi was especially amazing because in addition to moving dirt, he worked all the while with the kids begging him to go play! The time spent with the school construction team and the kids, working together hand in hand, and getting to know some hard working folks was an amazing opportunity.

The most important things that take place in the village always have very little to do with us. As we mentioned in previous posts this village is in the process of constructing a milk processing station that will transform the lives of all the people in the village. This project is really at the core of the work Crooked Trails and KEEP are doing in Nepal. The project was initiated by the community, conceptualized and executed by local people, and the construction began without any help from us. Not only that but this project will benefit each member of the community, not just individuals. It has the potential to really change the narrative of these people lives. We are excited to be able to support this project with all the remaining funds needed to finish construction! Next time we visit we will be able to see the completed station!

Learning is always a huge part of these experiences, much like in all of life. We are starting to realize the importance of preparation when it comes to experiences in a country. Crooked Trails believes that travel is less about seeing or doing, and much more about exchange and understanding. There is immense value in interpersonal connection, on spending time with people and gaining an understanding. This value is equal to, if not greater, than any amount of money or construction work. This is as true in Jogatar as it is in Seattle as well. Preparing for a true travel experience is so important and we have learned that we can give people a deeper experience by providing that preparation. It is about a change in mindset, an adjustment in expectations that create rich, meaningful travel experience.Nepal beautiful mountains

Kolena and I came to Nepal wanting to experience as many different aspects of Nepal as we could. Mountains are as vital a part of Nepal as almost any other thing, so we felt we needed to experience the mountains as much as we could. For us this meant not only a trek, but a trek with the potential for understanding, connection, and providing something more than just views. Our good friend and Crooked Trails partner Karma Sherpa always delivers these experiences. In addition to the Sherpa Homestay Experience he offers through Crooked Trails, Karma organizes and treks in all areas of the Himalaya so we knew we were in good hands. Not only this, but becuase Karma uses profits from his trekking business to support his nonprofit, The Karam Project, we knew our money would help many people.

There is no way to prepare for the beuaty, splendor, and culture of the Solokhumbu. We had 16 of the most breathtaking, difficult, and awe-inspiring days I think we have ever had. The trek began in the mountain town of Lukla, then on the the famed Namche Bazaar. From there we accompanied friends to the base camp of a mountain called Kyajo Ri where they would climb. Leaving them behind we passed through the villages of Thame, Lumde, and over the 17,000+ foot Renjo Pass. We then dropped into the town of Gokyo on the shores of Gokyo Lake. We wandered, explored, and were overwhelmed with the beauty of this place. From Gokyo we had a very long day of hiking back to Namche Bazaar where we rested for a day. Leaving Namche heading back to Lukla was a sad time and we took each step with the memories of what we had seen.

Kolena and I love the mountains deeply so we knew we would be in heaven on this trek. What we hoped for was to take the experience beyond aesthetics and find a way to connect with the culture. Our guide Ang Babu Sherpa and our porter Chyongba Sherpa delivered that beyond anything we could have imagined. At every opportunity they Chandani family with Tanner Kolena Nepalshared their culture with us and put us in a position to have authentic experiences with local people. Whether it was climbing the hill to the Thame Monastery to witness the daily puja or finding a silent afternoon among the glaciers and lakes of Gokyo, these guys gave us so much more than we could have found on our own. The mountains hold a rich and deep culture, an ancient people who have moved thousands of miles over some of the harshest terrain on Earth. We were enriched by immersing ourselves in that for a short time and will remember the people more than the mountains we saw.

As we prepare to leave Nepal and return to a land that now seems so far away we will be attempt to collect the lessons Nepal has taught us. We have learned more in this last three months than in our previous 30 years so it will take time to realize it all. Our hope is to be able to share with all of you what we have learned so that people might have some small understanding of this complicated place. We have only scratched the surface and can not wait until we can return to continue our relationship with a place and people we have fallen so deeply in love with. Until next time, farewell from Nepal.

~ Tanner & Kolena

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