It was late September that Richard Brind from Dorchester Casterbridge Rotary Club and myself headed out to Nepal to catch up on the water projects completed this year and to look and any possible new projects. We flew via Muscat and arrived in Kathmandu to the culture shock of the pandemonium of the Arrivals Hall where we were met by our old friend Bimal.
I first met Bimal in 2002 with Richard Backwell, who later founded the Okhle Village Trust. We did a trek in the Langtang region of Nepal. Walking for two weeks with Bimal we discovered much about his family and life in his village. The main problem that the village and surrounding villages have is lack of water. Also as they are extremely poor they have no means of remedying the situation. This prompted Richard to start the Okhle Village Trust. Over the years much money has been raised and many villages have been helped with water projects. I have been to the villages several times. The people are delightful and really deserving. Our rotary club has been involved in small ways over the early years with donations but have played a much more active role in recenttimes.
Kathmandu is a chaotic place. The population is 700 000. None of the normal rules of the west apply. You are assaulted by the noise, the pollution, the crowds of people trying to take your bags to carry them, to get you to take their taxi or bus. The traffic in the airport is congested with seemingly very little convention as to the rules of the road. In the city it was no better. Luckily traffic speeds are low, as with a constant hooting of horns cars lorries and buses all jostle for position and overtake each other in the face of oncoming traffic whilst the hundreds of motorcycles weave their way through and the rickshaws do their best to avoid being pushed off the road.
We arrived at the Hotel Utse which was rather basic to say the least. However the rooms though rather dilapidated were clean and did in fact have an en suite shower (the water mostly warm but variable) and toilet.
We left for the village of Okhle, Bimal's home, in the early morning and picked up the 7 o'clock bus to Dumre. As usual the 5-6 hour journey became 9 due to a head on between two buses in which 6 people died. We therefore missed the local bus at Dumre but were able to hire a jeep for the 3 hour journey up to Bimal's home village of Okhle. (Only 4WD buses, jeeps and motorcycles can make it along the precarious dirt track road as it climbs high into the hills) Here it is a different world of peace and tranquillity where about 40 houses are nestled into the hillside. This is Bimal's home village and where the first water project was undertaken 12 years ago. We stayed with Bimal's mother, Chandrakala. A classic Nepalese house which is constructed of stone but rendered with mud coloured orange/red. It is two stories with a verandah across the length of the front. The kitchen is basic. A mud floor and a clay wood fire oven in the corner where all the cooking is done. There are no seats and everyone sits on mats. There is no water supply within the house.. Richard and I had a small room which did have two beds! There has been electricity for about 5 years now though the supply is rather intermittent. There is now a toilet outside - a small concrete renderedbuilding which along with 6 others has been funded by the Okhle Village Trust. Washing facilities are at the nearby tap which is supplied with water from the tank again built by the OVT, There is no privacy for washing and the water is cold. The evening meal was Dhal Bhatt which is the traditional meal of rice, lentil soup, vegetable curry and pickles.
We had three nights stay in the village. So the next day we first visited the village of Tutepani. It is about a three hour walk to the west of Okhle on a dirt track road used by occasional motorcycles and a daily bus. This is where our project is for this year. The village is situated on a hill side. There are houses above and below the road. there are 35 houses in total and a population of up to 300. The villagers made us extremely welcome with garlands and red paint on our foreheads. We were given welcoming tea and some food. The villagers all came out to tell us about their situation and their needs. They have a small ancient water tank that leaks and therefore as many of the villagesonly have enough water for the monsoon season they have to walk to a spring at another village and carry their water back to their houses. This happens for 9 months of the year. Our project in conjunction with Dorchester Casterbridge Rotary is to provide the funds to build a new collection chamber at their spring which is in the hills 1.2km away, piping to the village, a new 30 000 litre water tank and further piping to seven new taps throughout the village. The tank will fill in the monsoon. With careful use of water during the dry season and with the trickle from the spring there will be enough water for the village all year round.
The dilapidated old tank at Tutepani
The estimated costs are about £5 000. It is hoped that the Rennes Rotary Club may make a £500 contribution and that our two clubs will raise £2 250 each. A District Grant has been approved from Foundation leaving us with £1 750 to raise. With the wine evening at Sutton Poyntz, Table Top sale, Donation from Sutton Pyntz Street Fayre for help with parking and the proceeds from the Swindle we have reached this target unless we have to cover the Rennes contribution.
We made our way eastwards to Raile where our main project from last year had been completed. We were made incredibly welcome by a village that is so grateful for the work that had been done. After more garlands, red paint, tea and Dhal Bhatt we were taken to see the work. We climbed the one kilometre to the new concrete collecting chambers at the two springs, where, because it was the monsoon season still we were attacked mercilessly by leeches! We saw how that to bring the water to the village they had dug a cutting into the hill at the col. The water tank was an extremely solid well built 30 000 litre stone tank andthe five taps were distributed throughout the village. The costing had come out on budget. The materials and skilled labour were paid for by the two clubs and the OVT. The villagers themselves did all the remainder of the work which helped to give them ownership of the project
It was then straight on to Madkina. We had contributed half of the cost of a tank and a tap and the remainder was donated by a couple who have been on Nepal trips before and also wanted to help the village. As usual the village turned out with more garlands and red paint. We now had a combination of the heat and sweating, three applications of red paint and white sunscreen all mixing and smeared over our faces. We were not keen to be seen in public! We were proudly shown the tank and the tap. The monsoon season had been prolonged this year, delaying the construction and the villagers raced to get the work done for our arrival and the rendering of the tap had only been completed the previous day. Unfortunately due to rain overnight it had become streaked . The landscaping had not been completed, but Richard Backwell visited in November and it has all been finished and looking really good.
Continuing on a really busy day we then walked to Kot Guan where Richard Brind and his sister had paid for a water harvesting system at the community centre. Sadly that had not been done, but again when Richard Backwell visited later it has now been completed.
We then returned to Okhle really quite tired, where Bimal's mother cooked another but extremely tasty Dhal Bhatt. During the evening visitors appeared from Okhle and surrounding villages. They go from house to house and come in for a chat and then pass on to another house. No computers, televisions or Play Stations I guess. The Raksi then appeared which is the locally made rice wine which is distilled and comes in various strengths from that of wine up to that of a proof whisky. Everybody became more and more relaxed and talkative!
There was another whole day in the villages and so after Tibetan bread with fried eggs we went to Gahateri. Robin from the village has been very helpful in accompanying us over previous visits and also in helping other villages with projects when Bimal has been away. He owns a small shop in the village, selling just about anything. Gahateri is in need of a new collection and overflow chamber at its water source. The current one is 35y old and is broken down. This means in the monsoon the water becomes contaminated due to the muddy waters getting into the drinking supply. It has made several of the villager ill and OVT has agreed to do the work. It was a long walk up through the jungle on a virtually non-existent path through the undergrowth and another prolonged leech attack!
On to Ghalegaun, where we met up with Gopal his family and baby daughter born a few months ago. Gopal has been our assistant guide on several treks in the past. We rested at his house for the first Dhal Bhatt of the day. Suzie Cockburn who had been part of our group in another trek in the Langtang three years ago died unexpectedly eighteen months ago. Her family donated some money to the OVT and this was used to build a second water tank in her memory, just completed, at Ghalegaun as their primary tank was not sufficient.
Back up and over the hill to Raipali. This is a village close to Okhle. We have camped there several times in the past and have been made most welcome. They have had a lot of work done over the years. Firstly a tank below the spring, but the villagers still had to carry the water up 80 metres over the col and down into the village. A hand pump was purchased and imported from South Africa to pump the water over the col to the village. The idea was that one hour pumping per day would be enough to supply the village. However despite the enthusiasm of the villagers it was too hard and fell into disuse. However a few years ago electricity reached the village and we supplied an electric pump. Two pumps along with two voltage regulators, and with much twisting of the arms of Oman Air who were, in fact, very co-operative. We managed to take them out with us four years ago. It did however leave us with very little weight allowance for our own luggage!This has been very successful, though arriving at Raipali we found the locals carrying waterup the hill again. The voltage regulator had failed. But after several phone calls an engineer was sourced in a town called Bharatpur, several hours away, who replaced the failed regulator. He suggested that the housing built to hold the equipment was too small and condensation may be a problem, so the OVT is supplying the money for the materials to build a new housing.
It was back over the hill to Okhle. From the top there are often spectacular views of Manaslu an 8000m peak and of the Manaslu range. That evening is was fried noodles and yet more Raksi.
Sadly it was now time to leave the villages but were going to trek up to Annapurna Sanctuary (Base Camp) which is at 4095m in a bowl surrounded by the peaks of Machapuchare, Annapurna 1 2 3 4 and South, plus Gangapurna. This is where many trekking expeditions set off for conquering some of the major summits. Thats another story
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more The first Rotary warm up walk, partly for Nepal, but mostly as a club social event, was a great success.
more Pictures from the Garden Party for Handover 5 July 2015
more A walk past stone circles and through the Valley of Stones
more Visit to Crealy Park on June 10th 2015
more Here are some Letters from the Kids
more Visit to Nepal in November 2013
more Handover 2011
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