Gap Year Expedition (Summer holidays 1999)

Chris and I got the O.S.S Foundation to part-sponsor us on a trek in Indian and Nepal. We did a report for their magazine:

Here, Tom Fotherby and Chris Hitchins report on their trip to Nepal:

Having done various expeditions during our time at the Oratory, we decided that we wanted the same challenge, but in a more adventurous setting. So we decided on the Himalayas.

From the beginning it was clear that we had to find a trek which was in an area not affected by the monsoon. One popular trek that caught our eye was the one from Jumla to Rara Lake. This lake is the focal point of the Rara National Park, 2980 meters high. As well as finding our destination, we had to find a way to get there which, due to our limited finances had to be the cheapest possible route. The result was that we landed in Delhi and had to make our own way to Kathmandu.

This was perhaps an unfortunate choice, as a journey that should have been a two-day bus trip turned into a journey of two weeks, passing through a war zone! Widespread flooding of the few roads into the south of Nepal meant that we had to find an entrance route from the North-west. The result of this was that we found ourselves in a small town called Srinager, the capital of Kashmir. Within an hour of arriving in India, we were on a bus journey that was not to end for another twenty-seven hours. Our first impressions of India were quite intense. There was an immediate shock to all of our senses. It was a blistering hot day in the middle of a bustling city, where car horns are used more than their brakes and the merchants sales method is just to shout at you at the top of their voice until you buy something under the pressure.

Kashmir was the one place that we intended never to go but was the first place we visited after Delhi. This was in no way intentional and resulted in us having to keep a very low profile for a week, at the orders of an Indian army Colonel who we met in the hills when out walking. Kashmir is a very picturesque place and under normal circumstances is a wonderful place to visit. However, the presence of such a large number of soldiers was intimidating and it was a great relief to leave, even though it entailed a journey of five days, by boat, bus, car and train. Kathmandu was a welcomed break after this journey, especially after we were held up in an 8 hour traffic jam 20 miles away because of a land slide on the road.

After a short cultural break in Kathmandu, we flew to the start of our trek, in the remote mountain village of Jumla. We were eager to embark on this seven-day trek as we had spent such a long time cooped up in our various methods of transport. On our first day, we set of at a great pace and reached our designated camp, by the early afternoon, despite the rain! The following days saw a drop in our energy and enthusiasm, as day by day our kit became wetter and wetter. Our appreciation of our surroundings was not affected. The Himalayan foothills have many awe-inspiring views and on the third day we arrived at Rara Lake, not to be disappointed. We spent a day walking around the lake, which is the largest in Nepal. Despite a relatively easy days walking due to the level land, we were keen to crack on and get back to civilization, as we were getting though our food faster than expected and we were fed up of the taste of iodine in our purified stream water. The path down was harder than we had anticipated and by this time our patience was beginning to run out and we were desperate to get back to the meagre comforts of the nearest guest house.

Our long awaited rest did not happen until we arrived back in Delhi three days later. After an initial two days in bed we spent our last few days touring Delhi and the surrounding sites such as the famous Taj Mahal and numerous temples and colonial landmarks, like the India Gate.

The trip opened our eyes to a number of things. Most memorable was the poverty and basic lack of amenities, which we shall never again take for granted. India and Nepal are beautiful countries, but they are slightly marred by the intense competition in every imaginable corner of the market. Having said that, we were expecting poverty and the experience has certainly changed us for the better. Our experiences are impossible to describe in a short report like this one, but we strongly recommend going to experience it first hand.

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