Very early on the 30th July a weary group of nineteen students and two staff returned to QEGS at the end of a two week expedition to Nepal. The trip, the culmination of two year’s preparation, combined the usual mixture of tourism, educational activity, a project at a school and, for the first time, a visit to the conservation area of the Chitwan National Reserve.
On arrival we travelled to the Utse Hotel and quickly began our programme of activities which included visits to the Gurkha Welfare Trust that supports former soldiers and their communities, and the Kathmandu office of the World Wildlife Fund to examine the conservation and environmental issues faced by Nepal. A visit was also made to the impressive Buddhist site of the Boudhanath Stupa and to the Thamel Durbar (palace) Square. Everyone managed to get thoroughly soaked when caught in the monsoon that flooded the streets when returning to our hotel.
We then quickly transferred to the Namgyal Middle Boarding School to begin our project. The school has just under 400 students from the refugee Tibetan community, the majority of whom are sponsored and who are educated in lessons that include English, Nepalese and the Tibetan language and culture. The project was to prepare the ground for two 5000 litre water storage tanks so that the school was able to provide an adequate quantity of clean drinking water for students and staff. We had the job of digging a rather large hole through heavy clay. After three days the team had reached a depth of 5 feet and impressed everyone by their hard work. Our students had a great time taking some lessons, interacting with the children and finished off the stay with a joint cultural event and basketball matches.
Chitwan was a 5 hour bus journey but well worth the effort. The group had the chance to see Indian elephants, rhino, crocodiles, deer species and a range of birds and insects. We took part in a nature walk, jeep safari, elephant safari and had a wet time washing an elephant. We visited a local village to gain an awareness of the local ethnic group and followed this up with a cultural evening in the nearby village.
Our return to Kathmandu included an enjoyable and informative visit to Kopan monastery where a resident monk explained more about the beliefs of Buddhism and led a short session on meditation. This was also the time that we explored the shops of the Thamel district and sorted out the presents and memorabilia.
Overall it was a fantastic trip that saw the students gain a real appreciation for a number of aspects of life in Nepal and they threw themselves into the activities with enthusiasm and a genuine interest. I would like to thank Miss Freeman for her invaluable assistance on the trip, Charlotte Wilton for being an excellent expedition leader and Gautam, our tour guide, for sharing his knowledge, experience and good humour throughout the visit.