I had been looking forward to rafting on the Kaligandaki for a long time. I had had a taster of Nepal river rafting on the Lower Bhote Koshi, but this was something else.
It is very special to snake your way through Nepal on a raft often being faced with some unfriendly looking rapids. The views you get from rafting are very different to those whilst trekking, the cliff faces seem so much closer and taller as they plunge down towards the water. Not only are the views different to trekking, but the exercise forces you to exert just as much energy, only using different muscles.
We were given a comprehensive safety briefing beforehand for our 8-man raft and practiced the various paddling commands. It was certainly very important to do so as two of the biggest rapids of the whole three days came soon after launching. Appropriately named little brother and big brother they immediately threw us (literally and metaphorically) into the spirit of rafting. I never felt in real danger due to the precaution of having two safety kayaks in case of a capsize or man overboard.
On the contrary to the adrenaline fuelled bashing of rapids, there were some sections to appreciate the beauty of your surroundings and observe some of the wildlife. There were countless eagles and we also saw Langur monkeys and some kind of large rodents too.
The camping was great too. The spots they chose for the campsites were very special and an enterprising local villager would come to sell beer which was very welcome. The nights would wind down by sitting around the campfire and staring at the incredible star-lit sky. The food was plentiful and very good considering it was all had to be rafted down with us too. All of the guides were terrific, friendly, helpful and most importantly up for having a laugh with you.
Overall I would say that the rafting on the Kaligandaki river was one of the highlights of my 3 months in Nepal. There are gentler rivers just as there are more extreme rivers. But for me there was more than enough excitement on the Kaligandaki.
I was very happy to hear that my stay in Nepal coincided with Holi, or better known as the Festival of Colour. I geared up and headed out..
Certainly the festival brings smiles to everyone. After all there is nothing like acting as a child again, drenching whosoever dares to pass near enough to you. Being on the back of a motorbike, racing through the alleys of Bhaktapur receiving water from all directions was something which I won’t forget soon. Women pouring buckets from windows, gangs of kids on rooftops squirting down on you with water guns, not to mention the ground-assault of water balloons.
I think it’s fair to say being one of the only Westerners there, our motorbike was targeted more than others, but this was something I relished. The colour as well was great. It was the norm to see people walking past you with faces that looked like they had face-planted into a pool of colour. Reds, blues, yellows and purples were everywhere you looked.
I was told a little about the reasons of the festival. Firstly it is seen as the coming of spring (hence the colours) and better weather. Secondly it represents good overcoming evil and this was most definitely indicated in the smiles, laughs and joy of everyone involved. Ages from toddlers to the elderly all joined the fun.
The only down-side, and something which I was stupid to do, was that in the midst of it all my phone and camera broke. Quite simply, do not take your electronics with you and if you must ensure they are safely sealed in a Ziploc bag. Luckily this did not detract from the fun I had in the day!
I have now completed my last visit to Takru and have come away with many thoughts. I went with Nick Clayton and Andy Leonard to see the project’s progress. It was pleasing to see that the physical infrastructure is working and that the Internet speed was surprisingly good.
The greatest challenge now left is the legacy side. The villagers were clearly pleased and happy about the whole project as shown in a fabulous evening of thanks to us. We were adorned with paint, scarves, tradition Tamang dress and many signs of thanks. I’m sure a night none of us shall forget. But it did make me realise that the challenge has shifted away from the physical side of the project.
We need to make sure that the villagers are trained in how to use computers to make sure that they can make good use of the full capabilities of the Internet. At the moment my impression is that they are a little afraid and intimidated by the technology. If we can not only train them but display to them the wonders of such technology then it is our belief that they will be captured and become desperate to make full use of it.
Nick believes that the best way to do this is through Skype. Many of the men of the village are currently working abroad in Malaysia and if their families were to be able to see their father/husband/son on their screen through Skype technology then their communication with these family members would be revolutionised. Just this display would lead to a greater curiosity of the capabilities that would be enabled.
This curiosity can lead to exploration and self-learning. It is my aim to give especially the children a certain level of knowledge and know-how so that they can begin to explore for themselves. I think a lot of training can be done by the village itself. If we can identify 3/4 villagers who have an aptitude for learning, they can pass on their knowledge. Much can be picked up from simply observing others on the computer over their shoulders too, something which should happen once the computers are set up in their community room. I genuinely believe that this technology and the Internet could hugely expand the horizons of the children of the village and give them opportunities for careers that perhaps would not have been possible before. This is the reason that getting the legacy correct is perhaps the most important part of the project.
From now we are sending a technician once a month to the village to ensure that all of the infrastructure is working as well as helping to train the villagers. Therefore my role now becomes a sideline one, receiving updates and advising as to any decisions that will be made. But it is my hope that after some time the village will begin to self-police, self-regulate and progress by themselves. This would be the ultimate ideal outcome of the entire project and has been since its inception.