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May 2013 - Update from Nepal

This season I arrived in Nepal from a cold UK in mid March to a pleasant 23-25c temperature in Kathmandu. Now, almost two months later, as I prepare to leave Nepal the daytime temperature is around 33-35c - it was cooler in the mountains though!

After a month in Kathmandu involved in various trekking arrangements and other projects I was able to make the time for a visit to Tengboche in Khumbu. Towards the end of April some flights to Lukla can be affected by high winds and on this occasion the pilots had to make a short detour to avoid the areas affected. Arriving in Lukla is like coming home for me and it is always a pleasure to meet old friends and Sherpa family in the Khumbu.

The trek to Phakding and on to Namche was uneventful, except that some light rain was falling as I reached Namche, a sign of what was to come over the next few days. The trek to Kunde was made in cloudy weather and in stark contrast to Kathmandu the temperature fell to almost zero and overnight snow gave a covering of about 5/6cm next morning over Kunde and the nearby village of Khumjung.

Fortunately it did not make too many problems for the trek to Tengboche. However, the cloudy weather continued and during the next four days, unusually for the third week of April, further falls of snow and cold temperatures continued. It is always a great pleasure for me to come to Tengboche with the magnificent setting of the Monastery and the mountains; I was able to spend four days there with my Sherpa friends. The unusual weather gave a 15cm covering of snow on the second night but with some breaks in the clouds from time to time the sun soon dispersed most of it.

Many of the Lamas (Monks) that I know were away from Tengboche at this time taking a Puja (Sherpa cultural ceremony) in a nearby village. However, I was honoured, yet again, to meet with the Ringpoche (Reincarnate Head Lama of the Monastery) on two occasions. This is always a great honour, and pleasure, for me. This year it is 22 years since I first came to Tengboche and even as the years pass by I hope I will continue to be fit and able to make the trek to Tengboche for a few more years yet.

As the weather improved and the clouds dispersed the first time visitors to Tengboche had their first views of the mountains around the high Khumbu valley with the distinctive shape of Amadablam close by and the peaks of Everest and Lhotse down the valley.

Political situation :

It is some time since I sent a report from Nepal and the situation for the local people remains much the same - 12 hours a day Load Shedding power cuts - water shortages - cooking gas shortages - rising costs - together with a continuing unstable political climate. Fortunately, together with our colleagues in the two offices in Kathmandu that we are associated with, we continue to be able to manage all the local difficulties for clients with a minimum of disruption.

Rising Costs :

Rising costs in Nepal have been the main topic in recent times and this continues to be the same again this season - last year the government raised many costs to foreigners in the trekking areas, some by more that 300%. This year they are making increases in the entrance fees for all the main cultural sites in Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur which are major sightseeing venues for visitors. In addition to this the City Guides association have increased their costs to the companies so that now the costs of organising an half day sightseeing visit for clients from March 2013 has more that doubled from last year, March 2012.

However, on this occasion, unlike with the increases in the Trekking Regions last year, the two main associations, Nepal Association of Travel Agents (NATA) and Trekking Agents Association of Nepal (TAAN) are suggesting their member agents now boycott the City Guides and the high cost of entry to all the main cultural sites. It remains to be seen if this action will have any effect on the high price rises imposed by the government.

Nepal Trekking supports our Nepali colleagues and we wait to see any changes. It is now probable that we will follow our colleagues at the Magnificent Travels and Tours Pvt. Ltd. office who arrange all our sightseeing, travel, and hotel bookings etc. and make any Sightseeing Tour an optional extra instead of including a half day sightseeing tour in our prices. - This is just another example of how costs are rising in an uncontrolled way.

Nepal Trekking in Nepal :

With the ongoing political uncertainty it continues to be very difficult to see what the future situation may be for the children in Kathmandu as they progress through the school system. Tshiring, now in year 12, and doing his final exams as I write this, will hope to continue onto a BBS College to continue his studies but it is becoming more difficult each year to fund everything. In April, Nepali New Year 2070, Kunga Doma has just moved up to Class 7 and she is making good progress also.

In Pangum village the children also continue to make progress at school. Mingma's eldest daughter Pema Yangji is now in the last year of her extra training as a nurse/community medical health assistant, she has been living with us in Kathmandu but now recently, in April, she has moved into other accommodation together with her youngest brother who has come to Kathmandu from Pangum village to continue his schooling. Mingma's second son Sonam is also in Kathmandu studying as a Lama in a Monastery in Boudha, his elder son and second daughter are still in the village having taken their SLC exams this year. I have not had the opportunity to visit Pangum for a year now so it is top of the list for next time!!

Yet again, in the present unstable political climate in Nepal it is difficult to see what the future holds for all the students and young people, once again we can only hope it will change for the better sooner rather than later.

As always, we are very grateful to everyone who gives us support for our work direct in Nepal. Support both financially and with the continued supply of clothing for children and adults in the villages and in Kathmandu. In recent years also our thanks to those who have made available funding that has allowed us to distribute wind up torches and lamps to many people, both in Kathmandu and in the villages in the Khumbu. Donated mobile phones have also proved particularly useful to people in the villages as the networks expand and allows people to keep in contact with relatives around the country. Our projects are ongoing and we look forward to continued support in the months and years ahead. If you can help with any of these projects, or if you require any further information, please contact Denis direct (email and phone details enclosed). You can Make a Difference.

Denis and all the Nepal Trekking Family

Denis Gallagher
Nepal Trekking
May 2013