The 2013 trek departed from the UK in the last week of February, right at the start of the Nepal trekking season. Four fund raising trekkers accompanied David and Gyaljen on a twelve day trek from Lukla to Tumlingtar. All the camping gear had been transported to Lukla by road and foot beforehand but we arrived by the scary route, landing on the short steeply inclined runway in front of the monastery!
This route is part of the Great Himalaya Trail and covers four passes over 3000m and the Arun river valley. The weather was perfect on most days with clear skies and little haze. We met a few trekkers travelling in the opposite direction, mainly European couples walking alone or with a guide. We were supported by three Sherpa guides, three kitchen boys and eight porters, reduced to six after crossing two icy high passes. A friendly and very well behaved dog joined us for the first two and a half days. Why he failed to continue with us after that we will never know!
The first two days were quite strenuous as we got into our stride but everyone managed the altitude and the steep up and down slopes without complaint. We reached the village of Gudel after four and a half days. The village has not changed much since our last visit two years ago, except for the placement of numerous rubbish baskets and the adoption of a policy of “no open defecation” which has resulted in a 20% fall in the incidence of diarrhoeal diseases. We visited the health post where we pay the salary for the health assistant alongside the government health worker. Unfortunately the previous HA has now left in the hope of studying medicine and there is currently a vacancy. We are hopeful that a replacement can be found soon but it is not easy to find HA’s who are prepared to work for long periods in remote villages such as this. Having said that the health post is very active. Since we provided dental training on the last visit Hari, the nurse, has become adept at tooth extraction and she has adequate supplies of dental anaesthetic. The day we visited was an immunisation day. Twenty six children had received DTP, measles, polio, HiB and BCG. Hari had to walk a whole day on the following day to return the “cold chain” container to the small town of Salleri.
On the following day we visited the school at assembly time. We were given a warm welcome by the staff and students and we were most impressed by the number of students who have good English language skills. Overall the school is well run and they set good standards and objectives for staff and students. We were able to provide them with some library books from the UK.
From Gudel it is a long day to cross the Salpa pass at 3358m, then two hours steep descent to our camp site. The next day took us to Gothe Bazar, where a large landslide had completely smothered the place where we camped two years before. From there it was two days to the regional town of Khandbari. We were fortunate to be able to camp at the Gurkha Welfare Centre which is enclosed and has good washing facilities! On the next day we visited the hospital to formally hand over the x-ray machine which was purchased by Nepal in Need with the generous help of the Pitts-Tucker family trust.
“I am glad that the visit went so well and that the x-ray machine is installed and contributing to better healthcare in the district. We are happy that all has gone well and some of us would like to join the next trek/trip in March 2014. Please give us lots of advance notice!” – Nick Pitts-Tucker of JPT Trust
It was good to see the completed installation after negotiating the purchase, transport andengineering from a distance in the UK. All that remains now is to install a voltage stabiliser to cope with the vagaries of the local electricity supply. While in Khandbari we also purchased two more solar power systems for homes in Saisema at £100 each plus two porters to carry the equipment three days to the village. We also met Ejina Gurung again, who’s severe leg deformity was corrected three years ago. She is well and is engaged to be married next year.
The last trekking day took us back to Kathmandu from the airstrip at Tumlingtar. As usual we stayed at the Asmita Guest House in Thamel so that everyone could easily do their shopping before returning home. Overall this was a very successful trek. We achieved all the aims we started with and the whole group worked well together. The four new trekkers were truly impressed with Nepal and its people. For my part there have been a number of important changes since I first visited. First among these is the spread of mobile phones. The network coverage has improved enormously and many families now have some access. For health workers the phone is a huge advance. They can now get advice quickly and give patients the confidence that they have all the necessary information available. They can share experiences and learning with their colleagues and it is a stimulus to keep up to date. Second is the network of new roads, especially in the Arun valley north of Khandbari. While at first sight new roads might seem to be a scar on the landscape there is no doubt that improved access leads to improved standards of living. Finally there is good evidence that health is improving. Maternal mortality is reducing following education in the management of complications of childbirth, childhood mortality is reducing with the good coverage of immunisation and at last many homes are moving the open cooking fire from the main living area into a dedicated kitchen using a stove with a chimney. This will go a long way to reducing chronic catarrh in children and chronic bronchitis in adults.