Pupils from Hereford Cathedral School spent two weeks over their October half-term trekking in Nepal and visiting Shree Sharada School in the small village of Ghachok, which is found near the Annapurna region.
HCS has had a link with this village school since 1998 and each year a group of Lower 6th pupils have travelled out to Nepal and combined trekking with a visit to the school. This year the group consisted of 16 pupils and a group of 10 parents and staff, (including a trek doctor). With all the porters and kitchen staff employed for the camping trek, a procession of somewhere around 60 bodies made their way on the 100 mile plus journey, along with 8 mules and a muleteer! At times it seemed to resemble how one might picture the retreat from Moscow!
The journey took them around the mountain of Manaslu, which is just east of Annapurna, and is the 8th highest mountain in the world, standing at 8163m, it is close to the Chinese Tibetan border and the trekkers found themselves less than half a day from the frontier. The village of Samdo, where the party camped for a night, was established in the 1950’s by Tibetans fleeing over the border from the Chinese invasion. It is cold in the village, it lies at just under 4000m and there is little vegetation. There was a medieval atmosphere to the place, as wispy columns of smoke spiralled up from the dishevelled cluster of stone buildings and yaks blundered about, roaming freely between tents and houses. Grubby children in traditional Tibetan attire ran about laughing and smiling, entertained by the pupils from HCS who played musical bumps and other games with them. Given the climate you could see why washing wasn’t a priority – keeping warm and having something to eat definitely were!
The next day the Larkya La pass at 5100m was the high point of the trek which was reached on day nine.
The first four days trekking up the gorge of the Budhi Gandaki were marred by wet weather which made conditions quite slippery, and more than one trekker was heard to murmur that it was just like north Wales! The monsoon rains were still lingering, traditionally these have completely dissipated by October when the main trekking season starts. However, fortunately, the skies cleared and the sun broke through, and the party were provided with fantastic views and a safe passage over the high remote section of the trek.
The visit to Ghachok School at the end of the trek is a happy occasion with the visitors being treated to Nepali hospitality – a tikka blessing on each visiting forehead, a garland of orange marigold flower-heads placed round the neck, and a display of traditional dancing given by the school pupils. The students from Hereford presented the pupils of Shree Sharada School with a selection of books, games, sports equipment and stationery, and a pledge was made to continue funding the salaries of two of the school’s teachers.
Mike Moffatt who initiated the link with Nepal and Ghachok School was taking part in his last trek with HCS and many thanks go to him for all that he has done over the years to forge this link. He is wished well in his new appointment. Thanks also to all the parents and pupils who have supported the Ghachok Link Project, and to all trekkers - past and present who have made the treks such a fantastic experience.
Plans are already in the pipeline for next years trek along with fund-raising for the ongoing support that HCS gives to Shree Sharada School.
Alexandra Campbell IML