After the main two days of the Dashain festival were over, we jumped back into classes with a few exciting site visits. First, we headed to the Nepali World Wildlife Foundation headquarters to learn about their mission and projects as an NGO. Afterward, we headed to what was probably one of my favorite site visits so far at ICIMOD, or the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development. At this mountainside facility, we got to witness agroecological solutions to the changes in land, water, and energy that Nepal has been experiencing under the pressures of climate change.
Our next excursion was to begin shortly thereafter, but fortunately, before we left, Jaime (my homestay partner) and I were able to have an amazing day full of activities with our homestay mom and sister, Pari. We spent the bulk of the day getting our nails done at a local salon together, trying (and falling in love with) some Nepali snacks, and then getting henna (a first for me!). In the evening we fumbled our way through learning how to make momos, the popular Nepali dumpling, but enjoyed every bite of the delicious result.
The following day we woke up bright and early, ready to embark on another day-long bumpy bus ride full of long chats, pretty mountain views, and unsuccessful attempts to sleep. This time we were headed to Pokhara, a city located closer to the mountain ranges of Nepal. When we finally arrived there in the evening, we enjoyed our dhal bhat dining over the city while soft live music set the ambiance. The following morning after a brief orientation about the area, we loaded into jeeps and began our three-hour, equally bumpy trip up into the mountains while jamming out to some songs the whole ride there. The jeeps brought us up to Sikles, a remote village in the mountains with some of the most stunning views of the semester thus far. It was from here that we embarked on a two-day trek to Kapuche Glacial Lake, the lowest glacial lake in the world by elevation. The trek was 12 miles in each direction and was rarely flat, making it undoubtedly the hardest hike of my life, but it was certainly the most rewarding one. We crossed numerous suspension bridges, drank out of waterfalls, and had a beautifully restorative lunch lying out in the sun watching the clouds float over the mountains.
By the time we made it to Kapuche, the sun was already beginning to set, casting a beautiful light over the pristine lake and throughout the peaks of the surrounding mountains. As I breathed in the fresh air, dipped my face into the freezing waters, and basked in the accomplishments of the day, I remember feeling a peace unlike any other I had ever really known. Just as the hike was indubitably the hardest of my life, this moment was undoubtedly one of the best. We spent the evening warming up around a fire, singing songs in the kitchen, and snacking on fresh popcorn, tea, and of course, dhal bhat. When you’re cold straight to your bones, there truly is nothing as special as the comfort of hearty food or the warmth of friends when falling asleep. Another highlight was waking at 2 am, scrambling outside with friends, and being met with a stunning lunar halo lighting up the sky above us.
The following morning we went down by the lake again to take another dip (I wasn’t so bold as those who fully jumped in and instead opted to just dunk my face) and warmed up with more tea and stew with bread for breakfast. We then began the long trek back, which included lots of solo time as well as a couple close calls with some angry bees. By the time we made it back to Sikles, I was truly wiped but got some energy back after chowing down a delicious bowl of noodles and taking one of the best showers of my life. To cap off our time in Sikles, we visited the local school the next day, complete with more mural painting, and then had another lecture about sustainability in and the history of the area. Back in Pokhara the next day I indulged in some Korean BBQ, did some shopping with a few friends, walked around the town, and caught yet another beautiful sunset over the lake.
Later that evening, much to our surprise, we were hit by another earthquake around 11 pm. Although less severe than the one in Morocco, we still felt the shaking and the quake was still deadly, particularly for those in more remote villages. Despite the amazing past few days out in this part of western Nepal, the earthquake brought us back to reality as a stark reminder of the inequalities of the region and the injustices of the world.
Back in Kathmandu, we began to wrap up our time by presenting our findings on the state of water, land, and energy management in Nepal that we had been researching thus far. Outside of class, I tried to squeeze the most out of the last few days by getting another incredible massage, indulging in plenty of tea and samosas, and attending a live concert that blended jazz with traditional Nepali music (so so fun!). On our final day, I did one last yoga class with some friends, checked out the Museum of Nepali Arts, and packed up my stuff before heading to the farewell dinner where we were to say goodbye to our homestay families over one last dinner. It was a bittersweet moment — hard to say goodbye to the family but filled with excitement about our travels ahead.
If it wasn’t clear from the wording of this post, Nepal was full of a lot of “the bests,” new experiences, and big changes. I never could have predicted what this month had in store for me, and a lot of this change goes far deeper than what I can touch on in this post. If there’s just one single thing that stands out to me, however, it is without a doubt the value in connection — with new cultures, with nature, with friends, and with myself. In the end, we don’t really have anything without it.
Signing off until Ecuador.