In December 2018, I was lucky enough to journey on one of the most amazing alternative schoolies adventures to Nepal run by World Youth Adventures.
There was no better way to conclude a year of hard assessments and exams that entailed my final year of schooling than getting out into the world, experiencing something entirely new and completely different – like trekking in the Himalayas and visiting rural communities – which made this trip so special and unique.
During the 13 day Alternative Schoolies program, we trekked a small section of the beautiful Annapurna mountain range and helped repair a remote high school. This expedition allowed me to gain a richer understanding of the Nepali – in the cities and in the villages – its dynamic culture, diverse society, religions and its history.
A day of sightseeing in the capital city of Kathmandu launched our journey where we acclimatised to the atmosphere of Nepal and its physical, spiritual and social climate. The great contrast of Nepal’s two main religions, Hinduism and Buddhism, is illustrated when visiting their temples – the major Hindu shrine, Pashupatinath, and the Buddhist stupa at Bodhinath.
A large element of the Hindu religion lays in its belief of an afterlife and performing an appropriate send off for their deceased so that they may be reincarnated. At the Pashupatinath, we experienced an extremely moving and overwhelmingly powerful funeral proceedings. While feeling dualy fortunate yet out of place to view the funeral processions, it was an experience hard to forget. Contrastingly so, the Buddhist Stupa provided a more enlightened understanding of its peaceful relationship with each other and our world.
Flying to Pokhara was another adventure in itself. The small, jet propelled plane was no surprise but the awesome mountain peaks took my breath away. The city of Pokhara is on a beautiful lakeside which we got a paddle boat across to climb the World Peace Stupa, revealing extensive views of the densely populated city.
Himalayan peaks provide the most spectacular views for a wholesome schoolies trip that will leave you feeling refreshed after a tiresome year and invigorated to explore the world further. In the Annapurna region, 360 degree views include infamous mountains including Fishtail, Annapurna South and Machapuchare. Around every corner were dramatic views of vast mountain ranges and opportunities to engage with the people of the villages we passed through.
The trek took us from the lakeside city of Pokhara to Dhampus, Pothana, Tolka, Landruk, Ghandruk and finally to Jhobang where we completed our community service project. The trekking itself was actually very pleasant as it was only an introductory grade and supported by porters and sirdars, camping bases and the most delicious meals – ranging from traditional cuisine to westernised foods when you were feeling a bit homesick – prepared by cooks that travel with you. You only need to carry a day bag on your trek and you won’t go hungry; it’s my promise.
It was the perfect trip to ease into a future of more worldly explorations as heavy, but essential gear such as tents, sleeping bags and beds were provided and already set up for your arrival at the World Ex Eco lodges. With breakfast, lunch and dinner provided while hiking, it gave us the ability to indulge in the beautiful surroundings and wholly experience the nature of the trek – authentic mountain culture.
The volunteer work that we did in Jhobang Secondary School in the final days of trek was so memorable and meaningful. Many schools in the remotes villages of Nepal are in desperate need of renovations so it was an incredibly poignant part of our trip. Working with the locals to repair and re-paint the buildings of the school, playing and practicing English with the students, observing and immersing ourselves in village life was a powerful experience that words have trouble describing. You’ll definitely be left wanting to do more.
Back in Pokhara, we had a day to further explore the town by shopping or doing some of the adventure activities offered in the city – such as paragliding and zip lining. After which we then flew back to Kathmandu for our last day in the capital city. We visited the Monkey Temple early in the morning which I highly recommend as the morning views are remarkable and the monkeys are cute, but extremely cheeky. The best place for shopping was Thamel which is a relaxing 15 minute stroll from where we were staying. The commercial neighbourhood is the centre of the tourist industry in Nepal and was bustlingly busy with people, cultures and art.
Overall it was a transformational trip of a lifetime that I whole heartedly recommend to all.