Falling in love with Nepal

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Ironically, my love affair with Nepal with its expansive and all-encompassing scenery, along with its generous and charming people, began early one morning on a cramped underground journey to work in central London.

Flicking through the mornings free newspaper, I came across an advert for a charity trek up the Khumbu Valley towards Mount Everest, culminating at the head of the valley with promised views of the world’s Mother Goddess Chomolungma

Three months later, and having raised nearly £8000 for charity, I landed in the madness that is Kathmandu. I had no idea what to expect, but had always felt a calling to the Himalaya and an affinity with the philosophical teachings of Buddhism

As soon as my foot touched her soil and my lungs breathed her air this country, this place, these people, this culture permeated my heart and my soul.

The next thirteen days involved an internal flight to Lukla (reputably one of the world’s most dangerous airports) following the Khumbu Valley to Gorak Shep, where we would summit Kala Pattar, a small hill by Nepali standards sitting at a mere 5550m. Only then would we see her.  Mighty Chomolungma . Steadfast and overpowering in her magnificence.

On descending the valley I found it increasingly difficult with each step to move back towards ‘the real world’. I had a sense that the mountains didn’t want me to leave, and as a magnet draws things closer, they wanted to encompass me with their invisible arms and dance with me for eternity.

It was no surprise that by the time I arrived back in Kathmandu I had already resolved to return to Nepal as soon as time allowed. Plans got underway immediately, and before the next year was up, I found myself back in the Khumbu Valley. Back to what had very quickly become my second home.

I have since returned to Nepal every year for increasingly longer periods of time, with my desire to return becoming far more complex than my original self-centred motivation and the personal gratification of trekking and climbing the highest mountains on earth.

I am now irreversibly aware of the discrepancy of privilege within and between countries.

I believe that no human should suffer because of where they were born, who they were born to, or what gender they are. I have truly learnt and believe that EVERY LIFE MATTERS EQUALLY.

I have seen this. I have felt this.  I know this.

The devastating earthquakes of 2015 and the continuous political discord within Nepal have acted as an impetus for me to work to resolve in whatever way I can the lack of freedom, the discrepancy of privilege and the marginalisation of minority groups experienced by many Nepali on a daily and lifelong basis.

I have recently established Unite for Nepal a small charitable foundation dedicated to the support, development and growth of sustainable community driven health, wellbeing and equal opportunity projects in rural Nepal.

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We at Unite for Nepal believe anything can be achieved through generosity of spirit, actions based on the imaginings of the mind, a compassionate heart, and a commitment from the soul.

Nepal is a country with a particularly alluring and magical energy. It is a country whose irresistible pull is founded in an ancient society and culture which, to this day, is still upheld on a day to day basis by those who call themselves Nepali.

With all of its layers of complexity and its multitude of contradictions, Nepal has a sense of wholeness and calm.

Above all else, the most lasting impression of any visit to Nepal, is that left by the Nepali people themselves. Those who are always smiling in the face of adversity and whose hospitality, generosity of heart and forever welcoming smiles will most definitely have you returning at least once in a lifetime.

Put quite simply, Nepal is unsurpassable.

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Camp Fires, Connecting and Cool People

This past weekend I was fortunate to spend two full days with a group of 16 strangers in a miserably damp and musty smelling Scout Hall in Bristol.

Now whilst this may not appeal to all (and to be honest it didn’t really appeal to me at first), the outcome of the time spent together was nothing short of awesome.

You see, I’ve been carrying around this rather mad idea of an adventure since a trip to Nepal in 2012, and while I had managed to make some movement forward with it, I really had no idea where to take it other than to continue to swim with it in the ever-repeating circles within my mind.

So when I saw that Explorers Connect (a fantastic platform for connecting anyone and everyone interested in sharing and creating outdoor and adventure experiences) were running their much sought after Expedition Leaders Course I was more than compelled to sign up.

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Run under the supreme and hugely experienced guidance of Belinda Kirk, the aim of the weekend was to work through both the hard and soft skills required to organise and implement adventurous expeditions either for personal gain or for professional purposes.

The content of the course was spot on and I have come away from it with a renewed focus and determination to make my mad-cap dream a reality.  But this story points toward something far more precious and profound.

The most important thing that came out of the weekend really, was the connectedness shared by what was originally a bunch of strangers.

You see, the combination of being in the outdoors and a musty old scout hall without wi-fi creates an environment where you’re able to concentrate without distraction. It provides the opportunity for you to be authentic in your communication with people, to be fully present, and to support and encourage other peoples ideas and dreams for the future.

Such provision provides space for clarity of thought and feeling, as well as space for reflection and contemplation.  This kind of environment creates such opportunity to the extent that you know you can walk away and make yours and potentially other peoples hopes, dreams and aspirations become more of a reality.

This is a powerfully privileged position to be in and to share with other people.  We are all connected. PEACE.

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“A safe space for sharing doesn’t get much better than a cool autumnal evening spent sitting around a camp fire sharing stories of bullshit and inspiration, and toasting marshmallows while staring fixatedly at the dancing flames.”   -Jacqs Leui’i

 

 

Can’t run? Do it anyway!

A few months ago I went to support a friend who was giving a presentation on the inaugural Nepal Marathon being organised by Impact Marathon Series this November.

I had a three fold interest in this.  Firstly, my friends in Kathmandu own the company organising the logistics, secondly, the concept behind IMS is totally brilliant, and thirdly, I FREAKIN LOVE NEPAL!!

As I sat there listening I remember thinking to myself how much I would love to complete the marathon myself, and what a shame it was that I couldn’t.

You see, nearly three years ago whilst hiking in a particularly remote area of Nepal I took a bad fall and ruptured a disc in my back.  Unfortunately we still had a week of walking ahead of us before getting back to civilisation, so by the time we did get back the damage was pretty bad.

On arriving back in London I spent the next eight months unable to walk and trying to recover from an unsuccessful surgery.  To say it was the darkest time of my life is an understatement, and now, nearly three years on, I still experience acute symptoms at times. I continue to manage my rehab on a regular basis with specific exercises, yoga, and ALOT of walking, so now I can pretty much do whatever I like – so long as there is absolutely no high impact involved.

So me and running (who I never really had much of a positive relationship with anyway) are never going to get along too well.

As I sat there listening to the presentation the thought ‘can’t run? do it anyway!’ popped into my mind. So you can’t run. Won’t run. Don’t want to run. WALK!

And so the seed was sown and now there is no turning back.  Nick from IMS has kindly given me permission to walk the full course two days before the actual marathon date, so on the 24th November I will complete the inaugural Nepal Marathon in Shivapuri National Park.

I am raising money for the Unite for Nepal Charitable Foundation which focuses on working in the Lower Solukhumbu region under the framework of the UN Global Goals of Good Health & Wellbeing, Clean Water & Sanitation, Reduced Inequalities and Gender Equality.

Training started in earnest yesterday, and the 8 week countdown is on.  I encourage all of you who believe you can’t do something to reframe your approach and just go for it from a different angle.  Remember, anything you can conceive you can achieve.  Can’t run?  Do it anyway!

http://www.unitefornepal.com/

http://nepalmarathon.co.uk/

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