Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Simikot, Northwest Nepal

Before we departed on our trek, I shared with you, that after I returned, I would begin a series on the different areas of Nepal that we would like to begin serving in with the airplane. Here is the first of that series. I hope that you enjoy this and that it helps you envision the need that is so great here in Nepal. Ok, let's go "trekking" to:

Simikot, Nepal

Simikot, located in the far northwestern region of Nepal, is the district headquarters for the Humla district of Nepal. Simikot is cut off from the rest of Nepal due to the rugged terrain that separates it from the rest of the country.

Within the Humla district there is a population of around 65,000 people, but in the town of Simikot, there is roughly 1500 people.

The people of Simikot are of Tibetan decent and follow the traditions and religious practices of Tibet. Most would consider themselves Buddhist.

Daily existence in Simikot presents many challenges for the villagers. This is an agricultural region, but the land often does not provide enough food to support the population. Food shortages are a common theme in Simikot.

Medical care in Simikot is limited, any major medical issue requires a flight out to the nearest hospital in Surkhet or Nepalgunj, in southern Nepal. Often villagers cannot afford the travel or a flight is not available.

MAF intends to provide a reliable air service that meets the needs of the people in this region of Nepal. We will prioritize humanitarian/development flights of other like-minded NGOs. Here is a link to YouTube that will give you a good picture of life in and around Simikot. It has been posted by a "hospital" that is working out of Simikot. I just want to make a disclaimer here that we do not have any special links to this hospital as of yet and are therefore not promoting it. This is just a video that will give you a good look at this area.

Simikot YouTube link

For those of you who have Google Earth, you can do a search for Simikot, Nepal and it will take you straight there.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek, Part 2

Nepal is one of those countries that continually amazes me. It is such a small country, relatively speaking, and yet, there is so much vastness here. Vast differences in language groups, people groups, weather extremes, the highest mountains in the world and yet such low valleys and jungles, vast amounts of wealth and yet it is hidden in all despair and poverty that is visible everywhere. And this is why our family loves to explore it while we have the opportunity to do so.

On this trek, there were some pretty spectacular and jaw-dropping moments. We hiked through some very rough terrain and had a lot of "ups and downs" (quite literally) every day. Our legs felt like they were going to fall off some days and waking up and taking that first step each morning about killed me. However, it was all worth it! We saw more of that "vastness" that Nepal has to offer. On our way up, we came across a little bit of snow, not much. However, as we reached the top, it began to snow and by the time we started hiking back down, 2 days later, we had to trek through about a foot and a half of the stuff. We heard and even saw several smaller avalanches...it was enough to scare us but it was also very exciting!

I am just going to post pictures here and let you enjoy a bit of what we saw and experienced. Please enjoy!Hiun Chuli Mtn. This lies just about straight west from Machapuchhre Mtn (or better known as Fishtail Mtn.). We trekked through the valley that lies between these two mountains.

This is a good old fashioned water mill that was set up on one of the rivers we crossed. They are grinding corn here.

Jhinu - one of the villages we stayed at on our way up. You can see the valley below where we just climbed up out of.Nathan and friend, Matthew. This was taken during a break after a very steep climb that took quite a bit of time.
Here is Ben showing you how steep the climb was for us. The boys did amazing on this trek!

Fishtail Mtn...we're getting closer!

Stan found a "friend" at one of our rest stops.

This was no joke! On our way up, there was hardly any snow. Two days later, though, it was a very different story.

We made it! We are now at Machapuchhre Base Camp. Not a lot of snow when I took this picture of our group. However, just a mere 2 hours later, we were wondering if it would stop.

Compare this picture with the picture below...

The weather sure changes fast up here!

This is the table everyone was sitting at just a few hours earlier. The boys loved it!!

The next morning, we had plans to hike up this "saddle" to Annapurna Base Camp but the weather wasn't looking too good. I was beginning to feel the feeling that "real" mountain climbers have when they finally realize they may not summit afterall. What looks like the sky in this picture should be full of mountains!

Here is a picture looking back at the valley we climbed through the day before.

Looking down the wall from our lodging...there is a small stone cabin down there. Can you see it?

Later in the morning, the weather seemed to be good enough for us to make an attempt at ABC. This is us hiking up the saddle and beyond...if you look closely, you can see MBC, the place where we were staying.

We made it!!! It took quite a bit of effort on my part, but I did it. Because of the altitude I kept getting dizzy and had to stop frequently to find my eyeballs (it seemed). I also now know how easy it could be to get snow-blindness. We only stayed up there briefly because the weather was turning bad again and we didn't want to get stuck up there.

It snowed the rest of the day (after summiting) and by morning time, this is what we woke up to. A stunning view of Fishtail Mtn. and crystal clear skies! It dropped well below freezing that night!

Now look at the saddle heading towards ABC...I told you there were mountains up there. Some of our group "ran" back up to the saddle to take some pictures while the rest of us packed up camp and began the trip back down.

David and I heading back down the mountains. I really had mixed feelings about that but we really didn't have enough cold-weather gear to stay up there any longer either.

Ben, David, and I

A rest stop on the way down. How'd you like to wake up to that view every morning?

Stan and Ben

We arrived in the village of Chhomrong early in the day and spent the rest of the day doing laundry and sitting outside just staring at this gorgeous view. We trekked through all of that...wow!

Easter morning!!! I woke early and watched the sun rise over the mountains and it was worth it. God sure was rejoicing in the day too.

Another rest stop, much further down now. This is a local farm...you can see how they store their corn and in the forefront, what looks like grass, is all garlic growing.

A very ancient (almost medieval looking) Gurung village, Gandruk. We stayed here one night.

A Gurung child in front of her house.

A field outside of Gandruk.

This newborn goat was very curious!

And here we all are!! I am in the backrow, blue shirt. Stan is next to me. Ben is in the red shirt in the back. Nathan is on the very bottom left-hand side, and David in the yellow shirt. We were a very international group; Swiss, English, Australian, and Americans.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek, Part 1

Phewatal Lake, Annapurna Region, Pokhara, Nepal by Gavin Hellier
Phewatal Lake, Annapurna Region, Pokhara, Nepal

This is a picture taken from Pokhara (our future home hopefully), looking northward at the Annapurna Range. The mountain in the center, that is poking straight up, is called "Machapuchre Mountain" or better known as "Fish Tail Mountain" and is considered to be holy. Our trek took us right up to that mountain and then a bit northwest of it. We started our trek about 40 minutes past Pokhara and then hiked the rest of the way into this "Sanctuary"...and here's our story.

This is an "after shot" of our group that we went trekking with. We were a very international group, representing all ages. Our oldest was a Swiss lady (at 64 yrs old) and her English husband (61 yrs old). Our youngest trekker is from an Australian family, Josh, who is 5 years old. It was fun to have friends on this trek for each of our boys to hang out with; Ben had Joel (16 yrs old), Nathan had Matthew (12 yrs old), and David had James (8 yrs old).

These men were our porters and guide. Chandra, the man below in the striped shirt, was our guide and made sure that we had a place to stay each night and helped whoever needed it at the time. He would hike with our group, behind our group to help the stragglers, or leap ahead and secure a place for us and then hike back down to make sure we were still coming. He was amazing. Our porters were equally as amazing. They each carried several packs on their backs and nimbly climbed up and down without any complaining.

This is the other form of transportation in the Himalyans. The mules are not able to make it up to the higher elevations but they are definitely very valuable where they can go. Here they are carrying propane tanks to a village called Chhomrong (2100 meters).

Ok, that is all I have time to share with you today. It is a bit of an introduction and I hope that I can post some more for you tomorrow.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

"Please Stay Tuned"...

I just wanted to let you know that this Saturday the boy's school lets out for 2 weeks of Spring Break and we are heading out on another trek. This time, we will trek into the Annapurna Sanctuary, which is touted as being the most beautiful trek in Nepal. This time, we will encounter snow and even higher elevation than what we did on our Langtang trek. This is also a 10 to 11 day trek and a bit more difficult. However, I won't bore you will all the details right now, but I will say "please stay tuned" for pictures and more stories about this trek after we return.

I wanted to also share with you a little bit about what else is to come on this blog. As you know, we are hoping to bring an airplane into Nepal within this year...so, I thought it would be nice to start highlighting some of the areas that MAF is looking at flying into. So, once again, "please stay tuned" for a peek into the places we'd like to begin serving with the airplane.

In the meantime, while you are waiting for my return, it would be nice if I could have some feedback in regards to this blog. Any comments or suggestions would be most welcome.

Take care and Happy Easter...may this be a wonderful time of reflecting on the awesome display of love and mercy that Christ portrayed for us. I sometimes sit and wonder about Mary, Jesus' mother, and the pain and agony she endured when witnessing the cruel death of her son. She is such a testimony of faithfulness and strength...I wonder, do I have that in me also? I think that sometime I would love to do a study on her and her attributes. Any suggestions out there?

Until next time...