USU student treks to Nepal
When an opportunity of a lifetime comes a-knocking, answer it -- right? That's exactly what USU graduate student Darek Staab did.
After visiting Nepal on a scouting trip a year earlier, Staab facilitated an educational tour composed of six USU students and five Cache Valley community members to some of the most pristine areas of the world.
Nepal , an Asian country, lies along the southern slopes of the Himalayan mountain ranges. The intriguing scenery covers 500 miles from east to west and 90 to 150 miles from north to south.
The tour focused on the religion, language, economy, culture and environment of Nepal. Participants attended daily language sessions and lectures by natives of Nepal.
The 41-day educational program began Oct. 8, 2000. The adventure started a little too soon when the plane carrying the group had to make an emergency landing because of an unfortunate conflict with a bird and the jet engine. Because of this the group arrived two days late.
Upon arriving in Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal, the group immediately started language lessons and lectures. After staying for four days in Kathmandu, four days in Nargarkot and several days in Janakpur and Basantapur, the group hiked for three days to reach a village where they would live for seven days.
They split into two groups when traveling, Staab said. This reduced their size so they would have less of an impact, and created a more intimate experience.
Arriving in Chainpur, group members paired off and lived with host families for the week. Participants had an array of experiences depending on the family that they were assigned to. Several participants slept on dirt floors, milked cows and used outhouses, while others encountered more modern living conditions.
Staab explained that while they were staying in Chainpur, the Nepali people were busy celebrating Tihar, which some call the festival of lights. This is a five-day celebration that invites the god of prosperity. The last day of Tihar is Bitika, which is a huge celebration. This is the day that sisters give their brothers gifts. In order to get the porters back in time for Bitika, the group made the three-day walking trip in only two days. Arriving in Basantapur, the group boarded a bus and made a 19-hour bus ride to the tourist city of Pokara. The city is the second largest in Nepal with an approximate population of 70,000. This was a hard transition, Staab said. They had just spent a week in a Nepali village and now signs written in English surrounded them.
This marked the beginning of the eight-day trek, which began on the trailhead of the Annapurna Circuit. Again they encountered many westerners and signs in English on the commercialized route.
While on the trek the group studied the impact of tourism. The group climbed until they reached high camp at 11,700 feet, where they spent two nights. A group that wanted to explore the altitude hiked until they reached 15,100 feet. At this elevation, one of the group members developed altitude sickness, which included a severe headache and vomiting.
Following the trek, the group recuperated in Pokhara for two days. From there the participants spent the next three days on Seti Khola River. Many of the members learned how to kayak while the others spent their days in rafts. After the river trip, they made their way back to Kathmandu where they spent their last three days in Nepal reflecting, shopping and doing presentations.
Staab described the journey as a life-changing experience.
"In Nepal, life is a direct relationship with the place that you live," he said. A large percentage of Nepal's population is farmers. They grow what they eat, and if they don't grow anything then they go hungry. In Kathmandu there is no trash collection system, and clean drinking water is a large problem.
The Bear River Institute and USU Travel Study Programs offered the educational tour. Participants were able to earn up to 15 credits from USU. For more information about the Nepal tour and other educational travel study opportunities, call 435-797-3032.