Away with the Opies

Our travel adventures......

Melamchi-Ghyang School

Shree Melamchi-Ghyang Secondary School


Set high in the mountains Melamchi-Ghyang School is the most out of this world place we could ever have imagined working in. With roughly 250 pupils, 2/3 boys and 1/3 girls, it’s a community based government school offering ‘hostel’ boarding accommodation to all pupils from outside the village. This facility is necessary as the only access road (we would call it a rough dirt track) becomes impassable during the monsoon season making the only alternative route for pupils (aged between 4 and 16) a tough 3hr upwards trek. Despite it’s remoteness, the school’s success and growing popularity means that children from all over Nepal are sent to this hidden gem, miles from anywhere.


Steve, myself and Alex having been welcomed to the school

Steve and Purna, the headmaster outside the school office. Not a school day as Purna isn’t wearing his usual pin striped suit!

At the helm is the inspirational and charismatic headmaster, Purna. He’s the formidable driving force behind everything the school achieves. Leading by example he expects the highest standards and committment from staff and pupils alike and strives to give everyone the best tools and opportunities to excel. Impressive results are achieved here, a few years ago the son of a yak hearder and pupil at Melamchi-Ghyang school graduated from Manchester university with a medical degree. 

The children are worked hard – it’s a 6 day school week for everyone. Saturday is a holy day and so the only day off.

Every other day is business as usual and goes like this –

Outdoor assembly at 8:30 gets the day started and is only ever cancelled if raining. All pupils stand in rows of boys and girls with the smallest at the front and the tallest at the back. The rows are then ordered by house colour, Blue, Red, Green and Yellow. Everyone has a small scrap of ribbon pinned to their jumpers to indicate their house and the girls, who all have long hair, tie appropriate coloured bows around their plaits and bunches – it’s very cute. Everyone follows exercises as instructed by a fellow pupil from the stage (a Nepali version of shake and wake), the school prayer is then sung followed by the Nepali national anthem. Recently voted the second best in the world, it’s a stirring tune, especially hearing it sung outside with the views of the himalaya all around. It gets me going nearly every morning!

Pupils, chosen either by house or by class then go onto the stage to recite a poem, ask a couple of questions, tell a joke, dance or sing. Their representative teacher is also expected to do something at the end and there’s no getting out of it – I know, I’ve tried!

Last week worming pills were handed out to everyone, with mouths checked that they’d been swallowed successfully. Apparently this happens 6 monthly.



Just about ready to go on the assembly stage…


          It’s big steps for a little person!


In complete control during my class’ heads, shoulder, knees and toes assembly rendition…

Lessons start at 9:00. The morning consists of 4 forty-minute lesson periods with a 10 minute break half way through. There is an hour for lunch which is followed by another 4 forty-minute lessons including another midway break. The second outdoor assembly of the day for everyone in the winter months is at 3:30 before hometime at around 4:00. During the summer the day is half an hour longer and was shortened only a couple of weeks ago for the winter months. It’s getting noticeably colder now and with no form of heating anywhere on the school campus it becomes too chilly for study to take place after this time.


Years 9 and 10 who are in exam mode and so expected to be at school to start lessons at 6:00 am. They don’t go home (apart from lunch) until 5:30pm and when they do finally get home, as with all the other pupils in the school (except for my kindergarten and nursery class) they will have homework in most subjects taught during the day. Any homework defaulters are hauled up on stage during one of the following day’s assemblies! This timetable lasts until March next year, so continues through the coldest, darkest months.

School uniform is navy with striped ties. Coats (non uniform) are allowed to be worn at all times of the day now, outside and inside the classroom. My little ones start the week, Sunday, looking very smart and tidy. By Friday many of them are filthy, mostly the boys. Twice yearly parents are asked to measure their children and any uniform needed is bought to them from Kathmandu.



The male teachers all wear dark pin stripped suits and ties of their choice, the female staff wear bright pink local dress. They all look very smart.

 img_2135Traditionally shoes are not worn inside, so they are left outside the classroom during lesson time.



Children help keep the classrooms, headmasters office, hostels and canteen areas clean using little hand brushes/brooms which work an absolute treat. No such things as Hoovers or employed cleaners here!

Lunch consists daily of the local dish Dahl Baht cooked over 3 large woodburning cooking stoves. It’s an impresive feat catering for so many children and teachers in this basic way. The food served is absolutely delicious and there’s plenty of it. Where possible all produce is bought from farmers in the village. By helping local people make a living from selling their goods it’s a win win situation for everyone involved.

With lunch comes a mug of hot water.


The school kitchen


School canteen

When the days were warmer I thought it was tough job for the chef and kitchen staff working by the fires all day. Now that it’s colder I feel complete envy!

The school buildings are all still temporary structures following the devastation of last year. After the earthquake struck it took just 1 month for the school to be back up and running. Impressive in any situation, but especially so when all buildings were destroyed beyond use and had to be rebuilt from scratch using only the rubble around them. What was achieved is a testament to the tenacity of the staff and the community, particularly considering that everyone was living under canvas in miserable conditions at the time.









Girls dormitory room



The only structure to remain unharmed after the earthquake was this poly tunnel. Used for vegetables at the time it was cleared and converted to an emergency shelter housing over 300 people in one go! The girls now use it as their study space.


Housemaster and English teacher Tika Limbu in his tented accommodation. He actually has a tent inside a tent!

The temporary hostel accommodation has been made as comfortable as possible under the circumstances. There are separate girls and boys boarding houses. Some are raised tin structures, all are lined with ply for insulation. The teachers are still living under canvas!

The shower facilities are basic but there are taps and hot/warm water generated by solar power. Proper shower fittings are on Steve’s to do list.


Solar system

Shower Block

Toilet Block

Toilet Block

Fast forward 20 months and the situation at the school is this –

Engineers have visited during the last few weeks to give an idea on how now to proceed, costings etc. The boarding hostels, classrooms, wash facilities, canteen, kitchen and headmasters office all need to be rebuilt following new government earthquake resistant guidelines. Some funding is already in place, but more financial support will be needed to complete the project. Community Action Nepal have committed to help with a substantial portion of what’s needed, but as with many other charities here the disaster last year has pulled on their resources. It’s hoped that everything will be in place for work to start next year with a completion date in 2 to 3 years time.


Danny from Belgium with Purna the headmaster

Some teachers are funded by the government, many by outside sponsors and we’ve been lucky enough to meet some guys from Belgium who do just that. They arrived bearing gifts of clothes and shoes amongst other things which were greatly and eagerly received by the children at the school.

Many of them are still wearing the clothes and shoes they were given that day. We were also lucky enough to spend some time with Corin, a computer/IT whizz who was actually in the school at the time of the earthquake! He has experienced village and school life pre, during and post the disaster – he is a bit of a legend in the village!

Huish Primary in Yeovil, the school where our son teaches, is very kindly fund raising for Community Action Nepal throughout this school year. The pupils have already been busy raising imagemoney with a copper coin collection and a bookmark sale. We’ve heard that they’ve been incredibly generous with their own time and money. Steve and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their hard work and generosity.We appreciate all that they are doing for the people of Nepal and are really looking forward to re-visiting the school to thank everyone in person and share our experiences with them later next year.

When the children here found out about what Huish School were doing for them they wanted to send letters to the pupils there. I was blown away with how much care they took and how enthusiastic they were about writing and decorating them – there were no homework defaulters on that day! They are so excited about sending the letters and are even more excited about hearing back. Two schools in different continents caring about the bigger picture – inspiring.

Here are just a few examples of year 5’s masterpieces. 




For myself, teaching the little ones continues and I’m loving it – all of them are completely adorable. They do the Nepali shaky head thing which is just so endearing on Sherpa children who are cuter than cute anyway! The day includes English, handwriting, maths, creative play, outdoor activities and Nepali (not my forte!). We’ve drawn round our hands and feet, counted fingers and toes, coloured in rainbows and drawn faces.  I’ve also been spending time getting together some lesson plans for teachers to use when I leave – It’s been fun using my creativity and I’m hoping it will be of some benefit to the school going forward. I’m also looking forward to helping with some English lessons with the older children before I leave.






Steve’s here there and everywhere doing just about everything…


He’s mended the 5 school microscopes, he’s fitted light sockets, he’s insulated classrooms, he’s put up a shelf for me (his most important task yet), he’s taken science lessons and field trips, he’s fixed the failing water supply to the school, got the wifi back on track – the list goes on. At the moment he’s spending less time in school and more time in the forest with the local men folk assessing what’s needed to improve the village water supply over the coming weeks.

Accurate calculations are required for plumbing parts needed as it’s at least a 3 day trek to Kathmandu for anything forgotten or missed off the list!

Year 8 pupils checking out the source of the school water supply

Steve's science field trip to the wetlands

Steve’s science field trip to the wetlands



Corin and Steve misbehaving in class!

We’ve been asked to do some voice recordings for the English listening syllabus – hilarious, I’ve taken a school assembly – terrifying and Steve has been asked to sing in front of a class when they found out he was in a choir – awkward!

We’ve also taught the staff how to play scrabble so they can play (in English) with the students. You’d think we’d have an unfair advantage over the local guys but I came last!


With little friends at the funeral…

The final school fact for now is that the school is at present the home of the sacred village funeral pyre. Originally set well away from the village it now, (since the earthquake) sits bang slap in the middle of the school grounds and temporary classrooms. Last week sadly the body of a local man was found after he slipped and fell whilst cutting tress in the forest that surrounds the village. The school was shut for the funeral ceremony and the cremation of his body. We were invited to attend and felt privileged to do so. It’s something few outsiders experience and a day we shall never forget – we’ll save the details for another post.







Boarding pupils’ cutlery



My classroom



 This school, it’s staff and it’s children will remain in our hearts long after we return home. It’s a special place that we shall never forget.

P.S did I mention I’m bringing at least 20 children home with me (don’t tell Steve!).

Here are a few of them…



Home Time


Work Starts…

On 3rd November 2016 we started our trek to Melamchighyang, the village that will be our home for the next few weeks. It was an early start to catch our jeep booked for 6am, but we were so excited and eager to start the volunteering work we had come to Nepal to do that we were both awake long before the alarm went off.

The 6 hour jeep ride was not what we thought it would be! Only 20 minutes of it was on tarmac, the rest was tricky off roading on dirt tracks through the mountains. Parts of the journey were really pretty hairy with sheer drops falling away from the narrow, monsoon battered roads.

The scenery became more and more stunning the further into the Himalaya we travelled and the roads became evermore steep and precarious!

Four hours or so into our journey the driver stopped for a break, mostly to top up his leaking radiator (again) and whilst admiring the views we were offered a cup of tea by a Tibetan lady, which we duly accepted believing it rude to refuse. Big mistake! Tibetan tea is made with Yak butter and salt amongst other things – it’s an acquired taste which doesn’t sit happily on a western palate!


On route to the village

Two hours or so later we were dropped off at a point where the jeep could go no further and started the 3 hour uphill trek to get to the village. (There is a road that goes all the way to the Melamchighyang but the seasonal monsoon has swept parts away leaving it impassible for the time being).


View to the school in the distance

This final stretch of our journey was tough going but seeing the village for the first time was worth every upwards step. Melamchighyang truely is a village in the sky, a fertile plateau nestled over 2500m in the mountains and it has to be seen to be believed.

We were greeted by our hosts Purna, who also happens to be the headmaster of the village school and his wife, Jangmo (pronounced something like Zangmo!). First impressions were that they were lovely, second impressions were that living conditions were about to become very basic!


Around the fire

Our accommodation consists of little more than a tin shack, a shared long drop compost toilet, a ‘bucket’ shower room (a room with a bucket in it) and a communal cooking/living/eating area. The communal area is a cosy place which offers welcome relief from the cold once the sun goes down. The only source of heating is a small wood fired stove which is also used for cooking and heating water. This is where we spend our nights playing games and chatting.

The first evening was spent getting to know our new housemates, including Alex from Germany, also a volunteer at the school until December. We were introduced to Raki the local home brew, another aquited taste, but one we might work on! We slept soundly…

The following morning we explored the village and were shocked by how much devastation had been caused by the earthquakes. Every building was destroyed and now every villager is living in temporary accommodation like ours, built using only materials salvaged from the wreckage of their homes. Evidence is all around us of the village that once was and where on 25th April 2015 at 11:56 am everything changed forever. Seeing it all first hand is heartbreaking.

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Purna showed us around the school where once again the destruction was plain to see. The school is both a day and a boarding school and the classrooms, boarding houses, washrooms, toilet facilities and canteen are now all temporary structures. Following the earthquake it took just 1 month to get the school back up and running, a credit to the community who were all living under canvas at the time.

Being here and living among the community is helping us really appreciate just what these people have lost and how they have suffered. Sadly 3 people lost their lives here on that day, thankfully though, no children in the school suffered anything more than a few minor cuts and grazes.

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The days when we first arrived were warm with clear, blue skies and sunshine but the weather is already changing – there are clouds during the day and without the sunshine it soon gets chilly, the nights are getting colder! The stars here are like I’ve never seen and the views, day and night are breathtaking.



On the 4th we helped clear Kami’s small field ready for planting a vegetable crop – it also happened to be Steve’s 51st birthday, one I’m sure he’ll never forget and one celebrated Nepali style with a small mug of Raksi!


My class – with the new teacher

Time then for work to begin. It’s been festival season in Nepal and so the schools have been on holiday for a month. The evening before the first day of the new term I’m informed by Purna that the nursery school teacher is not back until the Wednesday and so I’m to take the class until she returns – yikes! With no time to lesson plan I had no choice but to wing it! The nursery class consists of seventeen 4,5,6,7 and 8 year olds, all with very little English and all with boundless energy! It soon became very clear that winging it with such small people, not understanding a word I was saying was not an option and so an SOS was sent to Jack and Amy, my son and daughter in law, both teachers, for some tips and the afternoon and evening were spent lesson planning in preparation for the next couple of days.

Our introduction to school started with the daily outside morning assembly. Alex, Steve and I were invited on stage, before being given an orange scarf and a microphone with which to introduce ourselves to the whole school – terrifying!



Children between 4 and 17 attend the local school. The day starts with one of two outside assemblies at 8:30. At 9:00 lessons start, there is a short break in the morning and afternoon and an hour for lunch. Lessons finish at 4:00 when all children have to attend the second outside assembly of the day before being allowed home at around 4:20. Saturday is the only day pupils have off, so it’s a six day week for all of us!

Soon though the school day will be shortened by half an hour because of the cold winter weather.




There is no heating in the school and so from next week pupils will be asked to bring their coats to wear during assemblies and lessons if they get cold. The school uniform is navy and the parents are asked to measure their children twice yearly so that uniform can be brought to them from Kathmandu. There are 4 School Houses: Red, Yellow, Blue and Green.

The girls wear ribbons in their hair to match the colour of the house they’re in, very cute. The male teachers wear dark pinstriped suits, blue and white shirts and ties of their choice and the female staff bright pink local dress. They all look very smart.

There are around 180 boarders in the school, the remaining 60 or so pupils are from the village. All cooking for the boarders is done over two fires and all the children from the village walk home at lunchtime, 4 year olds included!

Day 2 and 3 in the classroom went well thanks to the tips I’d received and with help from Alex, I and the children survived in one piece with ALL of us having learnt something…

I’m now classroom assisting and very happy and relieved to be doing so!


Health and safety – what’s that then!

There is lots to get used to here, the lack of health and safety being one of them. This picture is of a fire made to burn rubbish collected from around the village by the students. Petrol was regularly poured on it by pupils while being poked by staff with a stick!

Steve is on a plumbing mission in the  village and is starting work soon to make things better for the villagers – he’s just waiting for the parts he needs to be picked up from Kathmandu. He has his work cut out (there are 140 houses here), but is looking forward to the challenge. Today he’s fixed the five school microscopes and this week he’s helping with some science classes and possibly taking a couple of after school sports lesons, weather permitting…

This really is the most incredible experience, we feel so privileged to have the opportunity to be able to share our lives with the people here.

Inside our room

Home sweet Home!



Annurpurna Base Camp-Day 6

Day 6 – Deurali to ANNAPURNA BASE CAMP




The night hadn’t gone well for Steve and it was touch and go for a while as to whether he was fit enough to get up and tackle the trek ahead. Opies though are made of stern stuff and he was determined to give it a go. My overriding memory for the first part of this day was Steve with hands in pockets, head down, moaning, groaning and grimacing with shear grit and determination to achieve our goal. I did my best with encouraging words such as “man up” and “we’re nearly there”, but he wasn’t having any of it and the further we walked the quieter he became. We reached MBC, the last camp before base camp, mid morning where he slumped in a chair. Shivering in his down jacket and looking pretty terrible he nodded off to sleep. Yuba and I played backgammon, as one does and thinking that sleep was what he needed we left him to it, a quick power nap to ready him for the summit push…



Rougher still…


Sleep didn’t help much and the next couple of miles were the slowest I’ve ever walked with Steve – every few paces he’d stop to take a breather. I was genuinely concerned. Yep, it was that bad – all “man ups” had been replaced with “are you sure you’re OK?” and “does our insurance cover this?” Yuba constantly monitored him for altitude sickness and the decision was made by all to plough on. At this point I was so worried that I really was trying to remember if our insurance covered air evacuation! We carried Steve’s back pack, force fed him chocolate and eventually with much coaxing we all made it to Annurpurna Base Camp in one piece.



We made it!


Reluctantly we allowed Steve to sleep for a while – he was shattered and couldn’t keep his eyes open, so we pretty much had no option. Apparently sleeping at high altitude without acclimitisation isn’t best practice so we woke him after an hour to keep an eye on him. He was at this point away with the fairies and by now everyone was concerned. I asked Yuba to check him and it was agreed we give him the anti altitude sickeness drug diamox. Myanna and Jim (our fab roommates for the night) were superstars, keeping him focused and lucid. “What jokes do you know” seemed to work wonders (for Steve at least!) and the patience and caring from them, Yuba and Sunny, along with the drugs seemed soon to take effect. Within a couple of hours he was more like his old self and we spent a fab night with two great people.

The next morning Steve was fit enough to get up and watch the sun rise over the Annurpurna mountain range. As the day dawned and the sun rose, the hundreds of stars were replaced with the clearesrt of dark blue skies. We’d made it, the first goal of our travels achieved and it was simply breathtaking. Yuba suggested we stay for a while and as more and more people dispersed we were left more or less alone in this incredible place. Knowing that Meg had experienced the very same thing only a few years before made it an emotional moment… and yep, I might have cried, just a bit, but mainly with relief that Steve was still alive…








At around 9:00, having force fed Steve a little breakfast, we started retracing our foot steps back down the trek. The first night of the descent was spent at Dovan, after which a deviation from the route up was taken to visit some wonderful natural hot springs at Jinhu. Nestled in the jungle, beside a glacial river it’s a sight to behold and a very welcome treat for our old bones. There are three springs to choose from and the water was plenty warm enough for me, and I like it hot!




There was a small entry charge, payable at the top of the hill and the walk to get to the springs was a longish downwards stroll, but it was well worth the trek. We bathed in them pretty much alone for more than 2 hours. Once it started getting dark we headed uphill to our last night in the mountains and my last and deciding game of backgammon with Yuba. Victorious I went to bed happy!


We will never forget this adventure – the experiences we shared, the friends we made, the countryside we walked through, the steps we climbed….


We agree with these guys….


The last dusty stretch included permit checks and got us back to the point we’d set out from 9 days earlier. Unanimously deciding not to take the public bus back to Pokhara, Yuba phoned a taxi driving friend for a lift. The journey back in Indra’s car was actually enjoyable, a pleasant way to spend our last couple of hours all together as a group.



Me, Rudra, Yuba, Steve

Hahmi haru khusi chau!

(We are happy!)





Annurpurna Base Camp-Days 4 and 5


Day 4 – Tadepani to Sinua (via Chhomrong)

Tosma Dodua Adelma!





Kate with sunglasses!


This was our longest day of the trek so far. After about twenty minutes walking Kate realised she’d left her sun glasses at the Tea House (an anniversary present, she knew there’d be trouble if she left them behind!). Whilst Kate and Yuba went back to collect them Rudra taught me the Nepali for ”Glasses left at the tea house” and ”Tosma dodua adelma” became the saying of the day. I have no idea of the spelling!


The rotating swing


During the morning we passed a local primary school which had had a ”rotating swing” built for Dashain. For a small donation trekkers were invited to use it and we jumped at the chance. With no health and safety considerations we boarded the swing and were propelled in a direction fun for us both. However, after a few minutes of enjoyment the direction was reversed and it quickly became a lot less fun and somewhat nauseating for one of us, much to the amusement of the locals!


It's a small world!

It’s a small world!


Fun and games over we headed onwards and upwards towards Chhomrong for our lunchtime favourite, Dal Bhat. On the way we stopped to chat to a group of people taking a break from the midday sun and were asked the usual question of ”where’s home for you guys?” Cornwall we tell them, to which they say, no way, we’re travelling with a Cornish guy called Sunny. Spookily just before setting off on our trip we were given the name of Sunny from the Yak and Yeti in Truro as a possible contact for some Nepali language lessons. Time ran away with us and we didn’t have a chance to meet in Cornwall – unbelievably we’ve now met on a mountain, miles from anywhere in Nepal!




After stocking up on chocolate (a favourite for our porter Rudra) at the trekkers’ shop in Chhomrong, we trudged up the last climb of the day to our Tea House in Sinua. Here we met people on their way back down from Base Camp and had one of our most enjoyable evenings in the mountains.

Thanks Marta and Marjan for such a great evening!

Day 5 – Sinua to Deurali

We woke around 6ish as usual, to find a furry friend on our doorstep. Having avoided the first obstacle of the day we sat down to our first breakfast pancakes of the trip. Kate loved them, but not to my taste – they would be my last…


I suffered my first bout of deli belly, a likely combination of the sun, the tough going and possible Dahl Baht overdose… I found the next 2 to 3 days hard going to say the least. Kate felt somewhat smug – as a habitual nail biter at home (a habit she’s ditched here) I bet on her being the first to become ill. Bet lost, it wasn’t mentioned for the rest of the trip…



We settled at Deurali, sharing our room with a young Dutch couple, Jordi and Malaus (unfortunately 2 days later Jordi was sent down from Base Camp with signs of acute mountain sickness) and it was here that we met our trekking buddies for the next few days, Myanna and Jim. We spent a great evening with them before going to bed ready for the ascent to the Base Camp the next day.

I didn’t sleep well…..




Annurpurna Base Camp- Days 2 and 3


Day 2 Tikhedhunga to Ghorepani




Taking in the views


We slept like babies on our first night in the Annurpurna mountains, waking only when the alarm went off at 7:00am. Having wolfed down breakfast, we prepared ourselves for the day ahead. The start to the morning’s trek was a testing 3300 steps upwards – oh joy! We ascended them with much huffing and puffing, but actually without too much trouble – maybe there’s life in us old dogs yet?!


Usually we like to travel independently, but after much consideration and some
research we opted to take a guide and porter with us. Tourism provides the livelihood for many people here, so for Steve and I it was an easy decision to employ two people to help us with our trek. We didn’t regret it either – Yuba our guide and Rudra our porter were both fantastic. They looked after us brilliantly with just the right amount of attention, allowing us space when needed, but more often than not joining us for games, meals and chats. They taught us a little Nepali every day and helped us greatly with our pronunciation – really handy for our volunteering work starting soon. For the 9 days we were with them we enjoyed their company immensely and parted as friends.

imageThis trek was very kindly arranged by Bicky (VCD Nepal), a Nepali friend of our daughter Meg. Having a connection here has made everything easy and we’re so grateful to him for all his help and generosity of spirit.

We couldn’t help but feel for Rudra, our porter who was carrying our main pack, but when I saw what other porters were carrying I felt much easier – He didn’t have the lightest pack, but he certainly wasn’t carrying the heaviest load on the mountain. Many porters, employed by tourists and by Tea Houses were lugging unbelievably large, awkward and heavy loads, apparently weighing anything upto a hefty 35kg’s! Rudra’s pack was a mere 16kgs in comparison…

















Many porters prefer to carry their loads with straps around their heads, rather than using western style backpacks with shoulder straps – opting still for the tradional methods they grew up with.


Mule train


The day started with blistering sunshine, it ended with rain. We had tea breaks anda lunch stop along the way. For a couple of oldies we felt fit and our progress was good. Some advice from Yuba on this day was to stand uphill of any mule trains passing (a tip that proved a lifesaver later in the trek when mules loaded with large gas canisters trotted passed without stopping – luckily we were pinned to a wall rather than knocked off the cliff!).


Our lifestraws


We soon decided that so far the best bit of kit we had with us were our LifeStraw water bottles. Their ingenious system filters out bacteria and nasties (technical term) so the bottle can be filled from anywhere to provide up to 1000 litres of safe drinking water (around a year’s worth for us). Whilst everyone else was faffing around with water purification tablets/systems, Steve and I were  filling our bottles from taps and streams and getting on with our day. Environmentally they’re brilliant too because it reduces the need for plastic bottles. So far our Lifestraws have been the perfect solution for hassle free and environmentally friendly travelling – we can’t recommend them highly enough and have been the envy of fellow travellers throughout our trip.


Steve, numpty that he is, had to have his thumb stitched a week before we headed here – long story… Anyway, the stitches were due to be taken out on this day! Luckily we passed a small health post en-route manned by a solitary nurse. She (brilliantly for me, otherwise it was my job) took out his 3 stitches and all was well. It turns out that Yuba, although an awesome guide is somewhat squeamish, so opted to wait outside the door as the deed was done!


We arrived at Ghorepani Tea House around mid afternoon. An efficient wood burning stove in the communal area was a welcome sight because at 2759m it was starting to feel a little chilly – it also proved a great place to dry our washing!

Steve and Yuba found a chess board and played their first (and as it turned out, only game) of chess, Steve was victorious, but thought Yuba may have given him the win – bigger tip for him now then…



Steve takes control of the end game – apparently!

Day 3 – Ghorepani to Tadepani

(via Poon Hill at 5am!)



Some things are just worth getting out of bed for and the trek to the top of Poon Hill at 5am in the dark to watch the sun rise over the Annurpurna mountain range is one of them – a magical moment for us and one that will linger long in our memories. As the sun came up, the mountains became rose tinted and a new day dawned in the most majestic of places. We drank tea, toasted the new day and decsended to our Tea House for a hearty breakfast in preparation for yet more uphill climbing.



Early Start!


The view was were worth it!


The next part of the trail took us through incredible rhododendron forests. Growing as huge trees rather than the bushes of home – it must be a spectacle in the spring when the flowers are in bloom. We descended a very long and tricky path through the valley before ascending a much friendlier route to reach our destination for the night, Fishtail Lodge at Tadipani.



Annapurna Base Camp-Day 1


Where to start…

We’ve just returned from the most incredible 9 days trekking in the Himalaya. Our destination Annapurna Base Camp at 4130 metres was achieved on 24th Oct 2016.



It’s pretty much impossible to describe just how magnificent, diverse and awe inspiring the scenery is here, especially in the mountains. Every day we trekked through different countryside – some farmed, some forested, some exposed, some sheltered – all of it beautiful and very little of it flat!



Day 1  – Pokhara to Tikhedhunga 

(Between Bire Thati and Ulleri on above map)


Our first real adventure in Nepal started by public bus which is an experience in itself – especially if you’re 6ft + like Steve. Public transport virgins so far this trip, we’d been putting off the inevitable and knowing we had to bite the bullet sooner or later boarded one of the many dubious looking buses. Most public buses here advertise themselves as Deluxe and ALL of them most definitely are not! Not far into the journey we were stopped by the police and both the money collecting lad and the driver were ushered off for questioning at a nearby check point. On asking our guide Yuba what was happening and if it happened often he simply replyed that he didn’t know as he avoided travelling on public buses… A little over 2 hours later we knew why!


The ride turned out to be a long one -Steve could barely fit into his seat, more and more passengers were ‘shoe horned’ on as the journey progressed, the suspension was non existent and the roads were in pieces with what looked like lots of ‘drekly’ work being carried out on them.

Despite everything, we arrived safely at our trek starting point where, with huge relief, we unfurled ourselves from our confinement ready for the off.

imageTo walk to Annurpurna Base Camp, trekkers are required to buy permits and the first part of our trek was interrupted by having these checked at various checkpoints. Steve and I were fizzing with excitement, eager to get going and just so incredibly happy to be heading for the mountains – our adventure was about to become yet more exciting.

The sun was blistering in the valley, at the low level start to the trip and we walked for a couple of hours or so before stopping for refreshments in the first Tea House of our trek. imageApart from camping, all accommodation on the trail is in the form of Tea Houses. With their distinctive blue paintwork, Tea Houses offer basic accommodation with not much more than beds in the rooms and mostly shared, limited loo and shower facilities. Further along the route Tea Houses become fewer (after Chhomrong the land is owned by the government and so the building of new Tea Houses is prohibited in this area), this means that during busy times of the season such as now it’s Common for trekkers to have to share rooms. imageFor two nights that’s what we did and were lucky enough to be paired with great roommates who remained friends for the duration of the trip. Prices are set across the board – no haggling allowed, which is fine by us because we’re rubbish at it! The food is fantastic, all freshly cooked, with tons of choice for all meals of the day. Dahl Baht is the local dish of choice and the best value option as seconds and thirds are always offered. It also happens to be scrummy and great fuel for the long walks. We usually opted for black tea (a far cheaper option than fizzy, canned alternatives), which tends to come sweetened unless asked for otherwise. Ginger tea and Nepali masala were also favourites. Hot showers were available nearly everywhere (at a cost) and we took advantage of them more often than not. We braved the cold option only a couple of times and wet wipes were the fall back solution…


We climbed the first of many gruelling steps and crossed the first of many wicked bridges to get to our Tea House number one stop over in Tikhedhunga. Nestled in the surrounding woodland it was a great place to spend our first night on the trail where basic living was about to begin.



Tucked among trees and by a river, Tikhedhunga Tea House was a picturesque and much welcomed sight after a long first day in the hills.


We ordered Dahl Baht to eat and a beer each to drink – Yuba suggested we share 1 beer between the 2 of us! We took his advice and it turned out to be our last beer in the mountains. We went to bed at 7:30 and awoke to our alarm at 6:00 the next morning. A routine we would keep for the next 9 days, breaking it on only two occasions to get up even earlier to watch the sun rise over the mountains – beauty sleep well worth missing!

Living the dream…



Patan and Kathmandu

We’ve arrived…

Apart from Steve being stopped and searched at both the beginning and the end of our journey to Kathmandu (guilty face obviously) both fights out were smooth and uneventful.


And so on the 13th October 2016 after months of planning we finally landed in Nepal!

Having negotiated a price for a taxi, we travelled through chaotic Kathmandu and drove down dark, potholed back streets to reach our destination, a small hotel in the middle of what seemed an entirely uninhabited area in Patan. We were escorted imagethrough a dark alleyway where a small hotel sign was the only hint we were
anywhere near civilisation. We were both concerned about our first accommodation choice but thanks to trusty Trip Advisor we’d chosen well. The guest house was a gem (if lacking a little headroom in places) and we woke the next morning to warm sunshine and bustling streets full of vibrant life.


A stones throw from our hotel is the historic district of Patan and what an amazing place it is – a cacophony of sound, sights, and smells with it’s abundance of temples and history. We spent an incredible day visiting the many historical sights in Patan Durbur Square, including the Patan museum, a must see. We heard tragic stories of when the earthquake struck and witnessed the devastation to buildings, homes and temples in the area first hand.image We were completely absorbed by everything around us, the vibrancy of the town and it’s people, but also the fragility of every day life and how easily it can be turned upside down in an instant. When walking through the narrow streets, flanked on either side by high, rickety buildings we couldn’t help but feel just how terrifying it must have been for the people living, working and visiting on 25th April 2015.

image  image

The town is being pieced together bit by bit and will one day, we’re sure, be restored to it’s former glory. Our hope is that the area stays earthquake free so that the people working so hard to rebuild it can enjoy the fruits of their labours for many years to come.

Despite everything the communities have been through and despite the hardships they still have to cope with on a daily basis the people here are nothing but warm and welcoming to us as visitors in their country. What a humbling and moving start to our travels this has been.


We walked to Kathmandu from Patan                                                       and enjoyed a great afternoon imagewandering the streets of the old and VERY touristy district of Thamel. This area is a wonderful insult on the senses – sight, smell, sound, even taste. Wherever you look there’s vibrant colour and bustling life – this is a place of beautiful chaos, it’s totally absorbing and completely mesmerising. We’ve fallen a little bit in love with it!

We bought thick down (-20 degrees) sleeping bags for the cold winter ahead of us in the mountains and we descovered the local tea of choice – Masala Chai, delicious.

The sleeping bags we bought were sold as North Face – Steve said we’d been North fleeced! He was right – we later discovered that North Face in Nepal is affectionately dubbed North Fake. Still, the Sherpa family we bought them from warmed our hearts and the cheap price tag meant we weren’t about to complain. Here’s hoping they do the job.

On the way home we came across this little fella…


My thought – ‘Cute travelling companion?’

Steve’s thought – ‘Mangey, rabid, flea ridden mutt!’

Guess he won’t be coming round the world with us then.








1 Day and counting…

Goodbyes Done…

On Friday 7th Oct 2016 we left Cornwall, on the 8th, 9th and 10th we said goodbye to our amazing families and on the 11th we leave Britain.

Our first stop (before leaving Britain) in the big wide world, was a fab little Croydon cafe called Byte Cafe imageand our carefully calculated daily budget for the next few months compromised in less than 10 minutes!

Underground negotiated, we headed to central London to watch our ‘new boss’ Doug Scott talk about his climbing adventures and charity organisation (who we’re soon to be working with) Community Action Nepal.

What an incredible man he is, brimming with unbelievable stories of mountain climbing madness and talking with utter passion and pride about his charity and it’s connection with the mountain people of Nepal. His infectious enthusiasm has whet our whistles well and truely for the work we’ll be doing over the next few months and we now can’t wait to get started.


Steve – Doug – Me

Kathmandu here we come…




8 days and counting…



I need a bigger bag!

23 days and counting…

Back to school


A few weeks ago our son Jack, a primary school teacher tentatively asked if we would visit Huish Primary School in Yeovil (where he teaches) to take a short assembly about what we’ll be doing in Nepal over the next few months. 

Huish had already very generously decided on Community Action Nepal as their chosen charity for the upcoming school year so we decided it would be a good thing for us to do – after all, how hard could it be talking to a hall full of children, we like children. 
It turns out going back to school is terrifying… 

The day before our assembly appearance and a little muzzy headed from our daughter Meg’s birthday celebrations the night before, our previous solid convictions that we were doing the right thing started to evaporate – what had we agreed to?

Following a hearty breakfast at The River House cafe in Frome (thoroughly recommended) we felt prepared to tackle the day and knowing we couldn’t put it off any longer settled down to the task at hand.



Jack very impressively whizzed off a 20 minute assembly plan and helped with techniques on how to present to numerous children – eek. James (Meg’s boyfriend) a seasoned pro at public speaking to groups of youngsters chipped in with a single word tip “chemistry!” Apparently it’s important to be an interacting, cohesive duo when on stage together – double eek. Amy (Jack’s wife and also a primary school teacher) gave the easiest advice to follow for the assembly with the youngest children which was to stick to simple vocabulary, use easy words and keep it brief – this we could do! Meg helped with the dreaded “does anyone have any questions” at the end bit so we could practise thinking on our feet. Her idea of aiding us in this matter was by asking such things as Mr Opie, how many bikinis is Mrs Opie taking with her? With everyone present knowing that I have 3 packed  (work in progress, see blog 52 days and counting) hilarity ensued and we called it a night.

Monday morning came, and feeling inadequately prepared, terrified at the prospect of going back to school and without any car keys to get there as Jack had inadvertently taken ours with him earlier that morning we set about our final preparations. We scrounged a car to get to Yeovil – thanks Meg, went through everything one last time and set off with anxious anticipation for the afternoon ahead.

Despite a heart stopping flashback when asked into the headmistress’s office we needn’t have worried.

img_1199The first school we visited was Preston Primary School. The school is a beautifully modern building – including Steve informed me state of the art plumbing! The staff were so welcoming and the pupils a joy. Nervously we delivered our carefully planned assembly which seemed enthusiastically received. The pupils listened to everything said and asked impressively relevant and well thought through questions with not one mention of bikinis!

Preston C of E Primary Scool website


img_2370Next to Huish Primary School and the same warm welcome by the staff followed by the eneviatable “Oh so you’re Mr Opie’s Mum and Dad!”It’s easy to see why Jack
likes working here so much, an infectious buzz surrounded the school and as with Preston it felt genuinely friendly and full of life. The children were brilliant, participating with interest and enthusiastic exuberance. Yet more challenging and intelligent questions came our way, with thankfully still no mention of bikinis…

Huish Primary School website

Our day was enormously rewarding and we would like to say a huge thank you to the staff and pupils of both schools for making us feel so welcome. We were so impressed with the youngsters we met and left with total respect for all the hard work and energy that goes into educating them.

Our special thanks goes to Huish Primary for choising Community Action Nepal for their charity this school year – we wish them lots of fundraising fun









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