Volunteering in Nepal: rafting, diarrhea and another wedding

I decided to join Dan, the Dutch women from Heiloo and our Nepali language trainer Bishal for the rafting trip I talked about in my last post. I won’t be going along with the other volunteers who are going to do rafting and bungee jumping next Saturday, it’s both too expensive and not worth the money for such a short jump, plus I’ve already done rafting now. The only expensive activity I intend to be do sometime during the rest of my stay in Nepal is paragliding, I’ve never done that before and I think it’s a lot more exciting than bungee jumping. I had never done rafting either until last Saturday.

We went rafting with Royal Beach Camp. Because we are volunteers we got a discount for the rafting, it was 3750 rupees. This included all transport, spending Friday night in a tent near the river, dinner, breakfast and lunch. After gathering at the VSN office in Pepsi Cola we took the bus to the parliament building in the center of Kathmandu where the bus taking us the rafting location would pick us up. However, this bus suffered a delay of almost two hours because of a traffic jam I was told, so we left around 19:00 instead of 17:00.

We were the only Westerners in a group of maybe fourty persons (we were on the second bus ride of that day as far as I know) doing rafting the following morning on Saturday, the rest of the group were all Nepalis. This made for some interesting conversations in the bus with a Nepali guy and his friends whom all studied a Master of Business Administration program. We talked about cultural differences among many other subjects. The bus ride took another three hours, probably more because we were in an epic traffic jam. The traffic jam was caused by a checkpoint on the way out of the Kathmandu valley because they checked the license plate of every vehicle passing there. Fortunately there was no traffic jam near the checkpoint when we returned tomorrow night.

After the long bus ride which took us to an altitude a few hundred meters lower to a river valley, we arrived at the camp site. The camp site had tents were we slept, a large beach of sand on the shore of the river were we would go rafting the next morning, the opportunity to play beach volleyball and a beach hut made of wood and straw where food was served. The rest of the night we enjoyed ourselves on the beach were they had a DJ playing music for us to dance on and they also lit campfires there. When we were confronted with the long delay of the bus from Kathmandu I was wondering what I had gotten myself into, but when I arrived at the campsite at night with a full moon and the mountains surrounding the river covered in fog I realized that I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it. With some imagination it could indeed pass as an inland environment on a tropical island.

Tent camp near the river

The DJ continued until deep in the night and the tents only had mats and sleeping bags which were not comfortable for sleeping. Maybe I got three hours of rest. The following morning I was woken up a bit too early by an overtly enthusiastic crowd of Nepalis. Because Holi is celebrated on Saturday we started decorating each others faces with colours and some started throwing water balloons, so called lolas. After breakfast we started rafting, the starting point was at the beach near our campsite. I had never done rafting before so I was surprised to learn that we would have an instructor to make sure that we could steer the boat properly. Our group occupied one boat and there were three or four other boats leaving with us.

More fun with paint

The rafting was fun. Our instructor judged our group to be proficient enough for taking the exciting path on the river. The river had some wild rapids which shook up our boat heavily, and our instructor told us to get inside the boat a few times so we didn’t risk falling out. And this is just the dry season, it’s also possible to do it in the monsoon season but the river will be far more ferocious by then. The temperatures were reasonable, even if during the first part of the day we still had some fog over the valley blocking out the sun. We swam in the water a bit during the journey downstream, but not for too long because the water was on the cool side. After traversing approximately three kilometer in three hours we exited the river, carried the boat onto a truck and were driven back to the camp site.

It was the beginning of the afternoon so we still had to wait a few hours before the bus would leave at 16:00, but of course the bus was delayed again for half an hour. Some of us did some beach volleybal, and we relaxed near the side of the river, but I was getting a bit bored. When the bus took us to Kathmandu it dropped us of in the New Baneshwor neighborhood from where we had to take a taxi to Pepsi Cola, buses don’t drive after 19:00 anymore. Because of that and because it was Holi the taxi wasn’t cheap, 500 rupees which I bartered down to 450. I was mentally preparing myself and considered what I would do if this taxi driver turned out to be crooked and would deviate from our agreement during the taxi ride, but fortunately that wasn’t the case.

The following Sunday morning I started working at the school again as an invigilator (that was a new word for me) during the exam period which started that day and lasts until next Monday. I had to abandon my plans for that day, being invigilator and tutoring a group of four to five weak students when the exams ended at 13:00, because I got an acute attack of diarrhea. I’m not sure if this was caused by the failure of my ‘experiment’, i.e. I had contracted food poisoning, or the fact that I was constipated for almost two weeks continuously right after I arrived in Kathmandu (somehow I always suffer from constipation after moving away from home for a longer period of time).

Whatever caused it, I don’t intend to give up on eating street food like panipuri, I like it too much for that. The Nepalis eat them without any problems, and eventually I should gain a certain degree of immunity to food poisoning just like the Nepalis if I expose myself sufficiently. If I get sick, so be it, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger like Nietzsche said. This attack of diarrhea stopped just as suddenly as it had started. I had to visit the bathroom three times over the course of an hour, but after that I seemed to be totally fine again. I was very fortunate to feel alright again so soon because during the evening we had the opportunity to visit another wedding because a relative of Tej (pronounce the ‘j’ like a ‘zj’), the director of VSN, was getting married.

I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to enjoy the divine food served at wedding parties! All volunteers were invited and as far as I know everyone came along. No effort was saved for the wedding party, it was similar to the first one I visited but the food was even better. They served all kinds of snacks, an elaborate buffet and even ice cream which persuaded me to break my rule to not eat junk food. I ate a lot of it and skipped lunch altogether today, because I ate so much during the party that I’m still not really feeling hungry.

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