Marilyn, from Waynesville, lives in that comfort zone most of us enjoy — central heat, hot water on demand, a comfortable and warm bed. So she was a little surprised when she found herself intrigued by a challenge she knew would take her way out of that comfort zone.
Her friend Jane's brother, John Vavruska, had served in the Peace Corps in Nepal. When his tour was over, he was so intrigued by the place that he has returned several times.
In fact, he is with an outfit called Water Lines that gathers groups of people to go to third world countries to install waterlines and build latrines. He had developed a new trek and was looking for a dozen people to go to Nepal to install a latrine.
When Jane sent Marilyn an email about the trek, Marilyn said, “It was just like a magic moment. It’s really hard to define.” But Marilyn was sure she wanted to make the trek.
“At this stage in life, things are so comfortable,” said Marilyn. “You think you just need to get out of your comfort zone and see what you can still do. You have to ask, ‘Do you want to push yourself to still do something like this?’”
Marilyn said the challenge was out of character for her. She was not that much of a hiker and the trek would be serious hiking. But it sounded to her like the trip of a lifetime.
Three of her friends felt the same way, so in early June the four — Marilyn, Jane, Elizabeth and Wendy — started training for the trip that was set to begin Oct. 31.
The four took a 10-mile hike in the Smokies weekly, knowing the Smokies wouldn’t compare to Nepal but thinking it would build their stamina to stay on their feet for six-eight hours. Then each had her own training regimen. For Marilyn, it was walks in her mountainous neighborhood.
One of the challenges of the trip for Marilyn was the flight. She had not been on an airplane in years and was pretty sure she wouldn’t ever get on a plane again. But when Oct. 31 came, she had prepared herself for the long flights and two days of travel to get to Kathmandu. From Kathmandu the four went to the Helambu region about 60 miles north of Kathmandu, driven in on Land Cruisers on roads that were hardly better than trails. From there, they joined eight others for the trek to their destination.
They walked from village to village staying in tea houses and eating with the locals, mostly daal bhat, a lentil stew on rice. It was the growing season so there were plenty of fresh vegetables but no meat.
Unfortunately, when they had walked six days to reach Chupar, the village where they were to build a latrine, the supplies had not reached the village because of bad weather. However, they were able to talk to the villagers about the project.
Some members of the group had off days and had to go slower. Several got colds. But Marilyn said nobody was a “weak sister,” and for that they were grateful.
The group returned Nov. 18 and took some time to readjust to all the time zones they had flown across. Earlier this month, the four met to share pictures and memories. Marilyn said they all experienced a proud feeling of physical and mental accomplishment.
“It was a personal best, if you will,” she said.
|A young peasant girl learns to weave and earns a small pittance daily for her work. Most earnings are sent to her family in a remote village.|
|Typical road conditions during the rainy season|
|A matron in one village who has acquired status through her jewelry.|
|Daal Bhat...the meal of choice...completely vegetarian since Hindus eschew all forms of meat & poultry. Utensils are now the norm.|
|Children visit the "white foreigners' tent" and were often treated to foods and playtime. Villagers have many children but few live to age five due to lack of medical care, sanitation and the distance /expense of a doctor.|
|Woman carrying fodder for the animals.|
|A tea house where meals and lodging were provided.|
|in the mists|
|City of Kathmandu|
|Marigolds and other flowers at the market in Kathmandu|
|Moon over Nepal|
|One of the better roads. Can you see why 30 miles could take over six hours?|
|Crossing the river was treacherous on a swinging, plank bridge. Had I made it this far, I would have "lost it" over the bridge.|
|Crossing on the bridge|
|The bridge is in the background.|
|View from a rooftop in Kathmandu|
|School bus filled with children. Note how close the Land Cruiser is to the bus. Children are excited and yelling to "white foreigners".|
|Classroom...most schools did not go beyond grade three.|
|more elaborate shrine|
|Preparing the tea and meal for foreign guests...teahouse "kitchen" area|
|Land is terraced for farming a variety of crops.|
|Village and possible lodging|
|Water buffalo...used for labor. The group did not see yaks.|
|Kathmandu...WIRED! Some how this works without burning down the city or massive shortages.|