Nepal was life changing
It was almost a misadventure but Angela Hampton’s recent trip to Nepal proved some things aren’t meant to go to plan.
The 26-year-old flew to Kathmandu on April 26, where she had planned to join an Intrepid tour group to Everest Base Camp.
Trouble was, she was the only one.
So it was after a last minute switch to G Adventures that she found herself flying into Lukla – one of the most dangerous airports in the world and the gateway to Mt Everest.
The former Matamata College student set off on the eight-day trek to the base camp with a group of 15 tourists, plus guides.
Thrillseekers from Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, Russia, Sweden and Denmark made up the group.
The trek was harder than Angela ever imagined, with six to nine hours of walking a day, and the constant risk of altitude sickness.
‘‘You can’t blow your nose, you can only eat soup and because of the oxygen levels you can’t go into deep sleep, so you have what they call mountain dreams.
‘‘The fatigue that you feel is just like nothing else . . . it’s crazy.’’
The group stayed at teahouses along the way and looked forward to the warmth of fires fuelled by yak droppings.
On a rest day, Angela went to see a local school and hospital that were established by Sir Edmund Hillary.
‘‘What he has done for the area is just incredible,’’ she said.
On May 6, she made it to Everest Base Camp, more than halfway to the summit of Mt Everest, at 5346 metres.
‘‘You get there and you’re just exhausted,’’ she said.
‘‘It’s so hard to describe ... I have wanted to do it my whole life so it was a bit surreal.
‘‘First of all, the scenery – everything is just right there, all your senses are going crazy.
‘‘The whole thing was inspiring.
‘‘ My next goal is to climb a Himalayan Peak, although I’m quite content not to tick anything off the bucket list for awhile.’’
Following a four-day trek back to Lukla, the group flew back to Kathmandu, where they parted ways.
Angela had opted to spend a month at an orphanage through local organisation Hope and Home but for the second time her plans went awry.
The orphanage she was going to had four volunteers and just seven kids and she was determined to help where she was most needed.
‘‘Can you teach?’’
The question from the volunteer co- ordinator wasn’t what she expected but she was quick to reply. ‘‘Probably.’’ The next morning she was on a bus to Chitwan province and two days later was teaching at Annapurna Higher Secondary School.
‘‘I arrived there on a Sunday – they have school six days a week – and the vice principal introduced me to a class of 62 children, they sang me the national anthem and he left.’’
It was certainly a case of learning on the job but she was surprised how quickly she picked it up.
‘‘Teaching five year olds who didn’t speak English maths was quite hard,’’ she said.
‘‘I knew a little bit of Nepalese but I had to come up with other ways to communicate with them.’’
Near the end of her 31⁄ weeks at the school she realised how far she had come.
‘‘I had 60 kids listening to me – having 60 kids listening without making a noise was amazing.’’
Since returning to New Zealand she has applied to study primary teaching at Waikato University.
‘‘I’m going to go back when I’m qualified and try and do a lot more with the teachers.
‘‘ The vice principal Batuk is amazing. He is really trying to help his whole community.’’
While teaching at the school, she stayed with the local volunteer co-ordinator and ate the traditional dish of dal bhat (rice, curried vegetables and lentil soup) twice a day.
A week before flying back to New Zealand, she decided to spend seven days at an orphanage at Pokhara.
The AAN Children’s Home cares for 19 children, aged four to 15, many of whom were rescued by Child Welfare.
Most of the children are sponsored to attend private schools and aim to become doctors, nurses or social workers.
As one of four volunteers, Angela helped them to prepare for school and complete their homework in the evenings.
‘‘ Seven days wasn’t long enough, it was incredible how hard it was to say goodbye.’’
New heights: Matamata’s Angela Hampton after reaching Everest Base Camp, more than 5000 metres above sea level.