A team of International Medical Relief (IMR) medical professionals including doctors, nurses and health assistants did Himalayan Medical Expedition in Manaslu region for about two weeks. The trek that started on 2nd April and concluded on 14th April was aimed at providing medical assistance to the remote villages of Manaslu region. The 7-member team had Ms Anna Amita Desimone (US), Ms. Sarah Rose Burney (US), Ms. Sophie Dojacques (US), Mr. Austin Ryan Eaton (US), Ms. Deanna Joy Shapiro (US), Ms Zoe Harriet Smyth (Ireland) and Ms. Tatiana Claudia Doyle (US).
The first day of the trek started with a 9 hour drive to Soti Khola, the starting point of the 13 days’ trek. The team provided medical care to many en-route villages including Philim (120 patients), Namrung (45 patients), Samdu (40 patients) and Samagaun (65 patients) where they distributed medicine as well. Their mobile clinic also served the trekkers who they met on the way. The most common problems found among the locals were arthritis, back pain, chest pain, lack of appetite and high blood pressure.
Along with providing the medical care, they also had an exclusive opportunity to get real close to Manaslu (8163m), the eighth highest mountain and the marvelous views of isolated highland villages untouched by creeping modernity. This physically demanding trek also led them to Manaslu Base Camp and Larke-La pass (5160m), the highest point of the whole trek, from where they got to savor the stupendous views of the Manaslu panorama. Finally after the humane service and adventure of almost two weeks, they concluded their trek at Dharapani. At the end of the trek, back in Kathmandu, the team rejoiced the trip and expressed their happiness for being a part of the humanitarian cause.
This is the second trip of Explore Himalaya with IMR. We take it as a matter of pride to be the local partner of IMR and hope to work for such noble cause in future as well.
This year also we have come up with some fresh updates on Sidhure Jatra, a unique cultural spectacle observed in Nuwakot. Sindhure Jatra, which literally means “vermillion powder festival”, is celebrated annually at Nuwakot Durbar Square vicinity in Nuwakot district. Nuwakot Durbar Square, an iconic landmark with Seven Story Palace, Bhairabi Temple, Taleju Bhawani, Narayan Temple and Bishnu Temple, is 75 km north of Kathmandu valley. Situated at a hilltop, overlooking the valley, the Durbar Square and its town is historically and culturally an important place having a significant connection to King Prithivi Narayan Shah, the founder of modern Nepal.
“Sindhure Jatra” is celebrated on Chaitra Purnima (March/April) for 10-12 days mainly by Newar community. This year, it falls from 30th March to 10th April. The festival marks the Nepali New Year and arrival of spring season. During the festival, people worship Goddess Bhairabi, observe various rituals and feast with family members. The major highlight of the festival is the chariot procession of Goddess Bhairabi to Devighat, where the Goddess meets her sister Jalpa Devi. The special meeting takes place only once a year, in which the Dhami (the Priest) is believed to gain the power by the grace of the Goddesses to foretell the future of the country. As per the tradition, the Dhami, then, tells the prophesy to the State representative in secret. During the procession, people smear Sindur (orange vermillion powder), and sing and dance to the tune of traditional music. Not only the locals, the State army and people from the neighboring region also come to participate and observe the festival. The festival, which is also considered as having the longest chariot procession in Nepal, is one of liveliest festivals offering some of the lesser known but fascinating cultural display of Nepal.
Let’s have a look at the daily activities of the festival:
Day 01: 30th March/16th Chaitra: The first day ritual starts from the evening time. Living Goddess Kumari and Dhami perform a special ritual bath in which the priest receives the ablution ritual by Goddess Kumari symbolizing the purification process. Then after the priest performs special puja in the temple. In the premises of the temple, two wooden poles are erected, which will be pulled down at the end of the day.
Day 02: 31st March/17thChaitra: On this day, devotes carry the chariot of Goddess Bhairabi to Devighat (Riverbank), where the Goddess meets her sister. The procession takes about 4-5 hours. They stay overnight there and perform puja. Day 03: 01st April/18thChaitra: Early morning, puja ritual includes the sacrifices of 108 he-goats (which are not castrated yet), which the Dhami offers to the Goddesses. The Dhami, by the power of the Goddesses, gets the insight to foresee the country’s future, which he tells to the State representative in secret. After the whole ritual finishes, at about mid-night the Chariot is brought back to her own Temple to Nuwakot Durbar Square. However, they dont go to the temple directly but rest at Dharampani. Later on, the procession continues to the temple from the same place accompanied by State Army with great honor and elaborate music.
Day 04: 02nd April/19thChaitra: Sindure Jatra (vermillion powder) festival, after which the whole festival is named, is observed on this day. The festival starts, after “Dware”, a State representative, scatter Sindur to the Dhamini, Dhami and the devotees. Then after, everyone smear the powder to each other. The ritual symbolizes the celebration of victory.
Day 05: 03rd April/20th Chaitra: On this day, the Dhami performs another ritual following the sacrifice of the goats and buffaloes in the premises of Bhairabi Temple. He sucks the blood for three times as a part of ritual.
Day 06-10: 04th – 08th April/ 21st -25th Chaitra: During these days, devotees and locals gather and have feast.
Day 11: 09th April/ 26th Chaitra: A special puja is performed to the Wooden Pole which was raised on the first day. Locals gather around Bhairabi Temple to pull down one wooden pole, and the other one is left for the next day’s ritual.
Day 12: 10th April/ 27th Chaitra: Today is the final day. The second wooden pole is brought down following the same ritual as the previous day and the festival comes to an end.
Treacherous cliff, swarm of angry bees and just a dangling slender rope ladder to hold your life – can anyone think of any other act as extreme as this?
This daring act is performed, every Spring and Autumn, by Gurung and Magar tribesmen of Annapurna region in a bid to harvest honey of the giant Himalayan wild bees from their nests overhanging on the vertical rock faces. This honey hunting practice is also found among other communities in lesser known areas like Dhading, Jharlang across Ganesh Himal and Arun Valley of Makalu Barun area. As this practice is carried out in an insanely extreme working condition by just using some primitive tools, it can be rightly called as a testament of perseverance and fortitude that equals any death defying endurance feat.
The whole ritual of honey hunting is carried out with great care – any misjudgment can be fatal, or at least be ominous! The activity starts right from choosing an auspicious day to carry out the hunt to appeasing the Forest spirits, which is as crucial as their survival in the wilderness! However, the core activity involves hanging from vertical cliffs as high as 300m using a hand-made ladder of bamboo and ropes to harvest the honeycombs from the nests of Apis Dorsata Laboriosa, the world’s largest honey bee. The nest can be found perched in the sheer rock face at an altitude ranging from 2500m to 3000m. But, strangely enough the hunters don’t use any additional gears and safety equipments. The only thing they seem to have is the faith in the Forest Spirits who they have appeased before starting the act.
The most intense situation starts when the hunter climbs the rope carrying a bamboo stick with a sharp end and a tuft of smoldering grass to make the bees confused. With every step upward, the climb becomes more edgy and the height more dizzying. After he reaches the nests, taking the opportune time when the bees are driven out, he pokes the honeycomb with the sharp end of the bamboo stick, and slices it off which is collected in a basket lowered by the helpers from above. Phew, it’s finally done but the hunter still has a long way to climb down safely to celebrate the success of his prized honey.
Why people risk their life? Does the battle against thousands of angered bees really worth it? Though the hallucinogenic quality and medicinal value has made the honey 7-8 times more valuable than the normal honey in the market, the reason doesn’t just seem enough. The way the tribesmen are giving continuity to the tradition with such reverence and dedication indicate to something deeper and subtler beyond our comprehension, something we may never understand.
Now, the practice is not just an esoteric ritual hunting limited to certain communities. Its antiquity, unsullied continuity and surreal appeal is making it increasingly popular among the curious minds. Thanks to Eric Valli and Diane Summers, the pioneer documentary makers who made this largely unobserved cultural practice known to the wider global audience. Now, there are many tour operators that are easing the curious travelers to honey hunting destinations. Though there is a wide range of award winning documentaries and videos on this practice, it is so out of the world that one needs to see it to believe it!
[If you are interested in the tour, we are more than happy to make your adventure one of its kind.]
This February, we welcomed a mammoth group of 54 Singaporean corporate travelers from Pejandy Corporation Pte Ltd. The group spent 5 nights 6 days in the two iconic cities of Nepal, Kathmandu and Pokhara. The cultural tour that started from 14 February not just included the natural and cultural highlights but also had special delights like Annapurna Heli Tour, mountain flight, Zipflyer, Chinese New Year celebration and even a refreshing picnic in the wood. This tour provided the members with a welcome relief from their daily work life, and also offered them a chance to share beautiful moments together, which helps in making Pejandy a bigger and stronger family.
This multi activity tour comprised of Singaporean families including two Greek travelers with members ranging from 6 years of age to 80. So, the trip was more like an extended family tour rather than a bunch of colleagues just sharing corporate bonding. The group started their tour with a mountain flight the very next day after arriving in Kathmandu. After the magical views of stunning Himalayan range, they flew to Pokhara. Enroute they had yet another beautiful aerial experience of endless Himalayas including majestic Mt Manaslu and Annapurna. Once in Pokhara, they explored the city, did boating and had a pleasant stroll along lakeside- something typical in Pokhara. However, that was just a beginning. On 17th Feb, the group had a picnic at Dibolla, a quaint wooded area with a flowing river nearby. The same evening, they had a mini “lantern festival” to welcome Chinese New Year “The Year of Dog”. Well, a tranquil evening and gliding lantern rising up and up was some sight to behold!
The next day came with another greater delight of having an adventurous heli tour to Annapurna Base Camp. To organize a heli tour in the Himalayas for a group of 54 people was a feat in itself. However, everything went perfect with our two standby choppers. Thanks to Fishtail Air, one of our subsidiaries, who made this challenging tour flawless and memorable! After the real close up view of Annapurna, the members flew back to Kathmandu on the same day.
The thrilling memories of Pokhara were still fresh in mind but Kathmandu was all set to offer some historic moments. In Kathmandu, they visited two UNESCO World Heritage sites, Swayambhu and Patan Durbar Square. Both places known for immense architectural and cultural wonders offered rare glimpses of the heritages dating back to medieval age of Nepal. Finally after spending 6 days exploring the two mesmerizing cities, the trip concluded. However, the trip was not limited to touring alone – the group also took delight in the culinary richness of Nepal in some handpicked restaurants in Kathmandu and Pokhara including Kava, Pho 99, Boomerang, Mezze, Evoke, Gokarna House etc.
So as you can see, so many things and so few days – yet the trip made sure to hit up all the best spots and best activities by the end. As it is said “A happy employee is a happy business”, so needless to say, “Happy Pejandy” at the end! If you are also thinking of doing similar corporate incentive tours, just let us know at email@example.com . We are always ready for some extra miles!
Pabitra Samaaj Sewa Building Project Donors’ List so far:
[We are still raising fund for the completion of the project. Interested donors can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org]
The Foundation Stone Laying Ceremony of Pabitra Samaaj Sewa building was held on 30 January 2018 at Budhanilkantha. The foundation stone was laid by respected Marcus Brown from Adelaide amidst the presence of Dikchhya Chapagain, President of Pabitra Samaaj Sewa and the Representatives of Explore Himalaya and Himalayan Pre-Fab. The pre-fab building will provide a permanent earthquake resistant shelter to 15-20 residents under the care of the organization.
The building project was jointly initiated by Explore Himalaya and Himalayan Pre-Fab, a subsidiary of Explore Himalaya; after the residents of Pabitra Samaaj Sewa were forcibly evacuated from their previous resident at Dhapasi. As it was not possible to complete this project without the collective efforts, Explore Himalaya and Himalaya Pre-Fab started the initiation by contributing half of the fund and appealed for the rest from the generous contributors. Mr. Brown, who honored the ceremony, was among the few to extend the hand of support by raising funds from Adelaide community. The project has given hopes and happiness to all the destitute sheltering in the organization. The building is expected to complete within 6 weeks. For the full story on the building project, please follow our earlier blog at https://www.explorehimalaya.com/2018/01/05/pabitra-samaj-sewa-charity-project/
[In addition to being a trailblazer in Himalayan adventure, Explore Himalaya is also one of the forerunners in Nepali tourism to incorporate community service in company’s regular activities.]