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  Mount Everest Foundation for Sustainable Development in Nepal and Tibet: Service Trek led by Everest summiter Dan Mazur: Dispatch 8

bombed out building and tower at Bhojpur airstrip


Dear EverestNews.com, Here is our dispatch from the Nepal Service Trek with Maoist bombed out building photo attached.  Thanks in advance for posting this!


John:  We left Nirmalidanda loaded down with several garlands each around our necks, made of fresh marigolds, a heartening sendoff from the old village.  Our attention was now directed at getting as far along the trail eastward to Bhojpur as possible since that would be the airstrip out of which we hoped to charter some kind of flight on the 16th of November.  The slog up the trail in the humid heat after crossing the Sapsup Khola at 4,100 ft elevation seemed endless.  After an hour and a half of switchbacking trail, we stopped at a teashop in a place called Bhaaje Chyandanda for lunch, a welcome break from the upward grind.  We sat on a gundri (straw mat) in the sun and had our 28th daalbhaat meal (rice with lentils, but almost always vegetables substituted for lentils) in a row.  Though it may come as a surprise, we all actually like daalbhaat - it's really a healthy meal.  In my Peace Corps days, at least while out in the hills, I had learned to wean myself of the desire for pizzas, hamburgers, steaks, burritos, etc. and only looked forward to my next plate piled high with steaming rice, daal, vegetables (usually a mix of spinach and potatoes), and a khorsanni (tiny hot chile pepper) on the side.


After lunch and another hour and a half of uphill walking we topped out in a light fog at 7,600 feet on the ridge that separates Khotang and Bhojpur districts.  There was some confusion about which trail would lead to the village of Annapurna and which would go to Chhinamakhu.  But we knew that either would eventually get us to the town of Bhojpur tomorrow, our final destination.  In an hour, we passed a small tea shop and the didi there confirmed that we were on the trail to Annapurna.  As we descended into the ridge top town late in the afternoon, the first signs that things were amiss here were the burned down government buildings on the left side of the trail with Maoist slogans written in red all over the few remaining walls.  Then up ahead, we saw a red Maoist flag, obviously not the Nepal flag, flying high over the high school.  This was the same school that my friend Lawton had taught in as a Peace Corps Volunteer 20 years ago.  As we reached the school, a group of a dozen men met us on the trail.  For a half hour they tried very hard to persuade us to stay in the school yard for the night, all the while talking about the need for money (from us!) to repair the roof of the high school.  This was our first direct interaction with Maoists so far on the entire service trek (day 13).  Jangbu had an uneasy feeling about the place and we noticed that several of the men had been drinking.  The stern expression on Jangu's face indicated that he did not like this place, so we went with his gut feelings.  We quickly threw on our packs, gave our Namaste's to the Maoists (which they returned) and were off down the trail in the approaching darkness.


Just before dark and many hundred feet below Annapurna, we came upon a farmhouse on the trail.  With quick approval from the farmer, all six tents were jammed into his yard and supper was cooking.  What hospitality! Imagine with no forewarning, twelve strangers knocking on your door at dark, pitching their tents in your yard, using your kitchen, and eating your food. This is how it so often works in Nepal.  Nepali people generally don't resent such impositions like westerners.  During the night a group of villagers came with a tape player playing loud Nepali folk music right outside the tents.  At daylight while breaking camp, we were again accosted by several other Maoists requesting money for the school.  They had apparently come during the night but waited for us to get up.  This time my excuse was that we were helping another village over in Khotang and couldn't also help out in Annapurna.  Once again, we were quickly off down the hill giving our Namaste's to disappointed expressions.


We pulled into Bhojpur late afternoon on Nov. 15 after descending and climbing three separate ridges.  After passing a military checkpoint, we walked on through town and found the only available hotel.  This was our grimmest accommodation so far and fortunately, our last night out in the hills.  On the morning of the 16th, we walked one hour down the hill out of town to the airstrip.  The airport building and tower are now a ruin blown up by a pressure cooker bomb a couple of years ago.  Quite a bleak place. Dan was able to call Murari in Kathmandu on the satellite phone to confirm that "something" would come get us sometime.  We waited for several hours in front of the tea shop at the airstrip, watching roosters courting hens, reading paperbacks, and wandering around.  Later we learned that the aircraft would be a 4-seat helicopter.  Unfortunately, we had to say farewell to the Sherpas who would have to walk the day and a half to Hile east across the Arun River, then ride on a bus for 18 hours back to Kathmandu.  Dan, Elselien, Jangbu and I climbed into the chopper along with all the gear for what proved to be the most exciting ride I've ever had.  As we banked westward toward Kathmandu clearing the treetops on the high ridge crests by only a few meters, I told the pilot that it would be great if we could fly over Nirmalidanda.  He said he'd not only take us over Nirmalidanda, he'd do a loop over the village.  As we approached Nirmali, he dropped in elevation and circled low.  We could see villagers running out of their houses, waving up at us.  Somehow, I think they knew what this was all about.


Thanks for listening and for your support, from Daniel Mazur and all of us at SummitClimb.com





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