Indiana Jones & The Car Ride of Doom
To start off our day, John eagerly woke us up at 6:15am to walk over to a viewpoint up the road to see the silhouettes of the Himalayan mountain range. Previously we weren't able to see the mountains in full glory as the smog in Kathmandu Valley is quite bad. But this morning, we clearly saw the jagged mountain peaks as the sun slowly rose and John even pointed out Mount Everest off in the distance. Because we’re fairly far from Everest, the closer mountains overpower the view, but still exciting to see none the less. We even got to enjoy the view with street-side chiya and a couple mountain dogs who hung around.
After breakfast, we walked over to Kathmandu University so John could check up on his GPS ground control station that’s set up there. The university was very nice and fun to wander around and we even ran into the KU students we met with yesterday. We walked over to the geomatics department and John ran into his old friend Reshma Shrestha, who is an assistant professor at KU. We chatted about our program and introduced her to a couple of the KU students as she’s interested in helping the KU-EWB club. We then met up with Madhu (local engineer who will be assisting us) and Pradeep (NCDC employee) to begin our jeep ride to Charikot.
The drive up from Dhulikhel to Charikot was exciting to say the least. If you’ve ever been to Disneyland and ridden the Indiana Jones jeep ride, imagine that but if it was twenty times bumpier with busses barreling towards you and vertigo inducing cliffs at every turn. Also 6 hours long… Seeing as I used to ride that ride over and over again for nearly an entire day, you’d think this would be a real-life dream come true. Think again. I’m honestly surprised a giant spherical bolder didn’t start tumbling down after us.
After a couple hours we reached our lunch stop by a river and sat down for a tasty traditional meal. And, not to our surprise at this stage, many more of John’s friends randomly showed up and stopped for lunch as well. One of these friends was Kaji, who’s the former CEO of NCDC and is now working on community development projects in Kalinchok. Once we finished eating we woefully piled back into the jeep awaiting more hours of bumpy roads before us. At least I stocked up on mini Himalayan bananas before heading off.
Finally, after more dusty roads and shaky turns (not to mention more dramatic Everest views) we reached our hotel in Charikot! We sat down for dinner, a little too carsick to fully enjoy, and went off to bed ready for more meetings and outings tomorrow.
We started the morning of the 31st for a team meeting with everyone we met up with the day prior. We chatted about plans for the meeting with the Rural Municipality and made an agenda outlining all the talking points and questions we needed answers to. Ashna, John, and Pradeep walked into the Charikot market to print out side-by-side drone pictures of the Balodaya high school area onto a poster. Meanwhile, Courtney made alterations to the latrine design with Madhu.
Once we collected everything to present, we were off! We took a one-and-a-half-hour bolero (half jeep half truck) ride over to the RM office. John, Ashna, Courtney, and I decided to hop into the back to fully take in the views and experience the bumps from a new perspective. After passing across a Himalayan valley with beautiful farmland the whole way over, we arrive to the RM office. We sat around for a bit taking in the sun as we waited to be called for the meeting. John observed a big crack across the foundation created from the earthquake as we listened to some water buffaloes bellowing across the basin.
We were then called into the meeting; we headed upstairs and sat in a room with about 15 people, one of which was the Deputy Chair (aka Vice Mayor), Kalika Pathak. She finished chatting about plans with the community members as we sipped on some sweet ‘n spicy black chiya. Kaji briefly introduced our team and our projects to the whole room and then we broke off to meet with just Kalika in her office. We sat around on some couches as Bhupal described Engineers Without Borders and our involvement and goals within Kalinchok Ward 1. Next, we went into talking about how drone surveying is beneficial for community development projects. Ashna, John, and I presented the blown-up poster and pointed out how new buildings, roads, and natural landscape changes can be observed thanks to year-to-year surveying. This is very important information that enables better construction planning and project site visualization (as we’d learn even more in the next couple of days seeing Kalinchok’s absurd new road development). After showing her these posters, she fully understood the importance of the yearly surveying and gave us the thumbs up for drone mapping the school area (yay!). The MHM latrine was then presented to her along with the plan for our MHM workshop and surveying. Approval was given for completing any repairs on the tap stands as need be. Overall, she was very impressed with our team and enthusiastic about our project goals and gave all the go-aheads we had hoped for.
We finished the afternoon enjoying a traditional meal they had prepared for us on the balcony overlooking the valley. The meal included chura (flattened dry rice) and, to Courtney’s disappointment, peanuts. After we realized there were peanuts she got a quick new meal of Wai Wai (Nepali instant noodles) to fill her up. And if you were wondering if we had a wild New Year’s Eve the answer is a sleepy no. We decided to pass out to prepare for tomorrow's adventures to come.
Megan, Ashna, & Courtney