Max Tindal – Himalayan Mountain Conservation in Nepal
I arrived in Kathmandu, quickly got my visa, negotiated Kathmandu airport, and found my transport. It was late in the evening and I’d been travelling for a bit over a day, so getting to Kathmandu Prince Hotel was a huge relief. The next morning, a cab took me to the bus station and I found myself looking out over Kathmandu, and then the beautiful scenery on the way to Pokhara. The hotel in Pokhara was great and I got stunning views up towards the mountains.
The jeep drive up to Ghandruk was amazing and the valley is incredibly beautiful. It’s steep sided and mainly covered in trees. Waterfalls randomly emerge and cascade fifty or so meters down to the main river at the bottom of the valley. It was a bumpy drive, but it was improved by the loud Nepalese music blaring out of the speakers, which when combined with the stunning views and open windows, meant I was experiencing the sounds, scents and sights of Nepal!
One of the local guys helped me carry my bag up. We’re the same age, 19, and it was great chatting to him. It was a hot, but fine walk up. He led me up through Ghandruk to Panaroma Hostel, where I’d be staying. The other volunteers arrived back from a bird survey and I was very quickly welcomed into the group.
My Conservation placement
I was in Ghandruk for just over three weeks, but I wish I’d had double that time. It really is a disconnected, peaceful, calming and beautiful place to be. The project activities are great. They’re all around Ghandruk, which is mainly dense rainforest located on steep mountain sides. All the different surveys are really enjoyable and I saw almost 100 confirmed species during my trip (not including moths, as there are too many to identify!).
One of the main activities was setting up, checking, and relocating camera traps around the area every week. While I was at the project, the most exciting thing the camera traps saw was a kalij pheasant, but I still really enjoyed the process of setting them up.
The accommodation and food is exceptional, much better than I had hoped. The beds are comfortable, and the food is tasty. You also get to try some local dishes, which I loved (“Dal bhat power 24 hour” features regularly on t-shirts you can buy in Pokhara, and I completely agree).
There is a decent amount of free time in the evenings and during weekends. I was with a bunch of volunteers who, unfortunately, were as competitive as me when it came to card games. We had hours of intense card playing, all laughing and enjoying some snacks and drinks in some of the guest houses in Ghandruk.
Advice for future volunteers
I’d recommend bringing a decent small camera to fully capture the experience. For me, this is preferable to my phone camera. Bring a small notepad/diary, because it’s amazing how you forget what you did if you don’t write it down! Store all the card game scores in there too so you can gloat over your victories. There is reliable power, so you will be able to charge phones/cameras.
I was in Ghandruk in late July and August. It was pretty warm during the day, definitely t-shirt weather, and several volunteers preferred umbrellas to raincoats because they could stay cooler. It was possible to overheat in a rainstorm when you had a raincoat on! Bring both and then you can choose. It could get a bit colder in the evenings, but I found I was always comfortable in just a t-shirt and jumper. Bring walking trousers and tuck them into tightly woven walking socks. This is truly good advice - you’ll understand when you go for a wet walk through the jungle!
My overall experience
The staff in Ghandruk are brilliant, very helpful and just fun to be around. The small Projects Abroad room at the Hostel Panaroma is a great space. I have a lot of fond memories from that room alone, including some pretty intense card tower competitions, stunning views from the room up to the surrounding mountains, and of course, it was the place we ate dal bhat (and the other assortment of lovely breakfasts, lunches and evening meals).
I found this project the perfect thing to do. I absolutely loved my time in Ghandruk and I wish I could have stayed for longer. It’s peaceful and it’s disconnected. I felt calm, satisfied and slightly in awe of the surrounding scenery. I didn’t want to leave and I’ll go back.