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Day 4 - Welcome to Kabilash

They had a parade in our honor - but I'll get to that in a minute. We slept like a rock. Then, we were awake and downstairs by 7AM for breakfast in the hotel. Our driver arrived promptly by 8AM and we were on the road to Kabilash by 8:15AM – along with the people of Kathmandu headed to work and school. As we got to the city limits, traffic let up and by the time we reached the foothills there were very few vehicles on the road. The road was steep with several switchbacks as we passed through the mountains and rice terraces. We stopped at a small village and tested the water at a roadside public faucet. The villagers were very interested and said we were the first people ever to test the water. The results were encouraging and we told them they had good water quality. We passed through a military checkpoint as we neared the main water source for Kathmandu. There is a large sign behind a fence to inform passersby that they are entering a restricted area. They protect it knowing it is such a valuable resource. As we approached the foothills of Kabilash, the pavement ended and we were on a dirt road. We stopped to pick up the former mayor who accompanied us as our guide. It was very dry and dusty as our driver maneuvered our Mahindra Scorpio SUV. We climbed the hill slowly being very careful on such a steep, narrow road with no guardrails. We nearly made it up to the Kabilash school, but then the road turned to sugar sand and we almost got stuck so we exited the SUV and walked the remaining distance up the hill. The mayor said it was only a short walk, but from the view we could tell it was going to be much longer as we had just come from sea level --- Florida flatland dwellers that we are! Jeff seemed to hike to the top with no problem. Madhav arrived several minutes after Jeff. Cordella was glad she had chewing gum to ward off a dry mouth. Rick and Cordella hoofed it up the mountain making several stops to catch our breath, drink water, and rest in the shade – a very short respite from the noonday heat.

It took about 20 minutes until we reached the top of the hill. We could hear musical instruments begin to play loudly in the distance. As we rounded the last corner we came upon the steps leading up to the school and there were over 400 people waiting to greet us, including a traditional band called a panche baja (a group of 5 musical instruments played together). The walkway was lined with students of all ages. They handed us flowers, placed flower leis (bougainvillea and marigolds) around our necks, and threw flower petal at us in celebration of our arrival. We can't find words to describe how overwhelming it was. We were led into a courtyard where there was a banner with our name – Water for Small Villages, chairs reserved with each of our names, a podium and a speaker. The schoolyard was full of students, parents, and teachers. As they started a program to welcome us, the panche baja (a traditional band) played, girls and boys in traditional costumes danced, and there were several speeches. Each of us was asked to speak, and a teacher translated for us. They gave us khatas – in Nepal, a khata is a gold, silky scarf worn during ceremonial occasions. In our case, it symbolized our arrival as guests of honor. They also sang the national anthem, pinned badges on us, a young girl read a speech in English welcoming us…and then the power went out. After a few minutes, we got up and walked around the courtyard to meet and speak with groups of students. It wasn't planned, but we had friendly conversation getting to know one another. When the electricity came back on, the welcoming program continued. They presented each of us with a Nepali flag. We took group photos, the panche baja played, they invited each of us to dance in the circle, and just as the last speech was wrapping up, strong winds and rain blew in and everyone rushed to take cover. After several minutes, the storm passed and we agreed that we should walk to the water source for the village while we still had daylight.
They said it was “close by” – we’re starting to think that will be the theme of every hike we take. Jeff and Rick hiked with 5 other men to the water source for the village. It was a steady climb to 6,300 feet. Let’s just stay we stumbled a few times and had to rest to catch our breath. The rainstorm blew into the valley as we walked. We took shelter under a tree for a bit and then continued walking, being extra careful on the wet trail. There were 2 water sources: a pipe coming from a rice terrace and another at a spring coming from the side of the hill a little further up behind a rice terrace. We sampled the water and both tested clean and drinkable. Having completed our first exploration we returned to the village. The hike back was much easier and we seemed to have found a comfortable pace – though, we’re sure it was a slow pace for the other men. Rick collected GPS points as we walked back, and Jeff surveyed the side of the hill imagining where the pipe would be laid. We made it back to the village before dark, enjoyed some tea, and then said goodbyes. Cordella and Madhav, not joining in on the hike to the water source, took time to have conversations with several people and to learn more about the village. Having rained during the day, the drive back to Kathmandu was more laden with wet spots, mud, slippery turns, and even one car stuck in the mud. Thankfully, our driver was very skilled and didn’t have any trouble. He drove slowly and carefully – clearly what we would consider an expert off-road driver. We arrived back at our hotel by 9:30PM only to find that the kitchen had already closed. The chef was sitting in the lobby and agreed to cook us dinner. We made our selections, went to our rooms to clean up and then we enjoyed dinner, cooked just for us, in the now empty dining room. We shared stories about the day, looked at a few photos and then returned to our rooms to enjoy hot showers and much needed sleep. We will be leaving the hotel by 8AM tomorrow to return to Kabilash for a full day of work gathering data, measurements, and negotiating how we will install the water pipe system.

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UPDATED: 2016-05-28