Despite the consistent drizzle, all 12 of us reached the office premises by 7 in the morning buzzing with excitement. A bus was waiting for us, ready to facilitate our commute to Borderlands Nepal. It was time, for the much awaited Company Retreat.
We left Kathmandu geared up for the 5-hour long drive that lay ahead. The roads were mostly black topped and once in a while rocky and uneven. The houses seemed fewer and green fields stretched on either side of our unending journey.
Banepa was the breakfast stop and Borderlands, the destination. Our bus reached a sudden wide clearing in the middle of a jungle – Borderlands’ parking lot. We got off the bus and carried our overnight bags to the open lobby area which was a little bit of a walk through stone paved paths that ran through the large landscape, all of which was Borderlands Nepal.
We could see little tents conveniently put up, each under the shade of a tin-roof that sloped equally on both sides, to shield off the cold, the rain, the wind and whatever else that needed shielding off.
The lobby/bar carried a rustic beauty, with thatched roof and one side of the raised land as the back-wall to the spacious establishment that had no walls otherwise. The shaded wide hut fit right into the backdrop of a massive green hill in the front. You could actually sit in the barstool or the dining tables, both Newari style with chakatis or the usual with chairs, and look out into the gorgeous open space. A small little dip pool lay at the bottom of the garden that stretched out in wide green split levels, barred at the farthest edge that dropped to the raging Bhote Koshi river.
The hospitable bar-staff welcomed us with chilled glasses of orange juice. We heaped up our luggage to the side and loitered around till a buffet lunch was laid out. Almost everybody went for a second helping. After the deliciously filling lunch, while some of us hung around the lobby, others spread out to the garden in front.
In no time, the small little dip pool turned into a full-fledged swimming pool with people splashing about. Then, there was a game of football in the garden.
As the warm afternoon light dimmed out giving way to a bluish-grey sky, we hurriedly washed up in the bathing facilities next to the pool and gathered around the lobby for drinks and barbecue. A little bit of music, dance and a game of cards - the fun went on well into dinner time and beyond to the wee hours.
Some of us, who were wearied out and sleepy headed to our respective tents. There were 4 beds in one tent and we shared.
From the tent and down a mini flight of stone stairs, a couple feet away from us were the concrete toilet, bathroom and wash basin facilities. Everything looked perfectly managed.
The next morning, we woke up and some decided to go bird watching accompanied by an expert. Bird watching was followed by a short hike to the nearby hills and through a traditional village area. Everyone was then ready for a hearty breakfast at the lobby.
We listened to music, spent time by the bar, played some cards, spent time in the pool and the rest of the day was free for us till lunch and a little after that too. It was around 3 that we packed our stuff and rode to the point from where we were to divide and get on two rafts and head towards Sukute Beach Resort, the point where we would get off. On each raft, we were accompanied by an expert who trained us with the necessary technicalities and safety measures on ground and continuously reminded us of those once on board. For many of us, the adventure on raft was our first. Even for others, it was absolutely refreshing!
While staying in Borderlands, you could engage in their village tourism packages. Eg: a village hike to Gathi. Gathi village is an ancient route to Lahsa from Kathmandu. Also, in Gathi, there is a 140 meters long breathtaking waterfall. Depending on where you choose to head for the hike, it could last from 3 hrs to 8 hrs. Borderlands, has the highest point from where you could get on a raft. Infact for the first time in Nepal, the place introduced rafting in Bhote Koshi, as well as introduced canyoning in the country itself!
You could also choose from a variety of treks (2 days to 2 weeks treks) and also do mountain biking, all along to the border of Tibet!
On our stay, we had a whole lot of fun at Borderlands. It made us love the place more once we got to know about the social aspects, Borderlands has been touching to make a difference in the lives of the locals, especially children.
The establishment of Borderlands gave rise to many social activities such as forest conservation, river restoration campaign, aid to schools & related partnerships etc. Education & Nature conservation has been the main focus of Borderlands’ social facet.
By now 9 schools are involved with Borderlands for social causes.
Shree Kali School was just a Primary School till 2004. Once Borderlands partnered with Namaste Nepal Frieberg, Germany, 2013 saw 2 batches of students appearing for SLC Examinations from Shree Kali School. Kindergarten Gati also benefitted from the same partnership. With support from Delft Netherlands, 3 Primary Schools were established in Mandra, Sotang and in Dadha Katari. Bridge of Life Colorado extended support in Sakuhwa Village nearby Borderlands, and established Dip Jyoti Primary School. Across the Bhotekoshi river in Nagpuje village of Ghumthang VDC, Borderlands ensured that Bachhala Devi Higher Secondary School received a tie-up support from Lincon School of Kathmandu.
Similarly in Sukute, a river restoration project 'Sunkoshi Beach Camp' has been set up in partnership with Sukute Lower Secondary School & a local entrepreneur Anjan Khadka. 'School Community Forest' has been established so that children learn about nature conservation & its management early on.
Even though education is free for Nepali government schools, there’s a serious dearth of good teachers and school resources. So Borderlands has taken initiative and established partnerships between supporting schools from Germany, Netherlands, Nepal; and the Nepali government schools in need. Through these co-ordinations, Borderlands is helping to raise funds for improving school facilities & bringing in good teachers (paying them), to ensure quality education in the local schools of needy areas. These are indeed commendable tasks.
Story: Aparajita Acharya
Facts/Figures Research: Robin Shrestha
Photography: Kumar Ale, Jeevan Ale, Robin Shrestha