Study Focus: History of the Katmandu Valley / Newari welcome ceremony
- International students arriving at Katmandu International Airport will be welcomed in time-honored tradition with garlands of marigolds by their Newari guides and transferred 30-minutes to the ancient city of Bhaktapur.
- Bhaktapur is a place where time has almost stood still since the 9th century and students will understand immediately why it has been classified a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Unlike Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Machu Pichu in Peru and other UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites, Bhaktapur is not an empty ruin, but a thriving town where people perform the same daily rituals they did over a thousand years ago.
- We will check into a traditional guesthouse very close to world famous Durbar Square where a group orientation session will be held followed by a traditional Newari welcome ceremony.
- Each student will be assigned to one of our indigenous staff as a “Newari brother” or “sister” for the duration of the trip. Strong bonds of friendship will grow between them, as they become part of the extended family.
- A special welcome dinner will be held this evening featuring Newari delicacies in a lovely courtyard garden beside Durbar Square.
- This will be followed by a talk on the fascinating history of the Kathmandu Valley – a valley with the world’s highest concentration of World Heritage Site listings.
Overnight: Hotel Heritage, Bhaktapur
Study Focus: religious worship / Newari games / castes and ancient crafts – pottery, weaving, carving, metal work / Newari musical instruments
- Our first full day in Bhaktapur will be a magical one as everyone rises at sunrise to observe morning ceremonies at countless sacred sites in the ancient city.
- Bhaktapur is called “The City of Devotees.” Nowhere else in the world can you see so many public acts of worship at shrines, temples, doorways, and other sacred places where gods are considered to dwell.
- Students, accompanied by their personal guides, will make the rounds with other worshipers to really feel immersed in the rituals before returning to the guesthouse for a hot breakfast.
- While the morning is still cool students will be taken to a nearby field to learn ancient Newari games and sports like “carbadi” with their Newari “brothers” and “sisters.”
- Later in the morning they will visit several craft sites to learn how different castes produce different products like beautiful bronze ware, elaborately carved doorways and windows and how they spin and weave fine shawls from Himalayan mountain goat wool.
- Following lunch at a restaurant in the ancient city we will wind our way thorough the narrow cobblestone streets to Pottery Square where one caste, has for countless centuries, been exclusively devoted to pottery production.
- Students will have a complete immersion experience here, learning how to mix the pottery clay and wood ash with bare feet, how to spin 200-year old wooden pottery wheels with a long pole and how to shape their clay into a bowl, urn, vase or other artistic expression.
- Once crafted, the clay creations will be set out in the sun to cure and will later be glazed and fired in an ingenious hearth composed of rice straw and wood ash. A few days after glazing and firing, students will have a very memorable souvenir to take home with them.
- As the sun slowly sets over Durbar Square students will each select their own private platform or stairway on one of the many temples to reflect on their day in their journals and watch the magic of oil lamps being lit as darkness decends.
- Dinner this evening, served in a courtyard under the stars, will feature Newari musicians performing ancient songs on instruments unique to Nepal.
Overnight: Hotel Heritage, Bhaktapur
Study Focus: ancient temples / tree planting service project
/ geology of the high Himalayas
- After breakfast this morning we will pack up our bags and set off by bus to visit the oldest temple in the Kathmandu Valley – Changunarayan , another UNESCO World Heritage Site that dates back to the 3rd
- After visiting the temple complex we will hike 3 km through the forest along the high ridge that forms the northern rim of the Kathmandu Valley. From here on a clear day students will have sweeping views of two valley as well as the high Himalayas. At one pint along our route we will stop to take part in a reforestation project.
- Nepal’s increasing population and the demand for fuel wood has resulted in encroachment of national forest preserves in this region. To help counter this trend, students will plant an international peace grove of native tree species, marked by a sign, along the ridge top bordering the native forest. This service project will not only improve slope stability and provide more habitat for Himalayan bird species, but it will help offset the carbon footprint of the student’s trip.
- At the completion of the tree planting, students will enjoy a picnic lunch and continue their trek another 30-min. to a road that leads up to Nargakot. From here it’s a 20-minute bus ride to Nargakot at 2,600 m.
- Arriving in Nargakot in the late afternoon we may have a spectacular view of the Langtang Range, the central part of the Himalayas.
- After checking in to our lodge for the night we will enjoy a fine dinner and a campfire under the stars.
Overnight: Country Villa, Nagarkot
Study Focus: Himalayan birds / monastic life / rural farming techniques / Newari village life
- If the weather is clear no one will want to miss the sunrise this morning as some of the world’s highest summits glow in the warm light of dawn.
- Sunrise is also the best time of day for birding so we will set off before breakfast with binoculars and field guides to see which team of students can spot and identify the most Himalayan bird species.
- After a hearty breakfast at our lodge we will pack up and travel 1-hour by bus to Dhulikhel, another vantage point for spectacular views of the Himalayas. From here, on a clear day, students will get their first view of the world’s highest summit – Mount Everest!
- Dhulikel is also the location of the oldest monastery in the Kathmandu area – Nama Buda, a site we will visit to learn more about the daily rituals of Buddhist monks in this isolated monastic setting.
- Following some time at the monastery we will start a 3-day /2-night trek through one of the most beautiful and least spoiled regions in all Nepal. The trail we follow is part of the ancient silk rout that once connected India to China through the high Himalayan passes and Tibetan Plateau.
- Our trek will be at a leisurely pace so there will be plenty of time to interact with friendly farmers we meet along the way and to have some hands-on experiences with planting or harvesting.
- A picnic lunch will be served along the way in a beautiful setting – a mosaic of terraced rice fields and forest with sweeping views of the Himalayan Range.
- The village of Bacthari will be our destination for the day after 4.5-hours of trekking. Here we can learn more about Newari village life and have the opportunity to overnight in a local home if the group chooses.
- A hotel in Bacthari provides another option for those preferring comfort over a total cultural immersion experience.
Overnight: Bacthari Village / Hotel
Study Focus: native plants & animals / rural technologies and architecture / camp craft / stream ecology / constellations
- Today is another great day to trek through the Shangri-La setting of this off-the-beaten-path region of Nepal.
- Winding our way along hilltop forest ridges, through towering bamboo groves and beautifully sculpted terraced hillsides, we trek westward for 4-hours to a mountain stream where we will set up camp for the night.
- Along the way we will learn about Himalayan flora and fauna as well as study the rural technologies and architecture that has served these peoples for so long.
- How do the locals both benefit and impact on native species? How does their crop rotation from rice to wheat work in cycle with the seasons? How do their homes serve both as barns to store crops and rear domestic animals and still meet their needs for living quarters? These and many other local lessons will reveal themselves to students throughout this day.
- By midday we will stop on the banks of the Join River to set up camp. Students will learn the art of fire building, cooking, and setting up a safe and comfortable camp for the night.
- There will be plenty of time in the afternoon to frolic in clean river pools and to do a biotic study of the waterway.
- Armed with dip nets, collecting trays, magnifying lenses, invertebrate, fish and amphibian charts, student teams will challenge one another to see which can collect and identify the most species of invertebrate animals living in the stream.
- Following dinner around the campfire, students will turn to celestial charts to learn more about the constellations in the night sky. Here in the clean air of the Himalayas, far from city lights, the night sky should be dazzling.
Overnight: Riverside Camp
Study Focus: school service project
- There’s no better way to wake up at a riverside camp than to have a plunge in a cool stream. Less hardy students may opt to bird watch or quietly meditate while the sun rises.
- After breakfast we break camp and complete the last leg of our trek.
- Arriving at our final destination in time for lunch, students will check into their guesthouse rooms and have a briefing before going to a nearby elementary school to start their afternoon service project.
- Visiting students may choose to support the local school with school supplies, but the main activity will be designing and painting an international friendship mural on one of the schools outside walls.
- Working together, international students and Newari youth will paint a picture of the earth from space and encircle it with handprints of each student in different colors of latex paint. Once dry, each student will then paint their name and a small flag designating their country of origin in the palm of each handprint.
- At the completion of the mural both student groups will share songs from their regions in a fun and lively songfest.
- Following dinner this night, students will enjoy games around a campfire in the beautiful hillside setting of our guesthouse.
Overnight: Bhaktapur Guesthouse
Study Focus: Nepalese cooking techniques & foods / Newari traditional masked dances
- The final full day in Nepal will immerse students even deeper into the culture of this remarkable country. Right after breakfast, student groups will set off with their Newari “brothers” and “sisters” to shop the local street markets for the food they will cook together for our final feast.
- The open-air market in Bhaktapur is an ancient tradition where students will learn important lessons in how to select the best produce and how to barter for the best price using the Newari language skills they have acquired during the trip.
- Returning to our guesthouse for lunch, students will then start preparing a traditional feast along the lines of a celebrity chef competition. While one group is making momos, another might be simmering chicken curry, frying chapattis, making chili buff, boiling lentils for dhal or creating king curd. It will be a fun as well as educational experience.
- The final night feast will be a grand affair with each student team presenting their masterpiece culinary creations for all to enjoy.
- Following dinner, traditional masked dancers and acrobats will transport us back in time as witness sacred dances of Nepal that date back over 1,000-years.
- Students will be presented with certificates of achievement and souvenir t-shirts this night as well as the finished products of their pottery firings. A prize will be presented for the best-crafted creation from clay.
- Our last night together will close with a beautiful candle circle ceremony during which each person will have an opportunity to share their favorite memories with the group.
Overnight: Bhaktapur Guesthouse
- Students will be transported to the international airport right after breakfast, or a bit later in the day depending on flight time. Everyone will be sent off with flowers and silk scarves, as is the tradition of the Newari and Tibetan peoples of Nepal.