Inspiring: spending time with the children of Camp Hope
I am lucky enough to have pursued my love for travelling and I have seen some amazing places all around the world. But I have never experienced anywhere like Nepal. When you think of the country, it’s hard not to associate it with the horrific earthquake in 2015 that devastated the lives and homes of so many. However, my trip enlightened me to so much more. A close friend of mine who works for an adventure travel group called Tears For Tigers often raved about Nepal so when I told him I may be visiting to seek out a factory for my brand Serge DeNimes he decided to help plan the trip for my girlfriend Emma and me. The aims were to experience the history and culture of Nepal, visit a factory and see some of the charities set up since the earthquake. On arrival at Kathmandu airport we were met by a man from our hotel who greeted us with so much warmth and kindness that immediately we felt welcome and so excited to start our trip. We told Tears for Tigers that we wanted to stay in comfortable accommodation right in the centre of the city so that we could experience everything at our doorstep. We did not expect anything as magical as Dwarika’s Hotel. Only five minutes from the airport, it really is bang in the centre of Kathmandu. Walking through the wooden doors is like stepping into an oasis, the most peaceful and magical place. As soon as you take in your surroundings you have an immediate sense of the history and culture of Nepal. The setting is like nothing I have seen before and the incredible architecture makes visitors feel as if they are travelling back in time. Within its walls it is almost like a little village that includes three restaurants providing Japanese, Nepalese and European cuisine, a spa, a gym, a pool, a library and a few boutiques with jewellery and traditional Nepalese gifts. The word comfortable doesn’t even come close and as the rooms were sublime, spacious and had everything one could want from a hotel and more. I never wanted to leave.
Although I could have spent my whole time there, I had to remind myself this was not the only purpose of the trip. Emma and I were lucky enough to be taken under the wing of one of the factory owners we were visiting who decided he wanted to show us around the city. It is quite overwhelming when you first walk out into the centre of Kathmandu and I highly recommend having some sort of guide when it comes to exploring. There is currently a fuel crisis as India have blocked the fuel and gas coming into the city and although the roads were clearer as a result, people are really feeling the impact and struggling to get from A to B. Taxi drivers have increased their rates too.
Nepal is a very spiritual place and has amazing links to the arts. One of the first places we visited was Patan, where the majority of the artists live. What remains of the former King’s Palace is here too and it was amazing to be able to walk around and see some of the sculptures and architecture. Since the earthquake a lot has been destroyed but planning and construction is underway for it to mirror its original state. The devastation isn’t just within the palace walls. Everywhere you walk you can see the effects of the earthquake, with thousands of people without homes. However, the people here are so resilient and try not to let this situation phase them. They carry on, the roads and alleyways are filled with so much energy, creativity and colour. Kathmandu is very chaotic but everyone knows what is going on, so it is better defined as organised chaos.
Swayambhunath, also known as the Monkey Temple, is a bit of a drive from the centre but a must see. This is one of the highest points, with incredible views of the city, and as the name suggests there are a lot of monkeys. The view from the top was breathtaking. Although it was night time when we visited the lights and the noise from below was enough to take this unique city in from one view point. The sites and the people are not where it ends, the food is amazing too. As we were having such long days out with visits to the factory and taking in the sites, we decided to spend our evenings at the hotel. The Japanese restaurant was very authentic, the food was excellent and the decor was so on point that you felt like you were travelling from Nepal to Japan through the sliding of doors. It is a credit to the Nepalese and their attention to detail. They want their creations to be done to the best of their ability and with the utmost authenticity.
The Nepalese restaurant was my favourite. This place is absolutely beautiful and is traditional to the Nepalese culture. Before entering you are asked to remove your shoes and wash your hands. Each table is beautifully made up and you sit on floor cushions. There is a choice of menus based on 7, 14 or 21 courses. We decided 7 were probably enough. Each dish was filled with so much flavour and you could tell so much thought and skill had gone into every detail. The evening was extremely enjoyable and was a real awakening for the taste buds.
On our last morning before heading to the resort, which was 45 minutes up in mountains, we decided to try out the yoga at the hotel to get us into the Zen vibes before embracing the relaxed environment of the mountain life. It was the most active yoga I have ever done, even involving yogging and some very intense breathing exercises. Shortly after we were fortunate enough and completely honoured to be invited to Camp Hope by Sangita Shrestha Einhaus, the daughter of Mr Dwarika who founded Dwarika’s Hotel and who is now the driving force behind its success. This is a camp set up by the Dwarika’s group giving shelter, food, clothes and a whole lot of love to orphans and families affected by the destructive 7.5 earthquake in April 2015. Camp Hope currently houses 331 displaced Nepalese from Sindhupalchowk, a region that lost almost 90 per cent of its homes. The camp has become home to many (mostly children) but also to elderly and a newborn who was nine days old the day we met her. 82 of the children at the camp have been enrolled in a nearby school and have school bags, books, supplies and a healthy appetite for learning. The camp is made up of a number of tents, specifically used for doing homework and school tasks as well as a few for sleeping, one for cooking, another for storing food, three outdoor toilets and two cold water showers.
When we arrived we were warmly welcomed by all of the children. As they ran up to us, open arms; smiling, laughing and shouting we realised it wasn’t going to be the negative atmosphere we had anticipated. In fact it was quite the opposite. They really are some of the most positive, happy and kind people we have ever had the honour to be around. Once we had said hello and Sangita gave all the children new fleece jumpers, we both felt five little hands touch us to give us a guided tour around their home. They told us in amazing detail how they spend their days; cooking, cleaning, singing and dancing. And to top off their confident personalities, they could speak fluent English after learning for just five months. We spent the morning singing and watching the girls’ dance routines they had practiced. My girlfriend Emma is a model and all the girls were strutting around practicing their catwalks with her. It was truly a magical and life-changing moment having these beautiful people offer an insight into their life. It was, for both of us, the most memorable part of our trip and it really hit home. It is something that is now very close to our hearts and it is a charity that we plan to work with over the years to come.
This incredible visit to Camp Hope then lead onto our next two days in the mountains, 45 minutes from the centre, at Dwarika’s Resort. I thought the hotel in the city centre was special this was probably the most magical place I have ever been. When we arrived at the resort we were greeted with flowers and beads, given tea and a brief insight into the various areas of the resort, outlined by a map that also showed the various activities available throughout the day.
Shortly after we were taken to our room, which was more like an apartment, had the most breathtaking views from the bed as well as our own terrace. The view was something you take a snapshot of in your memory and never forget. The resort itself is vast and the map helps you navigate the outdoor infinity pool with incredible views of the mountain tops, the gym, the salt house, pottery, painting, cooking, yoga, two restaurants and relaxation areas. There is so much to do that you do not have a dull moment but you can of course do as little or as much as you want. As Emma and I were only there for two nights we decided to enjoy as many activities as possible.