The Clonakilty Hillwalking Club recently undertook a trek to the Nepalese Himalayan region of Annapurna raising €30,000 in the process for local Clonakilty man Declan Murphy, founder of the charity just-one in Kathmandu. Declan’s charity just-one is well-known and documented in the West Cork area but for those who haven’t heard of it, it is a charity for helping street children in Kathmandu.
Just-one strives to actively promote and facilitate educational opportunities for disadvantaged and marginalised children in Nepal by working at a grass-roots level with the children, their families and their communities to implement a range of carefully developed, culturally sensitive, sustainable initiatives.
A small, low-profile, low-budget, grass-roots organisation with a strong conviction that education has the potential to provide a viable route out of the poverty trap that so many in our world find themselves ensnared in through no fault of their own.
Operating since 2004 on the simple philosophy that ‘it doesn’t take much too make a difference’, just-one currently works with a growing number of children and their respective families to help them towards a sustainable level of independence.
Dena O’Donovan of O’Donovan’s Hotel in Clonakilty was one of 14 hillwalkers on the trip.
We headed off in November for an adventure in Kathmandu and the Annapurna Mountain range in the Himalayas.
Once in Kathmandu we visited Declan’s transit home where he introduced us to his world of street children. We ate a hearty lunch prepared by his volunteers and staff and spent time there with the children, seeing first hand how the fundraised monies are distributed and spent. Afterwards we returned to The Kathmandu Guest House in Thamel where we were staying, and marvelled at the speed of the rebuilding works in progress after the devastating earthquake back in May, in which thousands of people perished. After a day of sightseeing around Kathmandu and visiting places like The Swayambhunath temple (The Monkey Temple) we then, the following day, headed out of the Kathmandu Valley to the old traditional town of Bhaktapur for an overnight at The Bhadgaon Guest House. The following morning on to the second largest city Pokhara, which is situated at the Phewa Lakeside. Here we stayed at the impressive Hotel Barahi complete with swimming pool! Two overnights here and we then headed up along the trekking route towards The Annapurna Ranges passing through such places as Nayapul and on to the banks of the Trisuli River. On up to Ulleri, and Ghorepani where we had a 4am early start to catch the sunrise over the Annapurna ranges (in the freezing cold and the dark) at Poon Hill 3,210 metres above sea level. From there we headed to Tadapani. We stayed in traditional trekking teahouses along the way, where basic accommodation is available in each tiny hillside, village and sometimes we were lucky enough to have a hot shower (of sorts)! Then onwards to Jhinu Dandi where we sampled the hot springs – very welcome after seven and eight hour trekking days. The vistas and scenery are breathtaking in these mountain ranges with all of the Himalaya stretched out before us. With peaks such as Annapurna, Machhappuchhre, Hiunchuli rising above us, we were in awe. A few days rest and recreation back at Pokhara and then Kathmandu had us already planning next year’s trip!
West Cork filmmaker Greg Mulcahy joined the group of experienced West Cork hillwalkers on the trek in Nepal in November with the aim of making a documentary on the just-one charity in its native city. The screening of Greg’s documentary will take place in O’Donovan’s Hotel, Clonakilty in the New Year.
Back in March I had a coffee with Declan Murphy, founder of Just One (if I remember correctly I had a pint, Declan had the coffee) in O’Donovan’s Hotel. The previous Autumn I had filmed his annual fund-raising visit to Ireland and had heard the Just One committee was organising a trek in Nepal in order to raise funds for the Kathmandu-based charity. I thought this was a good idea, and having always expressed a wish to go and film a short documentary on the charity in its native city, I thought it might be a decent excuse to go. I put my name on the mailing list and didn’t think much more about it. In March Declan verbally sold the idea to me. I booked the ticket the following week.
As a very well fed Clonakilty boy who, apart from a J1 in San Franscisco, had never been outside of the EU, I figured Nepal, and Kathmandu especially, would be pretty far removed from my comfort zone, a zone I had inhabited safely for almost thirty years. Also, I was putting my name down to climb a mountain of 3,200metres, a considerable difference from my previous personal best, McCurtain Hill. Having now done the trek and almost halfway through a four day addition to the trip in order to adequately film the aforementioned short documentary, all I can say is what an eye-opening experience the whole thing has been. Firstly the Nepali countryside is honestly the most beautiful I think I have ever seen. The views that we were subjected to unfortunately will never get justice from the numerous photos and videos I took. We walked for five days, two up, and three down. I honestly thought I would have a shocking time trying to keep up with a dozen or so experienced hillwalkers I had joined. To my mammoth surprise I actually attempted the walk with very little hassle. Yes my legs were sore, and my chest was tight, and on day two I got some horrific stomach cramps, but with each and every step I somehow felt stronger and more determined. It was incredible.
Having an experienced walker and climber for a big sister, I have been privy to impressive tales of Kilamanjaro and trekking across Finland and sleeping under the northern lights, but I honestly never had the respect and admiration for those experiences until now. It really isn’t until you see them for yourself that you truly appreciate some of the landscape that exists on this planet. All I can say is I highly recommend a trek like this, and I definitely think this won’t be my last.
As for Kathmandu, I’m afraid I couldn’t live here. The intensity of the city is something to behold and can be enjoyable in short stints, but for a home bird like myself, I always enjoy coming back to Clonakilty. I’m writing this now from an internet café in Thamel, the tourist district of Kathmandu, and the publication of this article will be just as I land home next week, and honestly, I’m very much looking forward to it, happy to have an impressive story under my belt and a lot of footage from a fantastic and hugely beneficial charity. The screening of the documentary I am doing will take place in O’Donovan’s Hotel in Clonakilty in the New Year, and I urge everyone to please keep an eye out for it, as it will be a great fundraising event for just-one.