Kate's Writing Friends, Wander Woman Blog Series

Wander Woman: Shantel’s Adventures Part Three-Nepal

Through volunteering, Shantel has helped others by building houses in Fiji, collecting rubbish and helping recycling efforts in the Galapagos Islands, and assisting with office work and planting trees and seedlings in Tanzania. Having given so much to others in her travels, Shantel shares about going inward in Nepal.

 Lying along the southern slopes of the Himalayan mountain ranges, Nepal is a landlocked country located between India and Tibet Autonomous Region of China. The capital is Kathmandu. Nepal has some of the most rugged and difficult mountain terrain in the world, and roughly 75 percent of the country is covered by mountains.

I travelled to Nepal for a plant medicine retreat. The immersive experience would include plant medicine ceremonies, sound healing, breath work, yoga and meditation, and workshops.  

There was some preparation involved in relation to diet and abstaining from certain things like alcohol.

Nepal was approximately 19 hours travel from Brisbane, with an 8 hour overnight layover in Singapore. Arriving in Nepal was straightforward: from the airport I caught a taxi to the hotel where I was staying. It was fascinating seeing the traffic and how the Nepalese navigate the organised chaos.  

I was spending two nights in Kathmandu before heading to the retreat in Chitwan. Kathmandu is the largest city of Nepal. Retaining its ancient traditions, Kathmandu is blessed by a Living Goddess, and ceremonial processions of devotees can often be seen in the streets. These religious festivals are steeped in legend and are quite a spectacle, involving chariot processions and masked dancers.

Nagarkot – on a clear day you can see Mt Everest.

My first day in Nepal was spent exploring some of the towns, including Bhaktapur in the Kathmandu Valley. Bhaktapur has three major squares full of towering temples. Along narrow alleys, artisans weave cloth and chisel timber, squares are filled with drying pots, and locals gather in courtyards to bathe, collect water, play cards and socialise.

Lunch View in Kathmandu

When it was time to head to the retreat, I decided to travel by bus so I could see more of the countryside. The trip was about a 5 hour drive. I was met there by a friend of a friend who visits Chitwan regularly, and he was kind enough to take me to his village to have dinner with his family.

Chitwan translates to ‘heart of the jungle’, and lies between foothills of the Himalaya, the Mahabharat and Siwalik ranges. The region called Chitra Ban used to be dense forest abounding in wild animals and were frequented by recluse sages meditating deep in the forests.

While the jungles are teeming with wild animals like tigers, leopards, and rhinos, along the marshes and rivers are gharial and marsh mugger crocodiles basking in the sun. 

I checked into the retreat and began the journey. The food being served was vegan in line with the medicinal purpose of the retreat. We were in silence other than the times we were told we were allowed to speak. We were guided through ancient ceremony and ritual, with a goal to removing imbalances and obstacles. I would be equipped with the skills and tools necessary to integrate my experience into my everyday life, a critical part of working with plant medicine. That retreat brought some amazing people into my life and gave me some profound experiences.

I don’t actually have a worst memory of Nepal, but there were a few hair-raising ones. We spent our last day visiting temples, and stopped for lunch, which took forever. We had to race to the airport, and the driver was driving on the wrong side of the road into oncoming traffic. We thought we might die, and I’m not even exaggerating! My favourite memory of my time in Nepal was meeting people who are still such a big part of my life.

Through all my trips- Fiji, Ecuador and the Galapagos, Tanzania, and Nepal- I’ve grown and learnt so much about myself. I’ve learnt that I can do a lot more than I give myself credit for. I’ve learnt how to get by without Google Translate in countries or spaces that didn’t have many English speakers. I’ve learned that not all strangers are scary and going to kill me. I was treated like a celebrity in Mwanza, Tanzania, and was being stopped on the streets to have my photo taken. Everyone knew my every move because I was the only mzungu (white person). I learned from that experience that I don’t like being the centre of attention!

I would recommend learning some of the language of where you are travelling to, instead of using Google Translate. The locals love to hear and also teach their language too. If you make friends with the locals, you open yourself up to adventures and travels you wouldn’t find on the tourist path. I understand people are scared and think the worst, and it can happen, but it also can bring you the best adventures you couldn’t imagine were possible. I have been treated with such respect in every country I have volunteered in, and highly recommend this method as a way of visiting countries and experiencing something new.

The advice I would give women about travel is this: Don’t be afraid to be on your own. You will meet people along the way, many who are also on their own, and have the most amazing adventures as a result. I have met some of my best friends thanks to traveling. There are options to suit every budget.

In 2023 I am heading to Peru for a month for my 40th birthday. Honestly, I want to go everywhere and I look forward to ticking more countries off my bucket list. I would love to do an Antarctica cruise too!

Join us next week on the Wander Woman blog series for Bev in Bangladesh

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.