India and Nepal (Day 19)

The rain had cleared away the smog. Perfect.

Today we were heading to Nagarkot. One of the best places to view the Himalayas in all of Nepal.

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Our bus was filled beyond capacity with eager students from class four and five. The 25km trip took almost 3 hours as we wound our way uphill to our destination. We arrived at the hotel to spectacular views of the Himalayas. Massive peaks as far as the eye could see were completely hidden by the smog last time we came here in summer. Also on our last trip I remember children jumping in the showers fully clothed then running out of their rooms with massive smiles on their faces. Some had never seen a shower before.

This time it was the middle of winter. No one dared.

We settled in to the hotel and sat down for lunch. Once again, hungry children surprised us with how much they could eat. After lunch we headed to the lookout, where the kids somehow found a way to climb the lookout tower. An activity that no amount of risk assessment and paperwork would cover in Australia wasn’t given a second though in Nepal. The teachers followed the students and together they bounced around the scaffolding.

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*Note: Nepalese kids are that tough that the concrete below is probably more afraid of them.

Tim's converted Nagarkot

Nepal v Australia.

All this tower climbing was just a warm up. The fans were here to see a game of football. At an altitude of over 2000m the match was dubbed to be one of the high-lights of the trip.

With larger bodies, longer limbs and an extra 10 years experience, the Aussies were red hot favorites to take home the silverware. With odds of $1.05, Nick made a quick trip to the TAB to put on a million rupee bet. He couldn’t, the electricity was off!

Cocky and overconfident the boys from down-under had no idea of what was to come. Hard, competitive and highly skilled Grade 4 and 5 students took it to the Aussies, scoring multiple times on a relaxed defense. Some were content to blame it on the altitude, still others blamed muscle fatigue from the 365 stairs we had run up days earlier. If only they had as many goals as they did excuses!

Not wanting to suffer defeat at de-feet of primary school children, the teams competitive nature came out. Using their height, weight and long limbs to their advantage wherever possible the Aussies fought back. Some literally, as a few of them were lucky not to be sent off for lifting their opponents up and holding them in the air.

The Australians took the lead and now it was the youngsters turn to get competitive. Bodies slid desperately and dangerously close to the edge of the sideline (a sharp drop downhill) attempting to keep the ball in. During the post match interview the Nepalese coach accused the Aussies of time-wasting and pointed out that it was always his team who would scamper down the steep bank to retrieve the lost ball. The Australian coach declined to comment.

Light was fading at the venue along with the chances of the home team snatching victory. Things were getting desperate. The use of hands and ignoring the umpire became a fairly common feature as the match drew to a close. What primary school student doesn’t want to win?

A few more goals were scored before the final whistle blew and the match was drawn. A great result for both teams who could walk away with heads held high. This International blockbuster would do wonders for relations between the two countries.

Did I mention the Nepalese kids were all wearing sandals?!!

The power of play

The beauty of sport is that you don’t need a translator. The whole range of human emotion comes out. Fear, determination, joy, pain, frustration, desperation, disappointment, confidence, the list goes on. As human beings we also share an innate sense of justice. We can tell pretty quickly when someone thinks something wasn’t fair. If you want to get to know someone, play a competitive game against them!

Sport can be such a powerful tool to unite people around a shared set of rules and conduct. Most of the time it is.

The perfect end to a hard fought match

Both teams walked back to the lookout to catch the last of the sunset.

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Surrounded by beauty, it was impossible to know where to look. My eyes were glued to the mountains, slowly turning pink.

Lisa wondered why I was ignoring a beautiful sunset. Until she turned around.

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It’s not every day you get to watch 8000m peaks change colour right before your eyes.

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What a blessing to witness.

What made it more special was that a lot of these children would never have had the chance to see their own beautiful country. It was a privilege to be able to take them here to do so. The generosity of the team had made it happen.

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I did mention there was a sunset.

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