‘Hi, Richard, we’re looking for someone to go to Nepal. Trekking and building an incinerator in a buddhist monastery. Does it sound like your sort of thing?’
‘Er, sure. I’ve never been to Nepal, but I love trekking and…um, building buddhist incinerators.’
‘Great. We’ll book you a ticket for Saturday then.’
‘Like, this Saturday?’
So it’s all happening. I’m joining a World Expeditions ‘voluntourism’ excursion to the Thubten Chholing Monastery, then trekking for eleven days and finishing up with a day or so in Kathmandu. Building an incinerator with buddhist monks sounds good to me. I’m no expert on incinerator building, so I don’t expect to be able to offer much except a pair of willing hands. I’ll take some gloves to protect my delicate travel writing fingers, and hope to add to my limited understanding of buddhism and garbage disposal at high altitudes.
I tried being a buddhist just for a day last year, on a Korean temple stay, and my knees haven’t yet forgiven those monks for the agony they put them through with all that prostrating and yoga. It will be interesting to see if they’re any more flexible thousands of metres above sea level.
The trekking part is a given. A trek in Nepal is compulsory for anyone who wants to hold their own when walkers start discussing their achievements and that question, ‘Have you done Everest Base Camp/Annapurna Circuit/K2?’ comes up. I don’t expect this walk to be as demanding as those classics, but once the bragging starts I’ll be able to chime in with, ‘Oh that Everest Base Camp sounded a bit overrated to me, so I went to Thubten Chholing instead.’
I don’t know what the internet cafe is like at Thubten Chholing, but naturally I’ll be letting you know how it all goes.
Australian travel show Getaway did an item on the project earlier this year. Here’s the link: