Participating on relief trips gave me a new perspective and appreciation for life. The couple of trips I have had the privilege of joining were incredible, eye opening and inspiring.
The trips required a minimum two and half hours one way trip through the windy mountainous roads with the most breathtaking views; all in a Nepalese school bus. The yellow bus was crammed full of volunteers and 25kg bags of rice filled up the aisle. To get to our seats we had to climb over the bags of rice. Once seated, I quickly realised that this bus was not made for the average westerner. Sitting up as straight as possible and my butt pushed back in the corner of the seat, my knees were still touching the seat in front. Unfortunately, for the person in front of me, they got kneed in the back with every pothole and bump – which was a lot.
The journey consisted of dodging huge potholes (imagine a meteor crater in the middle of the highway), swerving around cows who had decided that the road would be a good place to sit and hang out for the day, overtaking slow trucks around corners with oncoming traffic and constant beeping.
The last stretch of travel required to us to go off-road. It was like when my dad used to take us four-wheel driving. Everyone in the bus were bouncing around, our bodies were actually being lifted off the seats and thrown into each other. It was great fun; until the moment I realised that I needed to go to toilet. Then it was just a struggle; no one wants to accidentally pee themselves on a crowded bus full of food. Now that would be embarrassing!
Along the way, we had to stop multiple times to speak with the local police to ensure that it was safe for the bus to pass through. There had been previous incidents of starving locals mobbing aid relief trucks and buses for food. We received the green light and arrived safely at the villages where the locals were waiting.
Thalia Van De Beld is currently working with Metamorphic in Nepal.