Marcus Cotton (Chatham 82)

Marcus writes, “Last time I wrote, it was about natural disaster and the grim consequences of earthquakes. While the government’s response leaves much to be desired, many charities have taken the lead and achieved excellent results. It is invidious to make any selection, but two stand out in my mind: the Gurkha Welfare Trust or GWT for short, under the able leadership of Lt. Col. (Ret’d) John White, the post-earthquake reconstruction of pensioners’ homes and communities around the epicentre in north Gorkha district is almost complete; CAIRN Trust UK, founded by David and Joanna Thomas (Thomas’ Schools in London), has adapted its education support programme to provide emergency school supplies to communities right on the northern border of Gorkha district that were completely flattened – not a building left standing – and seeing the struggle to deliver the school packs gets one to the heart of the remoteness of these villages, many days from any road. One might ask why school kit and not reconstruction of homes? CAIRN’s focus is education and their local partners reported the vital need to restore, insofar as possible, a sense of normality and routine for the community. As such, opening the school was a key part of restoring routine. Another charity helped with TLCs (temporary learning centres) and CAIRN supplied the key materials for the children. Independent reports show what a positive impact this has had on the community as a whole. It is now hoped that the emergency programme, after running for two years, may evolve into a more sustained support project. Although the heritage monuments in the Kathmandu Valley damaged or destroyed are yet to be restored, important preliminary work is underway. The collapse of certain temples has proven a curious blessing as it allows archaeological access to the sites that would not be possible with the building standing. The Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust (KVPT) has taken the lead in Patan with an exemplary project to store and catalogue all the fallen materials prior to reconstruction using as much of the original material as is possible. On the tourism front, it is heartening to see visitor levels climbing back to historic levels. Nepal is back on the tourism radar and this is reflected at Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge, now humming with guests from around the world. I am proud to report that we made it into the top 25 in Asia in Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards 2017. Similarly, the Daily Telegraph placed us at number 1 in Nepal in a series of reviews by a destination expert. This is an enormous tribute to the staff I support and is all their hard work. We have also just cleared our first Travelife Sustainable Tourism audit – Travelife is the EU’s leading sustainability certification service – and we are the first hotel in Nepal to achieve this status. Old Stoics are always very welcome to stay – to enjoy a view entirely different yet as magnificently beautiful as that from the South Front!”