Operation Olympus Nepal 2019: Lincoln Minster School Pupil & JPC Player Bridie's Diary
Kathmandu to Pokhara – 10/07/19
After a long flight from London and a day in Kathmandu acclimatising, we set off with the Hockey for Heroes, on a day long coach journey to Pokhara. Our first real taste of Nepalese roads, a fantastic opportunity to talk to the H4H team and meet our mentors.
Pokhara to Kagbeni – 11/07/19
We started a nine hour jeep ride at 8.30am, after sunny weather the conditions became tricky due to a rain storm. A landslide three hours from Jomsom prevents us from arrive on schedule, therefore a night in a Backpackers Hostel in a village called Tatopani was arranged. The following day to skirt around the landslide, our drivers transported us to a metal rope bridge a mile from the landslide. We then trekked around the landslide in very hot, humid terrain that readied us for our ascent. After a noodle lunch, we had a bus transport us to Jomsom, but due to the continued rain we had to swap to jeeps to transport us to Kagbeni as the roads where too muddy for the bus. The H4H team where awesome in supporting us through this journey. They kept spirits high and we picked their brains about Hockey.
Kagbeni to Muktinath – 13/07/19
After a night in Kagbeni, we did the first leg to Muktinath a 800m ascent. Andy Halliday started his ‘Extreme Dribbling’, his personal challenge to dribble a hockey ball all the way to the match pitch. In Muktinath, Mr Eves organised for us to play hockey against locals on their very rocky football pitch. It was great fun and even though most of the locals had not picked up a stick before, we all had a great game. For me, it was really exciting to play alongside the Heroes, with mountains all around us and everyone laughing.
Muktinath to Phedi & Phedi to the Match - 14&15/07/19
We continued our trek to Phedi, which is 4,200m above sea level. This was the first time the group started to feel the shortness of breath. Although it was a short 4 hour walk, the ascent started to get real.
Early Monday morning at 3am we got up to prepare, as we had a 12 hour trek ahead, we left at 4am. To this point everyone had been well and in good spirits but as we climbed higher, signs of altitude were really showing, people were suffering from headaches and feeling sick, the general lack of oxygen was really tiring and it was very cold. Andy Halliday was still going with his challenge but found the conditions and steepness of the paths tough. We had to use every trick, story and bad joke to support one another.
We made it to the top after seven hours of walking! There were lots of happy tears, you could not fail to be thrilled. The views on the way up were incredible and we all took a few minutes to take it all in. Our hockey pitch was lined out with flour and we had pop-up goals. We treated it like an International, singing the national anthem and then the game began after a rock, paper scissor, shoot to decide who had centre. It was difficult to play on an uneven surface with rocks and it didn’t feel quite real when you were playing at 5,019 meters above sea level. Altitude made breathing and moving difficult but we walked our way through 60 minutes of fun but competitive play.
Our hockey legacy work continued in a local school – Shree Janahir Secondary School. Andy Halliday gave out old England ladies kit and it was funny to see children wearing Lily Owsley and Shona McCallum vests. The children picked the game up quickly even though they didn’t speak English. The tournament ended level, with two teams on level points. Both had a ‘keepy ups’ battle to decide the winner! After this the Sherpa’s and LMS pupils played an exhibition game against the H4H team on the schools dusty, stone filled field with the Annapurna Range in the background! Our final legacy input was with the Pokhara regional team. Andy Halliday donated eight Grays hockey sticks to the team as well as GB kit.
There is so much to take from this trip. I felt part of a wider hockey community and totally inspired by the team from H4H who taught me so much about resilience, support and determination. My notebook is full of memories, loads of hockey advice, tips and tactics drawings and a new pre match play list. I am so lucky to have been part of this.
Operation Olympus July 2019: Lincoln Minster School Trip Leader Tom Eves' diary
This was never going to be an easy trip, two years of planing, many obstacles, countless ‘Chimp’ moments to over come through ‘blue’ thinking. 35 miles of trekking, an increase of elevation of over 2,200m spread over 31 hours of gruelling walking. The end result, 34 wonder pupils and ‘Heroes’ summited at over 5000m to play a once in a life time game of Hockey.
The trips legacy was not only playing hockey at height but coaching and playing hockey with the local villagers, school pupils at various remote parts of Nepal. Seeing their joy was above anything anyone has ever seen or imagined. The impact we had was clearly stated by the Vice President of Nepalese Hockey, Himal Khadka, at the Pokhara Sports institute when he said “it has taken a group from England to take Hockey to remote parts of Nepal, it is now time for us to do the same”.
From what we all saw and played against, there is most certainly talent out in the mountains of Nepal to be seized and developed!