Soggy skatepark scenes in Nepal with Make Life Skate Life
The moment I arrived in Kathmandu with the crew we went straight to the old skatepark which was built by the MLSL peeps a few years back. Turned out it was the last session we could have there because the park is closed. We jumped the fence to get in. Some problems with the owner and the guy running it not paying the rent. Was a great idea to go straight to skate so motivation was high for the trip. What with the whole city being closed and cops telling everyone to get off the streets and hide in their rooms. Some how we got a van which would take us the 7 hour drive to Pokhra the next morning.
Its the height of the lockdown and we are out on our way to Pokhra, Nepal to build an extension to the existing skatepark here. The skatepark here is built in a sports stadium with infrastructure for all Olympic sports. Since there is a full lockdown in effect the stadium has this desolate feel to it. I mean it is a large space with football fields, cricket fields and umpteen sports grounds ….all empty and devoid of voices.
When we reached pokhara I was surprised that we even managed to find a hotel because the streets were deserted, the restaurants/hotels closed and all the shutters to every shop was down. However it seems everyone has gone kind of underground cause if you knock on doors they will open. Which is what we found out slowly.
With a hotel sorted for the build crew the next step was finding material for construction which again I was surprised was even a possibility. We had Ram who is probably the first skateboarder in Nepal who also has a construction company because of which he was able to organise all sorts of hardware with just phone calls. It was impossible even to travel around for the purposes of finding materials so we were lucky to have him. Just visiting the construction site turned out to be a mission because of all the police road blocks and they weren’t allowing anyone to move around. We had a special letter from the stadium which kind of let us travel through these blocks. I say kind of because they would still stop you and make a scene about the letter having to be printed on paper because “A hard copy is way more legit than the same thing on your phone”, go figure. Eventually these things sorted themselves out thanks to Arne aka “Gurung Kancha” . He did some amazing organisation under the most terrible circumstances.
The goal of this project is to save the skatepark because of encroachment by the other associations within the stadium, they wanted to turn the space near the skatepark into a shooting range.
Enter James, this is an American guy who lives in Nepal and has adopted some of the local kids and made them into this crew of skate rats all waiting for a spot to session always. James made a deal with the stadium to build a house and a bathroom to run skate programs so that the space around the skatepark can be extended and have a proper situation for the park to be used as a sporting facility. Make life skate life wanted to show their interest in the project and decided to make an extension to the park. This way the stadium authorities understand that the skatepark has a lot of people interested and involved.
The existing skatepark built by MLSL four years back is full of transition bits and the local kids really wanted some street type stuff so that they can practice for competitions and what not. So they really wanted stairs, rail, habbas the standard SLS type park. So we decided to give them what they want starting with a big 8 stair with hand rail and habba. It was all about the habba being big and sticking out like the ledge in MACBA (famous skate spot in Barcelona).
The construction of the park itself was not very eventful, it was the usual work filled with laughs and rain, lots of rain almost everyday. We reached pokhra on the 3rd and the goal was to leave on the 21st. So we were kind of in a rush because we didn’t know what the deal was with getting home after the build. All our return tickets were cancelled because of new covid travel restrictions. On the 14 th with new restrictions we were not allowed to travel to the stadium anymore even with our letter from the stadium authorities.
The lockdown has got even more stringent and now we couldn’t get concrete from the factory either. Thanks to Rams involvement and his relationship with the concrete factory we managed to get a deal where they would send us concrete only at night. So now this felt like we were doing something illegal. With the truck coming after dark it felt like we were taking delivery of some stolen cars instead of concrete. The concrete became double the cost because of the lockdown and now the budget was too stretched to complete the extension of the skatepark. We managed to get just the stairs done and also a hip at the end of the landing. But we had to stop there because of the situation. We are definitely going back again to build the extension to the extension. There is a whole street section still to come at this skatepark and pokhra is too beautiful a place to have visited during a lockdown.
So we will be back for sure but now we have to leave…. Somehow. Tensions began to rise as we got closer to the 20th and we still had no concrete return flights. The Europeans were planning all sorts of schemes to get back to their homes with various flight restrictions and all flights going through india from Nepal which was a problem because india is on the red list for travel bans to Europe. Eventually they did leave on special flights after two pcr tests and also keeping a fake test report (just in case). The India crew and I crossed the border by road Gorakhpur and took a domestic flight. You d be surprised how easy it is to cross to india from Nepal, I mean there were four of us and they looked at just one ID card and let us all through with all our bags and what not. The Europeans had a harrowing time once they reached Kathmandu. After a gruelling 7 hour drive back they went to the airport and we’re told they couldn’t board the flights cause they needed some special transit visas. Nothing could get in gurung Kancha s way and he some how figured it out. Another pcr test later they managed to get some special flights home. All in all an unforgettable experience, just the Annapurna range looking over you the whole time is quite impressive on its own, made some new friends and caught up with old ones. The trip could have gone better, it could have been way worse but whatever could happen…. Happened. Until next time…..