This portrayal of an extraordinary aid worker is included in the new travel book Himalayan Bus Plunge — & Other Stories from Nepal
05:30 – Alarm goes off and Magnus gets up. Quick wash but no time for breakfast. Onto his Giant mountain bike and off into the narrow streets of Kathmandu. We ride fast, keeping up with the small Hero Honda motorbikes that are imported from India. We meet with a friend and head into the foothills that surround the capital of Nepal.
We pass scores of thin men pushing old-fashioned bicycles into town, each one stacked high with hundreds of kilos of potatoes, onions and other vegetables that are grown in the vicinity.
Magnus and his friend reach a high point in the foothills and wait impatiently for their unfit, inexperienced companion (me) and then launch themselves off a steep drop back down into town. They bounce and skid and tear through the pinewoods, as fast as horses and as nimble as rabbits. I fall off repeatedly, lag behind and feel like a tortoise.
08:00 – Breakfast is Magnus’ main meal of the day, the fuel for his tremendous energy. When not mountain biking, it is preceded by about 20 minutes of exercise on the rooftop. Breakfast comes in two parts: a bowl of muesli, yoghurt, milk, tropical fruits and various protein supplements in jars; this goes with rich brown toast from the German bakery, who also supply wonderful butter; we add honey, jam and a boiled egg to the mix. Three copies of the New York Times are delivered daily with a local paper (Republica) and this gives us plenty of interesting material to read about Trump and his descent into hell.
09:00 – Magnus jumps back on his bike and weaves at speed through the crowds of vehicles and people in Kathmandu’s narrow streets. Cycling in this town is like being inside a video game. He gets to the fortified entrance of the British Government’s Department for International Development (DFID) where he works as a humanitarian advisor. He helps organise the reconstruction of thousands of houses after the devastating 2015 earthquake and is passionate about “retrofitting”, which means reinforcing damaged buildings at a fraction of the cost of rebuilding them.
11:30 – Magnus is addressing a group of adult-looking schoolgirls from the Godolphin school in Salisbury (England). They are on a two-week trip to Nepal and are now learning about British aid to Nepal. Magnus tells them about what’s being done to help the victims of the earthquake, especially those in the high mountains where there are no roads. He says 5-6 million people were affected by the quake and they work in 4 districts. The quake cut off water supplies all over the region and DFID have re-connected over 150,000 people with fresh water.
One of DFID’s most impressive activities is rebuilding paths between villages, so that mules can use them and get building materials and other essentials up to the villages. DFID have funded the rebuilding of 125 kilometres of footpaths, and I imagine the logistical challenge of getting stone slabs and other materials up into the Himalayas.
18:30 – Magnus comes home to change out of his work clothes. He grabs a cup of tea and we head out to his evening yoga class. We’re running late (we’re always running late) and so speed is of the essence. On our nimble mountain bikes, we can overtake everything in Kathmandu’s choked and lumbering traffic. We leave the chaos of the streets behind us and take refuge in a yoga class, located within an oasis of calm and greenery. Then we go to a barber shop, where Magnus gets a haircut and an intense head and shoulders massage for about £2.
20:30 – back to the house. Quick change of transport. We drop off the push bikes and get on his new Royal Enfield Himalaya motorbike. Magnus has invested in this beast so he can get to the mountains easier, but it’s also suitable for night riding around the city. We roar off and get to a mellow restaurant called Evoke where we eat pasta and fried paneer (cheese) but we’re in a hurry and the bill comes too slowly. They’re too laid back. Then we go to a rougher-looking place called Base Camp where we meet some of Kathmandu’s literati – including a literary translator called Nayan and a writer of short stories called Prawin Adhikari.
00:00 – the city is dead quiet by this time. The thick pollution that hovers over the streets by day is gone by midnight. We get home in no time. Quick cup of tea. Magnus takes out his laptop, starts making plans for tomorrow and deals with emails. I’m off to bed. I can’t keep up with this level of energy.
N.B. Magnus only gets up at 05:30 on a Wednesday morning, when the ex-pats go for a mountain bike ride before work. On the other mornings of the week he lies in bed till about 07:00 Wednesday is his busiest day as he also has the yoga class that evening.
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I loved the article about Magnus – so very Kathmandu!
Hi Godolphin Nepal Squad!
Good to hear from you again on this blog. Hope the rest of your trip was good; Chitwan sounds pretty nice. Yet to find my way there…
On internships, to follow up on Radha’s points above, i’d like reiterate that DFID doesn’t usually have internships directly. My point in the talk was that there are organisations out there that can. Mostly non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), and there are so many local NGOs here in Nepal that might be interested in such an offer. I really can’t talk for any of them though. I think it’s just a case of preparing a little pitch on a one pager or so, explaining what you may have to offer, for how much time, and what kind of support you’d be looking for. And send it to loads of them. See who, if any, comes back and the kind of project they’d be able to host you in.
I think starting with VSO is a good idea. They may have a list of organisations, or be able to provide some advice and links.
Sorry not be of more help!
Best wishes from Kathmandu
Rupert great article and Magnus’s energy is a constant here. Great meeting the students from Godolphin.
So on the internships, DFID doesn’t do an internship programme formally but what I would recommend is to write your interests to organisations (NGO’s and other organisations that run voluntary and internship schemes – simple google search could bring up some names; it’s a matter of simple research for areas and organisations) and take it from there. I know of interns/volunteers who came out to Nepal via the VSO scheme – so that could be a start. I am sure there are Facebook groups and other social media sites where you could engage with those that have been out in the region and can share experiences. Plenty of organisations doing amazing work in Nepal who would welcome your interest in supporting their work. Hope this helps.
What a great article – it makes us miss Nepal even more! We had such a fun time visiting DFID and we found it really inspiring – there are definitely a few of us who would love to take up the offer of an internship! Chitwan was incredible but very hot! We rode elephants, went to an elephant sanctuary and went on a canoe safari as well as relaxed by the river just to name a few things.
For those of us who are considering doing an internship with DFID, what’s the best way to get in contact?
We hope Magnus’ passion for retrofitting continues to thrive – do we have any updates on how it’s going since we visited?
We’ve enjoyed reading some of your other articles as well. Looking forward to future trips to Nepal!
The Godolphin Nepal Squad 2017
Thank you so much for this awesome comment. I really appreciate it and will try and get you a reply from my brother or someone at DFID. All the best…
It is nice to hear of investments being made into improving the quality of lives, specifically of those who actually do need it.
What do the investors get in return?
I would be interested in reading more about retrofitting and as was mentioned, how does the building material get to in those altitudes or is local material being utilised?
The speed of the day is crazy, I’ve exhausted myself just by reading it. I would join in for a breakfast like that though!