By Anne Tindall

For Gillian Armstrong, the sights and sounds of Nepal are never far away from her thoughts.

WHEN you meet Gillian Armstrong you can just feel you are in the presence of someone very special.
Not being one to dwell on difficulties she starts by saying; “To cut a very long story short, I had a major brain haemorrhage followed by a stroke then countless operations that culminated in a 15-hour operation to fix a malformation in my brain that I had had since birth and was unaware of.”
She was in her early forties, had three young children and a loving husband and found herself, in a wheel chair having to learn to walk, write and speak again.
It makes what she just achieved last November all the more remarkable.
Gillian had travelled back in the 1970s when she worked for The Magic Bus Company travelling through Europe, the Middle East and India. This was when she first fell in love with Nepal.
Forty years later she returned.
She attended a series of talks at the local Community Learning Centre given by Adventurous Women.
That is where she first met Rochelle Thorpe. She was so blown away by Rochelle’s presentation that when she got home she wrote a note to Dave her husband, who gets up very early to go to work, saying she really wanted to go to Nepal.
The next day he said, “Why don’t you?”
“That was May last year,” Gillian said. “I went in November. I knew I had to work on my fitness because I would be climbing mountains and lots of steps so I started going up and down and over the dunes at Forest Caves. I would do it 5 or 6 times each session. I enjoyed it so much thinking about what I was about to do. It’s absolutely stunning when you’re there in Nepal. It’s so cheap too as you don’t pay any middleman.”
They were away for 11 days and it involved 6 days trekking in the Annapurna Ranges at up to 3000m.
The trips are done in conjunction with a local Nepalese trekking company in Nepal. They are highly trained and very professional.
“We stayed in village teahouses and all ate together. Subal, the Nepalese guide, had such a wicked sense of humour. We all had just so much fun and got on so well together.
There were 10 of us including Rochelle whose role is to put the groups together in Australia, fly to Nepal with the group and accompany us throughout the trek. The guides and Sherpas do everything else,” explained Gillian.
She had a great time collecting up clothes from Op shops for the children in the orphanage Rochelle is involved with.
“It made me feel so good to be supporting the local villagers especially after all they have been through with the Earthquake,” she said. “So much came out of that presentation Rochelle gave. A wonderful Phillip Island woman had knitted 60 beanies and these were taken over and given to the kids in the orphanage.
“Something else I have to tell you,” says Gillian.
“In Nepal we would walk along winding paths through Rhododendrons the size of Gumtrees and there would be the sound of donkey bells. I brought one back with me and it hangs at my front door. Dave rings it every morning when he gets home from work. It makes me feel so good.”
If anyone is interested in joining Rochelle on a trek they can contact her at her beautiful shop called Yakkity Yak in Loch or via email rochellethorpe@hotmail.com or on the Yakkity Yak Facebook.