The journey was much the same as previous visits. Long and tiring. 264 kilometres by rough road in
the back of a Mahindra SUV from Kathmandu to Salleri in the Mt Everest province of the
We had done it twice before, so we knew what to expect. This time the poor road conditions
dictated the 15-hour journey ended after sunset, somewhat short of our monastery as the track was
too muddy to negotiate. So, with the help of 10 or so happy monks carrying our gear, we made our
way on foot in the dark to reach our destination, Chailsa Monastery at 2700 meters above sea level.
It was a difficult start for our new team, but, we were rewarded, next morning, when we awoke,
with a clear crisp day with views of the majestic Himalayan mountains.
We had returned to our Clinic in the Clouds. The Yeti Chailsa Dental Project was started in
September 2016 by Dr George Manos, Dr John Denton, both dentists from Adelaide, and Mrs Jude
Allsopp, an OHT from Maroochydore. We look after monks at the Chailsa Monastery and school
children from the Mt. Everest Lower Secondary School and walk-in patients from the surrounding
We had returned in September 2017 and completed a week’s work and now were back in April 2018
with an expanded team of John and Jude, pus Dr Ian Woodhouse from Tamworth, Deserae Daws a
therapist from Adelaide and Vicky McFarlane from the Sunshine Coast Hinterland.
With four operators and two portable chairs we were very productive and got through the full list of
160 children at the school, all the monks and a smattering of village people.
The working conditions were primitive but doable. We had two portable chairs with two air units
and a compressor. Only one correct operating stool, meant someone working with a sore back or
standing up to operate. But we managed with good grace and humour.
The most pleasing aspect of our 3rd visit was the noticeable improvement in oral health. Most or our
restorations were still intact and new “bombed out” teeth were rare. So, the tooth brushing and
dental care we started 18 months previously in September 2016 was paying off. That was a relief.
We trialled using silver fluoride on fresh caries in deciduous teeth, and hope for good results in
holding caries at bay and maintaining spaces for the permanent eruptions.
The building programme instituted by the Gesh-La (the Abbott of the Monastery) after the 2015
earthquake, was moving fast. New additional dormitories, in which we slept, warm and cosy in the
zero-degree nights. A new meeting hall was going up before our eyes, stone and timber. The rock
crushed by hand, the timber felled, cut, planed and finished all by hand, no electrical saws or planes.
There was even promise of tiles in the ablution block next time! But we managed for now with
sometime water, sometime hot water, but most often cold showers and a “dicky” western toilet seat
flushed with a bucket.
But these hardships are a western problem. The monks wondered why we would want to shower
every day? Surely that was not good for you?
Our days were punctuated by great food! The cook was a delightful smiling presence. A forty
something woman, widowed after her husband was poisoned in a village dispute. She had three
helpers and a wood stove and fed 15 monks, the 5 of us, plus 30 Hostel children from the school
boarding house, for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The food was exceptional. Vegetarian, and fresh
and crisp. Rice, pasta, lentils, potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes, chillies for lunch and dinner.
Porridge and Tibetan bread for breakfast. All beautifully cooked, hot and ready for hungry workers.
The week began cold and crisp, then improved to warm days about 15 degrees Celsius and clear
views. One morning we climbed our hill to reach 3000 meters and took in the wonderful view of Mt.
Everest some 60 kilometres off in the north.
The Chailsa project is showing promise, with “new blood” involved in this team and progress seen in
the mouths of our patients.
We left some of our heavy gear there for ease of transport next time.
A new team goes in September 2018, and I hope to return in April 2019 to again experience the
warm hospitality of the Geshe-La, Khedup (Manager), Pemba(Headmaster) and the smiling cook.
Dr John Denton
For further information about volunteering see www.projectyeti.org
A new team is returning in April 2019 with Dr John Denton who has played a pivotal role with Jude Allsopp in establishing the clinic at Chialsa.
They have been instrumental in making it all possible.