"If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or is a Gurkha."
An Indian army field marshal once said this of the Gorkha people, born and raised in Nepal's mountains and world famous for their strength and tenacity.
For 200 years they have been an indomitable presence on foreign soil, part of the British army and later, becoming some the most trusted elite members of Singapore's Police Force.
But the resilience of the Gorkha community has been facing perhaps its sternest trial.
In April last year, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake rocked the core of the Gorkha region. The small town of Barpak, some 3,000 metres above sea level and flanked by towering peaks, was at the epicentre of the quake, which killed at least 8,900 people and damaged or destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes across the area.
The people of Barpak suffered dearly. And they are yet to recover.
Hundreds died here, all but a handful of homes were ruined and water sanitation and health concerns have been lingering reminders of that terrifying day.
"We didn't expect that we would be the victims of an earthquake," Darja Gurung, a local shop woman says. "Before the earthquake, people who were living here were happy but now we are living in fear, wondering when we are going to die."
A year ago in the immediate aftermath of the quake, it was difficult to traverse the cobbled trails through the town. Debris from more than 1,000 collapsed homes blocked normal thoroughfares. The paths have now been cleared but the foundations of homes are still strewn in courtyards. These stones, fractured and weathered, will likely prove essential when it comes to rebuilding; there are few alternatives after all.
Barpak is nestled among picturesque mountains and was a popular spot for adventurers.
The only road to the town, blocked by landslides for more than two months after the quake, is now open. But the treacherous, bumpy dirt path - slippery, shifting and winding steeply along the mountainside - remains challenging to all but the bravest 4x4 drivers and teenage boys straddling powerful tractors whipping dust in their wake.
Other residents continue to trek for hours up and down the mountain to the nearest village of Baluwa, as they were forced to do to collect aid after the disaster. Getting supplies from Kathmandu is also a torturous journey - some six hours via badly degraded roads that rattle the spine and skull.
Still, the Gorkha spirit shines on in a typically understated manner.
'WE HAVE TO REBUILD'
A cacophony of hammer blows on iron and stone accompany the dawn cries of village roosters; each morning those enterprising and able continue the work to rebuild their lives.
Across Nepal, the reconstruction of permanent shelters and 'earthquake-proof' homes has been painfully slow. Non-government organisations (NGOs) say only a "nominal" number of damaged or destroyed buildings have been restored to a safe condition.
After the quake, millions of people were left homeless and exposed to Nepal's vicious elements - brutal winters and a monsoon season normally accompanied by disease.
That situation largely prevails across impacted regions and Barpak is no different in many ways. People still live in tents or crumbling structures with makeshift roofs and walls.
Yet there is an tangible endeavor among its population that is refusing to accept vagrancy.
Many people use the word "helpless" to describe their situation. But, mostly they are, in fact, helping themselves where authorities have failed.
Children are relied upon to much of manual labour, as their parents do other casual labour or work in nearby fields.
Commonly, it is left to children, under the watchful eyes of elders, to contribute to much of the recovery work. They can be spotted crushing rocks, tying metal wire and carrying wooden planks on their backs to the sites where their family homes are in various states of ruination and renewal.
However, with the Nepali government, through the National Reconstruction Authority, yet to deliver significant funds to assist with the financial demands of the work -- a new house is estimated to cost about US$8,000 to build -- some residents are still living an ephemeral existence, waiting for help.
Much of the expense of rebuilding is clearing debris, which is beyond the means of many.
It is a burden that even hard toil cannot overcome.
"We have enough food to survive here but we need a safe house to live. But we need money to build the house and we don't have any. So we are waiting for the government," Bishnu Maya Gurung says. She is a proud elderly women who stills wear jewellery as she goes about her work, a projection of a more untroubled time.
Others agree with her sentiment that the government needs to do more, and soon.
"We have started to rebuild our house because if a big windstorm comes our tarpaulin falls down and it's hard to maintain our family's safety," says Buddhi Man Ghale, one of four brothers living with 23 family members in a single space. His youngest brother Tek has left Barpak to earn more money for the family.
"I don't know if this new house is earthquake proof or not, we are just building it without any government help," Buddhi explains, as his clan busily works around the shell of their old place. He does not know when the new building will be complete, particularly if more funds do not arrive soon. He takes a guess: "Two, three years maybe?"
While life may be slowly returning to normal, it is future realities that appear to shade the outlook of even the most optimistic residents.
The sun sets over a house with a temporary roof made from corrugated iron.
NEED FOR SURVIVAL
As a warm afternoon dips into dusk, crowds of teenagers bounce around excitedly on a hill that overlooks the town. They are collecting exam results.
Schooling has continued in Barpak, though predictably education has been at times eclipsed by the need for simple survival.
"I want to do something for my family but I am confused about what to do here," says student Buddhi Raj Furung, while carrying his young, giggling sister on his back. "I want to go abroad to work so I can earn more money and after that I can help make a better property for my family."
One year ago these streets were tangled with rubble and impassable.
Parents, too, share the concern.
"Recently my son passed the ninth grade. Now he is going into the 10th class. I am totally worried about his future because we still don't have a proper place to live," Santa Maya Ghale explains.
"How can he get a proper education here?"
For older residents, and the very young, more pressing are health concerns. At a local clinic run by an NGO, doctors are treating patients, most commonly with gastroenteritis and dysentery which they say is a result of a lack of clean water and proper toilets.
Satish Shrestha worked for six years leading an emergency department in a Kathmandu hospital before coming to assist in Barpak after the earthquake. "I wanted to help the victims, they need it. We have enough medicine and equipment but we don't have a proper place to work. As you can see, our building is not appropriate."
The medical centre is a wooden structure with blue corrugated iron sheet for a roof. He is hoping the doctors will be given precious space elsewhere some time in the next few weeks or months.
A lack of hygiene throughout Barpak is evident - some areas assault the senses where dirty water runs through gutters, and most washing areas are basic and public. Essential infrastructure that once existed has been destroyed.
"After one year we still don't have sufficient water; I wonder what happened to this water," ponders local man Santos Ghale, as he stands on a rooftop overlooking the town, and the hills where fresh water is sourced. "Before we had very good water, now it's a big problem."
NGOs have distributed water tanks and pumps and have a one-year target for solving the problem.
Many families have decided to build away from the main town centre, seeing Barpak grow gradually.
A return of tourists here, both from within Nepal and overseas will help. Local guesthouse owner Min Gurung says he is still mostly serving aid groups, journalists and the occasional explorer. One year ago he feared for his business, but now he says things are changing.
"People still feel very bad because you've lost everything, you lost your home, you lost food, but everybody is working hard," he says.
And with that age-old tenacity of a people who have proved themselves perennial warriors: "They're going to be getting back to the same place."