Wednesday, 17 June 2015


This is a difficult post to write, and one of the reasons I have been putting off blogging for so long.

As I'm sure you're aware, there was a huge earthquake in Nepal on 25th April. It measured 7.8 on the Richter Scale, thousands lost their lives, and many more were injured and left homeless by the devastation. Kathmandu, the capital, was one of the hardest hit areas, and images of fallen buildings and sacred temples flooded the headlines. Remote villages waited weeks for outside help, and many people around the country slept outside for days, as aftershocks rippled and they feared their homes were unsafe.

It was peak climbing season in the mountains; avalanches rocked Everest Base Camp, and 18 climbers lost their lives. Others were stranded at Camp 1, safer than their colleagues and friends at base camp, until helicopters could be organised to transfer them further down the mountain, with avalanches deeming the Khumbu Icefall - the only way down from Everest - impassable.

Although Nepal lies in the heart of the Himalaya, and is prone to tectonic activity, this was the largest earthquake in 80 years. Already one of the poorest countries in the world, it didn't have the money or resources to deal with such a disaster. Fortunately, aid quickly scrambled to their relief, with disaster charities from around the world arriving around the clock to help those in need. Fundraising efforts around the globe raised millions of pounds for various charities, and my faith in humanity was restored.

A second earthquake hit the region just a few weeks later, setting back the relief efforts, and terrifying those already affected. It was a dark time for Nepal, and it is only just beginning to rebuild itself almost two months later.

The reason I'm telling you all of this, is because I was supposed to be flying to Kathmandu on 21st May, less than a month after the earthquake. Those of you who have been following this blog for a while will know of my obsession with Everest, and I have been planning this trip for a very long time. I've had it booked once before, two years ago, when I had to cancel due to a highly unprofessional company, coupled with a lack of funds. I then planned to go in October 2014, but again had to postpone while I saved up a little longer. Needless to say, this was a trip of a lifetime.

When I woke up on Saturday 25th April, and heard the news, my heart sank. Not, I hasten to add, because of my trip, but because I knew how many people would be affected by this. I didn't quite realise the severity at the time, but I had friends and acquaintances out in Nepal, as well as work colleagues, and people I follow on Twitter. I was on tenterhooks the whole day, waiting for news that people were safe, and my sadness deepening as more and more images flooded the news sites.

Although I've never visited, I have read so many personal accounts of Nepal, and had done so much research for my trip, I felt like I had. I felt I knew all the places that had been so heavily affected, and felt deeply for everyone who had died or had been injured. When I realised that there was no hope of my trip going ahead, I was sad more for the missed opportunity to experience the country at its best; not for a cancelled holiday, as these things can always be rearranged. Of course I was disappointed, but it was very easy to see the priorities in life as I scanned Twitter, following those who had been personally affected.

I did allow myself a moment to be selfish, when I feared the insurance company wouldn't compensate me for my trip (they often don't if it's force majeur). Not because of the financial side, but because it meant that I would have to cancel the trip completely rather than postpone, and I would have to wait another few years to visit.

I am also very grateful that I wasn't there at the time, and that no-one I know was injured, or worse.

In the meantime, we fundraised at work (we work closely with partners based in Nepal - I was actually supposed to be visiting them on my trip), and I also set myself a personal fundraising goal, to give to long-term NGO relief efforts, as well as the immediate disaster relief we donated to in the office.

I was very fortunate that Emirates extended their refund policy based on FCO advice, and I now plan to postpone my trip until May 2016, purely because my plan was, and always has been, to visit and trek to Everest Base Camp during the climbing season.

Two months on, Nepal has declared itself safe and ready for tourists. Indeed, it is crying out for them as its main source of income. Frustratingly, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office is still saying that they advise against all but essential travel to the area, meaning that if British nationals go against this advice, their travel insurance will be invalid. Fortunately, other countries around the world are much more sensible and I would love it, if you can, for you to go. I would go earlier myself if I could - most trekking regions are fit to travel after the monsoon (from September onwards) and lots of places, such as Pokhara and Chitwan, were barely affected. Don't make anyone else lose out because of this dreadful disaster, and don't alter your travel plans. Nepal is still stunning, and with your visit, you'll be doing more good than ever before.

As for me, my walking boots are waiting patiently in a cupboard, my daypack hung on the rack, and my trekking guide sat quietly on the bookshelf. Everest, I'll be with you next summer.

Image credit: Hillary Travels

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