Posted by: Talie Morrison | June 11, 2015

Trekking and more Earthquake relief

My original trekking trip with Pemba (the whole reason for this adventure) was to start on May 13 – but Pemba and I planned a little “pre-trip” from May 4 to May 11th.   We took off with his daughter, Neema, and her cousin, Pasang.   We had planned to go to a lake called Gosakundi – but we found out that the trail to Gosakundi was closed due to some landslides (earthquake damage).   So we headed into the Annapurna Conservation Area and did a hike up to Ghorepani.   From there we did a sunrise hike (4:30 am!) up to Poon Hill to see the sun come up over Annapurna and Dhaulagiri.   We had a perfect morning and the views were spectacular!   I love the early sunrise hikes!

At the end of the 5 days of beautiful trekking, we ended up in the town of Pokhara.   Since the next day we would be taking the bus back to Kathmandu (7 hour ride this time), Pemba went out with a taxi driver and located tarps for us to buy for the Earthquake victims.  As I mentioned in the blog before this – there were NO tarps, tents, or water purification to be had anywhere in Kathmandu!    I went through Pokhara and found water purification tablets.  Back in Kathmandu, I gave some of the tarps to Ishor to deliver to Sakhu along with the water purification.   The rest of the tarps we planned on taking to the small mountain town of Ghat.

On the 13th, Pemba’s trekking group arrived.   It was a bit smaller than planned as eight of the people cancelled because of the earthquake. But even though we were small – we made up for it in enthusiasm.

To start our trek, we needed to fly to Lukla.   Lukla airport is described as being the most extreme and dangerous airport in Nepal (or the world for that matter!)   Here I go scaring myself again…. 🙂  Check out this You Tube video of the landings in Lukla: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqgZvb37NX0

So our first day – Getting all packed and to the airport at 6 am, we waited for about 4 hours till they decided that all the planes to Lukla were cancelled due to weather!   So day 2, we packed up again and back to the airport at 6 am – and off we went … But the plane made a interim stop in Phaplu so we could wait for the weather to get better.   And then they off-loaded all our baggage because the plane needed to fly back to Kathmandu and pick up more passengers that were coming to Phaplu!   Finally the plane comes back, loads us and our baggage and off we go to Lukla! Yea!  The short flight and the landing were just as “exciting” as they were quoted to be!

From Lukla we trekked just a couple of hours to Ghat.   The next day we helped get all the furniture, windows, etc. out of a building near Ghat which will have to be taken down because of the damage. The rest of our tarps finally arrived that day, so the next day we hiked to another small village near Ghat. These families have been cut off because a landslide took out the trail. We delivered tarps to 9 different families whose homes were unlivable.   These people are all so amazing as they fixed us tea and lunch in their makeshift outside kitchens – such generosity!   Before we left they all wanted to do a “thank you” ceremony where they gave us khatas (Tibetan Buddhist ceremonial scarfs) and blessed us. It was very special!

The next 5 days we spent trekking amongst some of the most amazing and beautiful mountains in the world.   We worked our way up to Namche Bazaar, then past Tengboche, and stayed a couple of nights at Deboche.   We saw quite a few damaged tea houses, hotels and homes – but we also so lots of places that were simply closed because of the lack of business. It has been really hard on these people – first the earthquakes and now no business because of the fear (tourists are a fickle lot!).   How do you earn the money to repair your homes when there are no tourist dollars coming in?   Even for us, people were trying to tell us not to go – that it was dangerous.  We met a Buddhist Nun on the trail when we left Namche, and she went on and on about the dangers – falling rocks, people getting killed.   She really wanted us to turn around – it was a bit unnerving!  We always knew that if it got too bad, we could turn around – but, in fact, it was fine.  Not even dangerous!   And oh, how beautiful!   We spent 3 days mesmerized by the mighty Everest and surrounding mountains.

Coming back down from Tengboche, we took a side trip to Gumela to see the school that Crested Butte has been helping.   It was very sad, because the school is a disaster.   Part of this school had been built by Edmond Hilary – part by the locals – and part by a group of French volunteers.   None of the buildings are safe to be used – and the ground under the school isn’t stable – there was even a crack that went through the playground.   It is so sad to see how much work these lovely people put into something, just to have it destroyed. (But maybe that will be our next volunteer project!)

So back down to Ghat.  That night we went to bed early knowing that we had some hard work the next day.   But about 10 pm there was quite the commotion and we were told we had to get out immediately!   There had been a call to the village that said one of the high mountain lakes had let loose and a flood was coming!   Yikes!   So we all trooped out with the locals and headed to high ground.  Because it was dark, it made it even more scary!   But luckily it was a false alarm – the lake that collapsed was a smaller lake – and there was no flood.   So after a couple of hours – we were back in bed (a little nervous but ok).

Pemba had organized the locals to come with picks and shovels and join us the next day to cut a trail through the landslide.   The landslide had totally cut off the families on the side of the hill – they had been having to hike down and into the riverbed and then back up to their houses.   Once the rainy season arrives, they would have been cut off totally since the river would be too high.   About 25 strong young men showed up – along with 8 of us – to work on this trail. It was pretty scary to start – since there were some pretty big boulders above us.   Between rolling big boulders to the river, digging and shoveling dirt, tossing smaller rocks down, and actually splitting rocks (to make steps), we made a pretty good trail all the way across the landslide.  These guys know how to work!!!  (We need them for some of our CBMBA trail days!)   I was impressed!  Thanks to the generosity of my pledges, we were able to pay the locals for their hard work!   So it was a “win-win” situation.

From Ghat, we hiked back to Lukla and spent one night there.   Interestingly there was a Buddhist Celebration that afternoon which we went to – complete with drums, music, and costumes, etc.   We were definitely in Lukla at the right time!  And luckily, the next morning was crystal clear for our flight.   The take-off was just as exciting as the landing.   Down the runway and, as the plane lifts off, the runway disappears off a 2000 foot cliff!   Yikes!

So once we were back in Kathmandu, Pemba and I put together the final piece of my earthquake relief:   To get cement, tin and mattresses to the families on the other side of the landslide.   A bag of cement in Kathmandu costs 600 Rupees ($6) – but by the time we could get it to the families who need it, the cost per bag will be about 7,500 Rupees ($75).   So Pemba had 60 bags of cement delivered to the airport and flown to Lukla.   Then while I was on my way back to the USA, Pemba flew back to Lukla and arranged to get the cement to the villagers.   We talked about the transport from Lukla – our choices were “donkey train” or “porters”. Having the porters carry the cement was probably a little more expensive, but it was a way to give the locals a job and earning money. (With a donkey train, only 2 people get paid:  the owner of the donkeys and the donkey driver – but with porters, we provide an income for many strong men!)   Once the rainy season starts, there won’t be any work for these porters.  And even though it is an extremely hard job, it is what they are used to…. Pemba has promised me photos once he gets back to the USA himself – but I am going to go ahead and publish this blog….

Advertisements

Responses

  1. Talie,
    I am so impressed with your efforts on behalf of the earthquake’s consequences.You present American compassion we all wish we could extend. Are you still accepting donations; and how does one contribute?
    It is a pleasure reading, and seeing, your worldly adventures.
    Shelley

  2. WOW! I spent the WHOLE day yesterday reading your ENTIRE blog & it was awesome armchair traveling! What a fantastic traveling life you are leading! I know you don’t know me, but you were pointed out to me by a local as I sat at the concert in the park in Crested Butte this summer (I’ve been coming to CB in the summers to camp, hike & bike). She told me you’re planning on hiking the Colorado trail & that PEAKED my interest….then she told me about your blog. Love you style of writing, your courage, your ability to make friends wherever the trail takes you, your photographs & your fantastic attitude when traveling. I’m now a HUGE fan & can’t wait for more posts!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: