The last few days have been very sad and very surreal. We’ve been travelling around Nepal for nearly a month, meeting many of the amazing local people and climbing some of the highest peaks. Nothing prepares you for an earthquake.
We were very fortunately in the best place – out in the open. After our climb to Annapurna Base Camp (which we will write about another time) we headed back to Nepal’s second-largest City, Pokhara for some R&R. We were very lucky that we had booked to go on a white water rafting trip which left Pokhara on Saturday morning.
We were just about to get into our raft on the Kali Gandaki river when the 7.8 quake struck. We were about 100-150km from the epicentre, about 3 hours north of Pokhara at the time. It felt completely surreal. The ground – which a minute before had been rock solid – felt like it had turned to jelly. Vehicles nearby were shaking from side to side and we saw lots of rocks falling from the cliffs down to the waters edge. I can honestly say it was like nothing I’ve ever experienced.
We felt an aftershock at our lunch spot, but it was only when we got to our camp for the night that we turned on our mobile phones and received worried messages from our families – that’s when we realised how bad it was.
The next day we went past several funerals being held on the riverbank (in Nepal they traditionally cremate the bodies of their dead next to the river) and that was a very sobering site.
We are definitely not in the worst-affected area so we haven’t witnessed that much damage. But almost everyone we’ve met knows someone who’s been affected. One of our guides on our rafting trip said his whole village – not far from Pokhara – had been completely destroyed. A young woman who works at the hotel where we’re staying in Pokhara is originally from the historic city of Bhaktapur in the Kathmandu Valley. Her family are ok but her home has been completely flattened.
Our thoughts are now with those who have died and the huge challenge the rescue teams face. Obviously Kathmandu has been badly affected, but some of the worst hit areas are actually remote mountainous villages, which rescue teams haven’t even reached yet. In many cases even helicopters can’t land. There are reports from a senior official in the Gorkha district, which was at the earthquake’s epicentre, that 70% of houses there have been destroyed.
Here in Pokhara, which hasn’t been badly affected, many people are choosing to camp outside instead of sleep in their homes or hotels. We did stay in our hotel last night, but I have to confess I didn’t get much sleep and I felt another tremor early this morning. Apparently it was 4.5 on the Richter Scale and it was worst felt near Kathmandu. I expect many people will be sleeping outside again tonight.
Since we got back to Pokhara, we’ve been reading every article we can get our hands on to find out the latest information. The United Nations estimates 8 million people have been affected. The latest figures show at least 4,400 people have died and more than 8,000 have been injured. But, officials are warning those numbers may rise dramatically as rescue teams reach some of the more remote mountainous regions, where it’s feared whole villages may have been buried in rockfalls.
As you can imagine it’s pretty devastating and there is a very sombre atmosphere in Pokhara. Rob & I are trying to work out the best way to help but as yet the rescue efforts seem very uncoordinated.
Thank you so much for all your kind messages. We will keep you posted.