So the time had come for us to move on from Nepal. It’s fair to say this conjured mixed emotions for us both. On the one hand we had the most amazing time in what is a truly wonderful country – on the other we witnessed horrible suffering at the hands of the massive earthquake that ended up killing almost 8,000 people.
We had been told that both domestic and international flights were operating so we set off from The 3 Sisters Guesthouse (our home for almost 2 weeks – massive thanks to all there who made us so welcome) and headed for Pokhara airport. Immediately we saw half a dozen Nepali and Indian helicopters busy taking aid packages to some of the remote villages between Pokhara and Kathmandu.
We eventually took off for Kathmandu really not knowing what to expect when we got there. The flight took us over the glorious mountains but really we were looking around for signs of the devastation having been relatively sheltered from it all in Pokhara. Arriving into the Capital we were almost surprised that from the air things looked almost ‘normal’. The situation on the ground was anything but. Kathmandu airport was chaos – every inch of space was filled with travellers, embassy officials, news crews and relief workers – the runways were jammed up with aircraft from at least half a dozen nations and the mood of the place was understandably sombre.
Two faces among the crowds stood out – our gorgeous Australian friend Renee and her fiancée Ben had been hiking back from Everest Base Camp when the earthquake hit and had thankfully made it back to Kathmandu after being helicoptered off the mountain. Seeing them was so special and a real lift at a difficult time for everybody. We only had precious few minutes with them (they managed to get an Australian airforce flight out to Bangkok) but seeing them, knowing they were ok and congratulating them on their engagement was magical.
Jess and I were meant to have an early flight out to Doha the following morning, but on arriving at the desk we saw it had been cancelled. The advice was to stay in the airport and not risk going to a hotel – but seeing people sprawled out in every corner of the airport and knowing we would have to stay for almost 24 hours, we decided to chance our luck and see if we could get away earlier. Qatar airways were brilliant and put us on an earlier flight. They said a night in Doha airport was likely to be better than a night in Kathmandu. As it turned out they were very right as the airline kindly put Jess and I up in a hotel for the night.
It felt very strange taking off from Kathmandu – relief at being safe, guilt at leaving a country on it’s knees. Jess did a lot of good work in Pokhara doing pieces for the BBC and helping to ensure people at home knew about the devastation and what they could do to help – especially for some of the more remote villages which suffered horrendously but weren’t getting the aid they needed due to accessibility issues and a lack of resources. We donated of course but ultimately we felt a bit redundant without medical/search and rescue skills. I don’t think either of us said much for the first few hours of the flight.
We’ll remember our time in Nepal for the rest of our lives but not really because of the earthquake (as strange as that sounds). We’ll remember amazing, hospitable, humble and resilient people, beautiful scenery, precious time spent with family and chance meetings with friends from down under. I don’t think the people of Nepal would want it any other way.