5 words/phrases that describe Nepal: Nervous but recovering, mind-blowingly beautiful, hectic and dusty (Kathmandu), adventurous, ecologically diverse (surprisingly!)
What seems to make the people of Nepal happy? Interaction with outsiders. Once you get away from Thamel, the tourist centre of Kathmandu where a quick sale seems to be the only thing foreigners are good for, conversation comes freely if you get past the language barrier. Nepalis are shy in character but inquisitive by nature and I enjoyed chatting with the hotel security guards and teahouse owners during our stay.
What seems to make the people of Nepal unhappy? Tremors. They seem to happen every day since the April 25th earthquake that devastated the country. Some are insignificant and go unnoticed, others stop you in your tracks but some are so strong they send people running into the streets screaming and crying. It’s going to take a long time for the Nepalese to forget the feeling, if they ever do. It’s a terrible thing to witness.
Did you ever feel out of your comfort zone while in Nepal? May 12th 2015 – earthquake #2. There’s something incredibly terrifying about being shaken by a huge earthquake but at the same time it’s also exciting. Both Sophee and I raced outdoors from our hotel room and joined the staff at the Kathmandu Guest House in the garden when the quake struck. It was a powerful reminder of quite how insignificant we are as human beings when Mother Nature decides to display her full force.
What can other countries learn from Nepal? How to put on a brave face after something as crippling and destructive as an earthquake. Considering we arrived there only 10 days after the first quake, people were getting on with their lives as best they could. Most knew someone who’d been directly affected by the disaster but for the sake of their family and income had to get straight back to work. Life in a developing country doesn’t allow time to sit around thinking.
Best thing I saw: Sunrise sun-rays punctuating the mountain ranges that surround Annapurna Base Camp (ABC). The first rays of light cut through the sky like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I only hope this photo does them justice!
Best thing I heard: The sound of silence. Regularly on our travels we’ve be subject to the overwhelming hustle and bustle of hectic cities and blaring horns with barely a moments silence until deep into the night.
Leaving the masses behind and trekking deep into the mountains left us with nothing but the sound of the wind and distant waterfalls. Climbing higher towards base camp we left the rivers behind until that perfect morning when I stepped outside at 4130m above sea level to absolute silence.
Sub-zero mountain air, distant galaxies and dawn outlined by the Annapurna panorama. My only distraction? The occasional thunderous avalanche, way off in the distance, punctuating the purity of the morning.
Best thing I smelt: Following on from the last one – the purity and crispness of the Himalayan mountain air.
Best thing I did: Sorry it’s back to the Himalayas for this one! Trekked to ABC with Sophee. Seriously tough at times, but always captivating and breathtaking.
Best thing I tasted: Every morning before we’d set off on our day’s hiking slog-fest we’d munch our way through a bowl of fruit and porridge. Simple food that tasted like heaven!
Best local character I met: Ram the Rescue Pilot. When the first earthquake hit Nepal, Ram was one of the first helicopter pilots to fly aid into the devastated areas around Everest Base Camp and Langtang. When I caught up with him for a coffee whilst in Kathmandu his positive outlook and stories of the experience left me captivated and questioning my line of work and what I do.
Best surprise ‘n’ delight moment: Getting an appointment with the Minister of Tourism at his government office in central Kathmandu. My drone had been impounded by customs at Kathmandu Airport due to a recent change in legislation (should have known about it really!) and would require a letter from the both the Minister of Tourism and the Minister of Information before it would be released.
Not being one to give up I made my way to the security gate outside the government offices, made a phone call or two and a couple of hours later found myself in the office of the Tourism Minister discussing Australian tourism, digital marketing and various ways Nepal could get its tourism industry back on track after the terrible natural disaster.
I left the office with a filming plan for our trip to the Annapurna Track a few days later and the all-important letter for customs. The drone now sits safely in the back of Colonel Mustard once more!
5 words/phrases that describe Nepal: Picturesque, dramatic, resilient, humble, rustic.
What seems to make the Nepalese happy? Being close to nature, the simple life and family time.
What seems to make the Nepalese unhappy? Having their sense of security taken from them and fearing the safety of their loved ones. Financial stress also greatly affects the Nepalese, as many of them seem to run small businesses. In light of the recent earthquakes, those linked to the tourism industry (over two million) have experienced major cancellations. Many fear having to close up shop, which may lead to nation-wide mental health issues.
Did you ever feel out of your comfort zone while in Nepal? Seeing buildings which had collapsed like concertina paper houses was pretty confronting. We encountered a few people in Kathmandu who looked like they required serious medical attention, yet they were sleeping out on the dirty pavement without help. I was at a loss about what to do. In more of a physical sense, the Annapurna Track was very challenging. Climbing thousands of stairs to reach the infamously spectacular Base Camp certainly pushed me out of my comfort zone! But, it was totally worth the pain.
What can other countries learn from Nepal? How to focus on the important things and carry on in the face of devastation. Ben and I arrived in Nepal just after the initial earthquake. Despite the ongoing aftershocks, the Nepalese were going about their usual business as best as they could at the same time as recovering and taking precautions. They are truly resilient people and eternally positive.
Best thing I saw: The wild, one-horn rhinos in Chitwan National Park. Their leathery armour-like skin was so cool! They were totally calm in our presence, even with a baby by their side – it was amazing. The views along the Annapurna Base Camp Trek were also glorious. From lush, enchanted forests with powerful waterfalls to towering snow-capped mountains with thousands of purple wildflowers, the scenery was diverse and awe-inspiring.
Best thing I heard: The symphony of wildlife in Chitwan National Park. As our Jeep safari came to an end during sunset, the jungle sounds reached a powerful volume. It was fun trying to pick out the different animals calls. Our guide was a pro at it.
Best thing I smelt: The aroma of carby goodness wafting from the bakeries in Thamel. Having spent the past four months in Asia, I’d really missed the smell of freshly baked goods. Yum!
Best thing I did: Hands down the Annapurna Base Camp Trek along with a stay at the luxurious Begnas Lake Resort for “recovery purposes”. Both the track and lake presented some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever encountered – it made me feel thrilled to be alive and free. I also loved our adventures in Chitwan National Park with Tigerland Safari Resort. Helping the elephants bathe in the river is an experience I’ll never forget.
Best thing I tasted: The vegetable momo at the restaurant in Viber Hotel. LOVED the curry flavoured dipping sauce on the side. As my friend Tommy says, “Momo is love”, and these babies were certainly made with that special ingredient.
Best local character I met: Ujjal – a quirky friend of a friend who runs a coffee wholesale business and also works in the aeronautical industry. He’s one of those fun-loving entrepreneurial types who’s very street wise. I loved hearing his stories about Nepal and beyond. It was hard for me to get a word in because he spoke at a hundred miles an hour. He was so full of life!
Best surprise ‘n’ delight moment: The doughnuts. I didn’t expect Thamel (Kathmandu) to be a bakery hub, but it seemed to have one on every street corner…and, their creations were delicious. I felt at home. I was also surprised to find so much of Nepal “open for business”, considering we’d arrived in the country only a couple of weeks after the first major quake. There were many epic experiences waiting to be enjoyed and shared through digital media.
To see the photos of our time in Nepal – from mountains to rhinos, from earthquakes to sun-rays – click this link