I write this as I “wing” my way home. I apologise for not having been in contact for a while. Mobile communications have been sketchy in the Khumbu Valley in the aftermath of the earthquake.
It has been a confronting few days as Nepal comes to grips with the magnitude of this disaster.The earthquake itself was quite a surreal experience. It took a few seconds to actually register what was happening. At the time we were just short of the historic village of Tengboche, deep in a river valley. We had just finished lunch at a teahouse. It was only when items fell of shelves that we realised what was happening. The ground shook frighteningly and it was difficult to keep ones feet. Rocks tumbled over a cliff face on the opposite side of the river. It was evident when we arrived at Tengboche that it was quite a severe quake. The monastery at Tengboche looked like it had escaped major damage however on closer inspection walls were bowing and cracked. Several buildings surrounding had tumbled. Our teahouse at Deboche had also been damaged with the top floor corridor walls having collapsed in. We set to clearing the stone to lighten the load on the concrete slab floor.
News began to filter in about the magnitude of the quake, much coming from family at home in Australia. Over the next couple of days we saw first hand the physical impact of the quake in the Khumbu Valley, the valley that is the gateway to Everest. Very few structures survived unscathed. It is a relatively simple agrarian existence in the Khumbu Valley and it was confronting to see the damage. Nonetheless the resilience of the Sherpa people became quickly evident. Within days, even hours, the reconstruction began. Amazing people!
The impact of the quake altered our Base Camp plans. The immediate area around Base Camp was closed off in order to deal with the aftermath of the avalanche that swallowed the middle section. Having been to Base Camp a number of times, it was, and still is, hard to comprehend what transpired. I have since spoken with a number of climbers who survived the experience and it seems amazing that anyone who was unfortunate to be in the middle section of base camp survived at all as up to 200km hour winds ripped across the Khumbu Glacier preceding the debris.
In the days following the quake we adopted a pragmatic approach, seeking out locations and structures that offered relative safety in the event of aftershocks. We sent guides from our team forward to reconoittre the ground and locations. To that end we spent nights at Pangboche and Dingboche before helicoptering back to Namche. We then walked back to Lukla before returning to Kathmandu.
I want to take the opportunity to thank our group for their trust and understanding in the aftermath of events. The calm and practical attitudes exhibited by all made it easy to plan ahead. From my perspective these events have only hardened my resolve to continue to travel to Nepal to support this beautiful country and its people. Our thoughts are with them.