Tribute to Nepal 2015
I never dreamed that I would ever see Nepal. There were so many stories, and descriptions of places and scenes conjured up for me and people to meet. When I got the invite I decided to take the plunge. Surprisingly, everything fell into place as though my visit had been pre-planned months before.
It started with an Air India Dreamliner inaugural flight from Sydney to Delhi and ended up with an extra week in Kathmandu. And what a week that was. My IT specialist Bijay, who has been working with me since his student days lined up his relatives to look after Molly, my friend, and myself. We landed in Kathmandu after wading through a flurry of light clouds on a bright blue morning, in September 2013.
We then discovered that relatives make amazing hosts. Bijay’s dad, Mr Wangel Ghale, met us at the hotel and insisted that I spend the day in bed to avoid any altitude sickness or jet lag. Rates for the room were adjusted accordingly to local family-rates instead of the exorbitant tourist prices. We were now “true blue” family. Silling Ghale a cousin and a well-known tour organizer lent his services to plan with us: to make the best of our week in the mountains. With a broad grin and a nod, he arranged what I thought was an impossible secret dream I had cherished for years, to see the peak of Mt Everest and to gaze at what Hilary and Tenzing would have seen when they first climbed the peak.
As a 10 year old girl I had sat, ears plastered to the radio to listen to the Queen Elizabeth’s coronation on the 2nd of June 1953 and shared the added excitement that buzzed around the Cathedral as the young Queen was informed that Sir Edmond Hilary and his Sherpa, Tenzing Norgay had reached the summit of Mt Everest on the 29thMay. News travelled very slowly then, and the pair of heroic climbers must have returned to base camp and further down before the news could finally be disseminated to the world.
I still have goose bumps when I remember the images that formed in my mind: heavy snow, frozen ice crunching under their boots and cold winds almost blowing them off the peak which in my ignorance I had imagined to be only 3 or 4 feet of high peak.
At the airport the, the next morning for a 4 am flight, I noticed some very nervous passengers gathered around a desk. On the small tarmac, the toy plane that took only 8 passengers stood waiting. A young Japanese tourist had a camera the size of large bazooka so I gravitated towards him, knowing his camera would take accurate pictures, much better than my palm sized click-box . The doll sized air hostess welcomed us a and warned us not to stand up or walk as the plane climbed slowly up, past the dancing cirrus clouds for a game of hide and seek among the peaks.
We flew into the sunrise, climbing higher, starting to buffet as the wind tore at the plane. The sun rose behind the mountains as we travelled the length of the Himalayan rang, the mountain masses seemed inviting but we were following the range to get to Everest. The all looked the same to me but we soon spotted the classic Everest peak as one sharper slope razed edged in front while the monster above , covered in snow, sat majestically watching , silently allowing an audience. There it was, the peak that fascinated the world for hundreds of years, the silent giant peak of Everest.
There were no people we could see though we had binoculars . I think the climbing slopes were on the other side, but this side looked pristine, as if nothing had ever touched it. The snow glistened in the sun almost blinding us… Someone broke the awesome silence, speaking in a whisper, asking the question that must have been asked a thousand times, did Edmond Hilary reach the peak first or did Tenzing?
I was crying , my camera shook and I got blurry photos but I reached into my pocket for that bar of chocolate I carried with me to celebrate the view and passed it around. It disappeared down the aisle , never to return and I had forgotten to take a bite.
Back on the ground we looked at each other in disbelief? Had we even been up there? What an experience it had been!
And then last week we heard that that part of that mountain had come crashing down to cover most of Nepal. My family of friends who had opened their hearts to me could not be contacted. Bijay called me in whispered tears. I told him to pray and to meditate. He left work and called much later that to say that they were all alive, in tents as their walls in their home had cracked and were unsafe.
Beautiful Bhaktapur the world heritage 15th Century group of temples had come crashing down with the earthquake and aftershocks that followed loosening rock, wood and stone , carvings with the amazing gold and silver sculptures , the garuda -like griffin , carvings on gates and elaborately carved window frames that I had admired. All gone in a flash, buried under the rubble. The iconic temple in the center of Kathmandu was also razed to the ground the stupa at the monkey temple and more.
While I weep for the beauty, the art and history that is lost to this world, I also cry for the people who have been left without food and water and accommodation. Fortunately, Bijay has doctor friends,already trekking to the most remote areas close to the Chinese border, taking in water ,rice and tents from India. No one had reached them earlier, no helicopter could land there. Manpower is lacking but they are preserving, doing their best.
I have sent money directly to them to purchase tents, water and basic rice so that they can survive.
Please contact me directly here to ask for Bijay's contact details and have a look at sindhupalchok/operation on Bijay’s facebook page.
I am personally monitoring any fund that goes to the young Nepalese doctors and hope that anyone reading this will decide to send some money through Bijay who is a responsible and experienced IT specialist working in Sydney.