My flight tickets were booked and I was supposed to arrive in Nepal on the 5th of May. On the 25th of April, the devastating earthquake of 7.8 Richter scale struck the country. Now what? Canceling the flight was out of the question but I could not expect to visit the country just as tourist either. The only logical thing I decided was to raise as much funds as possible so that I could help some of the victims once there.
When I flew to Nepal, I went in with a strategy – identify the hardest hit areas first which would enable me to help the people who were most in need. However very quickly I realized that it would be next to impossible for me to pull off anything alone. Due to the complexity of the situation on the ground, the remoteness of the districts hit worst by the quake, meant that most of the information flowing in was contradictory and unverifiable. Landslides had blocked off the more remote villages making it inaccessible by road, while rescue helicopters were all prioritized by the army in rescue of foreign mountaineers and trekkers trapped higher up in the mountains.
It became quite obvious then, that it would be smarter to work with local people and support an ongoing project. With a stroke of luck or maybe it was destiny, I met extraordinary people who were already engaged in relief efforts around the villages in the outskirts of Kathmandu.
I chose to direct the funds raised by my family and friends into that project which enabled 150 families to receive 300 sanitation packages and constructed 80 temporary toilets. We believed that this was the right way to go, as most international agencies were concentrating on food, shelter and medicine. Also, sanitation issues was a top concern as the heat, humidity and monsoon rain were perfect conditions for an epidemic development.
It was good to see that Kathmandu, apart from the main Durbar square, was not as devastated as I had gathered from the media reports. Sure it had not gone unscathed, specially the old heritage sites, but most of the city was intact with important infrastructures and services still in order.
The earthquake has had a marked effect in the Nepalese economy. Factories collapsed, businesses remained closed and farming halted. Barber shops being a tragicomic example, as people in the city could not even get a haircut in the aftermath, with most barbers having fled for safety to the plains where they hail from.
It is true that Nepal has been through a terrible catastrophe. It was a harsh blow for a country that already had very low GDP. However, the worst is now over and life is getting back to normal. Tourism, a very important income generator for Nepali economy has suffered tremendously. Tourists who were in Nepal at the time of the quake left the country and most planning to visit canceled their reservations.
However, Nepal is safe now. Not only that, these people need tourists to come back and rally behind them in these difficult times. I myself chose to rent a motorcycle and climb the mountain road to Manang, elevation 3560 meters, at the base of Annapurna range. You may choose a different type of experience for yourself. Yet Nepal surely needs to be visited.
Airplane tickets from Europe cost between 350 and 500 USD, depending on the dates and the best season to visit is now! So visit this amazing land of beautiful people who will fill you with joy and serenity.
This has been excerpted and reproduced from Alan Wittner’s blog post with the author’s permission. Click here to follow the link to his original blog post published in Croatian.
Click here to read more of Wittner’s experiences in Nepal in the first excerpt taken from his blog.