After the Earthquake Part 1: Sheltering at Bamboo/Survival

If you’d like to contribute to help the people of Nepal recover from the devastating earthquake, please visit our page collecting some worthy causes.

We sat with our backs pressed up against a house-sized boulder, shivering, trying to process what had just happened…

After we survived the big earthquake and the initial landslides, we followed the villagers and other tourists through the remains of Bamboo village and up the trail a bit. They were heading to two large boulders, both the size of buildings. They came together in the shape of a V, with a small cave between them. The rocks seemed solid, buried deep in the ground. The area directly behind them was relatively flat, as far as canyons go. They were not directly next to a steep slope. They created at least the illusion of safety from any further falling rocks.

This photo was taken by fellow trekker Corey: http://www.gofundme.com/tjssd5h9

This photo was taken by fellow trekker Corey: http://www.gofundme.com/tjssd5h9

We sat there, mostly quiet, shivering. Shivering, not so much from cold, but from shock…

Our thought process had been slow. We realized gradually that our long-planned trek was probably not going to continue. Going up after such devastation seemed silly. But, we realized, going down wasn’t much of an option either. Our only option, then, seemed to be to stay. So, we stayed, sitting against that boulder, shivering.

One of the other trekkers, or guides, we’re not really sure, went down to the village and began to collect supplies from one of the ruined teahouses. He brought blankets and water. While his intentions were great, the act of entering the villagers’ homes without permission would cause problems later.

The ground continued to shift and sway. We constantly felt betrayed by this: the ground isn’t supposed to move. It felt a bit like being on an airplane… a steady sense of movement, slight, but always there. This was punctuated by bigger shakes. These bigger shakes would send all of us racing to press our bodies against our solid house rock. This was the only way we felt even remotely safe. And truly, it wasn’t that safe. While we were semi-protected from further falling rocks, we were a bit panicked. We’re amazed that no one got further hurt by the pressing of bodies against that rock.

Eric's expression: Can you believe this happened?!? WTF

Eric’s expression: Can you believe this happened?!? WTF

As the afternoon went on, we had to take stock of what had happened. We refocused, realizing that yes, we were not going to be moving on with the trek. We evaluated our position and decided that, yes, it was one of the safest places we could be at the moment. More tourists and guides began to join us at our rock. We were thrilled to see a group from our bus ride the day before (2 Aussies, 2 South Africans, 1 Brit, and 1 Italian) come down the trail from above. Their story of sheltering on the trail as rocks fell around them terrified us. They had to cross a semi broken bridge and climb over recent landslides for an hour before they reached Bamboo. They had left almost all of their supplies behind. People came up from below the village as well. One man had a broken arm and had somehow climbed over the landslides to reach us.

As the afternoon dragged on, a nervous chatter began to develop. People began to talk, to let out their anxiety. They shared their stories of the quake, where they had been, what they had felt and seen, and also their fears for the future. What should we do?

But people did begin to organize. Several guides figured out how to get supplies from the village to make coffee for the entire group. Trekkers began to share their water and food (and cigarettes) to help calm others. Two medical students checked the man’s broken arm the best they could. As a group, we were able to come up with a large enough collection of pain medication to keep him somewhat comfortable. We were glad we had some oxycodone left over from when Della’s back went out. A group of guys organized to go down to the worst hit part of the village to see if there was any way to help the man who we all knew had been hit by rocks. Unfortunately, there was nothing they could do – he was already cold.

An Israeli girl who had been with us on the bus the prior night and whom we had leapfrogged with all day, had a satellite messaging device. She had rented it for the trek and we were all so grateful, it’s hard to put into words. She spent the afternoon figuring out how to make it work and sending messages to an emergency contact in Kathmandu. By that evening, we knew that the earthquake was a nationwide disaster. We heard that Kathmandu was in shambles. So, we knew that help would not be quick in coming. She also was able to get a message out to her mom in Israel. We were able to send email addresses to her mother so that she could contact all of our families to let them know that we were alright.

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The sat messaging device in the hands of our fearless leader Aviv. Standing nearby, Shani, the one person who thought to bring a satellite device on our trek. Thank goodness.

One of the Israeli men (who had been on our bus and who we had leapfrogged with all day) stepped naturally into the role of leader of our ragtag group. He was calm and prepared and had a presence that lent itself to leadership. He suggested that we figure out how to make ourselves comfortable for the night. Several others went with him to collect a tarp that had covered the outdoor seating area below and then strung it up above our rock for shelter. The villagers also (reluctantly) allowed us to use some of the carpets from their lodges to cover the rocky ground.

The tarp was a great idea as that night, it rained and rained. We hadn’t organized how we would sleep for the night so all of us just crowded under the tarp in a haphazard fashion. It was one big jumble of people and bags. Dark fell about 7:30 and there was nothing to do but try to sleep. Our group was close to 80 people that night. The villagers slept in the cave and the tourists and guides crowded under the tarp and a few of the large table umbrellas we had brought up from below.

Della was able to share a sleeping bag with two others, though she mostly slept with legs over or under other bodies, or curled up in a ball, just barely fitting in a crook of a tree trunk. Eric started in the jumble, but found a spot later in the night stretched out on the edge on top of many bags. He was able to stretch out, but lacked the warmth of the shared body heat. He wished for a blanket and then miraculously found one underneath the bag he was on top of… in the morning he discovered it was the large shawl of one of the fellow trekkers. Not much but enough to keep him warm through the night.

The earth continued to tremble and shake all night, effectively keeping everyone awake. It was punctuated by bigger shakes, or by the noise or cracking of falling rocks in other areas of the canyon. When this happened, the entire group would leap up and press against our rock for safety. We were lucky, no more rock slides came down on us. But, needless to say, no one got much sleep. We think we might have gotten 30 min…. maybe.

At one point during the night, we were woken by our leader. A message had come through on the sat device from the American Embassy! It was clearly a generic message, but it asked for names and situations of American citizens of those of us who needed assistance. We wrote a response, but never heard back.

Dawn came at 5. We all awoke with a new purpose. The only messages that had come in overnight from the sat device told us that help would be coming, but it was unlikely to be soon. We had to make our rocky shelter a sustainable home.

It was truly amazing to witness how people worked together. If a job presented itself, there were many people ready to make it work. The two of us helped to construct a helipad in an open beach area next to the river about 5 minutes up the trail from our house rock. Others worked on making fire, and then collecting water and boiling it for purification. Still others worked on building a comfortable latrine away from our sleeping and kitchen areas.

There was friction with the villagers. They had just witnessed their lives falling apart. They had lost their homes and their livelihoods. They had lost a person… Understandably, they were unhappy with the thought of sharing their supplies with a group of tourists who were likely to be gone in a week. It took a lot of people working together and a wonderful middleman guide for us to make an arrangement. We agreed to pay for a certain amount of food/drinks and the use of rugs, carpets, and blankets for a few nights.

hearty breakfast

hearty breakfast

The day wore on. Della remembers it as one of the longest days of her life. We had done most of the tasks listed above, gotten to know each other, eaten a meal, washed dishes, started to build a life for ourselves on that mountain… And when we looked at our watch it was all of 9 am.

With not much to do, rumors and theories floated around like crazy. For example, the villagers were convinced that there would be a second big quake 24 hours after the first. Most of us dismissed this as a silly superstitious idea. But then at 1 PM, 25 hours after the first quake, a large aftershock hit. A few people had been collecting supplies in the village and had to race back up. Luckily no one was hurt. We later found out that this aftershock registered 6.8, so quite large. This set off a few rockslides but none near us. The most visible damage was that the nearest teahouse had even more cracks in its walls as a result. It served as a visible reminder not to be lulled into a sense of complacency.

At the end of the day, there were some moments of happiness as the sun poked its way out of the clouds. A beautiful, warming light filled the whole valley. This was a brief period when we could forget the constant fear of the moving earth and falling rocks and enjoy the beauty of our locale.

We had continued communication with contacts in Israel via the sat phone. We were assured that rescue would be on its way within the next few days.

The second night, we were much more organized about our sleeping arrangements. More tarps were strung up. The two of us found a nice cozy spot where we could lay ourselves out. We shared our spot with two fun, wonderful people (an American man from Chicago and a woman from Spain) and slept well. The fear was still there and we woke several times in the night ready to sprint to our rock as we heard the rumbling of aftershocks and further landslides. But luck was still with us, and no rocks fell near or on the village. We were renewed with a night of hours of real sleep.

Our version of the picture that made it out early... We're alive, we're safe, and the sun is out =)

Our version of the picture that made it out early… We’re alive, we’re safe, and the sun is out =)

We will continue to tell the story of our earthquake experience in Nepal. We were extremely fortunate to survive and to be able to come home to the USA. Our stories are now over, but those in Nepal are not that fortunate. Huge numbers of people have lost their homes and their livelihoods. Please take some time to donate (any amount, large or small, can help) to help this beautiful country recover. We’ve collected list of organizations that you might consider here.

Use these links to read the rest of our Nepal Earthquake story:

During the Nepal Earthquake: Our Experience

If you’d like to contribute to help the people of Nepal recover from the devastating earthquake, please visit our page collecting some worthy causes.

At 11:56 AM on Saturday, April 25, 2015, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal. The epicenter was 80 km northwest of Kathmandu.

At this time, we were sitting on an outdoor terrace for a teahouse in the village of Bamboo on the Langtang trek, located approximately 70 km north of Kathmandu and 80 km east of the epicenter.

The actions that happened next are a bit muddled to us, so the timeline of the events below may not be entirely accurate.

We definitely felt the ground start shaking, which was surreal for us since neither of us had been in an earthquake. We were not used to the sensation of the entire ground moving beneath our feet. Della recalls asking Eric “What’s happening?,” and he said “I think it’s an earthquake.”

We then wondered what to do and where to head to have the most safety. Eric’s instinct was to head for the teahouse, since he had heard that a doorframe was a good place to be in an earthquake. He stood up to go in that direction, but then we saw the server running out of the house with his arms up in the air as if he was telling everyone to come to where we were. We decided to stay put.

This was a good decision, because moments later there was a giant cracking sound as the walls on both side of the canyon started to break apart and boulders started to rain down.

At first we just watched, because our spot in the middle of the canyon was not in the direct path of any of the rocks and also because we were in complete shock. Rocks from the north side of the canyon were falling into the river, and those from the south side were falling onto the teahouses themselves. We watched in horror as a car-sized boulder crushed the teahouse that our server had just exited from. Other buildings were also smashed or toppled by debris falling from the hillside above.

Smaller rocks, bouncing from both sides of the river started to fly through the air as well. It seemed like there was a chance that some of these rocks from either side could make it up to where we were standing. We ran as far to the edge of the terrace as we could go and still felt unsafe. We saw some wooden tables and benches and huddled underneath them with some of the other people who had been eating there, covering our heads with our hands to protect them as best we could. We were really lucky because those flying rocks would injure two badly and kill one.

The shaking and landslides settled down, so we got up to take in the situation. But then rocks started to rain down again (we can’t remember if this was due to another shake of the earth or not), so we jumped back under our wooden barriers. The slides subsided again, and we came out to see what was going on.

You can see what our view was like from our friend Corey’s video. (Make sure to check out his GoFundMe project linked with the video)

We didn’t really know what to do, but then we saw some of the villagers and  the other groups heading up the trail. We didn’t have any better idea, so we followed them.

This went through an area that had clearly been impacted by falling rocks, so we jogged quickly up the hill. The group headed for an area protected by two large boulders with a cave in between. There was already a large collection of people settled here that we would join.

We stayed in this area of safety for five nights.

We will continue to tell the story of our earthquake experience in Nepal. We were extremely fortunate to survive and to be able to come home to the USA. Our stories are now over, but those in Nepal are not that fortunate. Huge numbers of people have lost their homes and their livelihoods. Please take some time to donate (any amount, large or small, can help) to help this beautiful country recover. We’ve collected list of organizations that you might consider here

Use these links to read the rest of our Nepal Earthquake story:

Our Langtang Trek (Before the Quake)

If you’d like to contribute to help the people of Nepal recover from the devastating earthquake, please visit our page collecting some worthy causes.

We set out on our Langtang Trek at 7:30 AM on April 25, 2015.

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After another registration check, we headed off onto the trail. We took the large bridge over the Trisuli River, walked through Old Syabrubesi, and then followed the trail upstream along the Langtang River.

There are two ways to start your Langtang trek: the “high way” and the “low way.” The “high way” provides better views, but requires more climbing. Our guidebook suggested that the “low way” would be a more gentle introduction, so as novice trekkers we decided to choose that.

Even the “gentle” route involved mostly climbing up, as the river is descending rapidly through the entire valley. We enjoyed the wide variety of plant life – it was quite green, as we had not yet reached the elevation of the snow-capped peaks that you think of when you hear about the Himalayas. The terrain actually looked quite a bit like the mountains back home in Colorado.

As we walked, we encountered a few different groups of hikers heading up the trail, some of whom we had seen on the bus the previous day. Our pace was a bit slower than the others, so we would end up being passed by them. But, we tended not to take the longer breaks at villages along the way, so we would pass them there and then get passed 15 minutes later again. It became somewhat of a running joke with a group of three Israelis and their guide (who had been on our bus the previous day as well).

An hour into the trek, we crossed another large suspension bridge over the Langtang River to the south bank, then continued trekking up. There was one more small suspension bridge over a side stream near the small village of Domen. At the village of Pairo (also known as Landslide), the Israeli’s guide had clued us into a hot springs on the north bank, which we walked over and checked out but didn’t get in.

After Pairo, it was a semi-steep climb to the next village of Bamboo. It was almost lunchtime, but we weren’t feeling too hungry. Rimche was not too much further along the trail, so we considered pushing through to our final destination. But, as we approached Bamboo we saw many of our trail-mates had stopped for lunch, and there was a waiter ready to promote his outdoor terrace as the best right at the first place, so we decided that a small rest wouldn’t hurt us.

Approaching Bamboo village. We would take a seat under the yellow/orange tarps just barely visible in this picture

Approaching Bamboo village. We would take a seat under the yellow/orange tarps just barely visible in this picture

We sat down at the outdoor eating area on the terrace of the first teahouse and ordered a cup of tea each and some chapati. The tea came out pretty fast so we took our first few sips as we rested our feet. The seating area was in a nice location in the center of the valley, right out over the river.

The view from our table at the teahouse

The view from our table at the teahouse

The time was 11:55 AM.

We will continue to tell the story of our earthquake experience in Nepal. We were extremely fortunate to survive and to be able to come home to the USA. Our stories are now over, but those in Nepal are not that fortunate. Huge numbers of people have lost their homes and their livelihoods. Please take some time to donate (any amount, large or small, can help) to help this beautiful country recover. We’ve collected list of organizations that you might consider here

Use these links to read the rest of our Nepal Earthquake story:

Bus Ride: Kathmandu to SyabruBesi

If you’d like to contribute to help the people of Nepal recover from the devastating earthquake, please visit our page collecting some worthy causes.

It was 6:30 am on the morning of April 24, 2015. We had just been dumped out of our taxi at the Kathmandu “bus station” where we would catch our Super Deluxe Bus to Syabrubesi, which was the start of our 8 day trek through the Langtang Valley.

At the time, we were overwhelmed by the cacophony of noises and abundance of smells at the bus station. Finding our bus was a challenge. At the time, the bus ride seemed like a fun, long and uncomfortable adventure. Now we know it was the beginning of a fateful journey that not everyone survived.

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That morning, we had woken before dawn to do our final preparations for our trek. We had to wake the manager of our hotel to check out and leave our bags. We found a taxi which zipped us off to the “bus station” as the sun was rising. We were glad that we had been told to travel there the day before to purchase our tickets as it saved us some time and confusion. Even so, we didn’t know quite where to head.

There were many buses there, though not a lot of identifiable signage. We knew we had purchased the Super bus, which we had been told would be a faster ride. We did see several other tourists in the area and asked most of them where they were heading and which bus they were waiting for. Later, we would come to know most of these tourists extremely well.

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Finally, through some help from local vendors we saw our bus trundle in to the “station.” We were surprised to see that the roof rack was completely full. We jumped onto the bus and took our assigned seats, A1 and A2, right at the front. We were even more grateful that we had purchased the day before as the rest of the passengers started to file onto the bus. Those who joined us were a group of 6 independent trekkers, a group of three Israeli trekkers and their guide, a single Israeli trekker, and two Israeli families (3 young children each!!), their guide and 3 porters. The aisle was full of bags which made it a climb to get to the seats behind. It also meant that all of us had to ride with all of our bags on our lap. Somehow there had been some errors made in the selling of the tickets and there weren’t enough seats. As you can probably imagine, this made for a pretty uncomfortable ride.

Despite it all, we were excited. This was going to be a big adventure and we were anxious to get our first views of the majestic Himalayas that would be our home for the next several days. The driver pumped up the music, and we were off.

The Super Deluxe ticket that we purchased had promised a faster ride than the local bus. So, were a bit annoyed when we had to stop over and over again. First for a bathroom break, then for “lunch” at about 10 am, where we were asked to make photo copies of our TIMS cards. Then 2 more times for checks of our paperwork by the Nepal army and the Armed Police Force- luckily, the photocopies sufficed for these.

We stopped in the town of Dhunche and unloaded the bus. It turned out that the roof and aisle had been full of food and supplies destined for this village.

We stopped again at the entrance of Langtang National Park where our paperwork was checked by the park staff. Only 15 min later, we stopped yet again, for our paperwork to be checked by the police. We wondered how many different forces were in Nepal and how many more times our paperwork could possible be checked. Especially since the bus had been traveling all day on a one lane road on the side of mountains. There didn’t seem to be a lot of changes that could happen between each check.

We arrived in SyabruBesi at around 2:00 pm where we were dropped off at the beginning of town. We expected to be attacked by touts hoping to lead us to hotels… But there was no one. In fact, we entered a hotel and could not find a manager of any sort to check us in, so we left.

We did eventually settle on SuryaPeak Guest House because it had a balcony with a nice view over the town and the beginning of the Langtang Valley. We paid 2 dollars that night for accommodation. We read on the balcony, enjoying the crisp mountain air. We went down for an early dinner and our guesthouse prepared us fresh momos and a large plate of dal baht. We had been concerned that we hadn’t been drinking enough water, so we decided to go for a “medium” pot of tea. We were shocked with the “medium” pot seemed to hold about two liters!

It’s hard to really explain this part of our journey now. So many things that seemed important at the time, like the long and uncomfortable bus ride, the scary views out the windows, and the silly mistake of ordering too much tea seem so inconsequential now.

The bus ride introduced us to some people who would become very important to us over the next few days. It also introduced us to Or Assraf (standing on the far left of our picture below) who would start his trek the same day we would start ours. He would be trekking alone and would experience the earthquake somewhere on the trail. He wouldn’t be as lucky as we were. He would be missing for several days following the quake and later his body would be found at the bottom of a cliff. We did not know him well, probably only said a few words to him on the journey, but we will never forget him. We can’t imagine the fear he must have felt during the earthquake that he must have experienced all alone. Our hearts go out to his friends and family who spent a week in trepidation and had their fears confirmed a few days ago. Or was only one of the more than 7000 people who died during this tragedy, but his memory will always be with us.

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We will continue to tell the story of our earthquake experience in Nepal. We were extremely fortunate to survive and to be able to come home to the USA. Our stories are now over, but those in Nepal are not that fortunate. Huge numbers of people have lost their homes and their livelihoods. Please take some time to donate (any amount, large or small, can help) to help this beautiful country recover. We’ve collected list of organizations that you might consider here

Use these links to read the rest of our Nepal Earthquake story:

 

Kathmandu: Before the Quake

If you’d like to contribute to help the people of Nepal recover from the devastating earthquake, please visit our page collecting some worthy causes.

Usually after we visit a city we like to write a nice summary post about where we stayed, what we did and where we ate. We’d still like to discuss some of these things with regards to Kathmandu, but it feels weird to talk about the city without mentioning that just a few days after our visit a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit and did a lot of damage in the city and the country as a whole. So we’ll try to balance our discussion of our time in Kathmandu with what we know of what happened to the sights after the quake.

We arrived in Kathmandu late on the evening of April 20, on a Dragonair flight from Hong Kong. (We really enjoyed using the personal entertainment device on the flight and were able to watch Into the Woods and four episodes of Downton Abbey).

Hotel Bright Star

We didn’t get in until almost midnight, but the owner of our hotel, the Hotel Bright Star, had stayed up to check us in. We had a small room on the top floor – the stairs were a nice preview of what we expected to be a lot of uphill hiking on our trek.

This was only a preview of the generosity that the owner showed us during our three days in Kathmandu. He provided plenty of good advice, and walked us halfway to the tourist office (so we wouldn’t get lost) to pick up our trekking permits.

Hotel Bright Star on its quiet street

Hotel Bright Star on its quiet street

That made it that much harder to see him again after the quake. We had left two bags at the hotel while trekking, and we went back into town on May 1 to pick them up. He said on the phone that he and his family were ok, but when we got there it was clear how close they had come to disaster.

The hotel next door had collapsed during the quake, and all that was left was a pile of bricks and tangled wires. The owner, clearly shaken, told us that 10 people had died inside. We ran inside our hotel to get our bags, and it was clear that it was the first time that he had been back in. He didn’t want to linger, and neither did we; one of the walls of the lobby on the side of the collapsed building was bulging inwards.

The same view after the quake, with the hotel just beyond in rubble

The same view after the quake, with the hotel just beyond in rubble

He said the rest of his family had been safely moved to Pokhara, but he would remain staying in a building down the street until all of the left baggage had been picked up. Hopefully the people who left their bags will return soon…

The Old Quarter

On our first day in Kathmandu we did a self-guided walking tour (led by Lonely Planet) through the old part of Kathmandu. We quickly decided that Nepal was way different from any other country that we had visited on the entire trip! Bright colors all over the place, smells both good and bad in the air, people hawking items, bicycle rickshaws asking for rides, centuries-old temples in every nook and cranny… it was almost overwhelming!

After the quake, we only ventured back to the more touristy part of the Old Quarter, called Thamel. There wasn’t much physical destruction, but the change in the atmosphere of the streets was palpable. Half of the shops were closed up, and the foot and vehicle traffic was maybe half of what it once was. The sense of calm as compared to before was eerie.

Durbar Square

The main historic attraction in Kathmandu is the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Durbar Square, a collection of temples and palaces that was one the home of the Nepali royalty. We spent a whole afternoon exploring the different sights.

The earthquake did a great amount of damage to Durbar Square. We didn’t make it back to see for ourselves, but the pictures we have found online show the devastation.

Kasthamandap

This temple, built in the 12th century, is what gave Kathmandu its name. To us it felt a little bit more like a pavilion, with a large awning sheltering an open space with a few shrines.

Outside of Kasthamandap

Outside of Kasthamandap

From news reports, it appears that Kasthamandap has been completely destroyed.

Kasthamandap

Not our picture – photo source http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/27/nepal-earthquake-destroys-kathmandu-valleys-architecture-buildings-heritage. Note the same two statues as in our before picture.

 

Maju Deval

This tall Hindu temple dominated the center of Durbar Square. We joined the crowds of locals at the top and used it as a nice platform to rest our legs and watch the buzz of activity in the square.

The Maju Deval was completely destroyed in the earthquake, and only the platform remains.

King Pratap Malla’s Column

Near the entrance to the square’s museum was a small area with more temples and a large column with a statue on the top. The statue is a representation of the famous Nepali king from the 17th century.

The column with the statue of King Pratap Malla on top

The column with the statue of King Pratap Malla on top

During the earthquake, the statue fell off its pedestal, but it appears that the surrounding temples are standing.

Hanuman Dhoka

In the center of the Durbar Square area is the Hanuman Dhoka complex, which contains the buildings that make up the Royal Palace. We visited the museum here, which was a collection of dusty artifacts from the last kings of Nepal (before the monarchy was dissolved). Inside the complex were a few nice courtyards.

It’s a little hard to figure out what happened to this complex during the earthquake. It sounds like there was major damage, but it is still standing. A few of the towers collapsed though. You can see some of the same scenes in this video:

Swayambhunath

We took an afternoon to walk out to this Buddhist temple located on a hill overlooking the city. The final climb up the steps was pretty strenuous, but definitely worth it! The iconic face of Buddha stares down at you from the stupa above. There are many other pieces of sculpture with both Buddhist and Hindu themes. On both the walk up and down we saw a few of the monkeys that give the temple its nickname of the “Monkey Temple.”

Swayambhunath was damaged during the earthquake. The large stupa itself looks ok, but many of the buildings surrounding are in ruins.

 

Where We Ate

As in Myanmar, part of the fun of visiting Nepal was retracing the steps of Della’s parents on their round-the-world trip. Their favorite restaurant in Kathmandu was Utse’s, a Tibetan restaurant. We were happy to see that it was still there and was even in the Lonely Planet. We went there for dinner and enjoyed our Tibetan meal. We went back to check on it after the quake; the building seemed intact but they were not yet open for business.

Enjoying the Tibetan set plate with delicacies such as steamed momos

Enjoying the Tibetan set plate with delicacies such as steamed momos

Another dining highlight was a bit of a splurge for us. We had a nice dinner at the Thamel House, located in a charming old building. What drew us here was the free dance show that went on throughout our meal. This time we got a Newari set meal, and got to sample local specialties such as dal bhat and other curries. When we walked by after the quake, it seemed like the building was in good shape and they were re-opened already.

Final Thoughts

If you had asked us before the earthquake, we probably would have said that we found Kathmandu to be a bit dusty, crowded and chaotic, but at the same time a fascinating place to explore years of history and an intriguing culture. But now with the damage that the quake did to some of the sights we saw, we just hope that this city can recover and rebuild to allow others to see and experience this treasure for themselves.

We will continue to tell the story of our earthquake experience in Nepal. We were extremely fortunate to survive and to be able to come home to the USA. Our stories are now over, but those in Nepal are not that fortunate. Huge numbers of people have lost their homes and their livelihoods. Please take some time to donate (any amount, large or small, can help) to help this beautiful country recover. We’ve collected list of organizations that you might consider here

The Nepal Earthquake: How to Help

We haven’t blogged in a while because we were trapped while trekking the Langtang Valley when the large earthquake hit Nepal on April 25. That is many stories for another time though. Right now, we want to use this platform to ask everyone to please consider contributing to the causes that are trying to help the country recover.

We’ll try to collect information on different charities as we learn about them.

Some Recommendations

  • Rasuwa Relief – A group working specifically in the Rasuwa region which includes some of the towns we traveled through. Extensive information about their efforts can be found on their facebook group.
  • Langtang Disaster Relief Fund – A new group started by a survivor from Langtang village. Funds go directly to the Langtang villagers to try to rebuild.
  • Sustainable Steps Nepal – Relief for now and the future of Nepal
  • Langtang Village of Nepal Relief Fund – started by friend of a friend in Denver who has connections to Nepal. Langtang Village was higher on our trek and was completely destroyed by a mud/snow landslide. Please also note that there is an in-person fundraising event planned as well.
  • Colorado Nepal Alliance / Shoes for Sherpas – two projects from our home state that do good work in Nepal. We have a friend on the board as well
  • Mountainchild
  • Gift of the Givers – this is a South African organization that is working in Nepal. They did a lot of work to support the two South Africans who were stuck at Bamboo Village with us. They are continuing their search and rescue and support efforts
  • From a friend: “I heard from a college professor (my major advisor) who has a current Nepali student from Kathmandu, with family there. I believe he knows they are okay, but he and his sister are fundraising for two relief organizations that aren’t on most people’s radar: Women’s Entrepreneur Association of Nepal (WEAN) and Baseri Village Relief Team (Dhading), through an Indiegogo campaign.”
  • Nepal Youth Foundation and iDE – Two charities that were recommended by a Denver-area church

From Our Own

Recommendations from a Friend With Connections in Nepal

  • DIRECT REBUILDING IN ONE REMOTE VILLAGE.  http://www.gofundme.com/t494ck   “Closest to my heart is this tiny campaign.  It was organized by Phurchhoki Sherpa, whose family I lived with both before she was born and after.  She is the first of her village to attend college in the U.S. and is here now, having just graduated.  I could not be prouder. Her American friends wanted to give money to rebuild her house, but she decided instead to ask for help in restoring the village school and Buddhist temple.  The money she receives will go directly to the village where villagers will use it along with the labor of their own hands to rebuild.  Please consider even a small donation as the money will go a long way.”
  • IMMEDIATE RELIEF/HEALTHCARE.  “These recommendations come from a young Nepalese doctor connected to my uncle (also a doctor, and who has worked on relief efforts in Haiti). Health is going to be one of the biggest challenges very quickly, as both in Kathmandu and in rural areas normal means of sanitation are badly compromised. This doctor is recommending two smaller organizations that, in her words, ‘skip both big names and our Nepali government… so that maximum money reaches the needy.’– “The America Nepali Medical Foundation is directly collaborating with major hospital in and around Kathmandu valley and is arranging medical care to reach ground zero.”  http://americanepalmedicalfoundation.com— “NAOO is our Nepalese group here in Cleveland. it will collaborate with local organisation and youth group to provide relief package and basic necessity supplies like tent and drinking water. few of our members have already left for Nepal to map the initial steps.”  http://new.naoo.org/?page_id=161
  •  IMMEDIATE DISASTER RELIEF IN KATHMANDU AND LESS REMOTE AREAS.  “I am recommending Charity: Water.  They have an excellent reputation internationally and have been in Nepal several years working to provide drinking water systems.  They have connections/experience with disaster relief also and are expanding their focus in the wake of the earthquake, but I believe their experience of water issues will be invaluable.  Water is a precondition for food, health, sanitation — everything — and water systems are stressed or broken in many places. “
  • LONG HAUL REBUILDING.  : “dZi Foundation I think I have been hearing more about this organization than any other.  It is relatively small, and it has a stellar reputation for employing Nepalis and for working in areas that have been unreached by conventional development efforts.  More information about their philosophy and present program of action in the wake of the earthquake is here.  I highly recommend them.”

Large Charity Lists

Some organizations have put together lists of reputable charities

Using Points to Fly Cheaply Around Asia

In the past we’ve tried to use our frequent flyer points for as many flights as possible, but within Asia we have actually struggled to find ways to fly for free. The points we have just didn’t help for flying to the places that we would have liked to go. But recently we’ve been able to figure a few out!

Phong Nha to Hanoi for $6.58

This one was a last-minute decision. To get from the caves of Phong Nha to Hanoi in northern Vietnam was not as easy as we had originally anticipated. We thought that there would be multiple transport options, but as it turned out, the only bus from the village was a night bus, and the train (from the closest city of Dong Hoi) would take 11 hours and either involve an overnight stretch or take an entire day. All sounded like grueling options.

We were really struggling to choose the best of these limited options, and then we thought outside of the box. Using the wikipedia page for Hanoi’s airport (a top tip for figuring out what you can do), we saw that there was a direct flight on Vietnam Airlines from Dong Hoi to Hanoi. We ran an award flight search on Air France, and saw that we could use their Flying Blue miles to fly on this flight (since Air France and Vietnam Airlines are partners) – for $3.29 in fees plus 10,000 Flying Blue miles per person.

Even with a private transfer to Dong Hoi airport, this worked out as cheaper than the train (which we had been leaning towards) and got us there significantly earlier. To get the Air France Flying Blue miles, we were able to transfer our existing points from American Express Membership Rewards that we had gotten as a signup bonus for a couple of different American Express cards.

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On a propeller plane!

 

Hanoi to Hong Kong for $64

With Vietnam Airlines being a Sky Team alliance partner with Air France, our flights within and from Vietnam were prime targets to use the Flying Blue miles on. We were also able to snag a ticket to Hong Kong on a Vietnam Airlines flight using the Flying Blue miles as well. We got the necessary 10,000 Flying Blue miles each by transferring some more of our American Express Membership Rewards points. The fees were $31.90 per person.

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Hong Kong to Kathmandu for $79

Hong Kong’s airport is the hub for two major airlines that are a part of the oneworld alliance, so we figured that using points for one of those alliance partners would work well for our flights to or from there. We were able to use this to our advantage to get a flight from Hong Kong to Kathmandu in Nepal.

We found a reward flight on the Hong Kong-based airline Dragonair that we were able to book using our British Airways Avios points. We were able to get the required number of Avios by combining some Avios we had left over from signing up for the British Airways credit card with even more of our American Express Membership Rewards points that we could transfer in. The final cost was 10,000 Avios and $39.47 in fees per person.

Airline Alliances and Transfer Partners

These three examples just go to show how flexible you have to be when booking an award flight. Knowing which airlines partner with other airlines through alliances is huge – we greatly benefited from Vietnam Airlines being in an alliance with Air France and Dragonair with British Airways. Here’s a good infographic explaining the different alliances.

Having points in a program that can be transferred to multiple partners is also a great benefit. We didn’t have to earn Air France miles or British Airways Avios directly; instead, we could just use our American Express points for both. For more information on transferable points, check out this resource.

We have a few more award flights lined up that we are excited to share with you soon!

Fast Forward Friday: Langtang Trek, Nepal

Fast Forward Friday is our series where we share our anticipation for our upcoming travel destinations! Check our itinerary for more details!

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Another thing we are looking forward to is trekking in Nepal. After some research we have decided we are most likely going to do the Langtang trek. It is a good middle ground on number of days. We also found out that it is likely the same trek that Della’s parents did 35 years ago. These pictures are from their trek! We hope they don’t mind is copying them! ☺

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Fast Forward Friday: Pokhara, Nepal

Fast Forward Friday is our series where we share our anticipation for our upcoming travel destinations! Check our itinerary for more details!

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Source: Wikipedia

We are super excited to visit Nepal for many reasons. The largest is probably because many of Della’s students come from there. Pokhara, specifically, is exciting because a good friend of ours from Delaware came from there and it looks like a beautiful city. It is the second largest city in the country and three of the world’s tallest 10 mountains are close by. It is an ideal location to set of on a trek.

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