One Year Ago Today

Since we have returned home from our round-the-world trip, on quiet evenings we like to play a game where we try to remember what we were doing on the same day one year ago. For example, on March 25, we remembered that one year ago we had left Ko Lanta in Thailand and flown to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. On October 25, we remembered that one year ago we had been exploring ancient Olympia in Greece.

One year ago today is a milestone that we are not soon to forget.


 

One year ago today, we were in Nepal.

One year ago today, we left the town of Syabru Bensi and started hiking up the Langtang River valley on the first day of our Langtang trek, which we had been looking forward to the entire trip. We chose to take the “low road” path that stayed down in the valley with a more gradual ascent.

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One year ago today, on the trail we leapfrogged a few different groups and individuals, making small talk about the scenic canyon and the arduous nature of the elevation gain.

One year ago today, we debated continuing to hike for another hour to our intended first night’s stop of Rimche, but then decided to take a break for tea and chapati in the village of Bamboo.

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The view from our table at the teahouse

One year ago today, at 11:56 Nepal time, at 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal about 100 km west of the Langtang valley.


 

One year ago today, as we were drinking our tea, we felt the ground shaking beneath our chairs. We turned to each other and asked, almost incredulously, “Is this an earthquake?”

One year ago today, we weren’t quite sure what to do in an earthquake. We thought about running into the teahouse, but changed our mind when the workers ran out of it.

One year ago today, we followed everyone up onto the raised terrace that belonged to the teahouse, and sheltered ourselves under wooden tables while boulders as big as cars crashed down from either side of the canyon.

One year ago today, we saw the teahouse we had considered running into flattened by a falling boulder.

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Looking south at the teahouses immediately after the quake. Compare to the above picture

One year ago today, we followed the other tourists, guides and villagers up just above the village to an area with two huge boulders that had not moved, with a small depression in between.

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

One year ago today, we huddled against these boulders as further aftershocks and landslides occurred, praying for moments of calm and pleading with the Earth to stay still.

One year ago today, we stretched out for a night of fitful sleep under an orange tarp thoughtfully put up by others in the group.

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One year ago today, our families and friends back in the USA heard the news of an earthquake in Nepal, but did not know exactly where we were or how badly our area had been hit.

One year ago today, we began to make connections with this group that would help us survive until we were rescued five days later.


 

One year ago today, the village of Langtang, two days walk further up the trek (and where we were planning on spending our second or third night), was wiped off the map when a glacier broke off on the mountain above, triggering a massive landslide.

One year ago today, in Kathmandu, the royal palace and many of the historic temples surrounding Durbar Square (which we had visited three days prior) were destroyed.

One year ago today, the building adjoining the hotel that we had stayed in while in Kathmandu collapsed, killing multiple people inside.

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

One year ago today, a villager on the trail just below where we sat was struck in the head and killed by a falling rock.

One year ago today, Or Assaraf, an Israeli trekker who had ridden on the same bus to Syabru Bensi that we did but had started his trek in the direction of the Gosakind Lakes, was killed in a landslide triggered by the earthquakes.

One year ago today, over 8000 people in Nepal lost their lives.


 

One year ago today, we were truly fortunate.

For more information about our experience, you can read our series on the Nepal earthquake. Many of the organizations that we highlighted in our how to help post have continued to do great work in Nepal as the country continues to rebuild, so please consider donating.

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: