November 2011 - Update from Nepal
It is a year since I sent an update from Nepal and the main talking point remains the same - The weather!
During the main monsoon period landslides and floods in some areas of the country caused many problems and difficulties for the local people, washing away roads and large sections of planted crops.
Yet again during this years monsoon domestic air travel was disrupted to various parts of the country. During this period tragically two domestic aircraft crashed, in different locations, due to bad weather conditions with loss of life to passengers and crew.
On September 18 an earthquake of 6.8 magnitude on the Richter scale, with it's epicentre on the Nepal Sikkim border in the far east of the country, caused considerable damage in the immediate area and also across the country as far as Kathmandu.
Once again bad weather has caused major problems and difficulties to local Nepali as well as tourists in the main autumn season. Domestic flights to mountainous regions, including Lukla in the Khumbu, have been severely affected. From the first of November there were no flights to/from Lukla for 7 consecutive days causing major problems for those beginning and ending their treks in this area. At one time the build-up of people waiting for flights from Lukla was reported by local radio to be in excess of 2500 and caused major problems for accommodation, food etc. Private helicopter companies were able to operate some flights to the village of Surke, just down below Lukla, and they were able to move some of the tourists and locals but numbers were relatively small.
When the weather cleared the domestic airlines made up to a total of 100 flights a day to Lukla to clear the backlog.
A second period from 12 November of 6 consecutive days caused the same problems all over again. - Over the twenty years I have been coming to Nepal, ten years ago you could expect fog to form in the morning during the second half of December in Kathmandu, specifically around the airport, the sun would usually clear this by around 09.30/10.00 hrs and flights would be OK. Now this seems to occur a month earlier in the middle of November, still in the main season. Whether this is the cause of man-made pollution or of Global Warming it disrupts the daily life and the travel plans of many during this main tourism season. We can but hope these particular weather patterns will not be an annual event.
Once again, fortunately, we were able to manage most eventualities that came our way and no major problems were experienced during this difficult time.
The earthquake in September caused a great deal of damage and more than 200 deaths over the border in Sikkim beyond the far east of Nepal. In Nepal there was a lot of structural damage in the Kanchenjunga region and other districts in the east of the country. 11 deaths were reported across Nepal and others suffered a variety of injuries. In the Khumbu region, where many of our Sherpa family and friends live, some structural damage occurred but thankfully no-one was seriously injured.
Knowing that some damage had occurred in our village of Pangum and also at Tengboche I made a visit to Khumbu with a flight to Lukla a few days before the first lot of bad weather caused flight delays. In Pangum the Monastery side walls have suffered some cracks and the rear wall, behind the main statue of Buddha inside, has a noticeable bulge. These cracks in the side walls and the bulge in the rear wall will have to be repaired as soon as possible to prevent any large amount of water getting inside during the next monsoon as this will probably cause more damage.
At various places along the trail up to Tengboche there were several small land slips that had occurred but nothing that caused any major problem. At Tengboche the main Monastery appears to have no visible damage. However, some of the individual Lama's houses are damaged in various ways and the long dormitory building at the rear of the Monastery was completely demolished. The old library building suffered some wall collapse on three sides also. The dormitory is now under reconstruction and other rebuilding work will follow. The damage and reconstruction work taking place at the rear of the Monastery caused some changes to be made to this years Mani Rimdu Festival, but it was able to take place as usual with the Wong - Blessing from the Ringpoche - held within the main Monastery courtyard.
Because of the major problems caused by the weather I stayed up at Tengboche for six days until the situation at Lukla returned to normal. It is always a pleasure to spend time at Tengboche, however, I did have to leave before the Mani Rimdu Festival because I had other things to look after in Kathmandu. Although I have been present at Mani Rimdu many times it is always an enjoyable experience. Maybe next time I will be able to attend.
The political situation in Nepal remains much the same as previously with little or no change - the various parties have factions within who are causing internal problems and the main parties are against each other to gain power which causes problems to the people and to the country.
The third extension of the Constituent Assembly (CA), acting as an interim body to write a new constitution for the country, comes to an end on 30 November. Nothing has been done and no progress made during the years since the CA was formed. Whatever follows we have to hope it will be peaceful.
All of this uncertainty, lack of security, rising inflation, power cuts and water shortages continues to affect the ordinary people of the country whilst the politicians are seen living a life of apparent luxury with big cars, big expense accounts, 24 hour electricity and water to their homes etc. etc.
Once again we must strongly point
out that even though the situation affects the local population Tourism
still continues to be manageable and we do urge prospective clients
to go ahead with their plans and to make a visit to Nepal for your trek
or tour - you will have a memorable experience and you will Make A Difference
to many of our staff and their families.
Nepal Trekking in Nepal:
With the ongoing political uncertainty life for everyone in Kathmandu continues to be difficult and we all hope for a change for the better as soon as possible. Here in Kathmandu we continue to 'battle on' through increasing power cuts, water shortages and price rises!
The children in Kathmandu continue to make progress in school. In April of this year Tshiring completed class 10 and the School Leaving Certificate (SLC) - equivalent to GCSE and in August moved on to college for years 11 and 12. Kunga Doma is now in class 5 and making reasonable progress. In Pangum village the children also continue to make progress at school. Earlier in the year Mingma's eldest daughter Pema Yangji secured a job at Phaplu Hospital, in Solu Khumbu, after completing her training as a nurse/community medical health assistant. She was chosen by the Hospital, along with others, to take further training and has just started a course at a nursing college in Kathmandu. Successful completion of this will increase her qualifications and her chances of continued employment.
Yet again, in the present unstable political climate in Nepal it is difficult to see what the future holds for all the students and young people, we can only hope it will change for the better sooner rather than later.
Once again we are very grateful to everyone who gives us support for our work direct in Nepal. Support both financially and with the continued supply of clothing for children and adults in the villages and in Kathmandu. Funding for the wind up torches and lights is still ongoing and this project is proving to be very beneficial to those receiving assistance. Medical supplies for Khunde Hospital high in the Khumbu continue to be useful. In recent times Dr Kami Sherpa at Kunde has been able to arrange for many more essential medical supplies to be made available in Kathmandu and any direct donation of funds, sent to me, would be gratefully received and help in general purchases as required. Our projects are ongoing and we look forward to continued support in the months and years ahead. If you can help with any of these or if you require any further information please contact Denis direct (email and phone details enclosed)
Denis and all the Nepal Trekking Family