Very often, I know very little about a country before we visit. I was surprised by how dry the air in Tibet is, by how many different landscapes there are in Nepal and by how polite the people in New Zealand are. But that is all different when we are back. I cannot help but read every bit of news about the places we have visited. Over the years, the number of articles I read in a newspaper has increased constantly. One of last year’s additions was Nepal, and it is this country’s fate that makes me write this article today.
We did have a great time in Nepal: we entered over land from Tibet, walked the Annapurna Base Camp trek, saw a rhino and went rafting on the Sun Kosi river. The most popular article on our blog is in fact a packing list for the trek we did.
However, traveling there is not as easy. The low wages in Nepal imply that travelers carry a lot of responsibility. Just because someone is offering do something for money doesn’t mean it’s okay to book that service. While on the trek, we were very happy that we had not hired a porter – most of the porters we saw were heavily overloaded and did not have the appropriate gear for the trek. Many of them were walking in rubber boots or flip-flops. On another occasion, we were less happy with ourselves: we realized only after we saw that rhino during our jungle walk in Chitwan National Park that we had just paid two guides to risk their lives. That bad feeling we had despite the adrenaline rush was not at all about us. I would probably walk into a jungle again. But I would never again pay someone to walk there with me.
The news we got to read from Nepal since we left the country have been devastating. In April 2014, an avalanche killed several Nepali who were preparing the routes for the high season at the Mount Everest. Only four months later, a landslide buried the road we took from Tibet to Nepal, thereby destroying several villages and interrupting an important trade route. An unexpected snow storm this month killed tens of trekkers on the Annapurna Circuit, a trek close to the one we did. Many of those who died were Nepali working as guides or porters. Still, I do know from our blog’s stats that people are still planning to do these treks. While the landslide caused the highest number of fatalities (more than 150), it received only little coverage in our newspapers compared to the other two incidents.
I do not have a solution. I do not think that it would help if everyone stopped visiting. I only have that wish to express my compassion for the people of Nepal. And I also wish to remind everyone traveling there to register before going on a trek, write your name in the guest books of all the lodges you use, carry cold weather gear and make sure that everyone traveling with you is at least as well equipped as you are.
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This article was published on perelincolors.com