We bumped our way over the massive 1m drops in the new Bhaktapur highway and into the countryside. To be honest, we didn’t see too many houses totally down beside the road, but look across the fields and nearly every house has some cracks of varying severity. The school is located in Methinkot village, high above Bakunde Besi up a very steep 4X4 dirt track. Fortunately the school building is intact and is currently being used to shelter homeless families. Schools across the country are closed until the end of the month.
Apparently 17 families have lost their homes and nearly all other dwellings are damaged, although some can still be used. The village is home to some very poor people, since almost half are untouchables (dalits). The caste system is alive and ongoing deep in the rural areas, despite new regulations to eliminate the tradition.
We were able to unload 32 tarpaulins at the school, sufficient for the immediate problems.
Back down the dirt road, we could hardly fail to note the destroyed house in last night’s post. Behind this roofless wreck were two ladies busy milking a buffalo and cooking in the back area of the dangerous house. Their situation was desperate. The younger lady’s husband had run off 12 years ago and she was left alone to take care of herself and her frail mother-in-law. With no obvious manpower in the place, it was very sad, to say the least. A tarpaulin and a couple of thousand rupees hardly seemed enough to touch the surface of the problem. We can only hope that their neighbours can help them going forward.
Further down the road some young men were setting up three bamboo poles to create a ‘home’ for three families, so another tarp was offloaded there. Three families will be living under two tarpaulins...
We reached Kathmandu just in time to meet Dr Kailash Sah at Kanti Children’s Hospital, and sort out another specific donation from Sian’s sister Kathy. General and cancer medicines were purchased to supplement government supplies for people who cannot afford even the most basic fees for medication.
Back at the Hotel Moonlight, news came from Melanie of a successful helicopter drop of supplies and shelter to the Gumba Lungdang nunnery and village high on the north side of Ganesh Himal; a fitting conclusion to a good day.
A number of people have commented on the good work being done by many teams of Army personnel across the country.
For those who follow the Kathmandu merry-go-around, Mick Chapman and Paulo Grobel are back in town. Mick had been in Rolwaling but had left the country just before the first quake. He was in Delhi airport on his way back when the second quake struck. Paulo was on Manaslu with a climbing group during both quakes. In one week, Paulo is off to largely unaffected Mustang with another climbing group.
Both are emphasising the need for trekkers to return in the autumn (we might add for safety perhaps a little later in the season, from mid-October, to let the landslides settle after the monsoon). Tourism and trekking staff need the work to be able to continue their lives and rebuild their homes. Do not abandon them when they need the cash the most!
Otherwise it’s a very quiet day, but the tarp man has called to ask how many more rolls we need. We await the supplies of big rolls, although smaller tarps are generally now more available in the market. There is a run on tin roofing at the moment.
Summary of projects last week:
Three sheets of flooring plywood were bought for the family near the hotel living in a Chinese Red Cross tent.
Purna Thapa Magar managed to get our supplies on board a truck with other contributions into the Tamar Kosi-Rolwaling lower valley before Tuesday’s earthquake.
Three rolls of tarps donated via our fund flew into Tipling at last via 1 Army drop and other helicopters paid for by Mountain People (see photo by Beni Rani Ghale)
Tarps supplied to staff at Hotel Moonlight who have lost their homes.
Tarps supplied to staff at the Kathmandu Guest House who also lost their homes.
Small donation to Himalayan Map House for their rice and aid supply run to Melamchi Bazaar
School run with 32 tarps to Methinkot village near Bakunde Besi.
In addition funds dispensed through ‘S&B Finance department:
Specific Medical Aid to Kanti Children’s Hospital
Donations via Binay Lama to the charity So the Child may Live
The following donations have been received this week with many thanks. We do apologise to anyone wishing to remain anonymous. So far the fund has received £5158, including our own initial contributions in Malaysia and specific donations of £1000 via S&B Finance! Thank you all!
Chris and Anny Lewis
Rob and Errin Mitchell
Susan and Bob Wright
Mickey-Boy (Monica and Michael Bennett)
Caroline and Geoff Mintenko
Ken and Margaret Norman
Barry and Jenni Pizer
Bethan’s school in Bangor
John Pritchard-Jones and Mags Garel
From our own correspondent… helping mountain people to help themselves (Mountain People’s motto!)
Kathmandu: May 18
It looked like being a nonevent today, but around 9.30am Pawan from Himalayan Map House called to offer us 25 tarpaulins from his Indian source. These are a large size, 12 X 30 feet, so good for a big family. No soon had they arrived in the Hotel Moonlight than they were hauled off by Mountain People to Beni Ghale’s women’s workshop yard for distribution to her workers and families. Both of Beni’s shops have had to close because of earthquake damage, so the ladies who make the handicrafts are all out of work. In fact 134 women from Beni’s home district came to receive help in the form of 30kg rice per family, salt and sleeping mats. Plus the newly arrived bright yellow tarpaulins! These supplies will hopefully sustain the families for a few weeks.
Hardly had we had a quick lunch when Surendra, the tarp man called and, within the hour, four more of the big 100x6m rolls were delivered. Hopefully two of them will be going to Gatlang near Syabrubesi. It all depends on whether the road is open. Purna has called tonight and definitely needs more tarps for Dolakha, where places like Singati en route to Rolwaling were devastated by the second earthquake and massive landslides. There is still need of more shelter in Tipling, but some supplies were dropped by the Nepalese Army in Shertung in the same region of Dhading a day or so ago.
We were particular pleased to receive a generous donation from Keith and Shanan Miller, who have been pivotal in developing trekking in Nepal since the 1970s. In fact it was Keith who was responsible for our meeting on a trek in Kashmir way back in 1983, so we are doubly indebted on that score! Thanks again.
We do feel quite a responsibility to spend the donated funds as wisely as we can, and hope it will make a difference, however small it all seems on the wider scale of the disaster. We have also bought 25 fleece jackets from Mingma to be sent out as soon as possible. Every little helps with his house rebuilding, and the jackets are made in Nepal, so it supports the local economy as well.
Cousin Bethan is keen to develop the relationship with the Nepalese school in Methinkot, and we will be equally pleased if this turns into a rewarding experience for the children and teachers on both sides.
Many people here are begging for trekkers and tourists not to avoid the country next season. In the long term, perhaps it is those Nepal addicts outside the country who will ultimately best promote employment in the trekking and tourism industry and sustain the economic growth and rebuilding of Nepal.
Just before dinner everyone in the hotel was roped into removing all of the handicrafts from Beni’s shop in the courtyard of the Northfield Café, the in-place in Thamel, being one of the few restaurants to remain open after the second quake nearly a week ago. The Mexican quesadilla suiza is a great pick-me-up!
Tomorrow Steve is off again before the crack of dawn with some tin sheets for roofing in a village that is accessible by road.
Anna, who arrived the day before the first earthquake to teach and then have a holiday, stayed on for three weeks to help with women and children’s projects. She is going home tomorrow to the sand, sea and blue skies of Hawaii. Aah!
A huge thank you to The Chambelles
(the Chamonix singing belles, of which I look forward to being one again soon!) for sending 1000 euros, proceeds from their recent concert. Merci beaucoup!!
It's been a busy day, with our goods originally destined for Rolwaling being diverted at the last minute to Gatlang because of the way things worked out, totally unexpectedly. But don't worry, Purna Thapa Magar
, we have already bought more rice and tarps!
We'll explain more tomorrow... it's getting late now. Bonne nuit / suva ratri / good night / nos da!
From our own correspondent… musical rice bags
Kathmandu: May 19
Thamel is still empty, with most shutters down and very few restaurants open. Beni Rani Ghale
and her ladies are still emptying all her handicraft stocks into the store at the Moonlight. The hotel is rapidly becoming the moonlighting depot for ‘alternative’ themes!
The morning was spent getting together rice, dal, salt and tarpaulins for Purna Thapa Magar
and the Dolakha area, so there were a few runs to the tarp shop and the rice was delivered. We are also trying to get a truckload of the same supplies to Gatlang in the Tamang Heritage Trail area near the Langtang valley. This project is going to be carried out with Mountain People in association with Umbrella Australia, but logistics are a nightmare. One truck carrying tents and supplies on the road to Dhunche was hijacked recently, so things are not easy. Helicopters are too expensive and at the moment the road is only open to Syabrubesi, a day’s hike short of Gatlang. The Chinese are apparently trying to clear the roads in the area as there is a big dam project higher up to the north.
We were very pleased to get a donation from Ann Sainsbury, another trek leader who has been out here from the mid-70s and was one of the first to take a Sherpa Expeditions group into the Gatlang area.
The afternoon sprung into life when Kim Bannister (who runs the Kamzang trekking company) arrived back from a 5-week trek in the Kanchenjunga and Lumbasumba region. The Arun Valley has suffered some landslides after the second quake, making the last few days very scary. Quite by chance, we learnt that twenty of her porters were from the Gatlang area. Most have no house left and one poor man has lost his two daughters. They would be making their way home tomorrow by public bus!
This news was more exciting than one could possibly believe, because it has become necessary for all NGOs and charities to get permits to move supplies around, thus adding further delays and fees to distribution. Those like us are unable to get such permits, as we fall outside the big boys’ planning radar.
We hatched a plan to get each of the Gatlang porters to carry 30kg of rice plus a tarp and a baby fleece jacket (hurriedly purchased by Frank). We gave them the rice we had bought for Purna’s Rolwaling group and re-ordered it for Wednesday! Later a small truck took all the stuff to the bus park. The idea was to have the porters take the supplies as their own personal luggage, in order to avoid the permit issues at Dhunche. We await the outcome.
Following this first effort, David spent the whole day attempting to sort out the logistics of Mountain People and the Umbrella group getting a much larger consignment into Gatlang in a day or so. We will donate any supplies that are required to this effort.
Later we met climber Mal Haskins at the Kathmandu Guest House to hear about their plans for Helambu. The road is open to Timbu and stuff is getting into Tarkeghyang and adjacent villages from there. Already people are asking for tin roofing to be taken up where road access is possible. Now there is a shortage of tin and apparently a new rule has required all the tin traders and wholesalers to come under the control of the authorities. This story is not totally confirmed yet, but we can imagine it might well be happening. This will add yet another level of control to the free movement of aid supplies.
Also at the Kathmandu Guest House was one Lhakpa Sherpa ( there are so many Lhakpa Sherpas!) from near Bung on the Arun Valley route to Everest. He is collecting supplies for the newly hit areas of lower Solu, a generally Rai-peopled area, hit by the second quake. They expect to take a truckload or two in via the Okhaldunga road. We were able to give him 15 of Mingma's double-fleece jackets for the people in the high areas near Bung. We also directed him to ‘our’ tarp shop, so stocks might dip very soon!
Anna has finally left for Guangzhou and Hawaii after a big flight delay; Melanie is now leaving on Wednesday. Getting stuff into Upper Tsum has been proving difficult for her project, because helicopters are scarce and the Indian ones cannot go there as it is so close to the Chinese/Tibetan border.
All in all another knackering day!
From our own correspondent: heavy metal
Kathmandu: May 20
A thunderstorm rolled around the valley during the night, keeping most of us awake. The monsoon must be very close to arriving here now.
Catching up on yesterday’s report took up most of the morning, as the internet is very slow. With so many shops shut, it’s quite hard to find materials such as sleeping-floor matting and plywood, so it was not a very productive day. Dave and Frank are working on planning the next Gatlang trip, following news that the twenty porters have successfully arrived in Syabrubesi by bus. Kim is going to deliver stoves to be sent up on the next truck, along with more of our rolls of tarpaulin!
New Orleans Café has a metal ‘house’ on display in the restaurant, a temporary monsoon shelter made of corrugated iron and metal bars. Photos to follow tomorrow! We have decided to buy one for the two homeless ladies we met last Saturday, and try to make it into a temporary home in which they can feel comfortable. Cost Rs10,000 (US$100). It can be dismantled into an IKEA-style flat pack, transported on a roof rack and reassembled ‘easily’ in situ. Hope the theory works in practice!
A very sad occasion followed around lunchtime, when we went to Park Village to pay our respects to Sunil Sakya, whom many old friends of Nepal will know well from the Kathmandu Guest House. His wife ‘Bobby’ tragically lost her life after a fall at Park Village in a freak accident on Saturday.
From our own correspondent… we bought a house for US$100!
Kathmandu: May 21
The above-mentioned house is a rounded tin and metal-framed structure for monsoon relief; it can give adequate shelter for up to 6 people. See the photographs. Obviously these are only temporary and ‘easily’ erected. We’ll let you know how easy it is to reassemble in practice!
Planning and shopping today as we wait for the transport issues in Dolakha to be resolved and the road to be re-opened. And enjoying a delicious lunch of shahi paneer from the Hotel Moonlight’s own chef. Talking of shopping, Beni’s shop has reopened in the Hotel Moonlight, bringing a splash of multi-coloured recycled products to the lobby. Time for Christmas shopping anyone?
The supplies for Gatlang will be loaded at dawn and on their way tomorrow, with a huge supplement of rice to be added at Trisuli…
The Kathmandu Guest House is already being demolished; goodbye to our favorite room 415, the end of an era…