Travelling to any country after a natural disaster can leave you feeling anxious, with uncertainty of what to expect and anxiety over how to act in the wake of tragedy. Nepal was hit by a devastating earthquake in April 2015, the worst natural disaster in the country since 1934. I travelled to Nepal in October last year to set off for Annapurna Panorama and was pleasantly surprised.
Six months on …
My arrival into Kathmandu was a revelation – smiling friendly faces, an eager welcome and an honest explanation that life goes on. The Nepalese seemed to have dusted themselves off. The awful events have clearly left their scars, some more evident than others to a tourist’s eye, but these resilient people refuse to live in fear. People are going about their daily lives, meeting their friends under the crumbling ruins of a once majestic stupa, praying at their favourite temples and leaving offerings to their beloved gods and protectors. My concerns and reservations evaporated and I instantly felt safe and welcome.
The capital openly embraced me and accepted my presence, without desperation but with humility and understanding.
A country patiently rebuilding
The Nepalese have a humbling pride in their history and culture, irrelevant of its state of repair. Our delightful guide beamed as he rattled off his extensive and humorous knowledge of the capitals treasures. Travelling out of the city, daily hindrances became more apparent such as the nationwide fuel shortage. I experienced a level of patience I had never before witnessed. There were queues outside gas stations stretching for hundreds of metres, blocking highways for miles. Yet there was no honking of horns or queue jumping, no raised voices or looks of disdain but a calm acceptance. I learnt that some had been queuing for two days, their family and friends coming to deliver hot home cooked meals or just to keep them company. I can’t envision an ounce of the same tolerance being used here in London, working alongside a busy junction where the immediate reaction for a delayed start at a green traffic light is an aggressive use of car horn.
Nepal also endeared me with few delightful quirks, my favourite being the squat loos whilst trekking, cleverly designed to provide the most stunning views at just the right level. Popcorn was always served to us hot and when we least expected it. It was the perfect snack to enjoy whilst sitting and talking in stunning mountain views. We also ate many momos – like a dumpling only better.
The Nepalese people opened my eyes to a totally different approach to life. An acceptance that we can’t control everything around us, a calmness in the face of adversity and a caring nature towards all life. A patience and pride I have never encountered in my travels. Never again will I fear travelling to a country in recovery. I thought that they needed me but it turned out I needed them.