We received a warm sendoff from Palchowk, dreading, in a way, what was ahead of us. You never become inured to scenes such as these, which were with us for the next twelve days.
The day was very difficult…eight hours of strenuous climbing… interrupted by a lunch stop at a small village, Kakani, or what was left of it. There we met a young builder from Flagstaff, AZ, Dan Maurer, who was trekking with a guide and an Austrian friend, the purpose being to help with rebuilding. He had raised money from crowdrise and from friends and family. For three months he had been going from village to village, many to which we were headed.
In the backyard of the half-destroyed guest house where we ate, we became acquainted with three children, all siblings, who lived with their family in a large tent. They were playing soccer with a beat-up, half-inflated ball, which did nothing to dampen their competitiveness. It was hilarious…the way the tiny brother would try to steal the ball from his older siblings. How I wished I could have bought them a new ball. But where? There were no stores to be found.
As we trekked from village to village in the mountains, Cary and I talked to the local Nepalis and observed, firsthand, how these people are putting their lives back together, starting in the immediate aftermath of the April earthquake. The priorities were in this order.
1 They searched for their family members, and helped the wounded and buried their loved ones.
2. They collected whatever food was available for the group and put together makeshift shelters with any salvaged material they could find.
3. They then went to work providing schools for the children.
In the next two weeks we visited four schools that were destroyed and the children housed in tin shacks or rooms built from the wood and detritus left by the quake. Education is a high priority for the Nepalese.
As we go along I shall show in pictures the results of this labor, as well as the progress in rebuilding some of the schools.
Continuing on to Sermathang we passed many stupas, most of them destroyed.
So many impressions flooded my mind as I climbed through fog and mist, winding over clay or rocky trails beside farms and terraces, and facing exposure (scary to me) as I looked down at the fields of grain below. Even though the narrow trails are often well-worn, it’s still a challenge to me…but also part of the excitement.
In late afternoon we approached the town of Sermathang, with some trepidation. Would there be a guest house left standing for us to stay in overnight? After seeing so many destroyed buildings, it was almost shocking to see a totally intact 3 story guest house, the Dorje. This was an example of how modern construction with concrete and steel reinforcing rods can hold up in such strong earthquake.
We met Dan, again, at dinner. The dining room was unusually grand for a mountain guesthouse. There were benches covered with handmade Tibetan rugs, and cabinets with elaborately-carved replicas of the eight auspicious Buddhist symbols. It had been an emotionally charged day, and our exploration was only just beginning. The next day we headed toward Tarkyeghang, where we had started our trek last year.
I promise to finish this trip before summer! Already it’s early March on Whidbey Island and the town of Langley is awash in daffodils and flowering trees. It’s like New Jersey in late April. And we deserve it. We’ve had enough rain to take care of all of California with Texas thrown in….