Nepal Earthquake: Run for your life or have another cappuccino? The perspective from Pokhara.
Nepal is one of the loveliest places we’ve ever been, a place from which I would not want to escape at all under normal circumstances. But, as the aftershocks continue and the humanitarian crisis grows, there is little for us to do here but consume resources (though we are at least putting tourist money into the economy and Dmitry’s ongoing photo fundraiser has already raised more than $1000).
Pokhara – in central Nepal – is a beautiful tourist town located along a peaceful lake. Although it was almost equidistant with Kathmandu in terms of the epicenter of the initial 7.8 quake, there is very minimal damage (at least in the tourist area) and no injuries. The tourists continue to stream in, shop along the lakeside, and drink local beers as sunset falls over the mountains. Basically, you would never know that an earthquake had happened here, except for the scattered relief efforts and “Pray for Nepal” signs. We dropped off a bunch of warm clothes with one of the relief organizations this morning, and saw them unloading dozens of bags of rice and dal- I think to be transferred to smaller vehicles that can be taken to the more remote villages.
My yoga program was scheduled to end on May 4, but I am now the last person from the school left in Pokhara. A few of the students are in Kathmandu or elsewhere in Nepal trying to be of help, but the majority of the crew got onto a bus Tuesday afternoon and were “evacuated” with an escort from the Indian government to Raxual, along the Indian border. In classic disorganized fashion, the decision to make the journey was arrived at during an impromptu meeting around 10:30 am and the bus was gone less than an hour later – leaving behind at least one student who did not pack her bags quickly enough. According to Facebook, the evacuees reached the border 14 hours later and cleared Indian immigration 12 hours after that, then split up to take buses onward to the city of Lucknow (*shudder*) or Delhi (*double shudder*). All told, 38 hours on the bus. This desperate escape was caused by the prediction that another large earthquake could strike. The odds of such an earthquake striking? 7%.
Oh – and the woman who was left behind by the bus? She ended up with a much better deal, joining up with a group of Canadians who were evacuated by a Canadian Forces C-17 plane to Delhi the next day.
Oddly enough, the US government has made no attempts to evacuate. Dmitry and I are perfectly happy to evacuate ourselves – we have a flight to Kathmandu on Saturday morning and onward to Tokyo Saturday afternoon. Somehow, Thai Airways sounded much more appealing than a government bus to the border or an air force plane to Delhi! In preparation for the flights, we spent yesterday running town finding to get boxes and materials to pack the bikes for the flight to Kathmandu – the first time on this trip that we will be checking them instead of trying to carry-on. We also bought a tent and sleeping bag (for camping in Japan), so we’ll definitely have a place to sleep if we get stuck at the Kathmandu airport.
And in the meantime, we have been enjoying the continuing delights of Pokhara – cappuccino, wifi, and even outdoor movie nights. Eat your heart out, 38 hour bus ride!