Submitted by Madeline Bokowa
We stood there high up in the Himalayas, rigid, almost frozen in space, as a boulder the size of house, dropped from the sky and ricocheted its way down the path in front of us. “RUN!” My partner Chadd yelled, as he grabbed my arm and pulled us away from underneath the teahouse we had just had lunch in. With an incredible force, the earth quaked underneath as we ran for cover, hands over our heads. The sounds of scattering rocks echoed in the valley below. A few minutes later when the earth had quieted once more, we were still trembling.
When the first earthquake hit Nepal on April 25th 2015, within seconds, its 7.9 Richter scale force flattened entire villages to ruins. We were lucky. Our landslide encounter left us shaken but unharmed, and after the second aftershock hit and reality set in, we turned around to begin the three day walk out. As we carefully avoided areas where landslides had clearly moved through, we started receiving reports from other trekkers about the extent of the destruction. At each teahouse we rested at, cracks clearly visible in the earth and in plastered walls increased our uneasiness. We watched as frantic local guides and porters paced the hillside, trying to find decent enough reception to call home. Most were from the epicenter region of Gorkha, just 60 miles of where we were. Entire villages had collapsed. Men, women, children, livestock were all gone.
By the third day, as the aftershocks kept hitting, we got used to going to bed fully clothed with backpacks and headlamps at the ready. Each night we awoke several times to our world rumbling around us. We would run out into the pitch-dark night, looking up and listening for rockslides.
It was chaos, and we weren’t even in the epicenter or surrounded by buildings in Kathmandu. The third day, we watched the plume of snow fall down the side of a mountain, another avalanche setting loose. I wondered briefly, if this was an apocalyptic dream. Landslides and avalanches were regularly occurring, and they still are; yet Annapurna was never officially closed and Everest is due to reopen in a two weeks.
We figured we would stay in the lower elevations, in a relatively safe area where there was fresh mountain water. ample food and more than enough lodge space to accommodate the few remaining tourists, since most had left. But by the third day as we got into wifi range and saw the images of the turmoil and despair that was happening just east of where we were, we decided we needed to try and help somehow.
A 10 hours trek and a petrifying local bus ride in which a road was taken out by a landslide and a new one built within two hours, we made it back down a city 70 miles west of where the quake originated from. A ghost town only the locals and several tourists remained, since most had been evacuated. Within two days, a group of travelers from all corners of the earth and a community of local Nepali, banded together to begin bringing immediate relief to the rural areas most affected.
These densely populated communities sit in remote areas at the foothills of the Himalayas, and if they were at all accessible, landslides have now cut many off. While these villages desperately wait for relief, most aid efforts have been concentrated elsewhere. We’ve witnessed first hand the dubious red tape of a corrupted government only aiding those in their pockets and directing or holding back aid elsewhere.
With information that is delivered by on-the-ground local Nepali contacts, we’re identifying specific villages that require immediate need. Tarps for temporary shelter are the most needed as the afternoon rains remind us that monsoon is quickly approaching. By then, these villages will be almost completely isolated and we need to act soon. Rice, dal and other foods are also crucially needed as entire communities go hungry, their food, crops and livestock lost to the earth. We try our hardest to buy from the Nepali community to boost the local economy that is now struggling as fallout from the disaster as tourism lags.
We’ve set up a funding page at and100% goes to funding our initiative
. Without support we cannot keep buying the much-needed essentials to help these communities rise again.
When disasters strike, you see the best and worst side of humanity; it’s been a tough to witness first hand the despair but we are staying positive and trying our best to give the most that we can to those that are struggling to survive.