Though it has already been a month, the aftermath of the initial earthquake remains raw in Nepal. Now the realization that it can and did happen again looms renewing a sense of fear and international compassion. Teams are on the ground thwarting health crises such as cholera outbreaks and lack of access to services and healthcare supplies, people are still discovering the damage, and the entire country is picking up the pieces of broken hearts and broken buildings, and as some might say, a broken approach to aid.
Crushed too are we for the fact that this quake has deeply impacted the trajectory of the country’s growth and development and will forever change the way people view our beloved Nepal. Globally, it is not a completely understood place. In part due to the Hippie trail and freely growing cannabis, it was often thought of a hippie haven, or for adventure junkies daring to summit the highest mountain on earth. Kathmandu is recognized for chaos and pollution, and Everest for its intimidating grandeur, and in many circles that is where it ends.
While there is no doubt that it is important to share the reality of the current situation– the destruction, the health and economic implications, the corruption– our regret is that people who knew little about Nepal before the quake, will now see it for sadness, loss, and fear. With drone and mapping technology a natural disaster is made more real than ever before to those who can fly over the ruble and refugees from the safety of their own computer thousands of miles away.
Of course, it is only natural to share what was once and is no longer – the World Heritage sites that were demolished and the mountainsides that have slipped away, but we want to ensure that the world knows that Nepal is greater than the sum of its parts, and that we believe our neighbors are strong enough to keep their extraordinary, unique identity which is joyful, welcoming and radiant.
Though Ventours is based over the border in India, we have been working closely with our Nepali counterparts for nearly 30 years to share what has become a second home where we seek both solace and excitement. To us, Nepal is about its people and the way in which its incredible landscape has shaped them. Though nearly 75% of the country is covered in mountains, the quintessential snowcapped view is only the tip of the iceberg. A melting pot given its geographic location bordering India and the Tibetan region of China, and close proximity to Bhutan and Bangladesh, plus the harmonious coexistence of Buddhism and Hinduism, Nepal is a mecca for art, creativity, cuisine, adventure and luxury. Full of character with its Holy men lining the banks of the Bagmati River and traditions like the Living Goddesses of the Kathmandu Valley, full of history from the ancient salt trade to the recent Maoist regime, it is, simply put, full of surprises.
Many don’t imagine Nepal for champagne brunches at the edge of the atmosphere, or a round of golf at one of the finest courses in the world, for mustang horses on arid landscapes, historic libraries filled with giant prayer books inscribed in gold, or for sushi restaurants, cheese, or courtyards reminiscent of Marrakesh. But again, that is just a fragment of what Nepal has to offer.
And for those familiar, a day in Kathmandu conjures images not of the arduous chaos of other large, developing cities, but one of ebb and flow and vibrant life where it is impossible to soak up everything interesting around them. Imagine gilded roofs with richly carved wood details, copper bowls filled with vivid orange and crimson marigolds…revolving prayer wheels spun by monks seemingly whizzing by as you are caught still, captivated by a frenzy of prayer flags whipping wildly in the wind. Yet you feel calm and at peace as you marvel at how welcomed you have been in a place so different from your own home.
As the sun sets just right to illuminate the many stupas speckling the city, and the bustle of life shifts from day to night, the one thing that catches your mind’s eye is that everything seems to be smiling. Certainty the people, and the golden hue of surrounding spires, but also colorful bicycle rickshaws, the miniature wind-up-toy like cars, the tails of Sanskrit characters splashed colorfully on crumbling walls, the upturned ends of pagoda buildings, and somehow even the rats nest of wires that miraculously allows electricity to keep pace.
Throughout Nepal there is a complementary sense of calm and energy, of discovery and comfort. It is a place that keeps you on your toes, and on very rare occasions, shows its ability to knock you over, reminding you of the causes of its natural beauty and also of its peoples’ strength and resilience.
Perhaps it seems unfair that we tempt your travel bug with a glimpse of such a magnificent yet currently inaccessible place. But that is our goal. Nepal is inaccessible only for the moment and we hope you keep it at the forefront of your mind as you consider both how to help and your future travel plans. We encourage you to read Patricia Shultz’s article in Travel Weekly to better understand why a future visit to Nepal is the Key to its recovery, and to join us back here to learn what you can do to help Ventours’ humanitarian assistance efforts. We look forward to further discussion about resilience and the need for normalcy when bouncing back from traumatic experiences.