The western part of Nepal, near Anapurna and Manang, where our expedition of 15 people had been since October 14, was not affected by the earthquake. It was perfectly safe for tourists. The same applied to 65 other areas that were teeming with tourists before April. But this year was different.
Phurba Sherpa, who worked with our expedition in the Himalayas, said that this was his first expedition since the earthquake. Tourists, trekkers, and mountaineers are still afraid to visit the quake area. They do not have to be. Only 10 out of 75 areas had not been completely rebuilt due to the fact many roads were blocked by landslides and landslips. The areas of Lantang, Sindupalchok, Dulkha, Dading, Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Solukumbu, Gorkha, Rosuwa, and Nuwakot still needed to be rebuilt. Despite the poor roads, we were going to visit the latter because of the construction of the new school.
In the past six months, the number of tourists in Kathmandu had fallen by 75 percent. Hotels, also called lodges, are being closed. Only when we were walking through the villages which were once full of people, we met the locals. During the ten days of our trekking, we kept meeting five different groups of trekkers. Before the earthquake, we would be walking in lines. Now, we say hello at sunrise and meet again in two days.
India yet to open the border for fuel
The owners of shops, restaurants, and agencies near Manaslu and Lantang are worried about the rest of the season. It is not only the lack of tourists, on which their livelihood depends but also their neighbour India. Due to a disagreement over the new Nepalese constitution, the border was closed not only for fuel and durable goods but also for medicine and food. The Indian minority in Nepal wants more rights and has got the support of the Indian government. Until Nepal gives way, the lives of more than 30 million people will be affected.
Sometimes only in the countryside, today even in the big cities,
many people cook on improvised fireplaces in the middle of the street.
Since October 13, when the Dashain Festival began (it lasts until the full moon), the government has been using national fuel reserves. On the roads, not only in the cities, but also in every village with a petrol station, there are kilometres long traffic jams and long queues. Bikers (most Nepalese cannot afford a car) are allowed to buy five litres, while car owners can may up to 15 or 20 litres of petrol. The shortage of natural gas has forced people to use wood stoves and look for alternatives. Problems are mainly found in hospitals and other public institutions, especially in cities. Sometimes only in the countryside, today even in the big cities, many people cook on improvised fireplaces in the middle of the street.
India denied Nepal access to fuel for a full 14 months in 1945. The people I met along the way told me that the Nepalese government does not know how to negotiate and that the Indians never relent. They fear that history might repeat itself.
“India closed its borders”
“Locals in fuel lines”
Also the already badly hit tourism in Nepal is strongly affected by India. Tourists who now travel in larger groups have difficulty getting a bus. To see the locals riding on the roof of the bus is pretty a common sight.
Published on www.planet.si, November 2016