This is the story of Jaya, a trekking guide from Lamatar, in the Langtang area of Nepal, one of the most devastated area in the earthquake of April 2015. A story of hope and belief in dreams, where everybody can make a difference: help Jaya to get a home and realize his dream to have his own trekking agency.
The April 2015 Nepal earthquake killed nearly 9,000 people and injured nearly 22,000. Its epicenter was east of Gorkha District at Barpak, Gorkha. It was the worst natural disaster to strike Nepal.
The earthquake triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest, killing 21 people, making April 25th 2015, the deadliest day on the mountain in history. The earthquake triggered another huge avalanche in the Langtang valley, where 250 people were reported missing.
Hundreds of thousands of people were made homeless with entire villages flattened across many districts of the country. Centuries-old buildings were destroyed at UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Kathmandu Valley, including some at the Kathmandu Durbar Square, the Patan Durbar Square, the Bhaktapur Durbar Square, the Changu Narayan Temple, the Boudhanath stupa and the Swayambhunath Stupa.
To the survivors where their homes were flattened, the government supported with 20,000 Nepali rupees (c.ca 200 USD$) definitely not enough to build a house. Even considering that most of that money has not been paid, and the beauty is that the money is still there, waiting to be spent. Considering the high level of corruption in Nepal, the only hope is in international donors. Yet more than a year after there is no sign of any rebuilding.
The lack of progress is most stark in the countryside. Whole villages are still shattered and broken. Most of the families had to sell their land in order to manage the day to day.
Sources: Time magazine / Wikipedia / Reuters / interviews
Jaya in his village Lamatar, Nepal - 2016
"Now it has already been 15 months of devastation. I had to give up to my dream to open my trekking agency; instead, I was helping my family to move forward, building a temporary "shed" for all of 6 us."
"When I was on the mountain during the earthquake, 15 months ago, I was really far away from my family and I was so scared; I had no idea what was going to happen to my family and my village.
I was worried about them because I had no information at all. On the next day, in the morning, I learned that many people around cities lost their lives and many houses flattened. I just broke down. I was also not realizing that I was lucky to be alive since many people lost lives in the mountains as well.
I was on the Everest base camp, the whole nation was in the darkness with fear, a lot of people missinIg, and I was miles away from my family. Every step on the way back was faster than my heartbeat.
At last, after a couple of days, I got the chance to contact one of my family members and there when I got the news that my grandmother died during the aftershock. The house constructed over my grandparent's place just collapsed like a house of cards. Luckily my grandfather managed to survive.
That was the worst moment of my life. Grandmother and I used to be very close, I used to be the piece of her heart; my eyes were raving with tears.
Finally, after 15 days of struggle I arrived in my village, too late to attend to my grandmother's ceremony. My house totally collapsed and the henhouse as well, killing all the chickens, all that we had to live and work.
Now it has already been 15 months of devastation. I had to give up to my dream to open my trekking agency, instead, I was helping my family to move forward, building a temporary shed for all of 6 us.
A lot of people asked me how do I feel; I just smile and say that was a nightmare for me and my country. When people ask me "How can you smile in such tragic situation" I answer that I have hope. We should have hope and we should not let Nepal become a place of suffering.
And, with hope, after 15 months without working in the mountains, in July 2016 I got a message from my friend Leo, with whom we trekked 4 years ago to the Annapurna Base Camp, and he asked me "Namaste bro, let's trek again, let's go to Mustang; I'll come with my friend Andrea".
Never give up, finally, I can go back to the mountains again.
The situation in Bhaktapur is definitely worst, Durbar Square is full of rubble. The main temple lost its roof, while the Vatsala Devi temple, famous for its sandstone walls and gold-topped pagodas, was demolished by the quake.
There's damage also to homes, but the nepali people are strong and proud, and meanwhile the government is busy bickering between themselves, they're all out there finding a way to rebuild their places.
"Bhaktapur is in shambles", I mumbled, but I was positively surprised that people here don't lose their mind and they've still hope. Talking with some men playing chess, they tell me "We have lost hope in everything, except God. We don't worry about damage here because it won't do me or anyone else any good. We've to rebuild our places and our lives".
"Finally after 4 years I meet again Leo and we organize together the trek on the upper Mustang. Together with Leo there's also Andrea, his first time in Nepal and his first trek ever. After such sadness, I have the joy to spend time with friends on the mountains, and talk about my dream: my own trekking agency! We visited my family in Lamtar and we had a great time all together.
Leo asked me what I did miss the most in those 15 months after the earthquake; definitely the mountains, the real mountains, the ones above 4,000 meters! My beloved Machhapuchhre, walking with my clients and teaching them all about culture, mountains, religion.
Andrea asked me how much would it cost to rebuild the house; I don't know, probably 5,000 USD$. I just want my house back, nothing fancy, just a roof for my family.
In that moment they've promised me to help me, with my dream, and my family with my house."
The Upper Mustang was a restricted demilitarized area until 1992 which makes it one of the most preserved regions in the world, with the majority of the population still speaking traditional Tibetan languages. Tibetan culture has been preserved by the relative isolation of the region from the outside world.
Mustang's status as a kingdom ended in 2008 when its suzerain Kingdom if Nepal became a republic. The influence of the outside world, especially China, is growing and contributing to a rapid change in the lives of Mustang's people.
Play time, Kagbeni, Nepal 2016
Andrea playing with the monks of the Kagbeni's monastery.
The cliffs' face are pitted with an estimated cave dwellings, some of which are perched more than 150 feet above the valley floor. Archeologists believe that the caves were used in three general periods: burial chambers 3,000 years ago, living quarter (perhaps to escape battles and intruders in the valley) 1,000 years ago and by the 1400s most people had moved into traditional villages and the caves became a place of meditation.
Chogo La 4,325 mt. On top of each pass, you find stones and prayer's flags. Those represent auspicious symbols and the colors represent the elements: yellow - earth, green - water, red - fire, white - air, blue - space. Here you can see also an alpine star between the flags and stones.