Home » Nepal update: a letter from our co-founder

Nepal update: a letter from our co-founder

written by Intrepid Travel June 23, 2015

Having just returned from visiting the Nepalese Himalayas, Darrell Wade (Intrepid co-founder) has penned a heartfelt letter describing his experience, answering many travellers questions and offering real insight into the post-earthquake reality of the region.

Please read the first-hand update below:

nepal---steve-wroe-2

To our Nepal travellers,

Over the past couple of months we’ve had many questions from travellers about the situation in Nepal, with many people wishing to help the people affected.

I have just returned from visiting the country myself, and wanted to give you a firsthand update in the hope of addressing any concerns that you may have on the current situation.

No doubt you’ve seen the heartbreaking images and read about the damage that resulted from the April 25 earthquake in Nepal. From what I’ve seen, I can confirm there are parts of the country which are not in great shape right now, and there is no doubt in my mind that it will take many years for the country to fully recover.  

However, I am pleased to report that there is more good news than initially expected. That’s because, as often happens, it’s not the good news that gets reported by the media.  

Firstly, Kathmandu had a surprising energy about it. The roads have been cleared and are filled with traffic. Shops are open and buzzing with people, just as before. Electricity, phone lines and internet are all working too. Over the course of four days in Nepal I only experienced one brief blackout, which is better than in any of my visits over the past 30 years! Things are better than expected in so many ways, given the size of the earthquake.

In terms of our own operations, it was good to see that things are also looking better than expected. All the hotels in Pokhara that we use on our trips have been ‘green flagged’ by the international post-earthquake engineering specialist firm Miyamoto. This ‘flag’ means they have been thoroughly checked by the team at Miyamoto and found to be structurally secure. In Kathmandu all but three hotels received the ‘green flag’, and that give us the information we need to make sure our travellers are safe – and the hotels the information they need to address any issues.

Most people visit Nepal to go trekking, so one of the key priorities during my visit was to find out whether we should expect the Annapurna and Everest regions to start the season as usual in September. The reports to date said that the Annapurna region had experienced very little damage, but before my visit we did have some concerns about conditions on trekking routes in the Everest region.

Last Friday a small group of us took a helicopter from Kathmandu to Lukla, then flew on to Namche Bazaar and Everest Base Camp for firsthand reconnaissance. We could see that all footbridges were open and carrying traffic, that the main trails were all clear and that the teahouses seem to have incurred minimal damage. This assessment was confirmed by one of the team from the Himalayan Rescue Association who had just completed the trek on foot.  

While seeing the situation for myself has provided some assurance, the safety of our travellers and staff is our primary concern and we want be as certain as we possibly can be of the safety of Nepal’s trekking regions. This week, with the support of the World Bank, we will be sending engineers from the Miyamoto team to undertake both the Annapurna and Everest Basecamp treks for a full geotechnical survey of all bridges, accommodation and the main trail. While we’re fairly confident that the engineers will sign-off with ‘green flags’, we do want assurance from additional experts so we can in turn assure you and others considering travelling to Nepal that now is the best possible time to visit the country.

On the flight back to Kathmandu we flew over areas of the country that had been 80 to 90 per cent devastated. We saw a sea of orange and blue tents that indicated aid was getting through to these remote regions, but they also showed us how far the country has to go to return to normality.

It’s now been 26 years since we started Intrepid Travel, and as disasters have struck in our destinations over those years, two of the key questions for me have been, ‘what is the right response for our company to take? And when should we take it?’ Through the incredible efforts and generosity of our staff and travellers, we established an emergency relief appeal twenty-four hours after the earthquake in Nepal had hit that has now raised AUD 400,000. That was the right thing for us to do in the initial aftermath of the quake.

But as we look forward, we need to ask again, ‘what is the right thing to do for Nepal in the months ahead? How can we best help?’

Yes, further aid dollars will help – and we will continue our appeal. But I believe that the best thing we can now do is actually visit Nepal. Tourism is the biggest employer in the country and has a far greater footprint than just those directly employed by the industry.

Thank you for choosing to visit Nepal. It is a decision you can be proud of because by visiting you are helping Nepal get back on its feet. Not only will you see those magnificent mountains and meet the wonderful Nepali people, you are also lending your support in a very meaningful, personal way.

And we’re doing our bit to support the country too. We’ve made the decision that Intrepid Travel will be donating all profits from our 2015/16 Nepal season back to Nepal via our not-for-profit, The Intrepid Foundation. The money that we raise through this initiative will go to international and local NGOs working to rebuild the country, such as Plan International. Please see www.theintrepidfoundation.org for more details.

Please don’t hesitate to drop me a line if you have any questions about your upcoming trip, or if you have friends that need a little further assurance. I hope to see you in Nepal when I return again myself later in the year.

Best regards,

Darrell Wade

Co-founder, Intrepid Travel

Intrepid Travel will be donating all profits from 2015/16 Nepal trips to on-the-ground projects supported by our not-for-profit organisation, The Intrepid Foundation. Find out how you can help

Feature image c/o Marina Enrique, Flickr 

blog-800x150-ASIA

Feeling inspired?

You might also like

9 comments

Angela Molinaro July 25, 2015 - 6:20 pm

Hi Darrell,

What a GREAT response from Intrepid. I love that despite being huge now that you and Geoff still have a hands-on and local approach to travel. We are planning a trip in January and would to be able to be involved in a re-build or a school community somehow. Any ideas?
Cheers,
Ange.

Reply
Tony Hill July 22, 2015 - 7:09 pm

I was part of the Intrepid group who were in Namche Bazaar on April 25th when the major earthquake struck. Buildings shook, cracked, crumbled and partially collapsed at our side, a terrifying experience; a pile of boulders came through the ceiling of our teahouse and landed on the beds of two women in our group! Luckily they weren’t in there at the time and we all escaped with no injury. Most of the teahouses and sturdily built guest houses of Namche survived with little damage. Even on the day after the quake there was talk of continuing trekking towards Everest, and this would have a been possible even then, but with many aftershocks taking place and many deaths and uncertainty it would have been inappropriate to do so.
Intrepid arranged for us to be helicoptered out and returned safely to Lukla, back to Kathmandu and eventually home. In the helicopter flying back down the valley from Namche to Lukla there was only a couple of slight landslips, the wire bridges were intact and secure, and again it would have been possible to trek back along there then – and one of our Sherpa guides ran it when there was no room for him in the helicopter! Soon the paths back up to Namche and Everest were cleared.
We experienced overwhelming tragedy – attending the service of a 17-year-old lad in Lukla, killed in the earthquake, bodies and injured being brought back from Everest, the destruction of the ancient areas of Kathmandu (that I’d visited a few days before the earthquake) and families there living in tented communities. But also experienced overwhelming beauty, not only the landscape but of the human spirit in the face of adversity. The Nepali are incredible people, Darrell mentions the energy and buzz returning to Kathmandu, but this was evident less than a week on from the major earthquake, their resilience and sense of community is amazing, and generosity too.
Our Nepalese trek leader, Lalit, and the Sherpa guides Intrepid provided us with were brilliant.
After all of our trek group left Nepal there was a second big quake on May 12th, this time nearer to Lukla, where several of our Sherpa guides lived, their homes were badly damaged and they were living in tents, our group all raised or gave money for them to help rebuild their communities and soon they were posting pictures of all joining in to rebuild their school and other buildings.
I think it’s great that Intrepid are giving profits from their Nepal trips in 2015-16 to help the country and its people get back on their feet.
What they need are trekkers, climbers and tourists to return to the country to help rebuild their economy and lives. And I’d have no hesitation in doing so and hope I’ll be able to return to Nepal in 2016.
You can see 3 photo albums of my trip before and after the earthquake here (or on the website link)
https://www.flickr.com/photos/134135041@N07/sets/with/72157654722614142

Reply
Intrepid Admin July 23, 2015 - 11:44 am

Hi Tony,

That’s an amazing story. What an intensely emotional event for you to have lived through. I’m glad you’re planning on heading back in 2016 – any little thing we can do to help try and get things back to ‘normal’ is invaluable.

Cheers,
Ollie

Reply
Michelle Mason July 17, 2015 - 9:15 pm

Hi there,

Thank you for this. Has there been any update from the engineers looking at the routes or has the monsoon season delayed their surveying activities?

Kind regards
Michelle

Reply
Intrepid Admin July 20, 2015 - 11:58 am

Hi Michelle,

We’re finalising our report as we speak and we hope to release the findings this week. Our website will be updated with all the information you need very shortly.

Cheers,
Ollie

Reply
Steve Davey June 26, 2015 - 9:16 pm

Hey Darrell,
Good to hear this. How about the unique heritage guesthouses you used at Bandipur and Nuwakot? Did they survive and are they still open for business. They were fantastic and totally unique to Ntrepid.

Kudos for standing by the country!

Cheers,
Steve

Reply
James Shackell June 29, 2015 - 9:48 am

Hi Steve,

Thanks for kind message. I forwarded your question on to Darrell and he says that Bandipur is fine, but unfortunately Nuwakot has incurred a lot of damage and will be out of action for a while. The good news is that restorations have already started and aid is getting through.

Cheers,
James

Reply
Jennifer Stephenson June 24, 2015 - 9:39 am

I will return…Early 2016.

Reply
Jennifer Stephenson June 24, 2015 - 9:38 am

I will return…Early 2016. Thank you for the update…

Reply

Leave a Comment