This a story that starts on the 25th of April 2015, the story of Dawa and his family. The story of broken hearts, but of hopes and courage.
North of Kathmandu in Langtang village, lives Dawa, his wife Targen, and his two kids . Afteryears of hard work and effort, they build their wonderful house where they used to host the trekers visiting the magic paradise of Langtang National Park up in the Himalayas .Now, more than a year after the earthquake, their house looks like this…
The 25th of April 2015 at 12:00pm Dawa was on the way to his home in Langtang. He was coming back from visiting his son in Kathmandu. His son is studying in Kathmandu sponsored by an American family. Dawa was inside the local bus in Trisuli when the quake started. After 50 seconds of terrible panic, many landslides block the way, the bus cannot continue the trip. Dawa, unable to contact his wife and daughter at there home. He tarts walking desperately towards Dhunche, passing Syaprubesi (start of the Langtang trek) were an army post is located. After hours of walk, he arrives in Dhunche late in the night and while he waits, tries to sleep before joining the army helicopter that will fly first thing in the morning to Langtang village.
Targen, Dawa’s wife, is with her daughter at home when the earthquake takes place. She feels the shake and at that same time she sees her house falling apart. Big stones are rolling from the top of the mountain. Without hesitation, she runs with her daughter under her arms and finds cover under the big stone that is just below her house. This stone will save their lives. She describes it to me as if all this happened few days ago, seeing people around her falling down the cliff getting hit by big stones on both her right and left sides. Meanwhile the boulder protecting her and her daughter. The panic and the trauma are going to be registered in their minds forever.
In the meantime, Dawa is in Dhunche barely sleeping, disturbed by the constant aftershocks . His family on his mind, he jumps in the helicopter the morning of the 26th of April and lands in what is left Langtang village.
The devastation is total. Deaths and tears overflows the valley. Dawa is focused on finding his family and starts walking on top of the landslide that covers the whole of Langtang to arrive to his house, which is on the other side of the village.
He struggles, overcoming all obstacles on the way. The rocks are huge and there is tragedy at every step. He is focused on finding his family, there is no time to think, no time to stop.
Once he arrives to his house he cannot believe his eyes; there is nothing but stones on the ground. No sign of his family, only bodies around him. Family, neighbors, friends, tourists… bodies under rocks, down the cliff…
Overcoming his despair, Dawa remembers that from the helicopter, in flight, he could see that there were people in Goratabela. An army post about 1 hour away from his house down the valley Dawa runs as much as he can, jumping stones, negotiating obstacles, and overcoming aftershocks that agitate the area every few minutes.
In Goratabela, he finds his wife and his daughter. Most of the survivors of the area are there. The panorama is desolating. He is relieved and happy to have found his family. But his heart is crying. Finding out who is missing, who has died; friends, family members, neighbors… people are scared.
They spend 4 days in Goratabela. Every day and night praying that none of the aftershocks are going to bring them another landslide, more blood, more tragedy… The nights are cold and everyday it rains.
After 4 days they go to Kenjing Gompa to find shelter. Situated at an elevation of 3840 meters, Kenjing is the last village at the end of the Langtang Valley. The village has been hugely affected by the earthquake, destroying lots of houses built of stones. The quality of many buildings couldn’t resist the big shake and they collapsed. Dawa and his family stay in Kenjing for about 6 days waiting for the helicopter to evacuate them. They are all helping each other and staying as strong as possible. Crying the death of all their friends, family and tourists and helping in every way they can.
After six days in Kenjing they are finally evacuated by helicopter to Swayambhunath camp where they will stay for nearly a year.
The conditions of the camp are really poor. Dawa’s family as been living under a tarp tent for nearly a year. The family gets a pot for cooking. A dish and cup for each one of them. NGOs are also providing plenty of food for them during the first few months.
But soon Nepal government and NGOs will forget while the situation remains the same. Monsoon hits Nepal during the summer and winter are hard and bitter cold. They are willing to come back home, but the conditions prevent them.
There is no path in Langtang Valley and is all blocked by landslides every few meters, they have no house and it is too hard to overcome monsoon and winter in Langtang without a shelter. So they stay in Kathmandu, but help is scarce. Kathmandu is too expensive, and their money is running out. So they decided to move to Langtang at the beginning of Spring 2016. The weather is gentler and they put together all remaining belongings and start trying to rebuild what is left from their house.
Once they moved to Langatng Valley, they stayed for about 2 months in Kenjing. The vast majority of the population of Langtang and Kenjing were evacuated after the earthquake and they all came back to their houses during the Spring 2016, a year after.
In May 2016, when the three of us (Deborah, Dylan and Berta) decided to go trekking to Langtang, we came to a panorama that leave you feeling like that big earthquake that shook the Langtang valley a year ago, happened but just a few weeks ago.
Many of the lodges are now being rebuilt. The weather is suitable and the people are back. Even though every few meters we had to walk on top of landslides, the path is now accessible .The landscape has changed since I last visited Langtang in 2014. But the magic still remains the same.
We find Dawa and we stay with him a couple of days. They just came back from Kenjing, after staying there for 2 months, and after the pujas (Buddhist prayers rituals) that will give them protection and blessings for the upcoming years.
Dawa house has remained untouched after the earthquake. On the 26th of May 2016 we start working with him to make space and remove all stones of what remains of the house. Finding the base of the house is the way to rebuild slowly when they get the chance and the money for it. We also clean and make space of the interior of the tarp they had set up before. We make a cozy kitchen where they will be living for the time being. ,??? willing to rebuild as soon as they can.
Us, a group of friends that live in Nepal or come often to Nepal, that are friends with Dawa and his family, and that have experienced the earthquake, have decided to join efforts to help and support Dawa’s family and Dawa’s home. And we will try to help them rebuild his house.
They are planing a one floor house, simple and small, but big enough for 3 rooms to host guests and tourists; their only possible income.
We are determined to help, and anyone that is touched by this story and that wants to participate were happy to explain how to help this amazing family
*All pictures shown in this article are copyrighted and owed by Berta Navarro except the one duly indicated from Kathmandu.
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