On 14th of April I travelled to Nepal to begin a long awaited photo tour with Gulf Photo Plus. I had an amazing week capturing the wonderful characters of Kathmandu. As the tour neared to an end I decided to extend by one week to join group two of the tour and assist my dear friend Tonya with the organisation.
Over the two weeks we visited many registered historic sites, the beautiful mountains at Nagracot and the wonderful streets around Kathmandu itself.
The last day of the trip, Saturday April 25th, the group had some free time before airport pick ups to relax, gather their thoughts and say good bye to their new found photography friends.
A few minutes before noon a 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal. Our lives and the lives of the local people I had met, would never be the same again.
At first we thought it was a simple power cut as the lights and power went out with a bang, seconds later the ground below our feet started to shake. In a matter of seconds we realised what was under way and I remember the piercing cry from someone in the group "Earthquake"... As we were located in the sunken outdoor restaurant to the side of the 6 storey hotel my instinct told me to run to open ground. The violent movement of the earthquake prevented us from getting out and instead we had to make do with the shelter of the restaurant tables. For over a minute the ground below us violently moved left and right. I cannot remember the sound of what was happening but only my voice saying over and over 'what do we do, what do we do... please stop, please stop...'
As soon as the worst of it was over we ran for safety... up the steps of the restaurant and out into the street... get to somewhere open... we will be safe in the open. At the time we only knew that 6 or so of the 14 in our group was safe... terrified and shocked we made it to an open space where there were hundreds of people gathering.
As we stood in the open ground next to the collapsed wall there was a feeling of terror. People gathered and looked at each other not knowing what to say. The shock hit me in an instant and the tears flowed uncontrollably. Several aftershocks came, people dropped to the ground, the earth moved but less violently. More screams, more cries, power lines swayed, buildings shook. The tremors continued, with decreasing magnitude, but with the same terrifying effect.
In the next few hours we had to focus on getting everyone out of Thamel and get to the airport where we hoped to get a flight home. I had to get my hands on my passport which was still in the hotel... as we made the trip back inside to the fourth floor, passing by structural damage and in danger of further tremors, my heart was in my mouth... short of breath and completely terrified we managed to get in and out safely.
Our group were extremely lucky to have the most dedicated local guides, who at this point had already completed their service and had every reason to turn their full attention to their families safety, but what they did goes beyond explanation. The two of them appeared from nowhere in the crowd and found us, then they went off in search of the others, whilst the tremors and uncertainty continued. They managed to locate each member and group us back together. They got us all safely to the airport despite the chaos that surrounded us and stayed with us for the next 48 hours to ensure we had everything we needed and that we got on our flights out of Nepal and back to safety.
Their courage, kindness and complete dedication to us was utterly astounding and I will never forget them. A little part of me will remain with them in Nepal. Hats off to our heroes Thakur and Guru.
In the coming week we are hoping to hold a number of fundraising event in collaboration with Gulf Photo Plus and other local UAE businesses. I'll post the details of this as soon as they are confirmed and I ask you all to dig deep for a beautiful, kind hearted and amazing nation of people who are now in desperate need of help.
PRAY FOR NEPAL