On the 25th April 2015 Nepal suffered a 7.8Mw earthquake that killed nearly 9,000 people on top of the 22,000 it injured. In addition to this massive loss of life the damage to the country was significant, and would cost 10 billion USD (50% of their nominal GDP) in order to rebuild everything. This earthquake was centred between the cities of Kathmandu and Pokhara and has been a disaster for them for both day to day life, and their heritage. The damage has been widespread, including major damage and destruction to Buddhist temples, even in their famed Kathmandu Durbar Square.
This was not the only aid that the country was in need of however – outside of cities they have other needs such as access to a clean, reliable water supply. Today was the first of two days where we’d be helping the small village of Kakani to build a 5km trench for their water supply. Before this though there was an early morning run planned for 06:00 – a little before sunrise. This run was really hard work even though it was a little under 2 miles – a strong indicator of how difficult the marathon would be; not just because of the altitude but because of the elevation changes.
Back at summit camp I had peanut butter on toast and a banana for breakfast before experiencing the very cold showers. These were a bit of a challenge! We all met up at the camp and split into the same groups as the previous day to make organisation easier. After a quick briefing we then set off walking in the direction of where we’d be digging a trench for the new water pipe.
To start with the Armed Police Force (APF) was helping and had made good progress before we’d even arrived. The organisation of us volunteers however wasn’t great and it wasn’t clear what we were supposed to be doing. As time went on more and more of us got involved and it became hard work digging, laying the piping and reburying it, but we did at least know what was now needed. The APF disappeared before this though, and then all the Nepalese disappeared at 10:30 for lunch. From what I had understood the initial delay in getting everyone started had been the people at the front with machetes to cut a new path through the forest.
Progress seemed good, but in places it was challenging due to the route through the forest including narrow ledges, needing to get through branches and the soreness of our hands after working for a while. It was not a day to stay clean – you just had to dive into it. My shoes, socks, and legs were soon coated in the fine soil and I could feel it moving around inside my shoe as I moved.
At approximately 11:30 we had a short break for drinks and at this point the digging had to be rerouted as they realised their planned route through a ravine would be going too deep and would lose water pressure as a result. After the rest we continued along this new route and I started using the pickaxe to get through some rock. This didn’t last long though as we were soon stopping again for lunch at 13:00.
Lunch was a pack-up consisting of cheese sandwiches, biscuits, banana, and a drink. I wandered around for awhile with my camera and then headed off with a group to find the front of where we’d be digging so we could get back to work. This didn’t go quite according to plan though as we stumbled upon the stupa at the top of the hill so photographed that first before heading back down another path. This path again turned out to be the wrong one, but the third choice was correct – third time lucky!
We carried on working after that until about 15:50 and we’d made it just under half way – a little over 2km. This last part of the day felt slower, and was also the only time I saw someone slip off the path. Fortunately they were stopped by a combination of the trees and the pipeline – the latter of which was used to pull him back up. Our finish was then behind the stupa which we’d stumbled across earlier and this time I took advantage of the view to get photographs of the mountains.
Back at the summit camp I had tea and biscuits and was then straight into the queue for the showers. Once again it was cold, but didn’t seem as bad as earlier – it was needed though as I was coated in mud. There was then more time to waste until the evening meal at 19:00. I didn’t really get to talk to anyone so I decided to spend the evening reading.
This evenings meal consisted of a starter of mushroom soup and pakoras, and the main course of spaghetti and bits of chicken and vegetables. It was quite nice and there was plenty of it. There was also a choice of tomato sauce or chilli sauce to go with it. The dessert was a fruit salad with the option of having honey too. I didn’t really talk much at this point either as everyone was already deep in conversation, or had a full table.
After the evening briefing for the next day I decided to grab an extra blanket for the night, hoping to have a more comfortable evening. At this point they updated us on the fundraising effort – we were now at £63k of the £75k target. We were also told about our progress on the pipeline and confirmed we’d made it to just under halfway which is what had estimated earlier. By 21:30 I’d finished for the day and headed back to the tent to sleep.