billi bierling female mountaineer and journalist from Germany

The end of the monsoon is nigh

It has been exactly one month since I got back to civilisation from Broad Peak and it almost took me as long to regain my strength after this expedition. I don’t think the actual climbing was any tougher than on the Nepal mountains, however, the rougher climate as well as the lack of nutritious food made my recovery a little bit harder than usual. I guess the food we are served in Nepal these days has a lot more variety and we are usually never short of fattening snacks, such as nuts, dried fruit and cheese.

“It’s been 20 years since I was last in Pakistan and I haven’t really seen much progress in how things are handled,” Russell said just a few days into our expedition. “Even though the food is tasty, our diet here has been very monotonous and I am surprised that they haven’t changed the way the kitchen staff is preparing our meals,” he continued referring to our cooks and kitchen boys cooking on the muddy floor in the kitchen tent. It was then when I saw a sparkle in his eyes and I was wondering whether he was already planning on how to make things better in 2016. Well, lets watch the space!

Once we got back to Islamabad on 6th August I spent another 10 days in the Pakistani capital, however, regaining my fitness there proved pretty difficult: running in 40C is not easy, especially when you don’t have much strength or muscles left. Trying to fight a nasty stomach bug (giardia) didn’t help either and after having refused to take antibiotics for about a week, I finally bit the bullet and swallowed some strong medication to get rid of the parasite.

Despite my doubt, the drug kicked in pretty quickly and helped me feel better. At this point, I would like to thank my friend and Islamabad housemate Ashley for being a great sports and looking after me so well during a tough time. Poor Ashley had to deal with a Billi, who was tired, energy-depleted and wasn’t even allowed to have a drink ;-). However, by the time I got back to Kathmandu I was on the way to recovery, but I still have a bit of a way to go to get back up to speed.

Post monsoon green during one of my morning runs

Post monsoon green during one of my morning runs

 

Immediately upon my return I dropped in to see Miss Elizabeth Hawley, who was on good form and informed me that expedition numbers were seriously down this season. This did not come as a shock given that it has been less than six months since two massive earthquakes struck this country. And the fact that Tibet’s doors have remained closed for mountaineering expeditions this autumn has not helped the already dire tourist situation in Nepal.

“The government says that tourism is down by 50 percent but I would put it more at 70 percent,” says tour operator Raj Gyawali, and looking at my list of expeditions, I can only agree. I usually interview between 60 and 70 expeditions at this time of year, however, so far I have only found 30 expeditions – most of which have already left for Manaslu (8th highest peak in the world). There are other teams going to Himlung, Dhaulagiri, Annapurna 1, Nilgiri South and later in the year to the Matterhorn of Asia – Ama Dablam

Even Miss Hawley seems to be a lot less busy as she normally is. “I have actually managed to read a whole book (Two lives by Vikram Seith) in five days,” she told me when I went to see her on one of my almost daily visits. “This is probably the first time this has ever happened in my career.” I feel very similar about it and even though it is a shame that I don’t have that many teams to meet this season, it also gives me time to take Nepali lessons on a daily basis and explore the Kathmandu Valley a bit more.

Miss Hawley during one of her interviews in her home in Dilli Bazaar

Miss Hawley during one of her interviews in her home in Dilli Bazaar

Beauties of Nepal

Now that I am feeling stronger again, I actually love the fact that I have time on my hands to roam around the country and soak up the beauties of a post-monsoon Kathmandu Valley. Last Saturday I cycled to the ancient Newari town of Sankhu, which used to be a beautiful little village nestled in the green surrounding hills about 30km east of Kathmandu. Unfortunately, around 90% of the buildings were destroyed by the earthquakes taking away some of its ancient history. However, it was also good to see how the people of Sankhu are getting on with their lives and rebuilding their homes. “I actually think now is a great time to visit Nepal,” Gyawali confirms my feelings. “How often can you witness a country that is recovering without being in a disaster zone. You can still go trekking and see the progress at the same time.”

An abandoned house in Sankhu

An abandoned house in Sankhu

On my way back I went to Boudnath Stupa to do a few Koras (laps around the stupa) just ahead of full moon and light some candles for friends and family. The earthquake has also left its mark on this ancient Buddhist shrine. Its beautiful Buddha eyes are currently covered by a scaffolding and its shiny golden roof has been removed. However, it was good to see that work is being done and by the sounds of it this beautiful ancient stupa will soon again be back to its former beauty.

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Despite the fact that I enjoy having more time, I also hope that the autumn 2015 season will soon see more tourists visiting this country. Most of the trekking areas are good to go (if you are planning a trip check out this website: NepalNOW), the majority of sights are open for visitors and life in Kathmandu is back to its colourful madness that so many of us love. I certainly enjoy being here at the moment and witness a country that is trying to get back on its feet.

 

 

2 Responses

  1. Giannino Ruzza said on September 8, 2015 at 1:28 pm

    Billi,, sei affascinante, così come lo sono sempre stati i tuoi resoconti di viaggi e spedizioni..
    Con affetto
    Giannino

    Reply
  2. Rosemary Lynch said on September 6, 2015 at 4:27 pm

    Thanks for the update Billi you really have lost a lot of weight.look after yourself.

    Reply

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