I WAS supposed to fly to Nepal on Monday. I’d made plans to go trekking with my sister and had arranged an itinerary on the popular Poon Hill trail with a Pokhara-based agency.
This would have been my first trip to the Himalayan country and I was naturally looking forward to it, especially to seeing panoramic views of the mountains, which by all accounts are spectacular.
Then the earthquake struck.
I came to know about it sometime after 4pm on Saturday and my travel plans were immediately thrown into disarray. Concerned friends sent me messages, asking whether I had already left and advising me to postpone my trip.
I think I was initially in a mild state of denial and wanted to put off making a decision until the next day. But when I watched the news on television that evening, seeing the scale of the devastation, the avalanches on Everest and the continuing aftershocks, I knew it was not the right time to go.
I called the airline to cancel our flights and emailed the trekking agency to say we were putting off our trip for now, not even knowing how badly they might have been affected by the quake and hoping they were all right. Thankfully I received a reply from them late on Sunday night to say they understood our decision and that they would not be organising treks for at least a week in any case.
I was a little disappointed, of course, but most of all I’m thankful to be safe, that it happened before I actually left.
At the same time my heart goes out to the people of Nepal. This was the biggest earthquake to hit the country in more than 80 years and the destruction, loss of life and desperate plight of those affected can be imagined.
At the time of writing, the death toll has climbed above 5,500 and could reach 10,000 according to Nepal’s Prime Minister, while more than eight million people have been affected and 70,000 homes destroyed.
People have been sleeping in the open. Food, water, shelter and medicines are in short supply. The country’s rich cultural heritage and ancient monuments have also been badly damaged.
Compared with what Nepal is going through, my cancelled trip pales into insignificance. How can I even think of my own disappointment when people are suffering and in need of help?
Amazingly, in the midst of all the grim news, there have been stories of miraculous rescues. On Thursday, as onlookers cheered, a teenage boy was pulled out alive from the rubble of a collapsed building where he had been trapped for five days.
There were also reports of a four-month-old baby and an 11-year-old girl being rescued from the ruins left by the earthquake.
Many governments and organisations, including those in Malaysia, have responded to Nepal’s appeal for aid. I’m sure Malaysians will donate generously, and let’s do so in ways that will be of the most help to those affected.
I still hope I will have the opportunity to visit Nepal one day.
It was a blessing the way things turned out for me, but my thoughts are with the people of Nepal in the aftermath of the earthquake.
I pray that the people will receive the necessary assistance at this time and that the country will be able to rebuild and recover from this disaster.