Survivors prepare for autumn trekking season with new skills and hope for the future
PICS: UPASANA KHADKA
REBUILDING BETTER: Karsang Lopchan (extreme left) at a climbing wall in Kathmandu last year during trekking guide training, and last month in Langtang with his ID
Tourism has been slow to pick up after Langtang was devastated by the deadly earthquake/avalanche of 25 April 2015, but many survivors who were trained in the hospitality industry while taking shelter in Kathmandu last year are gearing up to restore Langtang — and rebuild it better — to welcome back trekkers.
Two such programs of instruction and guidance in small hotel and lodge management and professional guide training were provided by Tourism Cares, with support from the Rasuwa Relief, Harvard Kennedy School Nepal Fund and Langtang Management and Reconstruction Committee, at the National Academy for Tourism and Hospitality Management in Kathmandu. They have returned with updated knowledge, guide licences and cooking equipment, and are busy with construction in order to be ready for the autumn tourist season.
Lhakpa Jangba learned to bake in Kathmandu, and returned to Langtang to revive his Dorje Bakery.
Lhakpa Jangba hosted over 120 guests in the spring trekking season after moving back, and plans to move to Kyanjin and open the Dorje Bakery with his wife. He is very proud of his new guest book, which marks a fresh beginning. His previous one contains messages from trekkers he hosted between 2011 and April 2015, and fortunately survived the avalanche. It holds a special place in his heart as it captures stories and memories of his pre-earthquake life.
One message from 23 April 2015 is signed by Sydney Schumacher, a 19-year-old American trekker who lost her life in Langtang last year. On the morning of the earthquake, she had come to his bakery to pack a couple of his famous cinnamon rolls before heading towards Kyanjin Ri peak.
Tsering Tamang took the hotel management course in Kathmandu along with her son and two daughters. She used to own Namaste Lodge and Buddha Guest House in Langtang, both of which were destroyed. She is rebuilding Namaste in Kyanjin, with her son — who is excited to use his new guide licence during the autumn trekking season — helping her out. An elder daughter and her husband are building a new hotel in Mundu called Golden Holiday.
Tsering Tamang (centre) bakes a cake with her son and daughter at hotel management training in Kathmandu, and last month in front of her rebuilt Namaste Lodge in Kyanjin.
Dhamchay Tamang remembers being heartbroken when she disembarked from the rescue helicopter in Kathmandu last year: she had narrowly escaped by hiding in the hole for storing potatoes in winter, but had lost her husband, daughter and home. When her son Tsewang found her, she was completely covered in snow and in a great deal of pain.
Dhamchay now says she has to be strong to take care of her two surviving children, and with the knowledge gained from the training she has rebuilt her Small Start Guest House and renamed it Langtang View Guesthouse.
Phurpu Tamang and her husband ran the eight-room Peaceful Guest House in Langtang. He perished along with their son, while their daughter and another son are studying in Kathmandu. She has now reconstructed a smaller lodge and hopes to expand as she earns from trekkers in the coming season.
But labour is in short supply, and workers from down the Valley are helping out. Says Lhakpa Jangba: “Because of the labourers from outside, things seem busy in Langtang but once they leave, the village is going to feel so empty.”
There is yet hope that a tourism revival will bring life back to Langtang, anew.
Havoc in between, Mohan Mainali
“Langtang is gone”, Sahina Shrestha