Traveling In Nepal
An Invitation from Nepal's Only Search & Rescue Team
Late one night, I received the following message via my LinkedIn account:
I think it is time to find a person who wants to write our story of missing in the Himalayas--murder, love, vanishing, and loads of strange stories over 20 years of case files. If you know an adventurous soul, please inform her."
The message was sent by the founder and leader of the Himalaya Rescue Dog Squad Nepal.
I too am involved in Search and Rescue. And I'm also a writer. But I went to bed the night I received this note without seriously considering the opportunity. Then I awakened at 3 a.m. and a little voice inside my head said, "Do it, Deb!" I got up, turned on my computer, and responded to Ingo. So began my latest adventure, which will include three months in Nepal.
Note: Since this project began, the Himalaya Rescue Dog Squad Nepal has been re-named SAR Dogs Nepal, which is how I'll refer to the squad from here on.
Nepal is a landlocked country located on the Asian continent, between China to the north and India to the south.
Have You Been To Nepal? - A Visitor Poll: Let's see who's stopping by....
Have you been to Nepal, or are you planning to go?
About SAR Dogs Nepal (Formerly Himalaya Rescue Dog Squal Nepal)
The reason for my trip halfway around the world....
I'll spend the majority of my time in Nepal getting to know Ingo and the other members of his search and rescue team, gathering information and stories so I can return home to Arizona and write the book.
Dutchman Ingo Schnabel established SAR Dogs Nepal, the only organization of its kind in the country, in October, 1989. Since then, the team has provided search and rescue and medical aid when trekkers have been reported missing and in the event of natural disasters, such as earthquakes, landslides, and flash flooding. The team is able to provide helicopter rescue and tracking dogs to almost any area of Nepal.
SAR Dogs Nepal members have trained in a range of disciplines, including rock rescue, firefighting, logistics, and wilderness medicine.
The team now also has a Junior Rescue Squad. This follows a ten-year hiatus during The People's War in Nepal from 1996 until 2006, when SAR Dogs Nepal was unable to continue training new disaster relief workers. Currently, only 18 staff members and 9 Nepalese volunteers remain, while the goal is to have a minimum of 100 workers on standby in the team's mobile Disaster Relief & Medical Aid Unit.
SAR Dogs Nepal's main headquarters is in Shyauli Bazaar, Lamjung District, in the center of Nepal, and includes a dog breeding and training center. Team members often work at an altitude of 18,000 feet or more and in harsh conditions, from jungle gorges to flooded plains, avalanche zones, and even large-scale traffic accidents.
Due to a lack of national infrastructure and government support, SAR Dogs Nepal has provided the only medical disaster relief to poor villages in remote areas.
To learn more about SAR Dogs Nepal, visit the team's website at SARDogsNepal.asia
The Leader Of the Rescue Squad Also Started A School
When I first began corresponding with Ingo and some of his team members, I thought this book project would be "just" about their Search and Rescue work. And then I realized there is much more to this story, including a special school Ingo started in a remote area of Nepal--a school which does not adhere to Nepal's caste system, where children learn in a low-stress environment free of the gender prejudice and violence found in government-run schools.
This video is a preview of a documentary made by American Debra Kaufman. The full documentary film, , is available for purchase on Amazon.com. A School of Their Own: Reading, Writing And Revolution in Nepal
A School Of Their Own
A 1-Hour Documentary About The Riverside School
Filmmaker Debra Kaufman, who sponsors a Nepali student, went to Nepal to meet the child, and it was then that she discovered how the Riverside School's mission intersected with country's fight for democracy and freedom. The school struggled to stay afloat during Nepal's bloody, 10-year civil war, during which time the police accused the children of being Maoist rebels while the rebels themselves were forcibly drafting children over 12 years of age into their army.
I learned a lot about education in Nepal, the 10-year People's War, and SAR Dogs Nepal's special school in this documentary, which "shows how children, even in the most extreme circumstances, can lead a nation to a better future."
How And Where I'll Spend My Time In Nepal
After flying into Kathmandu, Nepal's capital city--the largest and pretty much the only city in the country--and spending a day or two there, I'll travel to the town of Pokhara by bus, where I'll meet Ingo.
I've read that the 200-kilometer (124-mile) trip from Kathmandu to Pokhara along the Prithvy Highway can take as many as eight hours. The road often follows rivers at the bottom of deep valleys and passes a number of what I've seen described as comfortable refreshment stops.
(Added: A friend of mine who's been to Nepal has quite strongly suggested that I fly to Pokhara rather than taking the bus. She said the road is narrow--really just wide enough for one vehicle--with no guardrails, and the buses honk their horns as they "scream" around the corners, hoping there isn't a vehicle coming the other way. She also said that the "valleys are littered with burnt-out buses." Eek! Me thinks her advice to fly is definitely sound. I've heard that a flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara and vice versa is only about U.S.$70, and I think that is going to be well worth it!)
After spending maybe a month in Pokhara, Ingo tells me we'll trek to the team's current headquarters in Shyauli Bazar and spend some time there before returning to Pokhara for the month of July, which I believe is the wettest month of the year.
Most of my time in Nepal will be during the rainy--or monsoon--season, when many of the country's unpaved roads are impassable. So I expect I'll be doing a lot of walking (trekking, that is), which is more than fine with me. I hope to explore as much as possible on foot.
A View Of The Anapurna Range From Pokhara
The lakeside town of Pokhara is Nepal's most popular destination after Kathmandu due to it being the gateway to some of the most famous treks in the world, including the Anapurna Circuit. Only foothills separate the town from the majestic Himalaya.
I've Read This Book About Nepal
I'm trying to learn as much as I can about Nepal and Nepalese cultures before I go. It didn't take long to realize, though the country isn't very large, there is much diversity amongst its people, not to mention its landscape.
Light Of The Himalaya
This is a video by award-winning filmmaker Michael Brown -- a preview of a documentary that follows eye surgeons from Nepal and America as they, along with the North Face athlete team, work on the Himalayan Cataract Project, which takes them to the summit of a 21,000-foot Himalayan peak.
The film is available from Serac Adventure Films.
© 2009 Deb Kingsbury