Rio Tinto Yarwun employee and South Gladstone Rotary Club member Steve Askew was climbing Mt Everest when the 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal.
Below are his diary entries, before, during and after the earthquake struck.
Up early to meet guide at motel where I am staying and then to airport. 6.30 flight to Lukla, small cramped plane, if you claustrophobic could be an issue. When flying to Lukla, sit on left side of plane for a great view of the mountains. Just an FYI, when you are offered cotton balls for the ride. Take them, plane is noisy. You come very very close to the mountains on approach. Pretty interesting and scary at the same time. You land on a runway that is up hill and short with a brick wall to stop you. It is like clock work with the dance of the planes in the airport.
Once arrived you are taken to the motel for breakfast, having pancakes today and a brew. Shortly will be off for a short walk to next town.
Jangbu Sherpa 9749597165
I had quick look around the village and returned motel to pay the bill, I should of paid it before I left. Oops!
We headed off around 8ish, started with a slow pace stopping and getting the tourist talk on the way.
Under the monument of the First Lady in Nepal to climb Mt Everest. We also had to stop at a checkpoint to log in our walk and give my camera details and iPhone iPad details in case something happens and then they can ID you by the equipment you carry.
It is a busy time of year, lots of Trekkers, coming and going. Part of main thoroughfare to Everest and Sherpas carrying bloody big loads.
Had a few stops on the ways to rest and my Sherpa was making sure I had water, plenty of Rocky stairs. Had a couple of slips and and found a couple of grooves, must be sure to taken best worn paths and try and avoid water on your boots. Water and slippery rocks don't mix.
My Sherpa Jangbu showed me a few stops of waterfalls and spiritual meaning places. Surrounded by snow capped mountains and air thinning. I did my best to look up as often as I could to capture the beauty of this place. Must be careful with my footing though.
We made it to Phaktang in around 3 and half hours. One thing my Sherpa has is no sense of time. 15mins is roughly 45mins lol, just around the corner, means halfway around the mountain with stairs.
Staying in Snowland motel & lodge, room 218. Cold water in ensuite, if you want it hot, in main entrance hall. Another special ensuite adage is a bucket for the toilet paper. Although there is no loo paper. Might be doing an Arab shit clean. Left hand only.
The room is basic, ply wood walls and roof and a window. One light, 4x4 floorboards. People above you too, so you can hear every step. Noise from adjoining rooms outside with excited Trekkers. Must be at least 30 people on there way to base camp. I am sure they won't be as talkative on there return. Some of the people on the trail look absolutely worn out.
Great to get to destination and take my boots off, kick back with a wash. Change of shirt and sit out side in the sun and watch all the activity go by. Cows, donkeys and Sherpas with some daily chores and plenty of Trekkers.
Chicken fried rice for lunch, wasn't bad. Having Steak, fries and veg for dinner. Whilst listening to some Indian music on there hits tv, very surreal.
I do have wifi, and got to inbox my wife, this will cost you 500rp which is about 7 Aussie dollars for the day.
Will be in bed early tonight, ready for a big day tomorrow to Namche, need my body to recover from my bike ride the day before. Still bruised and hurting from that. probably not a good idea to do that looking back. Hahaha, but don't tell the wife.
Day 2 - 24th April
Up early after a restless night sleep, bed was hard and noise from other rooms you could here. People walking and talking and using the toilet throughout the night. I pulled the sleeping bag out before I went to bed but didn't use it. The blanket they supplied was enough for me. Track pants, socks and a tshirt was enough.
Early breaky of omelet and toast with coffee to start the day. Headed off around 7.30am. Where there is a uphill there is a downhill. Some beautiful waterfalls and mountain sites to see.
Came across a view of tubuche mountain 6800m, clear blue sky and some excellent photo opportunities.
Stopped a cup of lemon tea riverside lodge at Chaurikharkha 1 Benkar. Nice cuppa it was.
Ok, another couple of hours walking, still abit cool, but it's ok for a cotton shirt for now.
Stopped at Everest guest house in Bishal for lunch, egg fried noodles.
Surrounded by hills and in the valley, beautiful sound of running stream behind me. Water is coming from Everest glaciers. Keen to have a wash in it. See if my guide will let me?
Feeling a little tired, back right side has an ache. Just a bit of soreness, nothing to concerning at this stage. No effect from altitude yet, hopefully none, but the next part will tell. 3hrs from here Namche the sign says. Jangbu next half hour track not to hard and then uphill to Namche, a lot of steps, with luck, our first sight of Everest, I feeling excited. Jangbu tells me I am doing better than ok. So the encouragement is pleasing. Take ur time Steve you can do this!
Well Well Well..... Guess what, I friggin made it to Namche. My god, talk about steps and hill climb, I am so pumped that my pain is there but ignored. One foot after the other is what got me here. Checkpoint first and then only another 20mins to Namche. Made it pretty good time too, the first to arrive at motel. Guide tells me after lunch and tea break we took just over 5hrs. Average is 8hrs. No wonder I was feeling it lol.
After settling in at the motel and having a drink, got my room, out some warmer clothes on and went for a walk. It is market day and people from all over the mountains travel here to buy and sell goods. That explains all the donkeys on the track over the last few days. Had to get out of their way a few times, they stop for no one.
Plenty of shops and trinkets to be bought. A lot of Trekkers spend a couple of days here acclimatising, so it's filled with bars and shops.
The weather has come in and it has started to rain, and bloody cold too.
I have returned to the motel for a nap. I need it. Although others are starting to turn up. Whoever is above me has concrete boots on. I am sure of it. Timber building, noise is heavy throughout.
Had a sorta hour kip before I could stand thunder feet anymore and went outside to do some gift shopping. Bought a couple of things for family. Still cold and spots of rain.
Returned to motel for dinner and to get warm. Beanie, gloves, clothing and a jacket.
Dinner consisted of chicken & mushroom soup. And plate if MoMo's I was having these on top of my world. Not bad, but not great. You have to order breakfast before you go to bed, so they can prepare. Breaky is at 6. Off to see Everest in the morning, hopefully the weather clears. Just checked, stars and moons out, looks promising. Fingers crossed.
Day 3 - 25th April - Anzac Day
Up early to remember our fellow servicemen who served and made the greatest sacrifice one could our great country.
The day is covered in fog, no early start to view point, spoke Jangbu and looks like we will stay another night. We will go for a walk around 9ish and see how the day unfolds. Until then, have some breaky and relax until then.
Well OMG, we decide to go to the view point and walk to the tea house at 3880m, the viewpoint would of been magnificent if you could see it. You wouldn't believe it started snowing. It's friggin cold. 4 layers of clothing, gloves and waterproof pants on and more climbing. We had a quick look around, and then moved on up the hill. More stairs.
You could hear the land falling away either side of us ... The three of us grabbed each other shoulders as you heard the land fell away.
After about 30mins of one foot in front of the other, we came across a young man with a bleeding head wound. We stopped and assisted with tissues as that is all we had. Apparently he had a fight with another man, he has been hit in the head with a rock and has a nasty gash.
One of the guys was heading down the mountain and was taking him with him.
So we continued on.
We got to the airstrip that they have at Namche for Emergency and sometimes for goods only, no passenger Though.
Jangbu tells me another 30mins uphill, oh joy. The track wasn't too bad, grassy hill, minimum steps, only occasionally. Snow has started to get heavier and clouds are thickening. That was probably a good thing, a big drop off the side, careful to watch were you are walking, chest is screaming to get air to the lungs. Got to the Everest guest house and thinking that was it. No luck. "A bit further" Jangbu said. Continued on a bit further into a slight dip between to hills. All of a sudden, the ground turned into a snake movement, OMG I thought, I am getting altitude sickness, it has just hit me, started to feel sick. Then the ground roared! Realising then, not ALS, earthquake! Jangbu and my Sherpa Samron ran like startled rabbits. We dove for some sort of cover, under a tree. Yep, that will save us. All of sudden the noise got intense, Landslides! You could hear the land falling away either side of us. Looks of uncertainty in guide eyes didn't assist my state of fear. The three of us grabbed each other shoulders as you heard the land fell away.
It felt like minutes, but would of been around a minute and then the trembling stopped, but the sliding of the land continued on for a little bit longer.
You could hear screaming and yelling coming from below and around us. Terrifying experience of nature at its angriest, feeling rattled we sat we were to stunned to move, as the cloud was thick, we could not see where the land had fallen away.
We had a quick discussion about what to do next, should we head straight back done? Jangbu said yes, I asked how far to lookout, 100m, I think we should go and see if they are safe and need help. We headed up to the lookout after agreement.
Got to the lookout and everyone was ok, a collapsed wall, broken pipes, but not too bad. We stayed for about 10mins, people are frantically making phone calls to family to all over Nepal. Early report Kathmandu has been hit hard. Jangbu's wife and kids are in Kathmandu, he is trying hard to get through. Changing SIM cards with the Sherpa, he finally got through, family ok, weren't home luckily, building has damaged though.
So after leaving the best part of me on the mountain due to stress levels being raised. We made quick time back down the mountain. We stopped past the Everest Motel, there was significant damage to the building. Cracks on the top level, and plaster covered the ground. The rock wall we just past on the way up had collapsed, we have to make a detour around the motel to the other-side of track. Walking quickly around and hoping a aftershock wasn't going to happen, we landed on the other side.
We picked up the pace, lungs weren't screaming as hard cause I was going down. So we were making good time, all of sudden, the ground came alive again. This time, we weren't in a good area, on the side of a cliff, I looked to see boulders above, I was not comfortable at all. Thankfully it was a little one, lets keep moving, quicker now. The rest of the journey down wasn't as eventful, although some of the ground was a lot looser. We started to see Namche through the clouds below, I thought I heard crying but wasn't sure, then I had seen kids had assembled around the pray wheel, they had come from the school, people stand outside in wide open spaces for safety.
I can't get through to my wife Cherie, this is making me extremely anxious.
As we walked back through the village, buildings had been damaged, rock walls collapsed, side of buildings gone. A eerie silence had filled this Energetic place. I was feeling sick with nausea with what had just had happen. Now the people in the street were now accessing the damage. Looking and staring at buildings. We had to make our way through some dodgy looking buildings and rock walls. People were scurrying past, hoping they wouldn't collapse. A few conversations and stopping to look at the damage we made it to the motel. Thank you lord, I am not a religious man, but I am today.
Walking through the door, it was good to see the other Trekkers that I have come across the last couple of days. We all had our stories to tell, shaken and first timers to an earthquake of this magnitude and the feelings and emotions were running high.
Stories of watching the land fall away and massive boulders tumbling down the hill like little stones. Then the reports started to come in through the web that everyone was trying to get through and monitor. Kathmandu had been hit hard, lots of damage, many dead and trapped. Other areas of Nepal affected as well with dead and missing in Buktapur. In which we stayed only a few nights earlier.
I can't get through to my wife Cherie, this is making me extremely anxious and getting annoyed as others are trolling news networks whilst others are trying to contact home. I keep trying wifi and international roaming but with no luck. I am feeling cold so I head to my room to get changed, hang my clothes out and try and warm up. I would of been in my room for 5mins and this a bigger tremor hit, I stood in the doorway feeling the building beneath my feet. People were running out the street to get out of the alleyway. After it stopped I went back to the dining hall, it was all but empty, except one Sherpa. All the Trekkers had mad a run for it. Even the engineer from England who said this building was earthquake proof after he walked around it to check it. Obviously he wasn't that confident.
After about 5min people had made there way back in. Everybody is tense, but keeping spirits up, a couple of English guys being lighthearted to ease the tension. We sat all sat around in the common room, not moving this time. Waiting and waiting, what for, we were unsure. Hours past, another tremor, stand access, small one, locals standing outside, foreigners inside drinking coffee and talking and trying to monitor news report and text of others that they have travelled with that are up at Everest. No good news coming from there.
The locals are nervously still standing in the streets. Away from buildings, open areas. Starting to make makeshift tents to sleep and live outside for the night. The local Nepali house is built out of rock, no mortar, doorways are small for earthquake purposes. You feel like you are entering a hobbits house. They have a bedroom for sleeping everyone, a cooking and eating area all in one, that's about it. Minimal luxuries to get by, a few clothes each and clean pots, shower (cold water) either at a communal tap or some have a poly pipe that has been run up to there house. This is so primitive but they are the strongest people with a personal nature that is genuine.
The adrenalin has started to subside, I thought I would head to my bed for a nap. It's on the ground floor and close to an exit. If another aftershock comes, I can get out sorta quickly. Laying down with my boots on, jacket, beanie and gloves on, because it's so cold to me anyway. Phone, Wallet, Passport and water beside me on the table.
I just started started to doze when the room started shake, I jumped up and headed for the door, halfway out it stopped. No damage. I headed back to my room, phone, wallet, passport sitting on the table. In my haste, forget everything and run was my only thought. Rookie error, ok, stack my pockets. Be ready next time, totally.
I tried to sleep, but it wasn't going to happen, get up and go and get a warm brew. Heading into the common room, now it was filled. Trekkers just arrived coming back from base camp. They were fairly jovial because they made it to Namche. They are drinking beer and playing cards. Refreshing to see more people safe and well.
Jangbu as usual made sure I was well and if I needed anything. Asking if I have been able to contact family to let them know I am ok. My communications hadn't been working, I had been trying to send text to Cherie but nothing. "Not Delivered" it said. My phone buzzed, text message from my sister. I replied immediately, I'm ok, please let Cherie Know. Get her to call me. Finally my phone rang, my wife's picture came up, what a relief to hear her voice. I answered as I walked out of the common room to outside, it was cold and raining. To hear her voice, overwhelmed me. I broke down talking to her. I relayed the day's events. Trying to gather my composure with each breath and explanation. I was on a massive emotionally roller coaster. I had never been in this condition before and it was tough. Finally after I assured her I was safe and well we said our goodbyes.
I spoke to Jangbu about our plans for the next court of days. We would stay here tonight, tomorrow we would assess once again where we are at. Jangbu spoke going up to Everest lookout if the weather was fine in the morning to see if we could see her. Then we walk to Lukla, an 8hr walk for about 30ks. A tough walk to do in a day, especially with the unknown terrain damage caused by the earthquake.
I had dinner, Veg noodles, couldn't eat much though, feeling nauseous and anxious I wasn't feeling well at all. At about 7.30 I am headed off to bed. I have set the alarm for 5am.
I have had a rough night, up and down with diarrhoea, waking up or not really going to sleep, my night my was not what I needed before today. My alarm went off at 5, at 5.01 another frigging tremor. I just spoken to Jangbu, I am not going to lookout, lets go home I said. I was packed and ready to go, feeling ill I tried a bit of food, that didn't happen. One last toilet stop, we were on our away. Hopefully I will continue in Lukla.
I'm Here!!!! It has taken us 8.5hrs to make it, 2 short stops, I am exhausted, physically and mentally. That was the toughest thing I have ever done. I collapsed in the chair of the motel I am staying at. I am hurting. Our day was brutal, crossing through paths that had cracked, around collapsed houses and stonewalls. Tremors and landslides, how the hell did we make it. The most dangerous part was a landslide that had cut our passage. Their was a makeshift track up and around it. We had come within 3m of the top edge looking straight down at it. What the hell are we doing up here walking over this, I thought. This is too dangerous, if a tremor hits, were gone, the pace quickened up, I can assure you.
As we left Namche, the damage increased, broken houses, everything locked up and people have moved out into the fields in makeshift tents made of tarps. There would have been 4 or 5 families all together. Tables set up, I even saw two wooden beds at one campsite. Cooking areas. The local Nepali people were very subdued, cautious and quite. This was a worry. I kept feeling nauseous in certain areas and it was strong, my guide and Sherpa felt the same too, we could feel something was going to happen. Jangbu said to me that the locals said next one will hit at 12pm, I asked how did they know, he said they know. At 11.55pm we came to suspension bridge, a landslide had fallen just feet from it. There were men walking to clear the path, we had to climb over rocks to get to the bridge. Jangbu queries if we should wait, I said lets go, I don't wanna be next to a landslide If it happens, so we crossed the bridge at a rapid rate.
I got to the side and my lungs were screaming again, feeling sick and starting to get fatigued I was not in a good way. 12.02pm - Nothing. We moved on.
At 1pm, a tremor hit, a big one, the ground under our feet moved again, we lent against the earth, looking above at the mountain above us, hoping it would stay in tact. The other side of the mountain roared. Landslides, I counted 3 within a kilometre. Dust blew up into the air, earth being torn apart from brute force from Mother Nature.
We gathered ourselves and moved quickly towards our destination. We came across more villages with more same damage, broken houses, people set up in the fields.
We stop at Phaktang, were I stayed the first night, lunch here, I couldn't eat, the family here had already started to rebuild, I had seen this at a couple of other places too. They got straight back into rebuilding, although some buildings were totally destroyed and will take a lot longer to fix. After a short break, I got myself together again, 3 hours from here, this was going to be tough.
Upon reaching each village, I had to take more breaks, I was fatiguing big time, breathing hard as we climb the many stairs to Lukla, and having the wobbles like I was going to fall over and the continued presence of nausea. Helicopters were all day flying overhead to Mt Everest, ferrying the dead back and taking rescue equipment to help with the salvage. I wish one would stop for me, but they have other important issues. You can make this, I told myself. One foot after the other.
I have settled in my room, I texted Cherie, saying I made it. It was 8.30pm back home. It was a relief was again to here her voice, I was an emotional wreck again, I recounted the events of the day. The emotions are way too high and are draining me even further. I needed to compose myself once again. Cherie was worried sick, this must be so taxing on her. I know that she has been working hard to see what assistance I can get. Speaking to DFAT, Travel agents, and embassies to help me. I am so grateful for that. After finishing talking, Cherie said I needed to call my sister Sue. This was going to be hard I knew it. I made the call and we discussed the events over the last few days. Sue was happy to hear my voice. I told her I will be home as soon as I can and will see her soon.
After the phone calls I changed out of my wet clothes had a cold wash, as there is no hot water. I rolled out my sleeping bag, collapsed onto the bed. I am cold and shivering, I am hurting.
I got up 6.00 for dinner, I had an 90min rest. Dinner consisted of rice, Dahl and veg, once again I only ate half, another bottle of water. 7.30pm time for bed.
Last night I passed out, a few hours good solid sleep. Only one tremor during the night around 1am. Lots of running and noise coming around me. Only a small one. Stilling feeling sick and having a dose of the sweats during the night I was up at 5am. My body is hurting, knees ankles hurt with every step. I met up with Jangbu at 5.30am, after a quick coffee, we headed to the airport.
No flights coming yet, maybe at 9?? Jangbu said lets head back to motel. Sure, why not. I have been speaking to Cherie to see if the insurance policy cover helicopter flights, $500 U.S will get you a flight to Kathmandu. Two planes have just flown in, this is a promising sign. Jangbu came to me 8.30am, lets head back to airport he said, so I grabbed my bag and walk those bloody stairs again. When we arrived, a Nepali man came up to us and he handed us our tickets and baggage tags. He was my Intrepid's company manager here. He had arranged everything. I am now sitting in the departure area with other foreigners and waiting for our flight back to Kathmandu, everyone is keen to get home.
Arrived Kathmandu, when the plane pulled up people cheered and clapped. One part of danger over, no more mountains and possibility of landslides over. A plane ride I won't forget, taking off is downhill and at speed. Adrenalin was once again pumping, Nepal has certainly had my heart racing. I am worried about what I expect to see here.
Military everywhere, U.S, Indian Air Force planes, military helicopters taking off and landing the place is all action. Soldiers, ambulances with sirens going. Local Police everywhere. Need to get sorted for this next part.
Arrived at Kathmandu Guesthouse, I won't be here tonight, building is damaged and taller ones beside are endangered of collapsing. A few phone calls are made and another accommodation is sourced. About 30mins out of town in flat wide open area at Park Village Resort. On arrival the front gate guard won't let us in. No staff to accommodate me. The staff have left and gone to attend family. We sat at the front gate a while longer, Jamgbu trying frantically to make calls. I gave him my phone as I had a signal. After about 15 minutes a bike pulls up at the gate. Jangbu Jumps out of the taxi and rushes over to him. A couple of minutes later, we head in through the gates. It was his Intrepid manager.
We pulled up in an open area of make shift tents. There were about 30 people milling around and chatting. As the buildings are still deemed to be unsafe due to the aftershocks, it looks like they have been sleeping outside, Or under some sort of cover anyway.
I grabbed my bags and the extra one I now have after leaving it at the guesthouse because of weight restrictions for the Namche trip. I met with "Suszan" or Susan as I said it, who got me in here and told me of the current arrangements. Food over there, Toilet around the back. I asked about changing my flight and what would be the best arrangement. I didn't have my Sherpa anymore, I have to do this on my own.