Wanderlust: Rainstorms, rockslides, and wrecked planes

by Brad Tafoya

“In 2013, I went with seven other Rotarians to Nepal to install solar lights in teahouses along the Great Himalaya Trail … We were in Kathmandu, for a couple days exploring the sites, then flew to a small village where we stayed overnight to take a puddle jumper to the village we were actually going to, which was high up in the mountains at 10,000 feet.

We fly into this little town and a huge rainstorm comes in. We’re in delayed in this small village for three days … We then fly to where we are going to start trekking, and as we are flying in we can see this short, little airfield we are landing on is on this mesa that is not big. On the edge of the airstrip, there is the wreckage of an old plane. We land, and on the other side of the airstrip further up, there’s the wreckage of another plane. That’s how the trip started.

From there we went to our hosts and delivered dental packets and school supplies. We had an hour with these kids delivering Rotary goods and then started off, in a rainstorm, hiking.

We spent a couple days installing lights and got to another village and a big rainstorm rolled through … Eventually, the rainstorm let up enough that we could finish our trek. We had finished installing solar lights and were going to do a big trek in some of the most remote places of Nepal that there are.

We didn’t know about this until we got back home, but our friends (who had left before the extended trek) had been stuck … Because of the rain delays, flights were stacked up. There had been a couple of other teams that had gotten stuck, as well. They started ferrying all these people out of the river valley by helicopter. Turns out that on the last run of the day, the helicopter that was supposed to come and pick up my friends, ended up crashing and two people died … They ended up on a different helicopter, but some parts were missing. They landed and had to add a part last minute. It was pretty sketchy for them to get back to Kathmandu.

In the meantime, we were out trekking. Because of these epic rainstorms, a lot of sections of the trail had washed out. There was one day that I walking across a section where trail was no longer there, it was just hillside. I hear a zing, like someone was throwing pebbles at me. I look up and the hillside is starting to slide, and rocks, little pebbles are bouncing all around me, and I’m in the lead so I hold up my hand for everyone to stop.

We get down to the bottom of that pass and to a village that had been partially wiped out by a rock in a landslide, passing homes that have been destroyed by this mudslide. We later found out that had we not been delayed those two times due to rainstorms that we would have been in that village the day that it slid.”

Brad TafoyaBrad’s story was so epic, we had to split it in half. Catch Part II in next week’s issue.Got a travel story worth telling? Write it in about 400 words and send it to [email protected]. If you’d rather tell your story, send a brief synopsis along with your full name and phone number to the same address. Either way, your story should be true.


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