Diary Of A Travel Reporter

August 2, 2013 , by Sewa Bhattarai, 2 Comments
Diary Of A Travel Reporter » My Dreams Mag

Shanta Nepali is a producer and presenter of the travel show Destination Nepal in Terai TV. For her outstanding and courageous work in the promotion of tourism in Nepal, she was awarded the Best Tourism Journalist in Television in 2012 by Trekking Agents Association of Nepal, and Best Female Tourism Journalist in 2010 by the Tourism Board.

Right from my childhood, I had been very interested in news. I was fascinated by the impact that a few written words could have, and inspired by the idea of social change through mass media. This led me to work as children’s reporter for Blast Times, and then at Ujyalo Network, and then at Terai TV, where my travel show became one of its kind in Nepal. That is how I came to be included in the trip to Taplejung, where the most dramatic incident of my career occurred.


Eleven of us were on an excursion from TAAN (Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal) to find and document a new trekking route in Taplejung. The initial few days had been pleasant, but the weather had suddenly grown worse on the ninth day. Two or more men shared a tent, but being the only woman, I was alone in mine. All night, the wind howled so badly I thought it would blow my tent away. I had spent the night holding two sides of the tent to keep it aground. I was glad I did, because the roof of the porters’ tent had blown away and they had been left cold that night.


It started snowing. We asked locals to guide us up the 5,177 meter high Lumbasumba Pass. Two men agreed, but as the snow fell thicker and obscured all paths, they returned. Our team leader Rana Bahadur, who was also from Taplejung, volunteered to guide us. We were thigh deep in snow. Every step we took was like a march past, since we had to raise it high before bringing it down. We walked from 2am in the morning to 4pm in the evening, but could not find the way. We just found one snow filled peak after another.


As time passed, our team members one after another fell prey to the harsh weather. Altitude was making breathing difficult, and it gave us headaches and dizziness. Our photographer and writer developed severe cramps in hands, and we all were exhausted. My camera-person became unconscious. I remembered that he had just received news that his wife had given birth to a daughter, and he had not even seen her. I felt like crying. We had finished the water we had carried with us, and were sucking balled-up snow for moisture. We were too scared to eat our packed lunches in case we finished it and had nothing else to eat. Besides, altitude had ruined our appetite. At the height of 5,200 meters, I lost all hope of life.


Every moment spent out in the snow made us long for warmth. But when we decided to camp, everything from cooking to laying our tents was doubly difficult. Starting a fire was hard because the matches had grown moist. We were making a documentary, but batteries in our equipment were nearly dead due to the cold. Meanwhile, our porter Malpa Tamang looked at his feet with an eerie expression: “My toes have grown blue” he said. I immediately realized that hypothermia was setting in. On the sixth day, when I learnt we would be walking in snow, I had decided to put a plastic bag between my shoes and socks as insulation. While the socks would keep the foot warm, the plastic would prevent the moisture from leaking in. I advised my camera-person to do the same. But not everyone had followed my advice. Another porter also discovered blue tints in his toes and complained that he could not feel anything. Rana Bahadur tended to them all night, but the next morning, he realized that his own toes were infected.


That night, none of us could sleep. Two photographers tended to my camera-person all night, giving him hot water and warming his limbs. Those whose fingers and toes had gone numb were depressed, they knew they would have to amputate their limbs or it might develop into gangrene. But we had no medical help, the only thing we could do was keep ourselves warm with hot water. Though my hands and feet were fine, I kept staring at them all night, fear eating away at my courage.


Next morning we woke to find that Mount Makalu was right in front of us. My heart swelled at seeing a mountain so near, I was glad and scared at the same time. My camera-person was much better, and we started walking. But the GPS had died, and even after two hours, we could not find any path. When we found a frozen river, we decided to follow it down. Much later we learnt that we had wandered from Taplejung into Sankhuwasabha. After about five hours, we reached a village called Thudam. It had only fifteen houses, but we considered ourselves saved. Little did we know that there was more struggle left. The villagers spoke only Tibetan, and we could get no medical help. Finally we found a lone person who spoke Nepali, and asked him if there was a phone in the village. He told us the nearest landline was five days away. Our spirits sagged, we knew some of us would not survive that journey.


Finally, we found someone who had a sky phone, but there was no network. We were desperate, we knew we had to give it a try. Me and trekking guide Bibash climbed nearly 400 meters to the top of a hill. We had no luck for almost three hours, and then finally the network indicator showed one bar. I called Mahendra Thapa, President of TAAN, but the phone wouldn’t ring. I typed a message to him, but that didn’t go through either. Then I sent an sms to Aman Adhikary of TTV asking for immediate rescue. Thankfully, that one delivered. “We will contact you soon,” came the reply. Network was lost immediately, but we were relieved.


After another three hours, we looked up to the sound of a helicopter. Two of our porters, Rana Bahadur, photographer Rameshwor Maharjan, and writer Hari Bhattarai left in it. The rest of us continued the mission and the project was a success despite this major setback.


This incident taught me that no matter how desperate the situation, we should not lose hope. It left a deep and lasting impression on me, though I had faced challenges even before. Often, I was the only woman in the team. The pace of walking, amount of stuff we would carry, and physical work we did was set by the men in the group. I had to perform as well as any of them, and that scared me at first. I faced prejudice and skepticism too. But I worked hard and gradually improved my performance, became more confident, and earned the confidence of my co-workers. It was harder to convince outsiders. Many people doubted that I had even been on the trip, because I, a woman, came back safe and sound, while more experienced men fell prey to hypothermia.


Even though the field of tourism journalism keeps throwing such challenges at me, I also find it very fulfilling. It gives me the opportunity to visit different parts of the country, talk to all kinds of people, and broaden my horizons. And at the end of the day, there is nothing so exciting as seeing a new scene every day, which people have never laid eyes upon. Though the road may be daunting, with hard work and determination, nothing is impossible.

Narrative by: Sewa Bhattarai 

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2 comments on “Diary Of A Travel Reporter

  1. sanyukta.shrestha@gmail.com says:


  2. Hi,

    Nice write-up. I can understand a bit of it having been through a grade 3-4 frostbite myself on my feet and how painful it can be to walk with them, notwithstanding the fact that you were lost…


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