Heather Recounts a Terrifying Ordeal
The trip to Nepal was something we’d been planning for nearly a year. Myself and three friends had booked a ten day trek around the Annapurnas in the Himalayas, followed by five weeks in India.
The trip was exactly what we needed. We’d just finished our exams and felt revived amongst the wonderful scenery and mountain air. Although the air grew a bit thin at the top, we made it over the Thorong La Pass at 5416 m with only mild mountain sickness, and no sign of the Maoist rebels. The trek ended in Pokhora, Nepal’s second city. We spent the first day relaxing, shopping and getting our clothes washed! before having a farewell dinner with our guide
The day our guides left, we set off at 8am to walk up…
The day our guides left, we set off at 8am to walk up the “beautiful forest trail,” as described by our guide book, to the world peace pagoda. With beautiful views of Pokhora, the lake and the Himalayas, it seemed like a necessary visit.
We’d been walking up the wooded trail for about 30 minutes when we discovered we were sharing the path with hundreds of leeches. Walking quicker to get out of the trees and away from the leeches, I failed to notice two Nepalese men on the path above us.
They were in their twenties and wearing bandannas and facemasks. They came down the path towards us and asked for money. This is common in Nepal and India, so we gave our usual reply that we didn’t have any. Then one guy pulled out a baton, and we started to feel uneasy – made much worse when his companion brandished a knife.
The one guy in our group was at the back, and nearly knocked me over as he pushed past me, I had no idea what he was doing, but at that point two more men came up the path below us, also with knives.
Now we really started to panic. They demanded our bags and ripped them open to go through the contents. They took our cameras, money and wallets. One of my friends begged them to leave our passports, which luckily for us they did. They threw the rest of our stuff on the floor, brandished the knives again and took off down the path.
By this point the other two girls were in tears. We scrabbled around on the floor picking up our stuff and headed up the path as quickly as we could. We were terrified and just wanted to get out of there. But we couldn’t go down, as that was where the muggers had gone. So we continued up and fortunately found another path down.
Now we had time to for it all to sink in. Whilst I was particularly upset having lost a nearly full memory card in my camera, all I could see in my head was the Rainbow Foundation’s video where the two lads get stabbed. I kept thinking, “that could have been us.”
This was when my friend confessed that he had been trying to be the gentleman and protect the three girls by standing in front of them. It hadn’t occurred to him that he was a foot taller than the attackers and so would appear aggressive – maybe if he’d seen the video he would have realised this.
In the end we were all OK, and still managed to have a wonderful time on the rest of the trip. It wouldn’t stop me travelling again, but it has made me much more aware of safety.
Written by Heather Burlton