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Hello! We are busy this season with two Everest expeditions.
I spent several weeks helping the sherpas sort out expedition gear and also trying to catch up on emails. Some climbers arrived very early and thoroughly recommended having time to decompress. Scott, the Project Himalaya expedition leader reckoned staying on a beach in Thailand was the best decompression. We were worried he wouldn't leave.
The well-fed look! Eleven of the fifteen sherpa crew for the P-H expedition before leaving Kathmandu.
We sent the sherpa teams in early so as to miss potential trouble in Kathmandu. This turned out to be a wise decision.
The climbers started arriving and the expeditions began. The Project Himalaya team were a really nice team, and between Duncan, Scott and myself we managed everything for them. They went trekking on time before the troubles started.
The Everest Peace Project were not so lucky, Gautam arrived a day late and so we were delayed by two days and the strike began. We sat in Kathmandu and waited it out, perhaps drove everyone crazy, but this has so far been good for the expedition, I feel. We are now going in at a good time and as a bonus we have missed one big blow that destroyed no less than three of our kitchen tents and a few other base camp tents.
"Base Camp" New Orleans, breakfast and WiFi.
Just had a buzz (#2 haircut) and managed to escape Base Camp New Orleans (a friend's Kathmandu restaurant) and have packed, properly packed for a change. Am ready to go, psyched even. You won't hear from us for a few days; don't worry!
An officer well prepared for the troubles about 150 metres from by house
Here is what I wrote for Explorers Web.
Checkmate in Nepal?
The people of Kathmandu are speaking by blocking streets off, burning tires and clashing with the police. This is the beginning of change, no matter how it is looked at, and the King should be nervous.
The strike called for a few days ago by the political parties started innocuously enough, for the most part everybody tired of the political games being played. The government's line was we will tolerate peaceful protest but that line was almost immediately crossed with students getting provocatively violent, the excuse the government needed to crack down on them and pretend that there must be Maoist forces at work behind the scenes.
In past demonstrations at this point the people had backed down but this time, with undoubted help from party activists for one more "decisive" push, adrenaline took over, and with political activists switching to chanting for democracy, the generally apathetic Kathmandu population, or at least the youths really joined in, momentarily forgetting that it was the political parties that brought the country to this point in the first place.
The message is clear though, the King must take proactive action. These are rocks thrown against the massive human rights abuses and horrible security deterioration in the countryside. The majority of the country was happy to give King Gyanendra the benefit of doubt when he took over on October 2002, knowing that the cunning King would surely not fall into the same traps as the political parties had who, even with the Maoist gun to their head, they were not able to extract their fingers from the honey pot.
However a succession of King's men were misguided and ineffective, tackling small problems rather the major issues. For example the Nepal Oil Corporation, or Nepal Oil Corruption, still has a government monopoly and with prices only changed every two months, plus the pressure to subsidize for the poor, made a bet that oil prices could not remain high, and consequently came close to bankrupting the country.
The list of problems is endless, the answers easy to articulate but the solutions effected, worryingly short. It is worth mentioning there is no shortage of money or expertise available from the Asian Development Bank and World Bank for these structural adjustments; these are exactly what they are most happy supporting, and funding enduring institution-building, such as developing a truly independent and impartial judiciary and election commission, two vital ingredients for Nepal to move ahead.
Instead the King started tearing at these too, and the independent press, to gain any and ever short term advantage. He continued to push the army to fight the Maoist fire with fire, rather than dousing it with humble development water. The political parties have been sidelined, pushed to be ever more extreme to make their voice heard, rather than being forced to truly reform their corrupt and surprisingly undemocratic ways. The Maoists have gleefully watched every power center lose public faith, and from a no hope bargaining position, have by default gained. Their indoctrination and constant action, however misguided it all is, at least offers the poorest of the poor some hope. They must be thanking their lucky red stars.
Does the country have hope though? Lets see what happens in the next few days. I really, really hope against hope for a final solution so that the Nepali people can stop suffering the egos and stupidity of their leaders. But I have a feeling Nepal will somehow muddle thru as always, and still be going nowhere fast.
Jamie McGuinness in Kathmandu
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