Earlier this month, 9 Malaysian friends set out to Nepal to take on the Everest Base Camp trek. Never did they imagine that the hardest part of their experience would be ending up stranded in the country, not knowing when they can return home. Unfortunately, all the Embassy of Malaysia in Kathmandu can say is, “Sorry for the inconvenience,” and “We will update you,”
Dr Jeevitha Brama Kumar and her friends arrived in Kathmandu on the 11th of March. The team took a domestic flight to Lukla and completed their grueling Everest Base Camp trek on the 23rd of March.
Nepal imposed its 1 week lockdown on the 24th of March, cancelling all international and domestic flights. It was the same day that Dr Jeevitha and her three friends were scheduled to depart to Kathmandu from Lukla. The other 5 members of her team were unwell at the Everest Base Camp itself, and they were choppered out to Kathmandu.
Simbir Ghale, a member of the Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal, says 119 foreign trekkers have been stuck halfway in Lukla. Over 300 trekkers are stranded in the Everest region.
In a stinging Facebook post, Dr Jeevitha talks about how difficult it is to be stuck in Lukla. Four from her team and another Malaysian man are stranded in the tiny village that has an average temperature of 2°C. She has not taken a shower in 16 days. There is no proper heating and electricity is erratic, she says.
The Malaysians need to pay to charge their phones, wifi, food and even water. Their limited funds and inability to withdraw money at the ATMs force them to ration their money, allowing it only for food and charging phones.
A lukewarm bucket of water to shower costs NPR400 (RM14), but it is too much to spend, says Dr Jeevitha. “The temperatures are too cold for a shower,” she says over a WhatsApp message with the Varnam team. “We also need to keep our money for food and charging our phones. Each full charge is NPR200 (RM7),”
Jeevitha and her friends have not been able to do their laundry due to their limited funds. “We even have to reuse our dirty clothes as laundry is impossible here,” she says.
“We were supposed to fly from Kathmandu to Kuala Lumpur on the 29th of March, but that has been postponed to the 13th of April. After the Movement Control Order was extended, Malindo has pushed the flights to the 15th of April,” she says.
Getting to Kathmandu will resume once the Nepali lockdown is over next week, but their return to Kuala Lumpur is laden with uncertainty, Jeevitha says. “Every time we book a flight, it gets cancelled. Some people have even booked 4 different flights to get home, but it keeps getting cancelled,”
“We left Malaysia before any travel restrictions were laid down. Looking at the growing number of Covid-19 cases, we shortened our trip as well,” the trekker said.
The Embassy of Malaysia in Kathmandu
The Embassy of Malaysia in Kathmandu seems to be offering no solace to those stranded.
They have created a WhatsApp group, they claim “to share on any latest development on current situation (sic),” The updates in the group, however, are merely on how many Malaysians are stranded in Nepal. Right now, 34 Malaysians are stranded in the country. The embassy also assured the Malaysians the updated list of those stranded has been forwarded to the headquarters, which we assume is Wisma Putra.
When contacted, an official from then Embassy of Malaysia in Kathmandu said that they are still trying to reach all the Malaysians who are stuck in Nepal before announcing any further measures.
There has been no update from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on whether the Malaysians stranded in Nepal will be repatriated to Kuala Lumpur.
The trekker says things are bleak for them, “We can’t come back without the intervention of our embassy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,”
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