A long walk to Langtang

In April 1999 I spent a month trekking in Nepal, from Kathmandu up into the Langtang Valley. It was a beautiful, extraordinary time. Nepal was just about to hold its first democratic elections in over 50 years, and people in the foothills of the Himalayas were gathered around radios, listening to the latest news, or walking en masse as communities, sometimes for several days, to cast their votes in the nearest polling station.

The country was still technically in the middle of a civil war, but it was strangely relatively safe – even though you could often see groups of Maoist rebels and then, sometimes just a short while later, Nepalese army patrols on the same trekking trails on the same day, there was no direct threat to tourists. I remember it very fondly. After 2 weeks trekking we reached the village of Langtang, high in the valley, and surrounded by glaciers, beyond which lay the border with China. It was a very special, spiritual place.

16 years later, on 25 April 2016 – a year ago today – central Nepal was struck by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake, which killed over 8,500 people. Kathmandu escaped relatively lightly, but smaller rural communities across the country were devastated. Langtang, at an altitude of 11,000 feet, and where I’d spent a happy week resting after the long walk up the valley, was completely buried in a horrendous landslide and avalanche. Over 200 people died there alone. A second earthquake on 12 May caused more deaths and destruction, adding to the misery.

I went back to Nepal last year with DFID, a few days after the first earthquake, as part of the UK’s humanitarian response team. You can see some of my photos from that mission here. I didn’t make it back to Langtang, but being back in the country again brought back all those memories from 1999. I’d always wanted to go to Nepal again, but never thought it would be under such dreadful circumstances.

As we remember the first earthquake, a year ago already, I’m posting these images now from my archive, of happier times in Langtang and in memoriam for those who lost their lives – and to try and raise some money for the earthquake relief appeal.

These images – and more that can be seen here – are for sale as 10x8in archival inkjet prints, at £100 each. Please get in touch if you’d like to buy one. I’m still figuring out exactly how this will work, but all proceeds from any prints sold will go to the DEC appeal or to local organisations who are helping in Langtang.

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About russellphoto

Photographer and multimedia producer/editor working in international development. Also on Twitter @russellphoto
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