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May. 28, 2022 | Saturday
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COVID-19: NOTL native faces mountain of uncertainty in Nepal
Connor Crickmore looks over the tenth tallest mountain in the world in Nepal. While he said it is breathtaking, he is hoping to get home. (Supplied)

NOTL native Connor Crickmore is stuck in Nepal amid the pandemic and says while other countries have helped citizens return home, Canada has been "totally unresponsive" to his plight.

Connor Crickmore
Special to The Lake Report

CENTRAL NEPAL–It’s 3:30 a.m., pitch black outside in Nepal, and my feet are in freezing rebellion. Waking up that morning, I was filled with the exuberance of challenge and a thirst for a little adventure and danger. We were to hike nine hours in -20C weather from 4,200 metres up to the Thorong La Pass at 5,416 metres, and then down to 3,900 metres on the other side of Mount Annapurna.

At that altitude there is only 10 per cent oxygen and many of us were already dealing with symptoms of acute mountain sickness. The route, terrain and altitude were all known. What was not known were the hurdles that waited for us on the other side of the mountain.  

After making the pass and arriving in the small mountain village of Muktinath, we were escorted by local villagers into a COVID-19 quarantine room to have our temperatures read. We then had to wait while the town decided to either accept us or to banish us to a yak shed on the outskirts of town.  

Once we began our 21-day trek through the central Nepalese Himalayas, Nepal discovered one case of COVID-19 which then, quickly escalated to four. The government cancelled all road and air transportation within the country, which we learned about when we came off the mountain.   

We were left abandoned with no local suppor,t so the various members of our small group were forced to involve their own individual governments for help. Amazingly, all of our group members except myself, found sympathy and immediate action when their home nations were contacted. 

Sadly, my own emails to my country were left unreturned and unanswered in any way. Canada, totally unresponsive, was not there for me in any way. I was forced to improvise, quickly becoming "Wolfgang" from Munich and used a copied transit letter from a fellow trekker from Germany in order to gain passage on the bus to Kathmandu. 

Traversing innumerable single-lane mountain switchbacks, fording endless rivers and streams, and straddling death-defying cliff edges, 24 hours later our indomitable bus finally arrived in Kathmandu. However, any relief was to be short-lived.  

It seems that most Nepalese view foreigners as the cause for the spread of the virus and with looks askance, their developing antipathy toward strangers quickly became obvious. As well, food and water accessibility are becoming a concern. In too many of their minds, not only are we the cause of this debacle, we are about to consume products of their salvation.

And now we wait. I am not alone here, there are hundreds of Canadians feeling this same abandonment. Our fellow travellers from the rest of the world are being airlifted out daily. Even Afghanistan sent an airplane. I wasn’t even aware Afghanistan had an airline.

We and the rest of our international community are shocked that a leading G7 nation like Canada, one that apparently prides itself as a paragon, a veritable beacon of reliability and respect among world nations, is proving little more than a "paper tiger," all talk, no action ... actually, no talk, no action.  

While I am  not so quick as to label our situation dire, each passing day brings greater uncertainty and a small glimmer of recognition for our plight from our government would go a long way to allay much of our anxiety.

No world traveller who I know ever embarks on a path other than one of self-reliance. One’s nationality is something of pride, but nothing to feel smug about or rely on. We relish being a part of the whole, a citizen of the world, so to speak, beyond a single nation.

This is the binding quality we seek and the ultimate salvation of the planet, we believe. To achieve this, every nation – even Canada – must also recognize its own role, its own responsibility to both its citizens and the world at large. 

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