Then there was the international SAR coordinator from the Red Cross, contacted by the man from the U.N., who was coming here to oversee this mission. But she was delayed en route to Nepal, then finally arrived but left the country within 24 hours. That was primarily the result of the Air India crash that occurred, which required her presence. So she too is out of the picture.
A number of international SAR volunteers also came to Nepal on their own dimes, but they have left as well. I never was able to meet or speak to any of them while they were here, because I was not aware of their presence until they'd already gone.
And the Himalaya Rescue Dog Squad--the group I came to Nepal to meet and get to know so I could write about them--well, they've all now returned to their base in Shyauli Bazaar, along with the dogs. They'd used up all funds sent by sponsors from abroad to travel to and stay in Kathmandu, waiting to be mobilized. So they've now returned to the place in the jungle where they live and train, where they can be with their families, the other squad members and the rest of the dogs, and have enough to eat from what is grown locally, rather than rely on donations to survive in a city.
So now it's me and Ingo left here in Kathmandu, as well as a young man from Manchester, England, who's been associated with HRDSN for about ten years. (He flew in from London a few days ago.) I hate to say something like, "Oh, you'll have to read the book" to find out more about Nik, but ... well, I'm sure he'll be in the story, along with a number of other key characters in the history, present and future of the squad and other things that will come of Ingo Schnabel's dream, which he put into action more than 20 years ago here in a very, shall we say "challenging" country.
Ingo has met with Aubrey's father, brother and their Nepali-American guide twice in Kathmandu and then went on two helicopter flights with them. During the second flight yesterday, they landed and spoke to locals in the Langtang area of the Himalaya. Having been here for two decades and on many searches in the Langtang National Park, Ingo knows a number of the local villagers, speaks their language (not straight Nepali) and knows their culture well enough to connect with them.
You can watch a short video Ingo filmed during the second helicopter flight on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfuU0tNYcnk.
There are sherpas from a local trekking company involved in this search as well as--at least, to some degree--members of the Nepali army. But what exactly the army's role is, I don't know. Apparently, they are not very communicative, so I've heard.
I need to make something clear: Nepal is a country where skilled Search & Rescue work cannot be done by locals without being paid up front. It is not funded by taxes, grants, and other goverment money like in the U.S. and other much more affluent countries, where volunteer SAR professionals are able to spend their own money to participate and where bills for rescue--if there are to be any at all--can be sent out after the fact. To the contrary, In Nepal SAR work must be funded by the family and friends of the missing person and perhaps fundraising efforts on their part. (See donation information at the end of this post if you're interested in helping with this search.) The Nepalese have NO money to do this as a voluntary effort, and the conditions under which they work--in the highest peaks and jungles in the world--are extreme and often dangerous. These local people--both Nepali and a long-time foreign transplant like Ingo--know the area, are familiar with the terrain, the flaura and fauna and other hazards, and the people, and they really are vital to a mission such as this.
On another but related note....
Today, I accompanied Ingo, Karna and Nik to see Chokyi Nima Rinpoche (and I've also seen it spelled with an "m"-- Rimpoche--and with an extra "h"--Rimpochhe). Huh? you say. Well, a rinpoche is a lama who is said to be clairvoyant. A psychic if you will. I'm told that they have been through the "cycle of life" and have chosen to return to help people. In addition to traditional search and rescue methods, it is a common practice of Ingo and others to consult with these lamas when searches become particularly difficult, prolonged and confusing. I'm told that the level of accuracy is extremely high, but I have no personal knowledge of these things.
I've honestly never witnessed anything like what I did today. First, we met with a monk, who led us to the rinpoche at Swoyambhu, a large monastary in the middle of Kathmandu, high on a hill. We had to walk to the left of many things on the way. (Good karma, apparently.) We then removed our shoes and entered a small waiting room, where we showed Aubrey Sacco's photo to the monk and provided him with some basic information. He said the rinpoche would need just her name and birth year.
Soon, we were led into another tiny room, and there was the rinpoche, an old man dressed like any other monk. (Ingo later asked me if I noticed his unique ears--ears that only rinpoche have, he said--but, shoot, I was too focused on his face.) In turn, we each crouched down so he could place a red ribbon around our necks, then took a seat on a pad on the floor.
Ingo asked each question in English, which Karna translated in Nepali to the monk. (Ingo speaks Nepali, but nowhere near as well as Karna.) The monk then translated to the rinpoche, who speaks a Tibetan language. The monk would remove three dice from a small container, shake them in his hand, sometimes blow on them, sometimes touch the hand with the dice, eyes closed, to his forehead. He would drop the dice back in the little dish and study them for a long moment and sometimes repeat the process before speaking. He would talk to the monk, and the translations would work in reverse. Sometimes, Karna didn't fully translate back into English, because Ingo had understood the monk's Nepali words.
A rinpoche doesn't always speak in a very direct way, so I understand. For example, if someone is no longer alive, he may say something like, "He cannot see" or "I cannot see her," as if her spirit has left. (That was not said today.) Sometimes a rinpoche may open his eyes and point and say "east" or "west" perhaps.
It will be very interesting to see how this plays out and then to then compare that to what the rinpoche said. I will let you know.
Anyhow, I wasn't able to photograph the rinpoche (I didn't even ask, actually, but it was clearly inappropriate), but I did take a number of photos today at Swoyambhu. You can see them beginning here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=212279&id=259782534461#!/photo.php?pid=5313432&id=259782534461 (just click "next" in the upper right to go to the next). There are explanations below some of the photos. And, yesh, I took a lot of monkey shots. :)