Premium Journalist
2 minute read
2 May 2015
8:38 am

It felt like the mountain was exploding – SA quake survivors


A week after an earthquake in Nepal left over 6000 dead and thousands of villages devastated, a South African couple, left stranded after the quake, described their ordeal.

In this photograph taken on April 26, 2015, rocks are kept over flattened tents at Everest Base Camp, to cover the bodies of some of the people that died a day earlier as an earthquake triggered avalanche crashed through parts of the base camp killing scores of people. Rescuers faced a race against time on April 29, to find survivors of a mammoth earthquake that killed more than 5,000 people when it through Nepal five days ago and devastated large parts of one of Asia's poorest nations. AFP PHOTO/ROBERTO SCHMIDT

“Just a week ago we were in a valley when everything started moving,” said Capetonian Kate Ahrends while speaking to journalists travelling with disaster relief organisation Gift of the Givers on Saturday.

“For a moment I wondered if what we were experiencing was real. Then we panicked… it felt like the mountain was exploding”.

Ahrends and her boyfriend Mike Sherman were hiking in the Langtang Valley when the earthquake hit last Saturday.

After the initial panic, the couple ran back towards the mountain. Sherman started searching for members of their hiking group.

The couple, along with two Australian sisters, Eliza and Tess Arnold, two Italians, and a Spaniard managed to find two Dutch tourists who had a Nepalese guide.

“We found a rock for shelter before we found Dutch tourists,” said Ahrends.

Two Israeli tourists later joined them and the group managed to build a makeshift shelter.

The couple said it became an everyday struggle to hold on to hope.

“Mother nature is so much more powerful than you. When you have boulders flying at you the size of cars, it is difficult not to think about dying,” said Ahrends.

What kept them hopeful were thoughts of their loved ones back in South Africa.

“That’s all that kept us going, the thought of seeing our families again,” said Ahrends.

When the first helicopter came to rescue stranded hikers and village people, Sherman and Ahrends were on a high.

But that soon disappeared when they realised the helicopter was not for them.

“But they had to rescue the elderly and injured,” said Ahrends.

The couple were eventually airlifted and taken to a Nepalese army camp.

The couple and the Arnold sisters later made their way to the Gift of the Givers camp, located at the Little Hearts School in the outskirts of Kathmandu, on Friday night.

“We hope we can get the same help for the locals because there are thousands of them in desperate need of help,” said Ahrends.

The couple, along with the Arnolds, said they wanted to “pay it forward” by assisting the Gift of the Givers on the Nepal mission.

“When we arrived at the Gift of the Givers camp, we felt so safe. Of course we want to see our family but if we can help, we want to,” said Ahrends.

The couple were not yet ready to face the online media world, which was abuzz with news of their story, nor do they want to think too much about the quake. They did however agree that one day they would return to the mountain.