Speaker for 15th September 2015

Photo: President John Graham greets Barry Torrens, with Club Member (and Dad) Ross Torrens (L) along with Club Member Des Johnston (R)

Talk by Barry Torrens on 'Everest and the Nepal Earthquake'

Well know for his fund-raising feats of daring-do, Barry Torrens gave a talk to the Coleraine Probus Club on his remarkable trek in Nepal and lucky escape from the recent terrible earthquake. Club members were initially treated to a spectacular presentation of Barry's photos of the Everest region and Kathmandu. The photos were originally to illustrate the initial part of his 'trip of a lifetime' retirement treat for his sister Lesley, and also to chart his 'rekey' for a possible future fund-raising challenge attempt to climb Everest.

('Click' the photo above for more images of Kathmandu and the Everest Region)

After some initial sightseeing in Kathmandu (KMD), Barry and Lesley, with their guide, set out on the 12-day trek to Everest base camp. They were only 360 meters from the camp, when Lesley was taken seriously ill with severe altitude sickness. The only option was to call for an emergency helicopter evacuation and hospital treatment back in KMD.

With Lesley recovering, back in her hotel and return to base camp impractical, Barry decided to do a little White Water Rafting, about 80km West of KMD. The inflatable raft was in the centre of the river when the water began to boil and a deafening rumble filled the air - a sound Barry captured on his phone, to replay to the members. As the sides of the mountain slid to all but destroy the roadways, Barry and other raft members were trying frantically to get away from the river for fear of a river Tsunami.

Eventually getting back to KMD, Barry was relieved to find their hotel damaged but mainly standing and his sister very shaken but otherwise safe. The city, its shops, shanty like homes and most of its beautiful temples and state building were severally damaged - as a horrifying selection of images showed the members.

The next priority for Barry was evacuation, as it was for the hundreds (thousands?) of other tourists in the city at that time. Barry vividly described the chaos and confusion that fortunately many of the members have never, and will never, experience - the overused 'nightmare' label can truly be applied here. Through all the devastation, Barry said that he was never so proud to be a British Passport holder as he and Lesley were at that time. The UK consulate in KMD showed outstanding courage and quick, flexible thinking by helping so many people, a lot being other nationals, when the French, Italian and other consulates, (including the USA), simply shut their doors and awaited orders.

Barry and Lesley, along with a whole plane full of UK evacuees from Nepal, landed at Stansted just three days before the May election - Mr. Cameron announced that the government would be paying the £600 per person they had originally said would be charged for the return flight - as Barry had proved, 'timing' is a matter of being in the right place at the right time!

Footnote: Had Lesley not taken so seriously ill, and had they made it the last 360 meters, they may have been counted in the death toll when the earthquake and landslide destroyed most of the camp. Barry is actively trying to raise money to help the earthquake victims, which is still desperately needed. As Barry said, 'the Nepalese people in the Everest region had almost nothing anyway, and even that has been taken from them!

More information:
If you are interested in finding out more of the work being done by some of the charities in Nepal, 'Click' on the links below (these will open in new windows, 'Close' these windows to return to our Probus pages).

The Red Cross (www.redcross.org.uk)

Oxfam (www.oxfam.org.uk)

Unicef (www.unicef.org.uk)

The Disasters Emergency Committee (www.dec.org.uk)