While we all worry and keep our distance here at home, imagine being thousands of kilometres away from home, with no idea how or when you will be able to get there.
That is the situation that Anthony Dransfeld, of Wasa, finds himself in. Dransfeld, whom Bulletin readers will recognize as a frequent contributor to the paper, is in Nepal, trying to weave his way through a maze of information and red tape, in order to return to Canada.
“Will I ever leave Canada again if and when I get home? Not!,” said Anthony in an email to the Bulletin.
Dransfeld is a frequent traveller, and was in Nepal to pick an item off his bucket list — a helicopter ride around Mt. Everest.
However, that was thrown by the wayside when Nepal locked down.
“Every day brings more rumours and false hope for us Canadians,” he wrote. “Nepal is a beautiful country, very mountainous and similar to the East Kootenay. The people of Nepal are very, very kind and loving to everyone.”
According to Dransfeld there are thousands of tourists in Nepal at the moment, from Australians, British, Americans, Italians, Spanish and Canadians.
All are trying to find a way home.
“For those of us old enough to remember the film Casablanca, with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, at the beginning of the Second World War, fleeing the Nazis, desperate for travel visas comes to mind.
“The scene we had at the Kathmandu Airport last week was sheer pandemonium. Everyone trying desperately to get out of the country. Black Market “travel agents” were selling one way tickets on the last flight out for 5000 U.S. Dollars (cash only) to Toronto and New York City. I had been down at my travel agent’s for three days attempting to get a ticket to any airport in Canada — Toronto, Vancouver Calgary or Montreal. I was close one time. Very close. The agent booked the ticket on the computer, Kathmandu through Istanbul to Dubai to Vancouver, on Turkish Air. The one and only route left to get home. It was all done and paid for, except the printer would not spit out the ticket. The agent was befuddled and I was crushed. “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is dispatching charter flights to various parts of the world to retrieve us, apparently. There are over 800 Canadians currently stuck here in Nepal.”
Dransfeld describes another scene at the Kathmandu Airport, which he says was “pretty crazy”.
“A Silk Airlines flight with 180 passengers (160 Nepalese) was coming in for a landing. The Aviation Tower advised the pilot that landing was illegal, and for the plane to return to Bangkok, Thailand. The flight then circled Kathmandu for one hour, then radioed the Airport they were low on fuel. The flight was then allowed to land for refuelling only. The passengers began fighting and rioting on the aircraft, then stormed the cockpit, injuring the pilots and damaging the flight instruments.The passengers were then allowed to exit the airplane. They were put in quarantine for 14 days.”
With supplies running low, there is no shortage of brainstorming on ways to get out.
“Bottled water, toilet paper and hand sanitizers are running out. We get all of our foodstuffs from India as well. The border is now closed. For how long who knows.
“Some of the proposed escape routes being thrown around the coffee shops are quite bizarre. Here are a few. Escaping by trekking through Tibet with a guide and black market visa, getting in to China and getting out by catching a plane from a Chinese airport, with yet another dodgy visa. Desperate times for desperate people. I am getting there myself. Also mentioned 50 of us chartering a plane out of New Delhi, India. Of course we would have to be a border runner to get there.”
Getting information, even from the Canadian Embassy, is proving challenging.
“I phoned the Canadian Consulate in Kathmandu, Nepal 85 times yesterday. Always busy (they closed for the day at noon) Brilliant.
“The Canadian Embassy working with the Indian Embassy in Delhi sent us an email four days ago, advising all Canadians to congregate in Kathmandu immediately, so we will be available to fly to Canada with perhaps only to two to three hours notice. Be prepared, be packed and be close to the airport the email said. Today a new email arrived. Stay where you are. Do not come to Kathmandu. No hotel rooms and no flights are planned to Canada at this time.”
Generally the cost is $1000 Canadian, one way. It is quite likely these mercy flights will cost $3000 one way, if and when they begin, he says.
“It is all very vague. Originally the Canadian Government, was picking up the flight cost Reneged on that.”
The anxiety is quite overwhelming and exhausting.
“One very elderly English tourist i met on the street told me he has not had this feeling of foreboding since three days before World War II broke out in Great Britain. A fair comparison.”
And with little to do to pass the time, memories of home cross the mind.
“Yesterday I found myself humming the song ‘ The Maple Leaf Forever’, a song Mrs Colby taught us in our one room farm school in Claremont, Ontario in 1954.
“I had a dream the other night. I was at the McDonalds Drive Thru on the Strip in Cranbrook. Dave Kaiser, the owner, was serving me in a white apron and cap.
“I woke up before my order arrived.”
Dransfeld says he hopes to make it home to play some Slo Pitch for Wasa this summer, if there is a ball season in the East Kootenay.
“Kimberley and Cranbrook have never seemed so far away in all of my days of travelling. Hope I get back.”