Maoists block the roads outside Kathmandu|
Apr 5, 2005 06: 07 EST
Yesterday teams on their way to Tibet from Kathmandu reported on possible delays due to Maoists rebels blocking the roads. The guerrilla has called again to an 11 days-long strike, starting on Saturday. To reinforce the measure, the guerrilla is blocking the roads outside Kathmandu.
Climbers' work as correspondents
Ecuadorian climber Ivan Vallejo reported on his failed attempt to reach Pokhara by road on Sunday. Vallejo is part of an international group of climbers including Colombian Fernando Gonzalez, Italians Nives Meroi, Romano Benet and Luca Vuerich, and Spaniards Iñaki Ochoa and Nacho Orviz, whose goal is a double-header on Dhaulagiri and Annapurna.
This is Ivan’s report:
“At 4:30 am (local time) I joined a group of 18 climbers and trekkers on our way to Pokhara – 250km. NW of Kathmandu – by bus. Pokhara is the starting point of the approaching trek to Dhaulagiri and Annapurna.”
“About 45 minutes after departing, the bus stopped. We were told that Nepal army troops were checking the vehicles, one by one, as a security measure. It would take about two hours before we could move again.”
“Two hours afterwards we had not moved a single centimeter. A never-ending line of cars, buses and trucks was crowding the road as far as we could see. No road control could possibly cause such a mess, so we did some further research. Soon we knew it was not the army troops, but the Maoists rebels who were blocking the road. The military were afraid of forcing the road free, in case it could trigger an attack.”
“Time went by. At 4:00pm the driver surrendered and we turned around, returning back to Kathmandu, where I am now. Tomorrow we will try to drive to Pokhara again.”
One dead in Pokhara
Nepal media, strictly censored, don’t say a word on the blockades. However, foreign media are cautiously publishing some facts. According to Indian paper The Financial Express, “at least one person was killed and three others injured in an explosion in Nepal on the second day of a Maoist-called transport strike and blockade to protest the power grab. The blast triggered by suspected Maoists occurred in Pokhara.”
No problem for airlifted travelers
The blockades are affecting only road travelers. No problem have been reported on domestic flights or climbers airlifted by helicopter, except delays caused by the huge amount of passengers. There are no reports on foreigners being involved in clashes between the Maoists and the army.
Both Nepal government and the Maoists have declared in several occasions their intention to harm no foreigners. Tourists are not a target for the rebels, who will instead demand money from climbers entering their ‘territory’ – large rural areas under their control. As far as we know, there is no risk for the climbers’ safety. Road blocks are however a logistic problem, which can delay the team’s arrival to the mountains they aim to climb.
Image of vehicles halted on the road to Pokhara on Sunday April 2nd, by Klemen Gricar, courtesy of Ivan Vallejo.