New Delhi/Hyderabad: A 28-year-old techie, who was stranded while trekking to Mount Everest base camp when an earthquake hit the region, has returned home safely but with tales of horror she witnessed on her way back.
Neelima Poduta, an employee of Cognizant Technology Solutions in Hyderabad, on Friday landed in Delhi.
She was part of the seven-member expedition group that had started trekking on April 20. They were at an altitude of over 6,400 metres when the earthquake struck the Himalayan nation.
"That day (April 25) we were on top of a mountain, close to the Everest base camp. There was trembling but we all mountaineers felt it could be giddiness because of mountain sickness. We did not think it was an earthquake," Neelima told reporters at Andhra Pradesh Bhavan in the national capital.
The group members returned to their lodge but still had no information that a quake had hit the region. The entire communication system was damaged and it was only from radio news they learnt that a massive earthquake had occurred.
Neelima's family here was worried as she could not be contacted after the earthquake. However, the tour organisers in Bengaluru later informed them that she and other members of the group were safe.
"We later experienced many aftershocks and some of them were more powerful than the actual earthquake," said Neelima, who was the only Telugu in the group.
She recalled the tough times they faced while coming down. "We came down very fast. We were trekking six to eight hours every day as we were doing on our way up but we were covering more distance this time," she said.
They found that many lodges they had stayed in earlier had disappeared. "The transport system was badly damaged. The bridges had collapsed and we had to look for alternate routes," said the software engineer.
The mountaineers were so terrified that they were not looking down but were just focussing on the next step during their return trek.
After four days of arduous journey they reached Lukla village and then Tenzing Airport in eastern Nepal. "We saw Indian Air Force helicopters evacuating people. We rushed back to our lodge, packed our bags and stood in the queue for our turn to be evacuated to Kathmandu," Neelima said. After reaching Kathmandu, the group boarded a flight to Delhi and returned to home and safety.
Though shaken, Neelima is determined to scale Mount Everest. "This time we had planned only for Everest base camp. If next year I get a sponsor, I will go for the Everest summit," added Neelima, a polyglot.
A trained Bharatnatyam dancer and a yoga practitioner, she can speak English, German, Tamil, Malayalam and Bengali besides, of course, her mother-tongue Telugu.