An audience of around 200 listened intently to the ‘Lucky Soup Story’ at Corinda State High School recently. Hosted by the Rotary Club of Brisbane Taylor Bridge and compered by Kelly Higgins-Devine from ABC Radio, the captive audience heard about the lucky escape by the group of 8 Australian trekkers during the earthquake in Nepal on 25 April.
Stephen Ganko, one of the trekkers and a member of the Rotary Club, talked about the lead up to the trekking expedition, the training and meticulous preparation for the quite demanding planned trek to Base Camp. Beginning full of excitement and trepidation, the party trekked for several days until reaching a point just short of Base Camp when their Sherpa guide insisted, despite some mild protest, they stop for a rest and some potato and garlic soup. A stop that in all likelihood saved their lives.
After resuming the final leg of the trek, they were about 30 minutes from Base Camp when the earth started to rumble, then shake quite severely to the extent that they could hardly stand up. A deafening roar followed, described like being surrounded by jet engines. Above them up the mountain they could see the huge white cloud of snow rumbling towards them. It became very clear that they were about to be engulfed in an avalanche.
Dashing for any cover they could find, particularly a large boulder nearby, the members of the party experienced fierce winds and driving snow, the force being severe enough to blow the lenses out of one of the trekker’s glasses. Visibility was non-existent. Breathing drew snow into their lungs. After what seemed to be an eternity but probably only minutes, it passed. In another twist of luck, the avalanche’s progress was slowed by a valley in front of the trekkers’ location. They were fortunate that only the fringe of the avalanche reached their place of refuge. 
Miraculously, there were no real injuries. After dusting themselves off and confirming that each member was OK, it was decided, again at the insistence of the Sherpa, they should not go any further and should head down the mountain instead. A very wise decision as it turned out.
Backtracking, the severity of the earthquake soon became apparent. Death and destruction were witnessed. Historic buildings now in ruins. Nepal had suffered a major earthquake, the worst in about 80 years. The death toll amounted to over 8,500 with 17,000 seriously injured. The earthquake left Nepal in disarray. In addition to the human casualties and the destruction of thousands of homes, the economy is also in ruins. At the heart of Nepal’s economy is tourism, now drastically curtailed due to the earthquake. Livelihoods have been destroyed along with the local infrastructure.
Accompanying Stephen Ganko on a Q&A panel moderated by Kelly Higgins-Devine, were the 7 other members of the trekking party.  Special guest for the evening was Michael Groom, the very accomplished mountaineer who led the trekking party. In 1995, Groom became the fourth person ever to summit the four highest mountains in the world without the aid of bottled oxygen. He has been to the top of Mt Everest twice. Michael gave a short talk about Nepal and its beautiful people.
The main aim of the ‘Lucky Soup Story’ event was to raise funds to assist the Nepalese people. Rotary has committed to building 1,000 low cost shelters as well as social infrastructure such as schools. Each shelter costs about USD3000-5000. Our ‘Lucky Soup Story’ evening raised around $10,000 in ticket sales, donations, raffles, etc. These funds will go direct to Rotary in Nepal to assist in the recovery efforts. Clearly, more funds are needed. If anyone wishes to donate to the cause, please contact Ted Crowe, Rotary Club of Brisbane Taylor Bridge, on 0415 515 000.