Rescued from Himalaya trails, trekkers find world in turmoil
Stranded in Kathmandu, running out of cash and with no way to get home, Alexander Sys is one of hundreds of tourists whose Nepal trekking adventure abruptly ended in lockdown.
The Russian is among mainly European, Russian and Chinese foreigners stunned to discover the scale of the coronavirus pandemic after being rescued from their Himalayan treks.
"For now it is okay, but we don't know how long we have to wait for our flight, there are problems for us to return home," said Sys, who was in the Annapurna region when Nepal ordered a lockdown on March 24.
"Sometimes I panic and wonder what is happening," added Latvian Aleksandra Terandjaka.
Spring is the high season in Nepal's snow-capped peaks and trekking routes attract about 150,000 people every year.
The lockdown caused authorities to block the isolated, high trails and trekkers were ushered down to pick-up points and airports.
More than 1,700 people, including Sys, were evacuated in buses and chartered flights to the capital, where around 1,000 remain.
"We were supposed to fly from Jomsom to Pokhara, but all flights were cancelled. We waited two days and then came to Kathmandu on a bus," he said.
His flight back home to Russia, scheduled for March 29, never took off.
"Since then we are waiting for our flight," he said.
Sys and most of the other foreigners are now stuck in the Thamel tourist district, where a few hotels have stayed open and some restaurants prepare free food.
More than 4,000 foreigners have already left in special flights for Australia, Europe and the United States.
The Nepal Tourism Board has helped to organise the flights with embassies and set up a "Stranded in Nepal" account on social media platforms for the tourists to share their needs.
"We never expected to come back to this. Things have really changed since we left," said Terandjaka who has been in Kathmandu with her fiance Karlis Zemke for three weeks.
"The first days were the hardest because there were no restaurants or shops open. The people from our hotel were feeding us," added Zemke.
The couple are unsure when they will get home.
"There are no other people from Latvia so no one is going to send a plane just for us. And even if we get a flight to Europe all the flights to our country are shut down," said Zemke.