‘Overwhelming relief’: Australian’s escape locked-down Nepal
A HIMALAYAN trekking expedition to the world's tallest mountain should be the trek of a lifetime - for the group of Australians who became trapped overseas, the expedition to Everest base camp paled in comparison to the tumultuous journey home.
Paul Ashenden, Brad Fleet and Anthony Keane were three of more than 250 passengers who landed in Brisbane this morning on a designated charter flight from Nepal, after military-enforced lockdown, airport closures and flight cancellations, left them stranded overseas.
There was little luxury on their arrival Thursday morning - military guards and police escorts ushered the passengers out of the arrival lounge immediately into a charter bus.
But after what they'd been through, Mr Ashenden said the security of "Australia soil" was comfort enough.
"We were very worried that if the virus kicked off in Nepal, and any of us caught it, we were
in a country that had a health system which was going to struggle to cope," Mr Ashenden said.
"There was genuine overwhelming relief to be back on home soil."
"When we left Nepal there was a round of applause, when we touched down in Brisbane there was a round of applause.
Rightly so: the flight - from Kathmandu to Brisbane, with a refuelling stop in Kuala Lumpur - was the first direct flight from Nepal into an Australian capital city.
The exclusive charter flight was organised by the Australian embassy after Mr Ashenden's travel group organised a Facebook group for "Australians Stranded in Nepal".
"We started with eight (people) within 24 hours we had about 40 or 50 and then by a week or so later, we were up to 300 or so … then the embassy picked up what we were doing" he said.
Mr Ashenden said his gratitude to embassy representatives Pete Budd and "the indefatigable" Emma Stone was beyond words.
Still, the journey home is far from over for Mr Ashenden and his companions - they'll remain in mandatory quarantine for the next 14 days at the Four Points Hotel in Brisbane before returning to their families.
"It's going to be tough to be away from our loved ones for two more weeks, but this virus has changed everything … There are many people doing it tough, if not tougher, than we are."
Originally published as 'Overwhelming relief': Australian's escape locked-down Nepal