What’s The Other Side Of The Story?

“Most people come to Nepal for the mountains, but return for the people”; a common saying that’s quite popular among travelers and tourists speaks volumes about the Nepalese people. Kind, helpful and polite — that’s what most of the foreign tourists find most of the Nepalese to be. But recently, something happened, something bad.

Daily Mirror, a popular British national daily, ran a story titled ‘Nepal mountain hike turned into a run for their lives for Brit mum and teen son’ last week. “British mum and son, 15, attacked by woman wielding wooden club and throwing rocks in terrifying Nepal mountain chase in row over TEA”, it read.

According to the news, 35-year-old Gemma Wilson and her 15-year-old stepson Charlie were on their Annapurna Circuit trek when they stopped for a tea break and had a dispute over the price of the drink. And that escalated into a terrifying ordeal that let both fearing for their lives. The article also has a GoPro footage that has the two being chased by the middle aged tea seller woman holding two wooden clubs.

Very scary, right? Clearly, the tea seller is guilty here, or at least that’s what seems to be the case from this article. But is that really all? The shop owner chased and tried attacking her customers just because they asked her for discount?

“It was just a little tea stop along the way and we were just going to walk past and she said ‘come stop and have a drink’, she seemed very friendly to start with”, Gemma, a trainee teacher from Barnsley, told Mirror. “I didn’t order anything, I just got my stepson a black tea. I always ask how much something is first before buying and for some reason I didn’t this time. I had always paid 50 rupees for black tea. When I got up to pay she told it was 150 rupees. I asked her again and she repeated it, so I got the money and paid her, but I said to her it was seriously pricey”, she further said.

The article further says that when the owner spotted Gemma taking pictures of the tea shop’s sign, she charged towards them. What happened after that can be seen in the video.

Why is this woman so angry? What exactly happened? “Everybody coming, no special. You 150 rupees special (expensive)? You English people (foreigners) rich but 150 rupees special? Your son no problem, you problem. You Nepal coming, bargain bargain, room free, discount. This is mountain area. You one black tea 150 rupees special?”, the woman is seen yelling at Gemma in the video.

“You son good, you woman very dog. Understand you? Nepal coming you many many people, Nepalese no people. Mountain place, no Kathmandu, no Pokhara, or no Manang (cities). This is mountain side. I carrying horse. One horse 2000 rupees pay here. Everything is, sugar coming, tea coming. You talking? You English people, many many rich coming. 1000, 2000 rupees give me (tip). You 150 rupees, you bargaining? You go. You son no problem. Sala (cursing), crazy woman. You no tourist, you donkey. You no good. You go, your son go. You here, You talking, you photo, you go”, she continues yelling at her.

What we read in the Mirror article is based on what Gemma told the daily. But every story has more than one sides – at least two. And it’s not fair to judge the poor tea seller and call her ‘crazy’ (yes, Mirror does call her crazy) based on just one party’s story. We are not trying to defend the woman just because she is a fellow Nepali citizen, or justify violence in any way; but the story is not yet complete.

Sanjay Kafle, a travel blogger from Nepal Travel Tales, had trekked the same circuit earlier this year. And he also happened to take a tea break at the very woman’s tea shop. He doesn’t want to believe that the woman would try and attack her customers just because they asked for a discount. Here’s what he has to say about it.

“Why is media so biased? Are they just meant to cover stories of the riches and people with power and fame?

I was scrolling through news feed at my home before I wrapped my day’s work and go to bed. A post dragged my attention. “British mum and son, 15, attacked by woman wielding wooden club and throwing rocks in terrifying Nepal mountain chase in row over TEA” I recognized the lady who was being defamed. She was same elderly figure, who served tea to us and filed her grievances about her hardship and that she has to slog in everyday life. I spent quite a long time listening to her “Bedhana ka Kathaa haru” (the stories of hardship).

I tried to reach the very mountain woman to know what really happened. I surfed if someone has satellite phone in her community but no luck. Even for a normal communication, it takes a day and half to reach nearest telephone and that is of Manang. What she did was absolutely wrong but at the same time, I am thinking of what may have triggered such a calm lady?

As she narrated, she wakes up before daybreak and after her morning chores, she makes her way to this very tea shop walking through one of the most treacherous and deadliest routes. If I am not wrong, there is a signboard which clearly mentions “Active Landslide Area” on the very way she takes on everyday basis, twice to her tea shop and back home. Her nearest telephone booth or vendor, and market is a day and half walk from this tea shop. She struggles with freezing climate, works through days in sandy storms and bares a lot of risk on everyday basis to make sure she stocks for travellers. She embarks on this fetal journey on everyday which we as travellers once in awhile travel and tag the journey as “adventure”.

It is clearly visible in the recorded video tape as well, she clearly mentioned her hardship, yelling at the tourist “it is not Pokhara, it is not Kathmandu and neither it is Manang”. She probably felt disrespected. After horses charging them a fortune to carry goods all the way to her tea shop and her going as far as a day to collect wood to make fire, she offers a cup of tea for Rs. 150. This place lies around 4400 MASL and the climate and the terrain is so harsh and unforgiving that you will not find any human trace or even tea shops for until the next 1 hour of descend/ascend. In her small hut that lies on mud clog of rugged terrain, 70 % of the area inside is occupied with wooden logs. The same wooden logs that she got and stored after she slogged or paid for to porter it down at her tea shop.

Daily Mirror mentions “risking their lives which might lead to death of a British citizen” how about that very woman who risks her life everyday, every moment to make sure that nobody dies because of lack of water and basic food? Rupees 150 for a cup of tea overpriced? Seriously? 150 Rupees equals to USD 1.25 and less than 1 pound, which I bet is less than the price of cup of tea you pay in the cheapest tea shop in England.

I hope Mirror does a little bit of research on the other side of the story and not publish a biased story based on a GoPro video footage which does not say much of what had happened and why she was chased. If the British woman had recorded her being chased, she probably had recorded what had happened earlier as well. She only showed what she wanted to show and a respectable media like Mirror blindfoldly published the news and it is such a shame.”

Kafle says that a friend of his is going to the woman’s tea shop that’s located between Ledhar and Thorang Phedi soon to meet the woman and get the better idea of what exactly happened that day. There shall be a follow up article to this story.

In the meantime, tell us what do you think of this incident that took place last month, in the comment section below.


Neeraj Pun (NEO)

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