By Rajneesh Bhandari, reporting from Kathmandu
When Australian hiker Mathew Allpress went missing in the Nepal I was one of the first journalists on hand to cover the story.
It was like any other morning. I woke up and checked my email, a brief from Newsmodo caught my attention. It was asking for coverage of Mathew Allpress for the Australian media. Allpress failed to arrive in Sydney after his solo hike near Sikles, Nepal, went horribly wrong.
It was the first I heard of the story, because there was no coverage of it in the Nepalese media. The first thing I did was to get as much information as possible through my sources. Then, I quickly responded to the brief. Immediately, I got a call to confirm the assignment.
I called the police and officials at Nepal Tourism Board and other concerned authorities but most of them said they were still investigating and would inform me later. As it turned out, Social Media was my most valuable tool. A campaign to support the search operation had already kicked off and I contacted Matthew’s friends and family via Twitter and Facebook to get more information about the search operation.
I produced everything the client wanted, radio and video interviews, and pictures for print. I was keenly following the story and gathering all the latest information as quickly possible.
There was no sign of Allpress, but I found out where he was last seen. I took a flight to Pokhara and then drove a jeep across rugged terrain to Sikles, where Allpress had his last communication with his family. His mother and brother were in Sikles to help with the search, I had to meet them. Following muddy roads, crossing dozens of rivers—big and small, I was soon filthy and worried about my equipment – but I managed to keep it secure.
On the road to Sikles
I was the only journalist who reached Sikles to cover the story. So I had great exclusive material. I met the Allpress family and interviewed Mathew’s brother, Michael Allpress. After shooting the video I travelled back to upload the video because Sikles has poor internet connectivity.
We still don’t know what has happened to Allpress or if he is still alive. I am following the story and my biggest hope is that the Allpress family get some positive news soon.
This was my first opportunity to cover a news story for Australian media. It was a hard road, but well worth it!
You can follow the search for Matthew Allpress on Twitter at #findmatt and there is a website www.findmatt.com.au
Rajneesh Bhandari is an independent multimedia journalist with eight years of reporting experience in news and current affairs. Currently he is based in Nepal. His works have been published in national and international media outlets.