An article appeared in Backpacker in 2014 about a young girl who disappeared in Nepal. Aubrey Sacco, a teacher, only 23 years old, vanished without a trace while hiking in a popular National Park.
She’d been in Asia for almost six months when she went for a hike in Nepal. After failing to return from her trip, her family contacted authorities.
Search parties were launched shortly thereafter, and her parents flew to the local area, but Aubrey was simply gone.
This article will go over the details of this confusing case as part of my continuing Missing in the Woods series, This one will send chills up your spine.
Searching for Aubrey
Police and army searched the hiking trails around the area, by foot, air, and also by rope. They search both sides of the swelled river as well as the out-of-the-way monasteries tucked into steep valleys that littered the region.
A free spirit, Aubrey was a bit of a partier in college, but had recently turned spiritual seeker who studied Yoga and eastern religion and culture during her time away from school.
She set out for Nepal in search of discovery, staying the night at the Namaste Teahouse, where she purportedly met and befriended a local. The next day they parted ways, her newfound friend going down the mountain and Aubrey heading up.
She stopped at several more places along the way, always friendly, always full of energy and passion.
When at the Lama Hotel, she struck up a conversation with three men, who tried to tell her she should stay the night. The conversation got heated when she said she would be going on to Riverside anyway.
She left, and was never seen again.
Foul Play or Ashramic Bliss
Many believe Aubrey fell prey to the Army soldiers that are notorious for abusing women in the area. Other’s think she fell into the rushing river and drown.
There’s even a theory that Aubrey was a sacrifice by witches to the Hindu goddess of death.
But, she’s not the only young woman to disappear in Nepal while hiking. In fact, so many have in the last several years, authorities now suspect a serial killer is raping and murdering women on the trails and burying their bodies.
Of course, to make matters worse, there is no accurate records kept of how many have disappeared in Nepal, not even how many use the trails in the first place.
Then again, there is some belief that Aubrey was not a victim of foul play at all. Apparently, she was disillusioned with western society by the time she’d reached Nepal, reading about Indian gurus that state you need to leave your family and friends and your entire life behind in order to achieve enlightenment.
Is it possible that Aubrey simply left her old life, in search of a new one at the end of the trail she was on? Did she find a place for herself as a hermit in one of the monasteries along the way?
A Break in the Case
Three years after Aubrey disappeared, an undercover police officer befriended a man who claimed to have murdered her.
During a subsequent investigation, they uncovered Aubrey’s camera and fragments of her clothing at other houses. The three men identified were arrested and held for a month, but were then released on the grounds that there wasn’t enough evidence.
Aubrey Sacco missing in Nebal.
There have been no other breaks in the case since, despite several searches by the military in the area.
When Aubrey first had the idea to do this hike, her parents tried to dissuade her from going. To that, she replied, “Don’t worry. It’s a national park. It’s teahouse trekking. It’s safe.”
Unfortunately, she did not realize this statement is utterly false. In 2000, a woman’s body was found by fisherman in the river. They were wrongfully imprisoned for 10 years and the killer was never actually found.
This and similar events have created distrust in the local populous, to the point that many no longer want to help or volunteer information.
Many have stated the government in Nepal is corrupt or at least unorganized and in a constant state of flux. It is a country that saw civil war end back just in 2006, with a population and culture still reeling from mass deaths in their recent memories.
At the time Aubrey struck out on her hike, the State Department had a warning against solo hiking in Nepal.
And, the crimes against women have not stopped since her disappearance, either. In 2012, another woman went missing while hiking in the same area, and was found 10 days later, her head decapitated from her body.
This case is a sad situation where reality simply does not match with grand plans and unrealistic dreams.
The world we live in is unfair, unkind, brutal and inconsistent with what we think and hope. It does not matter if we obey all the rules of the road, cross all our t’s and dot all the I’s, life has a way of demanding a recompense for everything we set out to do.
Should people be able to hike and enjoy nature around us without fear of crime or jeopardy? Of course. Should women be a target? Of course not.
But, this does not mean we can disregard the realities around us. Nepal lis apparently a dangerous place – at least to hike alone. And not just for women. Even men have disappeared in the region, succumbing to unknown fates.
In the end, we have to be responsible and weigh the risks of our decisions, of our behaviors, of our thoughts.
In everything, there is a gamble. It’s our job to try our best to not lose it all.
I found on the Aubrey Sacco website a link to a tool I think is quite interesting, especially for solo hikers like myself.
It’s called HIKER ALERT and it is a cloud based service for $5.99 / year, that allows you to set up Trip Reports. Whenever you go on a planned or last minute trip into the woods (or virtually anywhere), you set up a trip report with all the particular information including locations, direction, and maps – then you set a return date.
Once you are off on your adventure, you must clock in before your date of return. If you do not, Hiker Alert will send you a text message to check on you (in case you forgot or you’re just getting back late). If you do not respond, they will send an alert to your designated emergency contact, forwarding all of the information you set up in your trip report.
This could potentially save your life, giving search and rescue the much needed information to know where to start looking for you.
If you are in a region with service (even spotty), the system even allows you to check in at your latest locations.
Check it out if you think this might be a lifesaver for you. I think it might.
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