Just do it, Nepal has something for everyone – Heinz Egli
Nepal is not a new place for Heinz Egli, a Tourism Goodwill Ambassador for Visit Nepal 2020, a master chef, a role model hotelier and a person of global influence! He has been here not once, not twice or not even thrice but a whopping 7th time. So, Nepal does qualify to be his second home, or at least the place where he feels at home. But this time’s visit was extraordinary. He along with his 6 friends didn’t just hike but also biked around Annapurna beyond the Himalayan frontiers – totally immersing in the beauty of the Himalayas! And the most interesting part of the trip was, not only did they ride the bike, but the bikes also rode them quite often!
You might have gauzed the level of adventure involved in the trip by now. His team included Urs Besmer, Fritz Gross, Marco Foehn, Johhny Mathis, Stefan Herzog and Heinz Fischerall – all of them senior Hoteliers and Restaurateurs with more than 30 years’ experience in Hong Kong and China. As mentioned earlier, they were not here for their day in and day out job, but for the Himalayan adventure that would help them to meet mountains and people, build friendship and of course burn few calories!
The one and half week’s adventure started on 19th April – through snaky highway, continued towards the villages nestled on the lap of the Annapurnas, followed Marshyangdi River from the subtropical lowlands to the Manang basin and then crossed the Thorong La Pass (5416m- the highest point of the trip, which is also Heinz’s one of the favorite parts) before descending down to the deepest gorge in the world, the Kali Gandaki. From the lush greenery to the formidable expanse of land sculpted by the raw forces of nature manifested in its eroded cliffs and moraine valleys, from the snaky highways to impenetrable gorges and high passes – so to cut a long story short, the journey was just enough to turn anyone into a mystic, let alone Heinz and his team!
For Heinz, not a single moment or day was the best, but the whole trip! “Every day a new highlight, starting with the charity dinner at GATE School, coming out of the valley and seeing the majestic peaks, reaching the summit, relaxing in Pokhara and ending hours before going to the airport when receiving the Ambassador certificate!”
If you want to relive what Heinz and his team experienced, you can go through https://1drv.ms/f/s!AkLUjDw1n6gNguN4sWWmaP48fu6mOg for some of the greatest adventure pictures you can ever find. For now, let’s have a peek on the day to day account of their trip prepared by Heinz himself.
Day 1, 17th April 2019: Arrival in Kathmandu
The tour representative picked us up at Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu, and escorted us to the Hotel Marshyangdi in Kathmandu.
Day 2, 18th April 2019: Kathmandu
On our first day we all went to the GATE Hotel School where we were welcomed by Khem Lakai, the CEO of the school. Each one of us prepared a course for a gala dinner which was served to celebrities and friends from Nepal.
Day 3, 19th April 2019: Kathmandu to Jagat 1,300m
Early in the morning, we drove 170km westwards to the starting point of our trekking and biking in Jagat. Here we were joined by Laxman Sunar, the biking guide. The road was curvy and passed through the hills that connected us to countryside villages and farming lands. The drive moved along and crossed several main rivers flowing from the glacial mountains to the north; including the Trishuli River, a popular rafting point. At Dumre, we turned north towards Marshyangdi River to reach Besi Sahar.
The drive followed Marshyangdi River towards Syange (with a high waterfall), and we drove on to Jagat (a previous toll place on the ancient salt-trade way to Tibet).
Day 4, 20th April 2019: Trek from Jagat to Dharapani 1,860m
Moving along the east bank of Marshyangdi River, the track ascended slowly, before the valley opened into a large highland at Tal (1511m), the first village of Manang district. After crossing the broad flat gorge and the barley and potato fields, the trail climbs sharply on a stone stairway high above the stream. There were some sudden ups and downs on this section passing through jungles of blue pine to Dharapani (1,946m).
Day 5, 21st April 2019: Trek from Dharapani to Chame 2,670m
From Dharapani, the track passes a school, ascends, and again descends gently to Bagarchhap. Bagarchhap is a small village with distinctive Tibetan houses and peaceful vibes of Buddhist culture. The trail ascends to the mule track through pine and fir forests and then follows the stream for some time amongst the higher oak and maple trees. We passed through dispersed small villages before arriving in Chame (2,670m).
Day 6, 22nd April 2019: Trek from Chame to Pisang 3,200m
We followed the trails of Marshyangdi to Brathang from where we got a spectacular close-up view of Annapurna II (7,937m). Afterwards, we continued the trek via the forest with the amazing Paungda Danda rock face escalating more than 5,000 feet from the stream.
Passing a suspension bridge, we ascended for some time and then walked and rode downhill to the valley floor. Finally, we walk and biked across dry grazing land dwelling at Dhukur Pokhari. After moving for around half an hour from Dhukur Pokhari, we reached Pisang (3,190m). There we had great views of the Annapurna range and Pisang Peak (6,091m) seen from the village of Pisang.
Day 7, 23rd April 2019: Trek from Pisang to Manang 3,540m Upper trail
We followed on a difficult road onto the dry Nyesyang region that started from Upper Pisang and offered some of the best landscapes. Ghyaru is a captivating cluster-village with attractively built stone houses enclosed by meadows of wheat, barley, buckwheat, potatoes, and beans.
Then, along high cross with great landscape, up and down the valley, to Ngawal–an exciting village with Gompa and age-old juniper trees. The trail then slowly descends to Mungji from where we head to reach the renowned Thakali village of Manang. Here we enjoyed the best view of Annapurna range.
Day 8, 24th April 2019: Acclimatization Day: Hike to Chhunker viewpoint
Today it was acclimatizing/rest day. We hiked to Chhunker viewpoint where we got to relish the view of the pristine Gangapurna Lake with a backdrop of the Annapurna Range, Tilicho Peak (7,134m), Pisang Peak (6,091m), Chulo Peak (6,584m), Thorong Peak (5416m), and so on.Then we retraced back to our lodge for lunch, a typical Thakali meal. After some card games in the afternoon, we return back to the lodge for the overnight stay.
Day 9, 25th April 2019: Trek from Manang to Yak Kharka 4,018m
From Manang, we ascended alongside Thorung Khola in the main Annapurna Circuit trekking and biking trail. The trail ascends steeply to the village of Tenki, which was the last permanent settlement, around Thorung La. We headed a little further and then slowly outlined the meadows to Yak Kharka (3,900m).
Day 10, 26th April 2019: Trek from Yak Kharka to Thorong Phedi 4,450m
It was a difficult trek to Thorang Phedi. After walking and riding further, we passed a suspension bridge and reached Ledar village. We climbed furthermore the pass via immense cliffs before reaching Thorang Phedi. On this trip, we were are able to witness one of the finest views of peaks like Gundang (5,312m), Syagang (6,026m), Thorung (6,144m), and Khatungkang (6,484). The word “Phedi” in Nepali denotes the foot of a mountain.
Day 11, 27th April 2019: Trek from Thorong Phedi to Thorong-La Pass 5,416m to Muktinath 3,800m
We had an even tougher ride today than that of yesterday. The bikers had to push our bikes on a steep trail till we passed Thorung-La Pass (5,416m), which is the highest mountain pass in Nepal. The panorama of the Himalayas looked stunning from the top of Thorong-La Pass. We then descended to the holy temple of Muktinath, the God of Salvation. This is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for Hindus. Holy water flows from the 108 carved taps surrounding the temple.
Day 12, 28th April 2019: Biking trip from Muktinath to Jomsom 2,710m via Lupra valley
An early morning visit to Muktinath Temple where we also could bathe under the 108 water sprouts, which is supposed to wash our sins away. After spending some time at the temple, we continued our bike ride and headed towards Marpha.
We had a relatively easy journey. Riding on rocky trails, we passed many walls and chhortens before we entered Lupra Valley. Chasing the stunning view of the Himalayas, we rode through Kali Gandaki Valley to reach the Apple Capital of Nepal: Jomsom. Jomsom is famous for its apple orchards and the apple by-products. Overnight we stayed at Om’s Home in Jomsom, which certainly was one of the most luxurious Hotels in the area.
Day 13, 29th April 2019: Jomsom to Pokhara by flight
Early in the morning, we boarded a flight back to Pokhara enjoying the scenic landscape. We decided to stay one night at the Pavilion Himalayas, which must be one of the most beautiful Hotels in the country, if not in the whole of Asia. The town of Pokhara offers splendid views of Annapurna (8,091m), Machhapuchhre (6,993m), Dhaulagiri (8,167m), and Manaslu (8,156m). Before checking in to the Hotel we visited the FAB Hotel School which trains children of underprivileged background. This was a very impressive and memorable visit.
Day 14, 30th April 2019 Full day in Pokhara
On our last day we enjoyed the Lakeside Village of Pokhara for shopping and relaxing. Overnight we stayed at the beautiful Temple Tree Hotel. I was able to invite my student, Yam for dinner at the world class Roadhouse Pizzeria.
Day 15, 1st May 2019: Flying from Pokhara to Kathmandu for 25 minutes and final Departure from Kathmandu
Relishing the astonishing panorama of Annapurna range, Lamjung Himal, Manaslu range, Ganesh Himal range, and Langtang Himal, we flew back to the capital. After a 25-minute flight, we reached Kathmandu and headed to Thamel. Here we met Suman Ji who showed us the way to a Palace nearby where I was awarded Tourism Ambassador Visit Nepal 2020. This was indeed a big honour for me and a great surprise too. After visiting Suman Pandey’s new restaurant, we were dropped off at Tribhuvan International Airport for our final departure.
Everest Skydive has reached new heights this year with a record breaking stand up parachute landing by Paul-Henry de Baere at 20,160ft MSL (6145m) at the West Col of Baruntse. The record setting skydive that occurred at 7:36AM GMT+5:45 on 19th May 2019 was made using a Performance Designs Navigator 240 main parachute with a wingloading 0.8 and into an 10kt headwind. Paul-Henry de Baere, who is the Media Director of Everest Skydive beat Everest Skydive’s all-time highest altitude landing record of 17,192ft MSL (5240m) set by Everest Skydive teammates Wendy Elizabeth Smith and Tom Noonan in 2009. The World Record jump was made from “The Dragon”, a Eurocopter B3 helicopter piloted by Deepak Jung Rana, Executive Director for Summit Helicopters and Captain Deepak Pun, with supplementary support provided by Simrik Air with Captain Siddhartha Gurung and Tsering Bothe. Everest Skydive’s Operations Director Tom Noonan managed the expedition’s oxygen support from Baruntse Base Camp at 17,857ft MSL (5443m) and Yorick Vion managed the drop zone set-up. The team of Explore Himalaya was responsible for the arrangement of the entire logistics and operation.
Explore Himalaya organized a felicitation program to honour Paul-Henry de Baere and Everest Skydive Team at Marcopolo Restaurant, Chhaya Center on 21st May. During the program, Paul-Henry de Baere, Tom Noonan and of Yorick Vion were honored with garland and Khada by Bibhuti Chand Thakur – General Secretary PATA Nepal Chapter, Abdullah Tuncer Kececi – General Manager Turkish Airlines Nepal, Ramesh Kharel – Ex Nepal Police Deputy Inspector General (DIG), Rajan Pokhrel – Deputy Editor Himalayan Times and Abhinav JBR – Chairman of Turbo Motors Pvt. Ltd respectively. Mountaineers Maya Gurung and Pujan Acharya who climbed tallest mountains on all seven continents, international mountain journalist Billi Bierling, Miss Tourism Samriddhi Rai were also present in the program. A video of the record breaking landing was also premiered in the program. The program was moderated by Suman Pandey, the President of Explore Himalaya.
Our Words of Gratitude:
We have always been a proud partner of Everest Skydive since 2008. However, at this moment, we are brimming with joy as well to be a part of this ambitious expedition. What could be more beautiful than complementing our 12 years’ togetherness with Everest Skydive in such a delightful note! Operating an event of such stature in the Himalayan terrain is of course a serious challenge. However, we made it possible! But needless to say, it’s a team effort and the benevolence of the Mountains. Our deep reverence to the Mountains for patronizing us! In the meantime, we would also like to have an honorable mention to Everest Skydive’s Operations Director Tom Noonan, the man behind the back of the whole project. Thanks Tom and the entire Everest Skydive team for instilling us with passion and dream throughout! Thanks Yorick Vion for your great effort in drop zone set-up & welcome to the Team! We couldn’t help ourselves thanking Summit Helicopters Nepal and Simrik Helicopters also for your valuable support. Together we made it happen- you all are a treat to work with! Once again Félicitations PH- you are an inspiration! Keep living your dream!
Chhaya Center, considered as Nepal’s biggest and most luxurious Shopping Complex, was formally inaugurated on 25th December in Thamel by Member of Parliament Yogesh Bhattarai. Welcoming the ceremony, Prithivi Bahadur Pandey, the Chairman of Chhaya Complex, highlighted on the facilities of the Complex and extended gratitude to all contributors involved in the completion of the Complex. Among the dignitaries who addressed the ceremony were Samir Gurung, President of Thamel Tourism Council and Khem Tiwari, Chairman of Kathmandu Metropolitan City Ward-26.
During the program, Chief Guest Bhattarai said that Nepal needs more initiation like Chhaya Center for the tourism sector to grow further. Highlighting the prospect of the Complex, Chairman Pandey said, “Since Nepal has immense possibility for tourism development, we are operating a model shopping complex with five star hotels.” He further added that Chhaya Center will prove to be a significant initiation from private sector to promote Nepali tourism. Suman Pandey, the Director of Chhaya Center, said that Chhaya Center is a unique infrastructure dedicated to support the tourism economy of Nepal and it will also support the 2020 mission of Nepal Government to welcome 2 million tourists.
Spread over an area of 86000 sq ft., Chhaya Center is a multi-faceted Mega Complex, housing 200 retail stores, three multiplex theatres, Corporate Offices, Banquet Center, Conference Halls, Casino, Discotheque, Food Court etc. About 100 stores are already open for business along with the QFX cinema and food court. The major attraction of the complex is “The Aloft”, the first five star Hotel in Thamel. The hotel that runs from 5th to 15th floor will open from March 2019. Themed as “Thamel within Thamel”, the construction of the Complex was started in 2013 and delayed by a year to complete due to earthquake. The Complex is promoted by a group of Nepali entrepreneurs representing various sectors including Banking, Real Estate, Construction, Energy, Trading & Consultancy and Tourism & Aviation. The Center, that is expected to be a tourism hub of Kathmandu, has been built at a cost of around Rs five billion.
Nepal has achieved an unprecedented success in receiving tourists in 2018 with a record of 1,001,930 arrivals between January-November. According to Nepal Tourism Board, the month September alone has the record of 91, 820 visitors, a 33.8 percent increase compared to last year! The tourism arrival got the momentum throughout the peak tourist season between October-November. However, the total count doesn’t include overland visitors, which would have further increased the figure. India became the top source market with 260,124 visitors followed by China with a total of 134,362 Chinese tourist arrivals. The United States, Britain and Germany were enlisted as third, fourth and fifth source countries respectively.
“The growth can be attributed to concerted efforts of Government of Nepal, Nepal Tourism Board, private sector travel trade and media towards promotion of overall tourism sector in the international tourism arena,” said Deepak Raj Joshi, Chief Executive Officer of Nepali Tourism Board. Tourism industry of Nepal considers the record as crucial in Nepal’s tourism history as it indicates a brighter future to further realize the tourism potentials ahead of Visit Nepal Tourism Year 2020. Nepal had the record 940,218 tourist arrivals in 2017.
Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal, has been making it to the list of the traveling communities all the time – be it as a counter culture destination in the past or a value destination and cultural hub of South Asia now! This fascinating city has never ceased to wonder people. This time also, Kathmandu is chosen as one of the “10 cities primed to capture traveler’s imaginations in 2019” by Lonely Planet. The city ranks as the 5th top city after Copenhagen-Denmark, Shenzhen-China, Novi Sad-Serbia and Miami-USA. Other cities in the list are Mexico City-Mexico, Dakar-Senegal, Seattle-USA, Zadar-Croatia and Meknes-Morocco.
Kathmandu, which is as ancient as the history of the subcontinent itself and as modern as any other prime cities of South Asia, has been in the travelers’ pick since it started welcoming the foreigners back in 1950s. A medley of history, culture and myths, this vibrant city takes anyone to the roller-coaster of emotional experiences appealing all your senses. The Durbar Squares, backstreets, alleys, temples, Stupas, monasteries, bahals, endless array of street shops, vendors, and of course the infamous traffic-everything emits liveliness of this unique city. The city so seamlessly juxtaposes the extremes – quietude and chaos, ancient and modern, spirituality and celebration – together that every nook and corner unfurls a story of its own. Thus, why the city has been in the list is self explanatory. Regardless of who you are, either a curious traveler or simply a fakir, the city has everything for everyone!