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Nepalis More Graceful than the Himalaya
(Nagarik Daily, 26 October 2019, Saturday)
German citizens extended helping hands to Nepal after a porter saved their lives during their Annapurna trek. Their contribution to the development of Dhulikhel Hospital and Bolde Phediche village is admirable.
Thousands of foreigners come to Nepal every year just for tourism. A large number among them return to the country a second or third time. There are also those whose visits are not limited to tourism. Some of them are contributing to the development of Nepal. The German couple, Horst Schmel and Ursula Schmel, are such people.
Horst, 81, and Ursula, 79, are pharmacists by profession. During their thirtieth visit to Nepal this time, they have completed a twelve-day long trek in Langtang. This was their fourth Langtang trek. They walked up to Kyanjin Gompa from Syapru Besi in four days.
“Why such craze for Langtang?” I asked them on Friday morning, in Dhulikhel. They had reached Langtang in the interval of four years after the great earthquake. They had been shocked at the news that the village had been devastated.
“We had stayed in the Langtang village for three nights in 2014,” Horst recalled, “The earthquake damaged the settlements after a few months. But, Langtang has already revived.”
Langtang has a very deep bondage with them. In their first visit, they had spent only 20 minutes there. It was in 1974, during their package tour to Asia. They had been in Nepal only for two nights and chanced to have a brief tour to and from Langtang by a helicopter.
They had their first extended trek to Langtang in 1996. “There were only three to four lodges in Langtang at that time,” they said, “and only one in Kyanjin.”
One thing really delighted them in their recent trek to Langtang. It is that they came across innumerable Nepali trekkers. “There were no Nepali trekkers in the past,” Horst, who believed internal tourists to be the backbone of tourism, said, “we met a large number of young Nepalis this time.”
Nepal has, in fact, greatly enchanted them. They have already trekked to Annapurna, Sagarmatha, Makalu, Manaslu, Dolpo, Helambu, Kanchanjangha, Mustang and Ganesh Himal. They believe that tourism does not flourish only because the location is beautiful, but that the local residents should also have beautiful hearts.
“Mountains are there all over the world.” They revealed the reason for their repetitive visit to Nepal. “Nepalis are more graceful than the Himalayan mountains. We want to come in honor of the Nepalis who are ever-smiling, hardworking, endearing, trustworthy, kind and open-hearted.”
The Schmels, who are never tired of praising us, are the unofficial goodwill ambassadors for tourism in Nepal. Horst has shot videos of his tour this time as well. He has also collected interviews of some of the Langtang residents. He said, “I’ll show these videos to our supporters so as to convey the truth that Langtang is very secure for tourists.”
In Germany Horst has founded a foundation named Namaste Stiftung. The German word ‘stiftung’ means foundation. The foundation has contributed to the development of education and health sectors in Nepal. It has altogether three thousand supporting members.
Namaste Stiftung supports Dhulikhel Hospital, and the development of education and health in Boldephediche village in Kavre. The Health Center of Bolde village is the result of their generosity. The Center has one residential doctor, a nurse and essential facilities like labs, video X-Ray and X-Ray machines. It has four buildings.
Hundreds of students from four schools of the village have received scholarship. Likewise, for a decade, nine teachers (of private sources) have been provided salary. Schools have modern buildings. Besides Bolde, Namaste has supported the Health centers of Dhungkharka of Kavre and Manekharka of Sindhupalchok. The aids are channelized through Dhulikhel Hospital.
Founded in 2001, Namaste Stiftung has already devoted hundreds of millions of rupees. What are its plans ahead? “We are establishing a center to provide skill trainings to the scholarship recipients after their SEE exams,” said Horst, “and we have a plan to buy an ambulance for the village.”
One incident had inspired them to be active for the welfare of Nepalis. In 1996, the couple went trekking on the Annapurna Circuit. Two Nepalis, Norbu Sherpa and Kanchha Tamang, accompanied them.
The Circuit trekkers often descended to Muktinath over the Thorang Pass from Manang side. But the Schmels headed to Muktinath. Having walked further above Muktinath, they halted for a night on the way. There were no lodges there. They set up a tent big enough for three people. That’s when they heard the voice of a female crying.
A Russian woman, who had come down the Pass, was frozen in snow. Norbu brought her to the tent. Thus, five of them had to be adjusted in the tent that night. There was no chance to fall asleep. As the sun rose the following morning, the Russian trekker descended to Muktinath. They began their ascent to Thorangla Pass. As they moved on, Ursula began to have severe headache. She was caught by high altitude sickness.
There was a heavy snowfall. Luckily, there among those ascending from Manang side was a doctor. The doctor warned, “Carry her down instantly, or she’ll die.”
What an impasse ! How would they take her downhill as it was difficult even to walk ? It was at this moment Kanchha Tamang emerged as a savior, a god. He carried Ursula to the Thorang base. How difficult it must have been for Kanchha to carry her during the night through hip-deep snow !
Ursula got second life. The Schmels were deeply impressed by the porter’s help. When they returned to Kathmandu, they visited Boldephediche, the village of Kanchha Tamang in the Timal region. There they stayed in the house of Tilak Lama, a tourism entrepreneur. Horst had to remain sleepless that night due to diarrhea caused by the sour curd he had taken in the village earlier that afternoon.
The following morning, he inquired Tilak about medicines and treatment. Then, having known that there were no medical facilities in the village, they decided to help the village in the health sector. After some time, Horst saw a report on TV about Dr. Ram Kantha Makaju Shrestha, who had established a community hospital in Dhulikhel having returned from Austria after higher education in medicine. Then he came to Nepal, met Dr. Makaju, and began to provide assistance in health sector of Bolde since 1999.
Heartfelt gratitude to Kanchha Tamang, who inspired the Schmels to initiate such pious work in Nepal. Tamang is now an employee in the Bolde Health Center. He helps the Schmels during their treks in Nepal. He was with them in their recent Langtang trek as well.
I felt great honor for the Schmels having heard their stories, sitting in the terrace of Dulikhel Lodge Resort. The aged couple have unique love for Nepal. At the end of our conversation, I asked, “Till when will you come to Nepal?”
“So long as health permits us. Let’s see till when God keeps assigning us,” they said.
Finally, I wish Horst and Ursula good health and long life.
The Gods for Timal
Tilak Lama, Tourism Entrepreneur
Horst and Ursula have done great service to us by supporting us in health and education when our village Timal did not have electricity, road, telephone and medical facilities. Thousands of Nepalis have been benefited when the Schmels decided to repay the service given by a poor laborer. They are like Gods in this sense.
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