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Over the Boulders, towards Manang

CEO Kishore Maharjan of Civil Bank took his Mahindra Scorpio over the boulders and towards Manang a month and half back. ECS Nepal interviewed him to know more about his experience, and what it was like on the north side of the Annapurna range.

Kishore Maharjan has an experience of 32 years in the banking industry. Currently, he is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Civil Bank, but besides being a banker, he is also involved in many other spheres, one being philanthropic activities associated with various social organizations. He is also a sport enthusiast who is associated with many sports associations. A keen squash player, he has been playing the sport for almost 31 years, and at present, he is the president of Nepal Squash Rackets Association. Other sports that gets him pumped up are football and basketball, but not as much as squash does. 

“I also love going around, discovering new places, and I drive around a lot. Hence, I was part of a big rally team to Manang,” he said, adding that, although it was a tough drive, he discovered new places and sceneries.

Are you a major travel enthusiast?

Yes, I love traveling. However, for some years now, I have been occupied with my professional career. Being head of a bank in the current tough market situation, it is not easy for me to take a long break for traveling, but when I get a vacation, which is once a year, I like to travel abroad.

Can you name the places that you have traveled to inside Nepal?

Well, I have done a lot of short treks, haven’t done intensive treks yet, but looking forward to it in the future. Like everybody, I have been to Jomsom. I have done trekking to Poon Hill and Ghorepani. I have gone to Namche Bazaar and Everest Base Camp. Since I’m in the banking profession, I need to travel to branches spanning from Mechi in the east to Dhangadi in the west. So, I have traveled to most parts of Nepal due to my profession.

 

From where did you get the idea about the trip to Manang?

The Manang trip was organized by a media house. It was titled “Imagine Nepal”, a challenge to discover and travel to the remote parts of Nepal. There were about 22 vehicles, 4 motorbikes, and about 85-90 participants. So, it is probably one of the single largest tourist groups. It wasn’t like a competitive rally. It was more of discovering new places where internal tourists, or Nepalis, don’t go, except in small groups of 4 to 10 people. We all decided to venture out, taking our SUVs and going over rough terrain, narrow trails, rocky and boulder-strewn roads, across river basins and waterfalls, with the temperature dipping down to -8 degree Celsius. So, yeah, this is the first time I have participated in this type of adventurous trip.

What was the planning phase like?

The notice for the journey came out a month before the actual event. At first I wasn’t sure whether I would be able to attend it or not due it being a six day trip. My wife actually encouraged me that we should participate in this trip. I never say no to any kind of challenge, so I said that I’ll manage the time. We confirmed our participation a week before the trip took place, so we did plan for, like, four days. There was a very good orientation session, where we were given advice on how we should drive on various tracks and situations since we were taking a risk going on such trails. We were also told about the type of vehicle and trekking apparel, food, and medicines that we needed to have while going on the journey.

What was the vehicle that you used during this trip?

Since we were going on rough terrain, we were advised to use a SUV with 4-wheel drive, so I went with Mahindra Scorpio. The tires were of Apollo brand, for the super grip that was needed while going over boulders, river basins, waterfalls, and other rough tracks during our trip. There were also other vehicles of various brands on the trip.

What about this trip was more unique than what you have experienced in the past?

There wasn’t just one thing that made this trip unique, there are lots of memories that I made. It was like a test of endurance, and of course, a test of the strength of the vehicle. How good your driving skill is, to make sure that you are on the road and avoid big boulders that might cause harm to not only us, but the whole team. The best part, of course, was the scenery, which was fantastic. Beyond my imagination! There was a stage where roads were curved like a semi-circle. It was like a vertical cliff or half tunnel that you had to drive through, and a vertical drop led to the river that we had to cross, which was a thrilling experience. We went to the north side of the Annapurna range, which was very mesmerizing, and I had never thought I would ever go there. So, when I reached there, I was simply in awe, looking at various mountains that one can view from the north side of the range. But the best part that I witnessed was the pure blue sky with not even a pinch of cloud or anything disturbing the clear blue sky and the beautiful mountains.

Are you surprised about your trip?

Yes, I am. Down in Besisahar, from where our trip started, we were at a height of just 760 meters, where the weather was warm, but after only 90 kilometers of driving through rough terrain, we reached Manang, which is at 3,519 meters, where the weather was freezing cold. It was a wonderful experience, and is also a good trail for trekkers. We were all surprised to see lots of foreign trekkers, almost 300 of them, on the Manang trek. There were also these small hotels on the way, where we could use solar facilities for hot shower and electricity. I was surprised and happy to see the small economic activities that were going on in these small villages throughout the trail that makes it easy for trekkers to rest and experience the diverse culture of Nepal.

What is your most memorable moment of this trip?

There were several moments, but personally for me, there was one that stood out. My birthday was on November 18, and we were in Besisahar for the night. My wife had plans for a surprise birthday party, or should I say gathering, for the people with us on the trip. She managed to hide this from me, and I was given a surprise birthday party. We popped some champagne and cut a big birthday cake. We were about 90 people, and I just knew about 20 of them. During this small birthday bash, I got to know more people and interact with them. So, this is the most memorable moment that I had on the trip to Manang.

Any advice you would like to give to those who want to go to Manang?

If one is looking forward to travel to Manang, it would be helpful if good orientation can be taken from people who have already been there. You need to have a full idea about your vehicle, its operations, and what shape it is in. You should also know exactly what mode you should be driving in across various trails that you come across. It is better if you go in a large group, rather than individually. But, overall, the trail tests your driving skills, so you need to have very good driving skills to go to Manang.