Maoist rebels, palatial massacres, human rights violations, attacks on businesses and over 12,000 killed — the 10-year civil war in Nepal claimed many a victim, and one of them was financial security.
Bishnu Paudel is especially familiar with that particular sting. Born in Nepal and raised into farming, he branched away from the family practice to start a rafting and trekking company. Tourism is Nepal’s lifeblood, and the war saw the country’s safe places ranking plunge considerably, a situation that left Paudel hurting, but also fuelled an eventual journey to Whistler.
Paudel met Shaun Hughes in 2003, when the Whistlerite was in Nepal for an adventure vacation. The two met while rafting under the auspices of Lost Paddles Adventure Rafting, one of two companies owned by Paudel. Paudel’s other company is called Himalayan Leaders Treks and Expedition of Nepal. They offer a score of expeditions, most of which take at least 20 days to wander.
“Shaun told me about Canada, how beautiful it is,” says Paudel in his quiet voice. “You can see wildlife, he said, like black bears.”
They stayed in touch, and, after Paudel’s arrival in town this summer, Hughes was able to provide him accommodation while Paudel enhanced his first aid skills and gained employment with Wedge Rafting.
Meanwhile, the civil war in Nepal has fizzled out. A peace agreement was signed in November 2007. There’s a new power-sharing government, and the United Nations is monitoring progress. With the anniversary of the signing just a few months away, Paudel is preparing himself to return to his companies with new knowledge in a stabilized environment.
“I came here for work,” says Paudel, who arrived just over a month ago. “When I came here, I took some first aid courses. I also learned a lot about safety, and then, in Vancouver, I took an advanced CPR course.”
Nepal’s main tourism season is between October and November, then March to May. Given the timing of the peace agreement, this October will mark the beginning of the first full cycle in a peaceful, post-war environment.
“If there’s no tourism,” says Paudel, “Nepal would have a problem.”
And so he speaks grandly of the Sunkoshi and Karnali Rivers, two mighty waterways fed by the region’s immense glaciers.
“The rivers we get there are bigger because of the amount of glaciers,” he says. “We organize permits, porters, guides, transportation. It’s very safe and enjoyable.”