25-31 October 2013 #678

Against the current

Tribute to the white water rafting expert and tourism entreprenuer
Billi Bierling

It has been exactly six months since David Allardice (pic, right), one of the pioneers of river exploration and bungy jumping in Nepal, sadly passed away at 55 after battling cancer for years. With his work, enthusiasm, and never-seizing faith in creating the impossible, he left a lasting impact on Nepal’s tourism and the people he worked with.“There are only a few people in Nepal who have touched as many lives as David has. And I am certainly one of them,” says close friend and filmmaker Dinesh Deokota, who worked with David as a freelancer.

Having been introduced to river rafting the hard way – he was literally thrown into the deep end by some hardcore kayakers in his native New Zealand in the early 90s – David was taken by Nepal’s raging rivers when he first set foot into the Himalayan country. After attempting some of the high-volume rivers in monsoon, he found the perfect technical steep white water in the Bhote Kosi and set up Ultimate Descents, which eventually led him to building a resort at its banks.

Looking for a new challenge, David soon came up with an unprecedented project for Nepal. In 1997, he got together with business partner and friend Bishnu Neupane to set up Nepal’s first bungy in Tatopani, Sindupalchok district. “David told me he saw a deep gorge when he kayaked the Bhote Kosi and his gut feeling told him that this was the perfect place for a bungy,” recalls Neupane. “I trusted him completely and felt whatever he envisioned,would work.”

After a couple of years of building a suspension bridge across the 166m wide gorge – which at 160m became the second highest bungy in the world – sorting out paperwork, constructing cabins and tents, and creating a whole new economy in the surrounding villages, The Last Resort finally opened its doors in 1999. But, of course, not before David dared to do the first test jump off the bridge, which would become the second jump in his life.

Trying to quench his thirst for new adventures, David ventured out to other Asian countries such as Thailand, Myanmar, and India. However, none of these opportunities could match his experience in Nepal. During that busy period, David had also become a husband and father and juggling adventure in Nepal and family life in New Zealand became increasingly difficult. With the unrelenting assistance of his wife Louise, David was able to support his three business partners in managing The Last Resort while setting up a blackcurrant farm back home. Today his projects Nepal employ and support hundredsof families.

“Nepal always had a special place in his heart. I guess it was because it was here where he started his business,” says friend and business partner Patrick O’Keeffe.

David was enthusiastic, positive, gungho,and had a charisma that attracted people around him and encouraged them to get out of their comfort zones. Even when he was suffering from cancer, he never seemed to lose his energy or determination to scout new rivers across the globe. The man who had defied death on multiple occasions as he made his way through treacherous currents, however, lost his fight with cancer on April this year. “David seemed invincible and capable of coping with anything and was probably convinced that he would also overcome this challenge. The news of his death came as a complete shock,” says Deokota.

David may not have been as big a name asfellow New Zealander Edmund Hillary whofirst set foot atop of Mount Everest together with Tenzing Norgay, but he was close. “I always compared David to Hillary. He wanted to establish his name and make a first record as a Kiwi,” says Neupane. “Had he lived for another 20 years, I’m sure he would have reached the same status.”

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