PICS: SAMIR JUNG THAPA
It took them 99 days, 1,555 horizontal kilometres and possibly a couple of hundred vertical kilometres to get from one end of Nepal to the other. But when they finished it, the four-member team led by 21-time Mt Everest summiteer, Apa Sherpa, said they got an unparalleled lesson in Nepal's natural and human diversity.
"I have climbed Mt Everest many times by going up and down, but this time I was going sideways, through the villages, forests, glaciers and along rivers and lakes of Nepal," Apa Sherpa told Nepali Times, "and I realised just how rich our country is."
Other members of the team, all bearded by the end of it, concurred. Journalist Saurav Dhakal took four months off from his job at Kantipur Television, and says he learnt more from this trip than earning degrees at university: "I realised just how interdependent Nepal's different regions are on each other, and how we live in perfect social harmony."
As for people's reactions to the debate on federalism and the new constitution, Dhakal said, "While politicians in Kathmandu are busy hashing out last minute agreements, the people we met during our trek told us they still don't understand what federalism means or how the new constitution is going to affect them. But regardless of the changes that might take place post-27 May, they are determined to maintain the harmony which exists between different communities. Even groups who are more aware of their ethnic identities are adamant about not letting group interests overide the nation's unity."
Dawa Steven Sherpa, who has also climbed Mt Everest twice, has become somewhat of an environmental expert. He says the effects of climate change can be seen all over Nepal: in the receding glaciers, the dry springs, the forest fires, erratic rains. "The only way to deal with it is to raise living standards so the poorest Nepalis can cope with the disruptions that climate change will bring," he says.
Photographer Samir Jung Thapa is a man of few words, but he took thousands of stunning photographs which will be turned one day into a visual chronicle of this epic trek. Some of Thapa's photographs are printed here.
The Climate-smart Celebrity Trek was organised by the Himalayan Climate Initiative (HCI) to help draw global and domestic attention to the effect of climate change in the Himalaya, and to strengthen the resilience of Nepalis to deal with the changes it will bring.
"Our aim was to spread awareness, and in this we have succeeded beyond our expectations, the trek got worldwide publicity and Nepalis came out in overwhelming numbers to support Apa and his team as they walked across Nepal," Prashant Singh of HCI said.
HCI hopes that the trek will also help spread the word about the beauty of the Himalayas and the adventure of trekking across some of the world's highest mountains. Tourism income will then help lift living standards in the neglected remote regions of Nepal.
Says Apa: "Every one knows Nepal is a scenic country, but what I learnt from this trip is that the Nepali people are kind, generous and friendly."
The State of the Himalaya