For the British, Nepal will always be linked with the famous Gurkha soldiers with whom they have fought side by side for over 200 years. Also after the British made the first ascent of Everest (8848 m) on 29 May 1953 led by Sir Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa, the Sherpas of Nepal, rightfully carved another place in the hearts of the British. Until then few people knew much about Nepal. It finally opened its doors to tourists in 1950. Many of the early visitors were mountaineers who had long been waiting for the chance to be able to approach the Nepal himalaya from the south. The French led by Maurice Herzog made the first ascent of an 8000 peak when they successfully climbed Annapurna 1 (8058m) in the spring of 1950. The Swiss just failed on Everest in 52 and then the British expedition succeeded in 53.
During those early days, most tourists came on 2-3 day extension trips from Delhi after visiting Agra and the Taj Mahal. They flew in on DC-3 aircrafts to the gravel topped airfield in Kathmandu to a warm welcome. Getting into classic Al Capone style taxis, with their long running boards and sweeping wings, they made their way through green fields to the Royal Hotel, a former palace, converted into Nepal’s first and at the time only hotel. Kathmandu was an unspoiled Shangrila and the valley one of the most beautiful in the world. Getting around was mostly by foot, bicycle, or in pony or people drawn rickshaws.
Before moving onto the present, mention must be made of the April/May Earthquakes in 2015.The epicentre of the first Earthquake was north of Gorkha about half way between Kathmandu and Pokhara. There was little damage to the west of the country and the shockwaves ran mostly east. The epicentre of second earthquake was in Dolakha district east of Kathmandu. The cultural sites of the Kathmandu valley suffered and houses and infrastructure across the whole area as far as Everest were impacted. Some 500,000 houses were either damaged or destroyed. The reconstruction phase has been agonizingly slow and many of the poor people have received little or nothing in the way of support and are still living in temporary shelters.
Tourist arrivals dipped markedly, but there has been some improvement recently. It would be wrong to say ‘please visit in order to give support’, but one can say that, as and when you do, it will give a much needed boost to the people who have been so hard hit and it would certainly help the tourism trade in Nepal, which has been hit significantly.