This is a breathtaking story of a Swiss lady, who cycled 15,000 kilometers from Europe to Nepal. She finally fulfilled her dream of completing the Great Himalayan Trail, and it only took her 89 days!
I met Maria Theresia Zwyssig, the 33 year old avid adventurer at Basantapur one fine afternoon. She had just returned from completing Sherpeni Col (6,113 meters) in 18 days including Lumba Sumba pass as part of the Great Himalayan Trail (GHT). She was delighted to share the journey of her biggest accomplishment with me.
As a child, Maria grew up in a small village in the Swiss Alps. She was a high spirited adventurous girl from a young age. "I was rebellious as a child but a huge nature lover," she added. She was fascinated by the photos of her father climbing mountains. In a mild whisper, she said, "My father is the real hero of my life."
A Journey To Nepal
Maria first visited Nepal in 2008. She was enthralled by its beauty while on the Muktinath Trek. She fell in love with the majestic mountains.
Dulled by the monotony of the same old routined job, she quit her job in March 2013 and made a decision to travel from Switzerland to Nepal on a bicycle. Why a bicycle? "It's a passion of mine and I wanted to save the environment while travelling," she answered. None of her friends believed and trusted that she could do the trip on a bicycle. Little did they know that this was a beginning of a memorable journey.
It took her 330 days to reach Nepal, and she cycled over 10,000 kilometers through Italy, other Balkan nations, China, Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries.
The Idea of GHT
While working at Radio BeO, she could see the view of Eiger Mountain from her office window. This view brought on her nostalgia about her Nepal trip. "It reminded me of Nepal's high mountains and I started dreaming about it." During her free time at work, she researched and gathered information about GHT. She collected information about trekking from the east to west of Nepal.
Turning A Dream Into Reality
After her tedious research, planning and travelling arrangement and sleepless nights, she embarked on her journey. This was her second journey to Nepal on a bicycle. Cycling helped to build physical strength and muscle to complete the GHT.
She cycled through the silk route and passed cycled over 15,000 kilometers in 13 months.
Her GHT journey started from Fungling to Kanchenjunga Base Camp, Ghunsa, Olangchungola, Lumba Sumba Pass Camp in the eastern part of Nepal. This took her 3 weeks. She resumed her journey from Thame, then trekked through Langtang, Manaslu, Mugu, Rara t Humla, Simikot, Limi Valley and Hilsa of far-western Nepal. With her thumbs up, she excitedly exclaimed, "Yes! We completed the Great Himalayan Trail in 89 days!"
She walked a total of 1711 kilometers excluding the side trek to Rara and Limi Valley.
The hardest part of the trek for her was at Sherpeni Col. Altitude sickness was not the issue, but she had stomach problems and running bowels at Gamgadi. She loved the Upper Dolpa area the most.
She spent 18 months for the whole journey, 13 months cycling and 5 months trekking.
Trekking the GHT from east to west, she saw nine of the world's highest peaks. She trekked and passed through various remote villages and met a lot of amazing people. There were rivers, valleys, lowlands, terraced fields, wilderness and several high passes.
She felt tired and could not even move her legs. "I felt so exhausted that moving a few steps ahead was a herculean effort." She feels immense gratitude for her guide, Sanjib Gurung for his continuous support.
She was touched by the warm-hearted people of Mugu and Humla. She was speechless when she saw their plight of their poverty and lifestyle and she could not stop her tears. Despite their tough life, the smiles of the local people never left their faces. This experience taught her the biggest lesson in life and she feels privileged to be born in a country with many opportunities.
"GHT taught me a lot - happiness, perseverance, pain, patience and motivation are everything for life. GHT taught me how to live!" she says while smiling.
Life is not just joy, but is also filled with pain, commitment patience and suffering. Asked if she would come back, her answer was, "Of course I will be back!"