Maurice Dhuchene was born in Lyon, the third largest metropolis of France in 1947. He worked at France Police for 33 years. His main job was providing adventure sports like canyoning, caving, mountaineering, trekking and rock climbing to the spoiled-youth generation in France. These outdoor activities are helpful in engaging the youth to explore themselves and show them the path to becoming a good citizen and be a positive and contributing member in society. He also worked as a speleologist (cave specialist) and in rescue operation field for many years while serving the France Police. According to Maurice, caving is a unique activity that happens in a limited space and close environment. The person learns self-exploring, self-defense and understands the true value of life. With his extensive knowledge and experience, his team published a well-researched cave rescue manual in 1977-78.
At 71, Maurice is still an energetic man. He is always thinking about how to help in the development and promotion of adventure tourism in Nepal, especially canyoning and caving. According to Rajendra Lama (Managing Director of Friends Adventure Team and President of Canyoning Association of Nepal), Maurice is the first person to introduce professional canyoning as an adventure tourism product in Nepal. Maurice has explored dozens of caves across Nepal. He recently returned from a month-long cave exploration in Upper Dolpa.
We met up with Maurice at his residence in Ranibari, Kathmandu where he retold his story.
His First Visit To Nepal
“Since I was only 15 years old, I had three dreams in my life; caving, exploring the Amazon forest and visiting the Himalayas of Nepal,” recalled Maurice. His dreams of caving and exploring the Amazon were fulfilled early in his life. Unfortunately, due to lack of funds, it took him a long time to visit the Himalayas. Then, the opportunity came knocking in November 1999 where he was able to fulfill his most important dream. His trip to South America was cancelled, allowing him an unplanned trip to Nepal. “Whatever happened, it turned out for good!” exclaims Maurice. He came to Nepal at the age of 52 to do the Annapurna round trek with Kabindra Lama, as an assistant guide, which they completed in 4 weeks. Back in those days, the Annapurna trek was pristine and beautiful without dust, he remembers. He traveled to Nepal for the Himalayas, but the friendly nature and generosity of the Nepali people and their lifestyle won him over, enticing him to return to Nepal again and again. “Despite the hard life, Nepalis are always happy and smiling compared to the people in the west,” utters Maurice.
Canyoning and Caving in Nepal
During his 4 weeks trekking Annapurna, he eyed hundreds of Himalayan waterfalls along the trail. Seeing the dozens of pristine waterfalls, he already thought of the possibility of canyoning. When he returned home to France, he published an article about canyoning in the local paper in France. This article drew the attention of Rodolphe Sturm, a canyoning enthusiast. In the later years from 2001 to 2003, Maurice, Rodolphe and Kabindra explored the feasibility of canyoning spots in Nepal.
He had also seen ice caves during his Annapurna Base Camp trek. Later, he explored Bimalnagar Cave, Gupteshwor Cave (Pokhara), Alapeshwor Cave, Kusma Cave (which claims to be the deepest cave in Baitadi), Rukum and several others. “Alpeshwor Cave is the finest of them all,” says Maurice. He does see great opportunities for Gupteshwor and Alpeshwor Caves, but due to improper management, it has led to a huge hindrance for its growth.
He led a team of 8 people to Dolpa cave exploration for a month in Sept 2018. He is excited and is preparing for his next cave exploration to Thorang Peak (6000m) which will be done in May 2019.
When asked about the feasibility of canyoning in Nepal, Maurice opined that due to Nepal’s vertical landscape, there is a huge potential for it. But caving is a different activity, there are big challenges for preserving and conserving its gallery, which is the main attraction. Additionally, he emphasized the need for more efforts in the development and promotion of caving as an adventure activity by tourism stakeholders.
About His Social Work
Maurice is a keen social worker, who has helped 1.5 dozen Nepali youth to obtain canyoning, caving, language, first aid, archaeology and cultural exchange training from France. These youths are now well-established in their respective professions. He is actively engaged in social work with Ice Himalaya Association and is the president of the organization. Through the organization, he has provided secondary education to over 50 students and language training in collaboration with Alliance Francaise, Kathmandu. In partnership with Trekking Agencies' Association of Nepal (TAAN), he has coordinated with 3 doctors and 2 rescue specialists from France and has successfully conducted International Mountain Security and First Aid training to over 309 participants active in the tourism field in Nepal.
Maurice is currently living in Kathmandu with his Nepali family for the last 4 years, but he does occasionally visit France for his organizational work. He proudly says, “Nepal is my second home and I hope to die here.”
His Future Plans
“I want to continue my life in exploration and providing first aid training to Nepali youths as long as my health permits,” says Maurice. He has never thought of retiring and is keen on providing social services and contributing to the promotion of adventure tourism in Nepal. According to him, if the government of Nepal provided easy rules and special entry provision for retired people, the country would benefit economically as many French people would like to spend their retired life in Nepal and die here just like him.
It is a coincidence that the diplomatic relations between France and Nepal, after Maurice Herzog and his team conquered Annapurna, the first eight-thousander to be conquered by a man in 1950 will be celebrating its 70th anniversary soon. As Nepal is campaigning for “Visit Nepal Year 2020”, the government should take this opportunity to invite alpinist, mountaineers, and other prominent figures who have greatly contributed in the promotion of Nepal’s tourism and commemorate the 70 years of diplomatic relation.
For Maurice, every place in Nepal is beautiful, but Dolpa is his best destination. It has been 19 years since his first footsteps in Nepal, but he has repeatedly visited Nepal and is actively contributing to exploring canyoning, caving and providing training to the Nepali youth and doing social work. He has trekked Annapurna Sanctuary 16 times, Langtang 22 times, Everest Base Camp 4 times, Manaslu 3 times and Kanchenjunga once.
Great salute to Maurice Dhuchene for this untiring contribution in the exploration and promotion of adventure tourism in Nepal for the past two decades and best wishes for his good health and future.