After returning from Upper Mustang trip, 69-year-old Dr. Luc Beaucourt, was excited to share his tour to Lo Manthang. Astonished by its breathtaking landscape, he said, "It was a difficult trip indeed, but worth taking." He recalled his journey to Upper Mustang as very adventurous and memorable. Permit fee of US$ 500 seems a little expensive, reducing it may attract more tourists to such a wonderful trans-Himalayan region, he suggested. Beaucourt along with a group of 15 tourists from Belgium has visited Nepal recently for a holiday trip organized by Beyond the Limit, a trekking operator in Kathmandu.
The earthquake and his first visit to Nepal
Dr Beaucourt, a retired medical director from University Hospital, Antwerp in Belgium, first came to Nepal after the earthquake in 2015 and then his affection with the Himalayan nation embarked. He could not stay quiet as the news of M7.8 earthquake in Nepal spread worldwide.He was eager to visit Nepal to utilize his experiences gained from working in disaster-hit countries like Haiti, Iran, Pakistan, Indonesia, and Myanmar since 1994. In coordination with Lok Dahal, a Nepali businessman and General Secretary of NRNA-Belgium, he arrived in Nepal with a technical team and medical equipment just six weeks after the M7.8 earthquake devastated Nepal on April 25, 2015.
Without wasting much time, they headed to rural area of Budhathum-7, in Dhading district, where they helped 132 households providing emergency medical treatment and food stuffs, and built water tank, facilitated resumption of two schools and set up medical camp. After returning back to Belgium, he started raising more money to build schools in Budhathum and Baseri. The team also distributed food stuffs like rice, oil, pulses, salt and galvanized tin roof.
He still remembers an interesting story of evacuating a 60% burnt Raute boy, Kapil Shahi, who was brought to Kathmandu for further treatment in the Trauma Center from a remote village of Bajhang, far-western district of Nepal.
"It was very hard to convince Raute King to bring the boy for further medical treatment," shared Beaucourt. He was greatly surprised by indigenous Raute people preferring rice and male goat for their festival instead of medical treatment. The team with Lok Dahal further helped Raute community with rice, dal, salt, and two male goats for meat.
Dahal remembered how his restaurant, Sushi King in Belgium made a sale of 11,000 euros a day, after news reports about his plan to donate one-day sale to the earthquake victims in Nepal were published.
A team of four persons including Dahal and Beaucourt visited Nepal for relief programs. They funded purchase of lands for two schools - Mahalaxmi Secondary School and Shivalaya Secondary School.
The team also provided essentials like rice, pulse, oil, salt, soap and others to the quake-affected people of Deurali , Runchet-Kerauja and Bhirkuna of Gorkha district.
Since then, they have visited Nepal several times, mainly with assistance programs to various rural parts of Nepal. They still have school projects in pipeline that are scheduled to be completed next year.
Asked about his future plans, Beaucourt said he will first complete school projects in Budhathum and Baseri, and then hand over them the locals soon. He also wants to come back to Lo Manthang next April with medicines and doctors to run medical camp if locals need. He handed job to Saroj Nepuane and Pema Norbu Lama to keep him updates about local needs.
Beaucourt says he will spend his retired life contributing in the field of education, medicines, school construction in remote and needy areas in Nepal. "And off course, continue to promote Nepal's tourism back home," he gently smiles.