On the Great Himalayan Trail, the team led by 21-time Everest summiteer Apa Sherpa, which is walking four months across Nepal, found an unlikely companion when it reached Tumlingtar: German ambassador to Nepal, Verena Gräfin von Roedern.
With four high passes over 3,000m, this segment of the 1,700km trail traversed Bhojpur, Sankhuwsabha and Solukhumbu disricts. An avid hiker, Roedern wanted to support the cause the trek aimed to highlight: promote ecotourism and bring attention to climate change in the high Himalayas.
"It is easy to get disappointed looking at things as they are," von Roedern told Nepali Times, "but Nepal has transitioned far better than most post-conflict countries. Perhaps we should not be so impatient." This is refreshing coming from the dean of the Kathmandu diplomatic corps, which is sometimes better known for its cynicism about the deadlocked politics, corruption and poor governance.
It is her optimism about Nepal that sets the level-headed von Roedern apart, and patience is what the ambassador herself needed when at the end of her trek she was stuck for three days in Lukla due to bad weather.
Despite the history of bilateral cooperation going back 54 years, and the substantial aid that Germany gives to Nepal each year, the European economic powerhouse has maintained a low profile, keeping its interests firmly on the country's economic development and not so much on domestic politics. And von Roedern seems determined to keep it that way.
During her three week trek across eastern Nepal she was more convinced than ever about the great potential that is just waiting to be unleashed in hydropower, medicinal herbs and tourism. So what is holding things back in her opinion? "There will not be any real economic progress in Nepal until there is closure on the peace process with integration and rehabilitation of Maoist fighters."
The last time she met prime minister Baburam Bhattarai, von Roedern joked that she wanted not flowers but a new Nepali constitution for her birthday on 28 May.
"There is a great opportunity for Nepali politicians to make a historical breakthrough," says the ambassador, "investors also want stability, and I really hope Nepali leaders rise to the occasion."
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