I am a former Lonely Planet author and professional adventure writer with the great fortune of having traveled to more than 130 countries. I’ve hired tour operators and guides for forays up Panamanian rivers into narco held Colombian borderland, treks deep into the Argentine Patagonia, tiger photo hunts alone and unarmed in Indonesia jungle, on camelback with nomads in Jordanian desert, scuba diving with hundreds of Earth’s largest hammerhead sharks off Mexico, following the wildebeest from one side of the Serengeti to the other enough stuff for a bunch of books.
Till now I’ve put Hernan Arauz of Panama atop my list of top guides. Then my wife Susan and I spent nearly a month with Deepak Acharya. And the tour operator Magical Nepal I recommend with bells and whistles. Top notch people run Magical Nepal and were able to move quickly and smartly when the maneuver hit the fan as it sometimes does during true adventures, including high altitude trekking in the Himalayas.
Let me back up. My decision to hire any tour operator begins with lots of research. The kind of deep dive I did as a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, as a researcher for National Geographic Books and as a book author for Lonely Planet. After reading hundreds of reviews of Himalayan tour operator on TripAdvisor, the Thorn Tree and elsewhere, I sent a group of identical questions to five tour operators. Only Pradeep Guragain at Magical Nepal answered my questions to my satisfaction. Then, in follow up email, he further distinguished himself by making smart recommendations regarding acclimatization stays, routes, guides, porters many areas and all important.
I’m 60 and my wife Susan 67 and neither of us are in great shape nor were we before our trek, with Deepak leading the way, to the summit of Gokyo Ri. Not only did we achieve our goal of looking at a circle of the world’s greatest mountains from the great vantage point of Gokyo Ri, but we summited in under two hours. We blew past a lot of peeps on the way up. It wasn’t a prime objective of ours, but it was damn satisfying.
Through no fault of anyone, we succumbed to sickness (me the flu and Susan pneumonia) and had to be choppered off the mountain. Pradeep handled the arrangements like the pro he is, got refunds for our plane tickets, and otherwise took care of business. Meanwhile, Deepak was wonderfully aggressive securing the best rooms for us our entire trip, he constantly spoke with other guides and also with porters about weather conditions, made sure we did acclimatization hikes before big distance days, and otherwise did everything possible to ensure we got to the top of Gokyo Ri. Sadly, many other travelers with less than perfect guides fell short of their goals and left the mountains disappointed.
A great guide can make all the difference between success and failure, and Deepak was the key to our success. With another guide we’d have probably made it to Gokyo, but we attribute our summit success entirely to Deepak. I can’t say enough about him as a guide. And as a person? He’s about the friendliest person you’ll ever meet. He’s terrific and so is Magical Nepal.