Get To Know Nepal Guide Tilak Thapa Magar

Starting as an assistant guide in 1992 when he was 19 years old, Tilak Thapa Magar can take you to Everest Base Camp or one of his favourite locations, the hidden treasure that is the Annapurna Sanctuary. Tilak has been operating Accessible Adventure Travels and Tours and Nepal Trailblazer Trekking since 2003.  And if you get blocked in by snowfall, don’t worry – Tilak has cleared a path through chest-high snow in the past to get guests safely through their trek.
How did you get into guiding in Nepal? How did you make the transition to becoming a tour guide?

From 1992 until 1999, as an assistant guide, I visited many tourist trekking destinations such as Annapurna, Langtang, Everest, and many more. During this period, I gained a lot of knowledge and experience about adventure tourism, especially about adventure trekking. Meanwhile, I also got the opportunity to improve my English speaking skills. I worked as a seasonal guide depending on my availability and college vacation times, as I was studying for my Bachelor of Arts. By the time I completed my college education, I was also fully capable of guiding tourists from all over the world, thanks to my experience. In 2003, I started trekking and mountain guide training, and became certified by the Government of Nepal, which is known as a trek guide, and in 2011, I completed tour guide training and got certification for cultural and heritage sites touring, which is known as a tourist guide.

What does a typical day look like for you?

The alarm set on my mobile rings at 5 am and I get ready for an hour long morning walk to Swayambhunath Stupa, where I spend another hour doing yoga, which gives me enough energy and positive thinking for the day. After having breakfast, I drive to my office, complete all pending tasks and the remaining time I spend on social activities and with my family.

How is Nepal going after the earthquake? Does tourism help the country recover, or should people hold off travelling to Nepal?

After the earthquake, the situation is now back to normal. Of course, tourism plays a significant role in the country’s recovery. Thus, please come and visit Nepal: the future of Nepal is in your hands.

What’s the most bizarre experience you’ve had on a guided tour?

I think it was in 1996 or 1997, I was Gosainkunda Lake, which is 4380 metres high, in the Langtang region, with my tourist guests. There was heavy snowfall during the night and in the morning, we were supposed to cross a pass called Lauri Bina La which is 4610 metres high. There were other groups of tourists with guides at the tea house located before the pass. We nearly got stuck with the snowfall and the high pass was blocked! There was no signage directing people where to go. Nobody dared to move ahead! As a responsible guide, I took the lead and cleared up the snow though it was very challenging as the snow came up to my chest. I successfully got us all through safely.

What one secret place or experience can you tell us about Kathmandu that travellers should try to find/have?

There is a saying: ‘There are as many temples and monuments as houses in Kathmandu’.  There are four major cultural heritage sites in Kathmandu (listed by UNESCO) which are Swayambhu, Kathmandu Durbar Square, Pashupati and Boudhanath. Those places are worth visiting for a day tour.

What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job would be giving timely responses to our guests’ queries, personalizing services and our guests’ satisfaction.

One of your favourite trips is the Annapurna Sanctuary – what does the Sanctuary look like and why is it one of your favourites? 

The Annapurna Base Camp (Sanctuary) is surrounded by the Annapurna Himalaya ranges. It is a nice open valley or, I would prefer to say, a hidden treasure. I feel that the valley is like the sanctum of a temple or monastery: so it is called Sanctuary. Also, to get to Annapurna Sanctuary, there is a variation of terraces, the landscape changes from lowlands to highlands. The local ethnic groups of the Magar and the Gurung peoples are so generous and kind hearted – you will find their warm hospitality en route.

Every job has its ups and downs. Are there any aspects of your job that you don’t like or aren’t that keen on?

I enjoy my profession, but it is sometimes very hectic and I don’t always have time for fellowship with friends and family.

How busy is Everest Base Camp and is it still worth the trek to see the mountain? If so, why?

Everest Base Camp is very busy and crowded in peak trekking seasons, from the beginning of March to mid-May and September to mid-November.  Yes, without doubt, it is still worth visiting Base Camp because 1) it is the highest mountain in the universe, everybody would like to see it with their own eyes and 2) the Everest region is famous for its fabulous views of the Himalaya ranges and the friendly, trustworthy Sherpa people, the local inhabitants, and their unique culture.

What must first-time travellers to Nepal see or do and why? What activity should they take part in and why?

In Nepal, you can do many types of activities, from day hiking to multiday trekking, from one-day cultural heritage tours to multi-day tours and there is no age bar to experiencing the country. If you are an adventure-minded person, you can do high mountain treks, for instance, Everest Base Camp, even though it is your first time visiting Nepal. If you feel that you are not fit enough for trekking, you can go for a driving tour, enjoy glimpses of the landscape and the high Himalaya ranges and learn about the Nepalese lifestyle. If you are interested in wildlife tourism, you can go to Chitwan National Park or Bardia National Park to see the one horned Rhino and many species of birds and animals. You can also enjoy white river rafting, bungy jumping, canyoning, Ultra Light flights, paragliding and more.

As an experienced guide yourself, can you explain to our readers what the benefits of hiring a guide are?

We are recruited locally which means we know the destination better than anyone.

In your view, what makes a good tour guide?

In my experience, having a good knowledge of the destination, friendliness, and courtesy towards guests, punctuality of time management, etcetera plays a significant role in becoming a good tour guide.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy Explore Nepal and Explore Kathmandu.

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