Covering 1,425 kilometers of trail in 125 days is never easy for anyone. Carrying out this journey crossing Nepal through the Himalayan mountain range, with its acute altitude and unexpected snowfall, is for few. And if that person is a citizen with 67 years on his back, then we can say that it is a good and glorious feat.
This is the case of pediatrician Manoel Morgado, a mountaineer for 40 years, who one day dropped his diploma from the Escola Paulista de Medicina to pursue what he considered his greatest vocation: going to the mountains. “At the time, it wasn’t that common for people to go to mountains, Mars was better known than Nepal to most people”, he says, remembering his father’s disconsolateness when he told him that he would leave the career he had dedicated so many years to. follow the dream of living from and for mountaineering.
In love with Nepal, he decided that it would be there where he would develop his new profession. He got involved and immersed himself in the country until he considered himself experienced enough to set up his own business. “So, in the beginning, from October to November I guided people in Nepal, from December to February I took groups on more spiritual and yoga trips to India, and returned to Nepal between March and April, until I consolidated my business and was alone in Nepal, on adventure trips and ecotourism”, he explains. The family, on the other side of the world, breathed a sigh of relief — and resigned to the loss of their first doctor.
At the head of one of the longest-running agencies operating in Asia, Morgado Expedições, the former doctor explains that the majority of his clients are people aged between 40 and 50, but that he is increasingly sought after by those over 60 and, up to 70 years old. “People are reaching this age healthier, which is very good,” he celebrates.
In relation to his early years, Morgado says that the big difference promoted by the increase in demand for adventure tourism in the region is the offer of a modern support infrastructure, with hot water in the lodges (lodging in the most visited villages in the Himalayas), access to the internet and other luxuries that are not inconsiderable when you are among the highest peaks on the planet.
However, this is usually restricted to the most touristic circuit in the region, the one that takes you to the popular mountains, from Anapurna to Everest, passing through Ama Dablan. Walking the GHT (Great Himalayan Trail) is a chapter in itself, filled with several obstacles.
The decision to follow the trail delimited by Briton Robin Boustead came after Morgado had completed the climb of the coveted seven highest summits on the planet — Everest, 8,850m; Denali, 6,194m; Kilimanjaro, 5,895m, Elbrus, 5,642m; Vinson, 4,897m and Carstensz Pyramid, 4,884m. The challenge had the additional charm of allowing him to be the first Brazilian (and South American) to complete the route that was only defined in the first years of this 21st century, joining the many trails already known and traveled to other areas where, lacking of tourist demand, hikers need to count on the many kilos that it takes to carry food, water and equipment to camp outdoors in one of the most unstable climates in the world.
GHT, it is worth mentioning, has the ambitious objective of growing, uniting Bhutan and Pakistan, crossing the entire Himalayan mountain range, which receives several names along the way. On the day that geopolitics and international feuds allow it, it should reach 3,000 kilometers. And, unlike other long-distance trails, such as the Apalache (3,500 kilometers) in the United States, or the more modest Camino de Santiago (800 kilometers) between France and Spain, this one represents a more rustic and demanding challenge, which includes technical climbs at an altitude of 6,200 meters and descents into valleys at 870 meters. Lung altimetry does not show any defects.
The first attempt to complete the GHT was unsuccessful, explains Morgado, because it was precisely the year that the pandemic closed the country. Without being able to count on support in the region’s villages, the journey was postponed until this year — and completed on July 30th. Part of the trip was made alongside his wife, personal trainer Vanessa Oliveira, who accompanied him for 40 days, returning to Brazil to carry out his work. In the luggage, this time, there were high-calorie foods, but of relatively less weight, such as whey, peanut butter and olive oil, as advised by a nutritionist.
“When we’re in the mountains I don’t have the best diet, we eat what we find, in those almost five months on the trail I didn’t see any fruit, there were few vegetables and a diet low in protein, but that’s what I had”, he explains. And what do we attribute to our physical disposition at the age when our grandparents used to be playing dominoes in the nearest square?
“Physical activity, always, right, and be very careful with your knees, in addition to good genetics”, summarizes Morgado, with the sparkle in the eyes of someone who, first and foremost, has an enormous hunger for life.
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