Driving 10,000km through eight countries in two months would sound like an adventure for anyone, but for outgoing German Ambassador to Nepal, Matthias Meyer, it is something he has been planning for years.
It is the old ‘Hippie Trail’ from Europe, via Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India followed by thousands to Kathmandu in the 1970s. But Meyer will be doing it in reverse.
After ending his 37-year long diplomatic career and a three-year tenure in Kathmandu, Meyer is being flagged off from the embassy in his Mitsubishi SUV and will have a first night stop in Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha near the Indian border.
“I hope it will be a fun ride, I have always loved long and adventurous car journeys and this is going to be my longest,” said the 65-year-old diplomat who once rode through the Sahara desert when he was posted in Libya.
From India, Meyer will enter Pakistan at Wagah from where he will be escorted by a Pakistani Army team until he enters Iran. He will travel through Turkey, Armenia, Greece, Italy, Switzerland and then finally reach home in Hamburg in July.
When Meyer first came to Nepal as a young trekker with long hair in 1979, it was a short overland journey. He was an intern in the German-Indo commerce chamber in Bombay and wanted to get lost in the wilderness of the Himalayan kingdom. The hippie era was almost over, but Kathmandu’s exotic beauty had not begun to fade.
Meyer loved Nepal so much that he came to trek in the mountains four times before being sent to Kathmandu as the German envoy. It was raining when he landed in Kathmandu, and he often strolled with an umbrella in his hands around Yak and Yeti where he initially stayed. He loved to walk through the narrow alleys of Thamel, often gazing at, and buying, colourful Tibetan thangka.
Meyer also loved Nepali cuisine, and had got addicted to dal-bhat, especially during treks. Asked about his experience in Kathmandu, he diplomatically avoided sensitive political topics and said: “I ate so much. See my stomach.”
Meyer was generally considered a staunch supporter of Nepal’s moves towards democracy and spoke out when the media was under pressure from government agencies. When the American and British Embassies issued only terse statements about last month’s elections, the German Embassy did not join them.
Meyer will be travelling through parts of the ancient Silk route that China is reviving under its Belt and Road initiative — a Chinese project that Nepal recently agreed to join.
He said on the eve of his departure, “I will miss Nepal, and will be back soon.”