The Tissue Trail is Nepal’s most popular trek and the stunning immediate mountain vistas are the reason why. As soon as you land at the start of the Tissue Trail at the airport town of Pokhara, Fishtail, a 24,000 feet twin-peaked mountains stands over you like a sentinel.
Fishtail stands at the eastern end of the Tissue Trail and from the western end at Poon Hill you can see the entrance to the earth’s deepest ravine, three times the depth of the Grand Canyon – Kali Gandaki Gorge. The nickname ‘Tissue Trail’ comes from the exposed tissue caused by the frozen ground preventing young campers burying it.
Typical views include the spectacular Annapurna Range (26,000 feet) with the reflection of the mountains in Lake Phewa near Pokhara just breathtaking.
Poon Hill at Ghorepani is the end point of the trek for most young travellers and is ‘one of the earth’s most spectacular mountain viewing points’.
Operators of the ‘Tissue Trail’ drug ring need two key requirements to be in close proximity.
- A popular trekking area where they can recruit young travellers to carry heroin into Singapore where its mandatory heroin death penalty awaits.
- An area where caravans bring salt and other commodities into Nepal.
They find this combination in the Annapurna Region of Nepal – an hour’s flight west of Kathmandu. The key is Lo Manthang, a remote and almost unheard of square-walled medieval city close to the border with Tibet.
It is here that high altitude yaks bring in salt and other commodities and transfer them to low-altitude load carriers – mules and goats – and which take loads down to the plains to trade for cereal. This is necessary because the nearest road head is 65 miles away – a ten-day one-way trek.
Lo Manthang becomes the focus of the action at two points. The first when adventurous and well-off, semi-professional photographer, Edward Thurston, who’s on the way to Singapore for a business meeting decides to divert to Nepal to try to see Lo Manthang. But he only has two days so charters a 19-seater plane to fly over the city.
Video of caravan leader
Bad weather forces the plane to land on an uncommissioned runway just outside the city – just as a yak caravan appears from Tibet and camps before transferring its load. Thurston videos the incoming caravan and also his conversation with the caravan leader (one of the pilots speaks a bit of Tibetan). It is this video, plus suspicion over the extreme measures he takes to reach Lo Manthang, that leads to his interrogation and surveillance.
The focus returns to Lo Manthang at the end of the account when the traffickers mount their media coup using the dramatic location of Lo Manthang to arrest the caravan operators.
The world’s deepest gorge
To reach Lo Manthang from Pokhara travellers must pass through the Kali Gandaki Gorge, which at 20,000 feet deep is four-times the depth of Grand Canyon.
This dramatic location for Thurston’s ‘suspicious flight’ on his way to try to reach Lo Manthang is also used later when Nepali Security flies to Lo Manthang to arrest the caravan leaders.
Other significant locations
Yak and Yeti Hotel Kathmandu from where Thurston’s assistant Jaci escapes by transforming from dust-stained trekker to elegant businesswoman.
Raffles Hotel Singapore where Thurston meets a beautiful Canadian banker in the Courtyard Bar. The Long Bar at the same hotel is where Thurston and a CNN reporter meet.
Changi Women’s Prison execution chamber with four nooses and elongated drop plate.