Why would a Hollywood actor come to Nepal? To shoot for a film, most probably. Or to spend a holiday, or visit some place, or to meet someone — whatever the reason might be — they would definitely not travel all the way to DRIVE A FIRE TRUCK here. Would they?
YEP! It’s actually happening.
A number of film stars, musicians and athletes will be coming to Nepal later this year TO DRIVE FIRE TRUCKS, because…
Yep, we need them.
By the way, that’s the cover of Michael Kobold’s ‘Nepal Needs Fire Trucks’ – the book that details his mission to bring the fire engines from America to Nepal. But before those fire engines are donated to the Government of Nepal, they will be used in a tourism promotion event that will involve various Hollywood, Bollywood and Nepali celebrities.
We’ll talk more about that in a bit; but before that, let us answer the question – who exactly is Michael Kobold?
This guy right here.
Michael is the Founder/CEO of Kobold Expedition Tools, the very company that manufactures the popular Kobold watches, among other stuff, in Nepal. Also a mountaineer, he has scaled Mt. Everest twice.
So what is this ‘Nepal Needs Fire Trucks’ thing anyway and where did the idea come from? Michael explained what this whole expedition is about in an interview with Online Khabar recently. This is what he said:
“A good friend of mine was the late James Gandolfini. At the height of his fame, because of his TV show ‘The Sopranos’, he couldn’t leave his apartment because people wouldn’t leave him alone. He couldn’t walk down the streets of New York without people taking his pictures. The paparazzi shadowed him. Some celebrities love that. He hated it. He wanted to come to Nepal because I had told him that the country was beautiful, the people were amazing – kind and gentle and welcoming – and that nobody would know him. Which was true – except may be for some tourists in Thamel. He really wanted to come to Nepal.
I thought this is great. Two guys going to Nepal. Then I came across this old fire truck at the side of the road. It was beautiful. It was in good condition and on sale for a relatively small amount. Every boy wants to drive a fire truck. So I said to James, let’s take a fire truck with us to Nepal. That is when this whole thing about the expedition started. Then I contacted Scott DeLisi, who at the time was the US Ambassador to Nepal. He became a good friend. He suggested that since Nepal was due for a massive earthquake anytime, I should make the expedition about raising awareness about earthquakes. He said that I should bring somebody famous and use the publicity thus created to raise awareness about earthquakes.
That was the plan. But then James died. I basically did nothing for eighteen months. I was depressed. Eighteen months later, I told myself that I can’t be upset forever, I need to start the fire truck expedition again.
I called up a couple of celebrities who I am close with and told them about the expedition and asked if they would come along with me to Nepal. They all said yes. And a couple of months later, an earthquake struck. Those celebrity friends were like, Oh my God! We have to go now. I said, No. Why should we do an expedition on earthquake awareness after an earthquake has happened?
That is when the government of Nepal came in and suggested I make the expedition about Nepal tourism. I decided to do it. I would bring the celebrities here, we would make a film and a TV show for western media to promote Nepal tourism. The idea was that would draw high-end tourists here.
We have plenty of backpackers coming here who don’t spend very much. We need big-spending tourists here, like in Bhutan. We need big spender for infrastructure, industry and, most importantly, for the grassroots, because money trickles down.
So from two friends wanting a road trip, it grew into an expedition to help Nepal recover from the earthquake. Now we have 25 celebrities who will be on the expedition. We have ten fire trucks.
We only have thirteen fire trucks in the country. It’s important for the country to have more. But the fire trucks are only the wrapping paper. The real present is the international media exposure. We estimate, conservatively, 50 million people will see the expedition documentary film or hear about it on social media. That is excluding India and Nepal.”
Phew! that’s a lot of info. So, long story short: Michael Kobold is bringing with him 10 fire trucks and two dozen celebrities. The trucks will be donated to Nepal government and the celebrities will be here to help promote Nepal tourism.
So, who are the celebrities we’re talking about here?
The list is long, like really long. Actors Malcolm McDowell, Michael Imperioli, Scott Glenn, Gabrielle Wright, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Manisha Koirala, Sunil Thapa, Rajesh Hamal and Shristi Shrestha have been confirmed to join. There’s a possibility that they would be accompanied by Johnny Depp.
Johnny Depp!!! Make it happen already, you guys.
And that’s Stick from Daredevil, played by Scott Glenn.
These actors will be joined by singers Nuno Bettencourt and Pete Scobell, along with Nepali rock band 1974 AD. Athletes Max Starks, Troy Palomalu and Katrina Webb; and adventurers Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Reinhold Messner, Russell Brice and Martin Hartley , too, will be part of the expedition.
That’s right. Nuno Bettencourt from the rock band Extreme will be here.
Pete Scobell, the former Navy SEAL, is now a popular country singer. He will be here, too.
The ten fire trucks will be shipped to India from USA. They will then be brought to Nepal border via train. That’s when the the mega event begins. The fire trucks – with all these celebrities on them – will be transported from Birgunj to Kathmandu. There’s going to be a benefit concert – where all the musicians in the expedition will perform – when they reach the capital.
According to the organizers; the expedition will be filmed by a camera crew for two sets of content – 2 one-hour episodes for PBS in the US, and a 90-minute documentary film.
The expedition which is being planned since forever (well, since 2010 to be exact) will finally be happening for real later this year.
Watch this for some more info.