October 1989. It was startling, having just arrived at the Soaltee Oberoi Hotel in Kathmandu, to receive a fax from David Dukesherer, Chief Executive of Hemphill-Harris Travel Corporation, the company that I worked with. Addressed to “All of the group members on tour”, it stated that, as a result of its financial situation, “we have decided to terminate your tour as of today…if you continue independently, you do so at your own risk and expense”.
We were in the early stages of a deluxe 30 day tour of India and Nepal. There were 24 participants. Everyone booked with Hemphill-Harris of Encino, California, because of the company’s solid reputation in the travel world in providing excellent services.Our document wallets were embossed with its motto:”Taking you places no one else can”
The greater part of the group had started from San Francisco, others joined in Hong Kong before continuing to Nepal. Kathmandu was the starting point for a much anticipated Everest flight by private plane. This was a great success with unusually clear and dramatic views of the world’s highest mountains.A late afternoon flight then took us to the unique Tiger Tops Lodge,by the Chitwan National Park . It was an unforgetable experience of two days, taking river safaris to see crocodiles and the one horned rhino, jungle walks and, riding specially trained asiatic elephants to spot the Bengal tiger in the long grasses and even a leopard in the trees. a different highlight every day.So, the announcement by Mr. Dukesherer came as a shock. We arranged a meeting to discuss how to proceed and exchange ideas.
I met that evening with all participants after checking the situation with airlines, agents and hotels. The only thing that became quite clear was the failure of Hemphill.The company was not contactable.
Among the issues raised were the problems of changing airline arrangements and the loss of a much anticipated experience.But I could report that hotels initial deposits had been paid and offered to investigate further. After much discussion, several members suggested that they would be prepared to go on if I agreed to continue leading the tour. I agreed and offered to contribute to the cost of the land arrangements with my emergency funds issued in travelers cheques by Hemphill. By the end of the evening only 2, out of the original 24, had decided to leave and return home from Hong Kong.
Having contacted the various hotels originally reserved by Hemphill, nearly all agreed to rebook the group, crediting the original deposit if everyone paid the difference, individually, upon arrival. The exception was the legendary Lake Palace Hotel which was always fully booked and with a waiting list.However, as a goodwill gesture, I was able to negotiate a visit and lunch in the hotel when arriving in Udaipur.
Next day, Oct 19th, we set out for Varanasi, the city on the Ganges, the holy river to Hindus.In the following days we saw Khajuraho, Agra and had a perfect day at the Taj Mahal. Then on to Fathepur Sikri followed by Delhi with the Houses of Parliament, India Gate and a Sound and Light Show at the historic Red Fort.
A great highlight of the tour was the visit to Kashmir and Lake Dal with its floating gardens.We saw Shalimarand stayed on the Deluxe Houseboats which we reached by slim “shikara” lake boats.More elephants in Jaipur for the trip up to the Amber fortress-palace and, when reaching Udaipur the lunch promised by the Lake Palace Hotel.The final stages of our memorable journey included Aurengabad, for the famous rock-cut monasteries and temples of Ellora as well as the great caves at Ajanta before our flight to Bombay.In the course of an informal farewell evening we discussed how much we had rescued from a disastrous situation.With good humor we awarded ourselves with an Extraordinary Certificate of Completion, witnessed by the Oberoi Hotel Front Office cashier.
Our last overnight was in HongKong before everyone dispersed on home journeys to the USA and Canada, promising to keep in touch.I flew to New York, returned to our apartment at East 55th in Manhattan and deposited my Hemphill salary cheque with Citibank. Needless to say it was returned unpaid because of “insufficient funds”.
9 responses to ““Taking you Places Like no one Else Can””
What an amazing experience and wonderful people to be with! No good to be without check payed, but very good to have done the trip anyway. Lesson : travelling can always offer non predictable experences, don’t ever feel safe!
Andrzejku, you are just amazing! What a great spirit and initiative it took to carry on that “ mission impossible”!
Bravo and…carry on travelling.
Your true admirer,
Great story, I love it 👏👏👏
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No dia 08/07/2020, às 23:01, Lonely Giraffe escreveu:
Hello Andrzej, Good to receive your post at this time. Some mental input is really great under the current conditions here in the world (and Western Australia).
The time spent with you and others aboard Tere Moana subsequently has led us to a large number of interesting travels, mostly onboard various PONANT ships.
As I am approaching 80 years, with the upcoming insurance blackout, we are really affected with the Corona Virus shutdown as we had long been planning a furious year of travel to both hemispheres.
So, I guess that serious travel may be all done for us!
Please do keep up the posts, Regards, Coral & Fred Cockerell
That lonely giraffe once more raises his head above the jungle foliage! Really interesting story..all best,Mike
Always enjoy reading your tales. Hope you and yours are well and safe. Take care.
Andrej, I had a very simular experience with Four Winds in 1974 on a exclusive tour of Peru when the company failed and we had our Amex traveller Cheques just in case. It all worked out fine but for a couple from Texans who demanded an immediate refund which I could not agree on. the other pax kicked in extra money because this was a trip of a lifetime too. we have lots of stories in our 60 years of tour manangment.
Good blog/article …….you should do some more of those …..Its been a while since you posted ….. Where are you both ?
Back looking at stocks Andrezj …… sign of the times !
mi è piaciuto molto