Adventurer Ed Jackson on his affinity for Nepal: ‘It’s another world’

Ed will soon be in Tokyo as a commentator at the Paralympics (Picture: Matt Kelly)

In 2017, former professional rugby player Ed Jackson suffered a major spinal cord injury.

He was left quadriplegic and thinking he would never walk again.

He has since made a miraculous recovery and has turned his determination to conquering mountain peaks and travelling the world.

Now a adventurer and motivational speaker, Ed tells us about an unforgettable Fleetwood Mac concert in NYC, ‘chewy’ chicken feet in Borneo and doing his bit to give back to Nepal.

What is your favourite on-the-road moment?

Heading to New York in 2017 after leaving hospital where I’d been for three months following a spinal cord injury.

I was still in a wheelchair but my friends had clubbed together to buy tickets for us to see Fleetwood Mac – my favourite band – at Citi Field in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park.

Getting on and off the subway in a wheelchair was interesting but also really enlightening because now I know what it’s like for wheelchair users and I’ll never take my legs for granted again.

The gig was incredible – we got accessible front-row tickets, before heading to the Meatpacking District to stay at Soho House (rooms from £335).

Ed saw Fleetwood Mac in NYC from the front row (Picture: Kevin Kane/Getty Images for Scoop Marketing)

And your favourite city?

Kathmandu. I’ve spent a lot of time in Nepal, one of my favourite countries. As soon as you step out of the airport, you’re in a completely different world.

It’s so busy and bustling, it completely overwhelms your senses. We always stay in the district of Thamel, great fun with lots of bars and restaurants.

Sam’s Bar is a particular favourite – the graffiti on the walls left by decades of travellers and climbers reads like love letters to Nepal.

Make time for Swayambhunath Stupa, known as the Monkey Temple. Not only does it have beautiful views over the city but the monkeys will steal your valuables if you leave them on show and refuse to give them back until you offer them food.

There are plenty of cheeky monkeys in Nepal (Picture: Getty Images)

When have you been most frightened while travelling?

At Tenzing–Hillary Airport, known locally as Lukla Airport. It’s on a mountainside hemmed in by the Himalayan mountains and has one of the world’s shortest runways, which is very steep to ensure you can pick up enough speed before take-off because there’s nothing but a cliff at either end.

We flew in there last year before climbing Mera Peak and it was terrifying. We had no control over what might happen. We put all our faith in the pilot.

Flying out of mountainside Tenzing–Hillary Airport is a hair-raising experience (Picture: Alamy Stock Photo)

What is the best souvenir you’ve come home with?

The trekking company that I helped one of our Nepalese guides set up over there while on a visit last year.

Every time I go off on an excursion my wife tells me off for bringing stuff home and I’m pretty sure she wasn’t expecting me to come back with an entire company but it’s given work to a lot of villagers there, so it’s very rewarding.

What has been your most life-changing experience while travelling?

The first time I went to visit a spinal unit in Nepal.

As a charity, one of our aims is to raise money to towards building a new spinal unit in Chitwan because having spent three months in a spinal unit in the UK, when I first saw the provisions they have over there, I was shocked.

There were patients lying on the floor and holes in the roof, and yet every single person was remarkably positive despite their circumstances.

It really hit me and is what set me off on my current journey to try and support others who haven’t been as lucky as me.

Worst meal you’ve had abroad?

I went to Borneo with my wife and some friends to do a rainforest trek. We stayed with tribes that had rarely or never seen white people, so it was an incredible experience but the food was questionable.

I remember finally seeing chicken on the menu and being happy that it was something I recognised but then a bowl arrived with three sets of claws poking over the top – chicken feet.

I didn’t want to be rude and did my best to try to chew through the gristle but it isn’t something I’d like to repeat.

A trekking adventure in Borneo involved some ‘questionable’ meals (Picture: Alamy Stock Photo)

Where are you hoping to go next?

I’m off to Japan to be on Channel 4’s presenting team for the Paralympics. I can’t wait to explore Tokyo and eat loads of sushi.

Ed Jackson’s foundation, Millimetres To Mountains, uses exploration and adventure to help those with mental health challenges.

His new book, Lucky: From Tragedy To Triumph One Step At A Time, is out on Thursday

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