So you’re thinking about trekking in Nepal? Or maybe you’ve caught ‘the bug’ and are going back for more. Either way, you’ve just made a great choice. As you stand amidst colourful Buddhist prayer flags whipped up the wind, looking out over spectacular Himalayan views, the sense of achievement at the high points of your trek will stay with you long after you arrive home. I’m going to give away some of the secrets of this mysterious and enthralling country, but if I tell you about too much about it’s jewels I might spoil the adventure, so here is just a taster of what is waiting for you.
Nepal is a country incredibly diverse and unique in both it’s breath-taking landscapes and its variety of people and cultures. To the south, lush, steamy jungles teem with wildlife, and to the north the awesome Himalayan mountain range stands majestic, boasting the world’s highest peaks. Nepal’s various ethnic groups and religions seem to thrive alongside each other, Hinduism to the south and Tibetan Buddhism to the north. In just one trip to Nepal you can visit isolated whitewashed Buddhist monasteries beaten by high winds, and in warmer climes, intricately decorated Hindu temples. The bustle and noise of Kathmandu contrasts wildly with peaceful rural villages perched high in the verdant foothills. Cultural traditions are still strong, including those of the famous Sherpa’s, upon whose backs the conquest of Everest has been made.
Nepal is truly unparalleled, containing some of the most forbidding and isolated areas on the planet. There are places where climbers can test the limits of their stamina and endurance, and those where trekkers can happily trot along soaking up the awesome views. It is no wonder then that in recent years Nepal’s popularity has leapt for ‘culture-vultures’, trekkers, and those simply wanting a taste of the exotic.
So let’s move on to trekking. Put simply, trekking in Nepal is completely different to trekking the Andes or the Alps. For a start, the sheer scale of it is incomparable; the world’s highest mountains cannot be beaten. Then there is the rich history of the daring explorers, brave Sherpa’s and various successful and doomed attempts at the forbidding summits. When trekking in Nepal you meet so many people, guides provide a wealth of cultural information, porters reveal their prowess, displaying unbelievable strength and agility, and the villagers give shy smiles and murmurs of ‘Namaste’. The additional benefits of the main treks include teahouses dotted along the trail, providing a cosy, comfortable, friendly atmosphere in which to meet trekkers from around the world. You can chat and exchange stories around the fire in the long, dark, wood-smoky evenings. The mornings are bright with crisp blue Himalayan skies ‘refreshing’ as you bounce (or crawl) out of your warm sleeping bag. After an hour or two on the trail, blazing Himalayan sunshine floods into the valley to warm your bones. Along the way trekkers can feast on amazing views of the surrounding mountains, and there are plenty to choose from. In the Annapurna region lie Dhaulagiri, Machhapuchhre (‘fish-tail’ mountain), Gangapurna and of course the spectacular Annapurna massif. In the Khumbu region (Everest Base Camp Trek) the peaks of Thamserku and Ama Dablam provide spectacular landscapes as you approach your goal. After a stiff steep climb, the top of Kala Patthar reveals the dominating and overwhelming presence of the mighty Everest, shouldered by the more beautiful peaks of Nuptse and Lhotse. Forbidding yet magnetic in their force. You will be hard pushed to tear your eyes away.
As a wise man once said though, this is a place to focus not only on the destination but also the journey. Acclimatisation days are built into your trek to allow your body to catch up with the large daily gains in altitude. These days can be spent exploring villages along the trail, visiting local schools, hospitals and for those with more imagination, the gompa (monastery) at Khumjung which houses a yeti skull!
Although some of the better known treks have become so popular as to become a busy ‘trekkers highway’, I have found several occasions on my various treks where I have been able to snatch those all important solitary moments which give lifelong memories. Moments of isolation, happily plodding through the snow in the footsteps of my porter towards the high pass or standing on top of a windswept hilltop looking down over the Khumbu glacier will stay with me forever.
And all you need is a plane ticket, a guide, a backpack and a pair of walking boots.