Thursday, February 23, 2017

Why Wait?


One of our favorite ways to travel is by foot or trekking.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with trekking in Nepal, we would like to share some insights into this wonderful world of adventure.  We have trekked along the awesome and majestic two week route to Goyko Ri, taking little steps to climb to 17,500 feet and gasp at the 360 degree view surrounding us, including Mt. Everest.  We have risen for the short sunrise walk to view the Annapurna range during our first five day Poon Hill trek warm up.  We have wandered for a week among Tamang villages pondering the ways of those who descended from immigrants of nearby Tibet.  We have eyed nervously the landslides of the Langtang Valley where people still seek tourists to help them recover from the 2015 earthquake as they sit in new, but lonely, teahouses, and we have climbed for a few days to gaze at Mt. Marti Himal, a quiet, weeklong journey away from the Annapurna Circuit crowds.  In all of these, we have found peace and contemplated life as each footstep took us closer to Himalayan giants. 

So many of our friends and colleagues tell us that they want to come trek in Nepal.  We encourage you to do so.  Make your first contact with Shiva Excursions today as soon as you finish reading this blog.  Why wait? You can make a real difference in the lives of people who need social and environmentally responsible tourism to recover from the devastating earthquake in 2015, and they will make a real difference in your life in return.  We honestly believe you cannot return from a Nepalese trek as the same person who left your life back home. 

This blog posting is for those of you who have been waiting to take the “leap” and begin a trek in Nepal.  Below are some tips and contacts so that you can move from saying you want to come to having the experience of a lifetime.  As we write this blog, flights to Kathmandu from the west coast are less than $700 roundtrip!  What are you waiting for?

Contacting a reliable and trustworthy guiding company is the first step to ensuring that the trip will be enjoyable, safe, and unforgettable.  Of course, we will put in a plug for Shiva Excursions here as the owner, Arjun Nepal, is amazing.  We have now traveled and met guides in over 45 countries, and he is one of two who stand above all of the rest.  Arjun will treat you as valued friends as he brings his more than two decades of experience in the field forward to help you decide where you want to go, how long it will take, what types of things to bring, etc. depending on the experiences you desire and the time you have to trek.  What types of landscapes do you want to see (high mountains, rolling hills, vast open landscapes, etc.)?  Do you want to deeply experience different cultures?  How long do you have to spend in Nepal?  What kind of physical shape are you in?  What is the makeup of your group (family with kids, friends, person with older parents, etc.)?   How much can you afford?  In general, for our treks, we have had all expenses (transport, lodging, food, porters, guides, etc.), except for bottled water and other drinks, covered for $65-150 USD per person per day.  There are some treks with expensive flights or permits that may cost more.  We have also been trekking in shoulder seasons so high season could cost more as do camping treks.  We have generally done teahouse or homestay treks.

Please understand that the amenities you have at home are usually not going to be available in Nepal, and you must be willing to adapt to the environment in which you will be “living” for the time you are here.  Usually, there are no sit down toilets available, and you must squat over a porcelain hole in the ground to “do your business.”  The rare sit down toilets are a welcome surprise and generally only in areas close to the beginning or end of your trek.  The expectation is that you will use your left hand to wipe then wash your hands afterward.  Trash is difficult to dispose of so there will rarely be toilet paper supplied in the primitive outhouses.  Ladies, you may want to learn about these products so that you don’t have to “take life sitting down.”

Rooms in the teahouses are very basic, consisting of a bed or two with a simple length of foam for a mattress on each.  Coverings may get washed once a season so a liner is a necessity, not a luxury.  Blankets are generally thick and warm, but we recommend carrying a good sleeping bag with you, especially if you are trekking at higher altitudes.  You can rent one in Nepal.  There is no heat in the rooms and generally no electricity.  Plug ins for recharging devices can be found in only a few teahouses, so do not count on this convenience.  You may want to bring a rechargeable battery for your smartphones.  Wifi is nonexistent and cell coverage spotty. 

Meals are served in a common room, usually with a wood burning stove in the center.  You will be offered a menu with similar selections everywhere for your meals.  Dahl baht is always a great choice and a filling, nutritious meal! Though the stove is lit at night in some locations, wood is not easy to get and is expensive, so be sure to have a nice warm coat with you to stave off the cold as you eat your dinner.  We generally changed from hiking clothes into dry, warm clothes as soon as we arrived each afternoon.  Cold water is the order of the day, so hot showers are usually not available, but when they are, it can be a luxury beyond belief!  Chamois like pack towels are great for multiple uses as there are no towels, washcloths, etc.  

Clean, fresh water is not generally available without boiling or purchased as bottled water at teahouses.  Nepal is overrun with plastic bottles so try to use boiled water whenever possible or bring a water filter capable of filtering viruses. Meat usually has to be transported by foot or by beast in these remote mountain areas, and it may take several days (without refrigeration) for it to reach its destination.  We always go vegetarian on our treks to decrease the odds of serious food poisoning.  Be sure that all vegetables are cooked, boiled, or peeled before eating them.

Dress in layers to adjust to the changing weather conditions and temperatures as you hike up and down the trails.  Always have a good rain jacket and rain pants as well as warm gloves and a warm hat.  We have found that one of the most useful pieces of gear to keep you warm is a neck gaiter.  Good, sturdy hiking shoes are a must as are good hiking poles. 

There is a saying among guides “Nepalese Flat.”  When we say the trails are up and down, we do not exaggerate!  Walk slowly and carefully.  Drink plenty of water (3-4 liters per day), and have a few Ibuprofen and/or Aleve with you for minor aches and pains.  Carry some blister medication and pads, and do not be shy about applying sunscreen liberally before and during your trek.  You can burn on cloudy days easily at these elevations!

Trekking is physically challenging but despite our modest fitness, even in our 50’s and 60’s we have done it and ended up fitter than when we started, stronger than we anticipated, and blown away by what we have seen. Take time to enjoy the world around you as you trek.  The scenery is some of the most spectacular you will ever have the opportunity to see!  Enjoy the people and how they go about their lives in the villages as you pass through.  Take time to sit on the teahouse verandas during your trek and sip homemade lemon ginger honey tea. Learn to slow down, disconnect from your daily life and your devices, and enjoy the world in which you find yourself, because it is amazing.  You may find that you need less than you imagine, care more than you understood, and that the issues that trouble you are small when pondered in the shadows of Himalayan giants.

   

Posted in Kathmandu, Nepal.  Photos above are of Sally trekking in Nepal, Mongol carrying our extra gear, a teahouse simple bedroom, dinner in our warm jackets, Arjun and us as we head up to view Mardi Himal and Fishtail.  Photos below have taglines!

Walking away from Mardi Himal as the clouds roll in.  This was a great 6-7 day trek in the Annapurna area.  We drove to Pokhara and then started the trek about 45 minutes away from the city.



We were gazing at the glaciers in the beautiful U shaped valley at the end of the Langtang trek.  We added this trek to our Tamang Heritage Trail trek for an almost two week experience in one of the cultural centers of Nepal.  

 

During several treks, but especially during the Tamang Heritage Trail, we saw Mani walls and Chortens.


We had a great time visiting with different kids along our treks.  
Getting out of the way of Yaks is one of the fun parts of trekking above treeline!


As we said above "You may find that you need less than you imagine, care more than you understood, and that the issues that trouble you are small when pondered in the shadows of Himalayan giants."

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