Southern Asia – Nepal – part 1 of 3

A month ago I promised I would share something on my recent adventure to Nepal.

The idea to write had been buzzing around my head for a while but, upon seeing similar questions asked in groups I follow (like where to go hiking, can you go on your own, what are the cultural highlights in Nepal), I decided it was time to get something down.

I’ve tried not to repeat what’s already out there. Instead, I’ve captured a few of my experiences, shared websites that were useful to me, and created a summary to my adventure.

It’s a 3-part series that will cover:

  • Pre-travel prep, and where to go.
  • Life on the ground in Nepal, along with choosing a trekking guide (or not).
  • What else you can do in country.
  • The good and the bad of my time there.

I hope you enjoy it. And if you do, please share it out.

My only disclaimer is this: Trekking and travel in any country comes with its own risks. The decisions you make are your own. These are my experiences and do not constitute what you should or shouldn’t do. That’s your choice. Except go. Because it’s an amazing place. And travel is one thing that will always make you a richer person – one way or another.

**********     First, a bit about Southern Asia     **********

Southern Asia is one of the four main low-travel-cost-regions of the world. And it really is as enjoyable, frustrating, dirty, and exhilarating as it gets. This is ‘love it or hate it’ territory and I experienced plenty of both.

I’ll focus on Nepal for the next few posts, but I’ve also been to Sri Lanka (aka diet India) and India (hard to describe in a single sentence). If you want to read about my time in Sri Lanka, I’ve included links to older posts at the bottom of this page. 

Population density in this part of the world is high, and if you rush from temple, to beach, to mountain, back to a temple you’ll most likely wonder what it was all about!

Personally, I believe areas like this need a little-more-time to adjust to the people, culture, surroundings, and day to day life. If you can, give yourself time to breath and tune-in.

But, if you don’t have time, don’t let that stop you going. My advice would be to choose an area and don’t try and do too much.

**********     Why Nepal?     **********

For me, like many, I was drawn to the mountains.

The Himalayas, or Himalaya, separate the plains of the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau and contain many of the Earth’s highest peaks, such as Everest, Machapuchare (below right), Hiunchuli, and the Annapurna range.

They truly are breathtaking.

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I also wanted somewhere to go in South Asia that was friendly, laid back, and held cultural appeal. Nepal ticks all of these boxes. Random fact – did you know Nepal’s flag is the only non-rectangular flag in the world. 

**********     Pre-adventure prep     **********

For this adventure I wanted to travel light. And by light I mean one backpack, less than 40 litres, that would fit into an overhead locker on a plane.

For once I was travelling without my kitesurfing gear, and I wanted to embrace the ease of being light on my feet. So, no lost luggage, no dragging large bags across the country, and no waiting to collect them at the other end.

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2.5 months travel in Nepal and India – with less than a 40 litre bag.
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The usual gear…..kites, boards, and bags…..but not this time!

I researched kit lists and came to the conclusion I could manage travelling light if I wore my hiking boots on the plane, kept clothes to an minimum, and hired bulky items (like a sleeping bag, down jacket, and walking poles) once I was on the ground.

It’s worth mentioning I’ve not been to a place anywhere else in the world that is as easy as Kathmandu and Pokhara (two of the main trekking points in Nepal) for hiring trekking equipment.

You could turn up with nothing and be kitted out within a few hours for an adventure in the Himalaya! Not that I would advise doing this. Blisters from badly fitting boots at 4000 metres is not fun – but you get my point.

**********     Choosing a area to trek     **********

I had a trekking adventure of one to two weeks in mind. I knew I had a month in Nepal, and I wanted to chill for a few days at the start, trek in the middle, and experience some culture in-between.

I also wanted to get up to a decent altitude. For me this was above 4000m. This wasn’t for bragging rights. I’ve done higher climbs in the past and I know there’s something about being higher up that I struggle to put into words.

IMG_3317.JPG

Perhaps it’s the slight lack of oxygen, or the physical challenge of having to get there, or the change of the landscape (and your mindset) as you start to see just how small you really are….

To help me choose, I spoke to a few seasoned trekkers, researched a website called the longest way home, read a guide book, and narrowed it down to two main areas. These were the Annapurna, and Langtang regions.

I purposely steered away from Everest Base Camp because I was looking for something less well known. And, whilst Annapurna is easily as popular as EBC, I had read about another base-camp trek called ‘Mardi Himal’ which was slightly off the beaten track but within the Annapurna region.

This map below shows the main trekking regions along with people traffic per year. The link is here if you want more detail on the summary.

1
Nepal has hundreds of thousands of tourists per year – a lot of which come for one good reason. The mountains.

With that decision roughly made, all I had to do was get myself to Nepal, find my way to the region, organise what I needed once there, and get on with it.

Easy? Yes, and no….

**********     Other pre-adventure prep     **********

In terms of training for this adventure, I did little. I had worked the summer outdoors and kept up running, hiking, and kitesurfing so I was reasonably fit.

In terms of booking flights I used skyscanner and flew with Ethiad. I booked a return flight back out of India rather than Nepal. It cost around £400. In the end I missed this return flight, but more on that in a later post…

I purposely chose the middle of November for this adventure.  This is the tail end of the second main season in Nepal. The weather is fine, but starting to get cold.

One final thing worth mentioning is the pre-booking of a guide, or tour, whilst not in the country.

There is no need to do this. In fact, you will pay way over the odds if you do.

Organising everything you need whilst in country is not hard.

Perhaps (if you have a contact) then booking a guide in advance can work (if you need one) but if you book the whole thing through a company, whilst in your home country, you’ll pay a lot more than you need to.

In the end I had three different booking experiences of organising treks in Nepal. All were done whilst I was there.

More on that in my next post once I’d arrived into Nepal….

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First impressions last……

 

**********       Previous travels to Southern Asia     **********

You can click the below posts for my 2016 travels in Sri Lanka. India will be coming soon.

How good it was / Kitesurfing coaching – not just for professionals / Riding a motorbike through Sri Lanka part 1 / Riding a motorbike through SL part 2 / Riding a motorbike through SL part 3. 

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