Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Going on a trek in Nepal...

Going on a trek in Nepal

For this end of year 2013, I have tested for you THE type of adventure that many people come to Nepal to experience : going on a trek. 12 days in the mountains, with little connection to the outside world (even if more and more places have Wifi, even at 3800m !), with little hygiene too (having an access to a shower is not the problem. The problem is that the water is most of the time so cold that you just can’t do anything with it…). And you know what ? I SURVIVED ! Those 12 days have been a huge experience, first physical of course.
Because you walk between 3 and 9 hours a day, according to your pace and your condition. Because it’s warm during the day, but very cold at night, and that the concept of heaters is not existing in Nepal.  In the restaurant of your guest house, you will always have a good fireplace. But in your room… About that, I advise you to invest in hot water bottle which you can ask to be filled up before you go to bed. It’ll save your life, trust me !
But the challenge is also psychological : sometimes, the weather gets bad, but you still have to reach your destination of the day, despite the tremendous wind, the rain or the snow. Sometimes, the path is a succession of irregular stairs, and you need a lot of endurance to climb up that way for 9 hours (the stretch Tatopani-Ghorepani, jeeeeez !). Sometimes, your trekking partner seriously gets on your nerves, but you can’t reasonably push him/her in the ravin : you’re stuck with him/her until the rest of your journey…
But WOW, the landscapes you will see as you walk are absolutely breath-taking (the lack of oxygen after a certain altitude is helping too). The people you will meet on the way (locals and trekkers) are smiling, nice, open for a conversation and always curious of where you are going, where you come from… Some amazing encounters guaranteed! And trekking in the Himalaya is definitely something we more or less all have on our « list of stuff to do before I die ». So just go for it !

Some advice though : it is preferable to go with a guide. The Himalayas are very high mountains as you may know, and can potentially be dangerous for someone who is not aware of the latent risks : altitude sickness, sudden weather change, unstable terrain etc. Plus, your guide will become your best friend, providing you daily coaching, carrying your backpack if needed, giving you information about a village, a flower, an animal… He will also entertain you on the way and sometimes, you really need it !

The second advise is to take your time… I met so many performers, almost flying from a point A to a point B, without looking around. First, it’s obviously a pity, as the landscapes are unique and absolutely magnificent. But second, next to the main path, there are many small detours of 20 minutes or 3 hours, leading to a monastery, a lake, a glacier etc… And those detours are a real added-value to the trek. So take some time to explore some of those detours, not necessarly all of them (unless you do have plenty of time !). You won’t regret it !
My third advise is to try to go on a trek outside of the high season (october-november, mars-april). Not only the prices will be cheaper, but you will meet less people on the way, which emphasizes the « so small facing the nature » feeling. Also, you won’t have to book everything in advance and will be free to stop for a night on the way, or to go further than you planned, because anyway, it’s space everywhere.
When it comes to your backpack… Unless you take a porter with you, you will have to carry yours for the whole trek. And just so you know, you do not need that much ! No need for make up or fancy dress to wear if a spontaneous party is organized at the guest house : it won’t happen. But having a very good pair of walking shoes and a pair of relaxing ones for the long evenings will save you from feet pains. Some good socks, and a very thick pair for the night, will provide you comfort. Do not forget your sunglasses and your sunscreen : high up, the rays of the sun are stronger ! For more details, check the gear list :

My last advice : each evening, you will have good time to relax by the fire at the guest house. Indeed, people generally trek from 9 to 16, depending on the place they want to reach that day. So take with you a notebook, and each evening, write about your journey of the day, what you experienced, what you thought about… Trekking is a wonderful way to « detox » the body and mind. You are walking with a potential partner and guide but also with yourself. Walking is a meditative activity, offering a mirror of your thoughts. And you will learn a lot about yourself by just stepping a foot in front of the other… For several hours a day !

I personally took the Muktinath-Jomsom  route in the Annapurna range, with a detour by Poon Hill and Ghandruk on the way down to Pokhara. An incredible trip, with an amazing variety of landscapes, even if the area seems quite small on a world map. If I had to recommend one village to pass by, it would be Kagbeni, Jharkot, Marpha… Ok, it’s pretty much impossible to pick only one. But let’s take Kagbeni : first of all the village is gorgeous and is the door to the Upper Mustang Kingdom. But sadly, as it is located slightly outside of the main path between Muktinath and Jomsom, many trekkers don’t bother to take the detour and visit it. Did you know that Kagbeni has the one and only Yak Donald’s restaurant ? Hilarious to taste a burger with yak steak and yak cheese in this little Tibetan inspired place. And after that, nothing is better than to stop for the night at Annapurna Lodge (, in the heart of the village : beautiful architecture, incredible views all around, very cute small rooms, like a cocoon… And a hot shower ! Not only the food of the restaurant is delicious, the staff adorable and everything, but the beds are equipped with an electric warm blanket… How to describe the feeling to slip into a warm bed after a long day trekking ? Well, you just have to experience it ;)

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