This land of contrasts beckons to those who are willing to travel, as the majority of Nepalis do, on foot. This is the most fabulous way of getting to understand the complex and fascinating local culture of Nepal and having the chance to interact with some of the 103 different tribes in a genuine manner!
Being an agrarian culture, one walks between paddy fields and crops, water buffaloes and cows and goats, watching the local people harvesting fodder for their animals or milking them early in the morning.
One is spoilt for choice as there are several treks one can do – which are all entirely different from one another. Some of my personal favourites though are in the Annapurnas, the Mustang trail and the Everest region.
The joy of trekking in Nepal is that these trips can be as short as three days, or up to two weeks long or more. In the magnificent region of the Annapurna Mountain range, one can trek in comfort, staying in fabulous, truly comfortable lodges with en-suite bathrooms and hot showers.
All have spectacular, breath taking views over the peaks of Mannapuchare (Fishtail), Himal, Dhaulagiri, Annapurna south and Annapurna 3 (depending from where you are viewing!). The effect of gazing over these snow clad massifs is nothing short of spiritual. An emotional, deep binding respect, awe inspiring views and an acknowledgement of your place on this earth.
Each lodge offers a different view, a different perspective and the most satisfying feeling that you have achieved so much, each day. The most incredible thing is when I last trekked in this region, we saw no other tourist for an entire week’s trek, except for our last night. This really is a privilege!
But what really makes these walks so special is that one is accompanied by fabulous, knowledgeable guides with over 20 years of experience, and who come from the regions.
You develop strong bonds with these amazing, gentle people, who divulge this beautiful and untainted countryside with you, allowing free and easy movement and encounters with the local people otherwise unimaginable. Learn what it’s like, in the 21st century, for these people to live each day with very little except a wonderful community spirit and a big heart.
Through our charitable foundation Philanthropy Plus, since 2016 we have been funding a lunchtime tiffin programme for pupils at the Shree Kumrung Bahara School in the remote Ghandruk region. For those interested in making a more long-term and meaningful impact, this simple yet very effective initiative offers an excellent opportunity and allows those who are interested to form a deeper and personal connection with the people and place.
The school is located in a beautiful spot on the terraces of Tikhyan, under the dramatically looming slopes of Annapurna South. We came across it whilst looking for off-the-beaten-track walking for individual trekking holidays in the Annapurna Mountains. Our wonderful guide, Shanta Gurung, told us these young children walk to school for up to two hours each way, every weekday during term time. There is no road to the village which is served only by footpaths and donkey tracks.
It became quickly obvious that the children were not eating anything during the school day. Many of the children’s parents are subsistence farmers and are very poor, sending the children to school with lunch was not an option. Most of the children had breakfast and then didn’t eat anything until the evening after they had walked back home. The head teacher told us that the lack of a proper meal in the afternoon was having a negative impact on the children, as their ability to focus and absorb information diminished as the day wore on.
With the assistance of the head teacher, we came up with a solution to fund the provision of lunchtime “tiffin” whereby we would fund the purchase of lunchtime provisions for the school. For greater community integration and benefit, we suggested sourcing the basic ingredients at normal market rates from the children’s parent’s smallholdings on a rotational basis.
Each parent takes turns to come to school, bring firewood and cook the midday meal for the pupils and this way, not only are the children eating a freshly cooked meal but their families are benefiting from the additional income. This has incentivised the parents to combine their efforts to share the production of extra crops to suit the school’s requirements.
One can easily visit this school during a tailor-made walking or trekking holiday in Nepal; an excellent opportunity to truly get “under the skin of” - and experience - rural Nepal whilst learning, in a proper and unaffected manner, about local society, lifestyle and culture.
But if you are going to come this far, I would recommend a six or seven night trek, if possible. And trekking is amazing for families, too – as you trek with your own family as a private group, at your own pace. For the very young, they even have porters who are adept at carrying beautiful, handmade wicker baby baskets!
Then, for more serious trekkers who don’t mind not-quite-as-comfortable lodges without western loos, consider the fabulous Mustang trail, which can be done partially with walking and partially with horses (or it can be all walking).
This takes you through some arid country with breath-taking scenery. Once an independent kingdom, Mustang was founded by Ame Pal in 1380. In the late 18th century, this small kingdom was annexed by the much larger kingdom of Nepal.
It is a remote, arid region, one of its highlights being the more than 150 mysterious caves punctuating the cliffs. In southern Mustang, they are arranged in one to seven tiers cut one over the other, while in northern Mustang, there are more than eleven multiple storied caves. 14th century wall paintings, human skeletons and more than 8000 ancient manuscripts have been found in these caves.
These treks are for those looking for something new, completely off the beaten track and spectacular. You would stay in tea houses along the way with your private guide.
Finally, for those that feel they want to get close to Mount Everest, there is the Everest Base Camp experience. This is much busier, much more commercial – but of course, one can see the mighty, sacred mountain!
To acclimatise, it is probably best to walk from Jiri to Khumbu and then fly back from Lukla, a high altitude air field (2850 m). This is located a day or so from Namche Bazaar, the entrance point to Khumbu, which includes Mount Everest.
The Sagarmatha national park is also here and a UNESCO world heritage site. The attractions are the majestic mountains, the villages in the high mountain valleys and the associated monasteries. There is also a helicopter service to Shyangboche. Acclimatisation is the key and one should give oneself two weeks for this trek…
But I feel that the best of both worlds, if one is interested in seeing Everest, is a two week combination of lodge trekking (so all in comfort), but with all the thrill and magnificent views. Spend three nights on the Annapurna trail and then six nights at lodges around Everest. This really is spectacular!
The point though, is that this is such an amazing country with such extraordinary people and it is both exhilarating and a real joy to be able to walk through their countryside with them, sharing their knowledge and marvelling at the natural beauty, the magnificent birdlife and flowers and the very special people! Please do contact me for more information.