Tiphaine Texier reports; For the end of 2013, I have tested THE type of adventure that many people come to Nepal to experience: trekking. 12 days in the mountains, with not much 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 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. It’s warm during the day; very cold at night, and that the concept of heaters does not exist in Nepal. In the restaurant of your guesthouse, 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! 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, rain or 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 ravine: 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 came from… Some amazing encounters guaranteed! Trekking in the Himalaya is definitely something we, more or less, have on our list of “things to do before I die”.
Some advice: it is preferable to go with a guide. The Himalayas are very high mountains as you 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 advice 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 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 necessary all of them (unless you do have plenty of time!). You won’t regret it!
My third advice is to try to go on a trek outside of the high season (October-November, March-April). Not only will the prices be cheaper, 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 there will be space everywhere.
When it comes to your backpack… Unless you take a porter with you, you will have to carry it for the whole trek. Just so you know; you do not need that much! No need for make up or fancy dress to wear just in case a spontaneous party is organized at the guesthouse: it won’t happen. Having a very good pair of walking shoes and a pair of relaxing ones for the long evenings you will save your feet for a lot of pain. Some good socks, and a very thick pair for the night, will provide you comfort. Do not forget your sunglasses and your sun cream. It is high up and the rays of the sun are stronger!
My last advice: each evening, you will have good time to relax by the fire at the guesthouse. 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 and your thoughts… Trekking is a wonderful way to « detox » your 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 per 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. It was 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 almost impossible to pick only one. But let’s take Kagbeni. The village is gorgeous and is the door to the Kongdom of Upper Mustang. 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! The food is delicious, the staff adorable and 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 😉
Written by Tiphaine Texier