Nepal Trekking Hints
Here are a few hints and observations that will hopefully make things easier for newcomers who might want to do the Everest or Annapurna treks (or indeed any other trek in Nepal):
- Before you leave, get yourself a good trekking guide book for your chosen region (eg from the Trailblazer series of guides). Read the preparatory chapters and you're set to go (literally).
- If you're looking for a decent place to stay in Kathmandu that's not too expensive, check out the Hotel Ganesh Himal. It's a family-run place a little off the noisy and busy Thamel area, clean and cheerful with ever smiling and helpful staff — what more can you expect? We're with them since our third visit back in 1998, and Mukhiya and his team have never let us down. Highly recommended.
- The Nepalese are extremely friendly and always keen to help. Organising (and doing) a trek on your own is completely feasible; many people do it within a couple of days after arriving in Kathmandu (even missing/lost/forgotten equipment can be bought cheaply and safely there).
- Personally, we would never go on an organised group trek. Sure, you may have a great experience even when doing this pre-booked with a group, but it simply isn't the real thing. (Believe us, it's not.)
- Why? Well, in our view trekking with a group shields the participants too much from nature, the scenery, the Nepalese people and their culture. Most groups also have tight schedules which can be dangerous (or, in extreme cases, even deadly).
- The tracks are all broad and safe, there are loads of other people (tourists and locals alike) walking there. It's actually quite difficult to get lost.
- You don't need a guide or porter. A porter certainly helps with the backpack if you're not too fit (one porter can carry two or three bags and up to 30kg). Then again, the fitness comes of its own after the first few (admittedly hard) days.
- Porters have some very specific ideas about how far and fast they want to go during the day and where they want to stay. A good porter is clearly nice to have around, but a bad porter can destroy the whole magical experience. Alas, there is no sure-fire way to distinguish beforehand between a good and a bad porter.
- We've never employed a guide or a porter (other than on the Manaslu Circuit where we had to go with a whole crew: guide, cook, kitchen team…) and we never regretted it.
- There are many, many teashops and lodges along the way. At least every 60 to 90 minutes you'll find some place to rest and get a smile, a cup of tea or coffee and some noodle soup (with the exception of areas above 4500m where lodges tend to be somewhat thinner on the ground).
- If you're a fit person, take it easy. The fitter you are, the greater the chances that you will end up with some symptoms of AMS (acute mountain sickness) simply because fit people tend to go up too fast.
- Listen to your body and if in doubt, err on the side of caution (ie stay put or even go down a few hundred meters). Boldly ignoring mild AMS symptoms is the start of a slippery slope: we have seen people die high up in the Nepalese mountains, mostly because they were either behaving stupidly or pressing on with a group which they didn't want to leave.
- As to budget questions, a day on the trek in the lower areas (let's say up to 3000-3500m) should cost about 1000 to 1500 Nepalese rupees (eight to 12 Pound Sterling) for two but without coke, beer or the ubiquitous Mars bars. These “luxury items” are quite expensive and they get more and more so the higher you climb.
- In Namche Bazaar and generally above 3500m things get a lot more expensive and two people will probably look at something like 2000 to 3000 rupees as a sensible minimum. This jump has to do with the fact that almost everything has to be carried in and up to the lodges. It also has to do with the fact that the Sherpas have of late realised they can get away with practically every price tag they care to invent: some prices have trebled within a few years.
- Still, trekking in Nepal is relatively cheap compared to some other pastimes, so don't think too much about the money. Enjoy the people and the scenery. (Note to self: practice what you preach.)
- Last but not least, if you come back to Kathmandu after a long trek (or one too many dal bhats) and you crave a decent piece of steak, look no further than the Everest Steak House in Thamel. You'll get two real thick beef fillets, expertly prepared to your wishes with tear-inducing mustard, the whole served by staff whose grumpiness strives to reach the heights of Everest itself. Well worth a visit (or two).
$updated from: Miscellany.htxt Thu 22 Nov 2012 14:35:20 trvl2 (By Vero and Thomas Lauer)$