Things to do in Nepal
01: Nepal’s Trekking Regions
Approximately, 5, 00,000 people a year apply for trekking permits in Nepal and head for the hills. Of these, some 45 percent are bound for the Annapurna region, 35 percent to the Everest region, 12 percent to the Langtang region, and others percent to rest of the country.
There can be few pastimes as stimulating and rewarding as a long walk in the Nepal Himalaya. Except in the highest, most remote areas, trekking is seldom a wilderness experience, as the hill country is extensively populated and farmed. Whilst the trails in the Annapurna, Langtang, and Everest regions may be thronging with cosmopolitan hordes of trekkers, even in the back-woods you are likely to pass pilgrims, traders, and government officials from far and wide. For many Nepalis, long-distance travel on foot is a fact of life.
Your Nepal visa is only valid for certain regions including those parts of the country accessible by road. Travel anywhere else required at least a trekking permit, and this document serves as your passport in such areas. Many of the treks covered require a trekking permit for part or the whole of the route.
There are various ways of traveling on foot through Nepal. When planning a trek you need to think carefully about the different styles of trekking available. Remember that when hiking in any major range of mountains it makes sense to go with at least one well-chosen companion, as a slip and a sprained ankle can occur at any time. It is also prudent to register with your embassy before setting off and to sign in at any police checkpoint along the way.
This is the way Nepalis usually travel, making their overnight halts at primitive bhattis, and carrying minimal luggage. In the three main trekking areas, these bhattis have evolved into sophisticated trekkers’ lodges which today offer private rooms, sun-terraces, hot showers, varied and exotic menus, and supplies of beer portered in from down-country. In popular regions, the availability of such accommodation gives you the flexibility to adjust your itinerary on a daily basis and travel light. The only piece of equipment you will need is a sleeping bag. However, to adopt this mode of travel in more remote areas you must be prepared for very crude and often unsanitary conditions, monotonous food, smoky interiors, and little privacy. You will also need to speak at least basic Nepali. Depending on your perspective, you may find the constant company of large numbers of other trekkers and the teahouse ‘scene’ appealing or nauseating.
Although backpacking (carrying everything you need to be self-sufficient on your own back) is widely practiced in mountain areas elsewhere in the world, it is seldom appropriate in Nepal. Backpacking is a mode of travel for wilderness areas, and few parts of Nepal actually fall into this category.
Despite the possible sense of satisfaction to be gained from being completely self-sufficient, carrying stoves, fuel and supplies of freeze-dried food for an outing of over four or five days is unnecessary and arduous. With some exceptions, fresh food is widely available throughout Nepal.
With a Porter
If you are fit and prepared to rough it and carry some of your own kits, you and your friends can quite feasibly trek almost anywhere in Nepal with one or two porters each. Finding good porters is not always easy, especially during the peak trekking seasons and in areas where major construction work is going on. If you strike it lucky though, this a very rewarding way to travel in Nepal. In the company of a local, you will see and experience much that would otherwise pass you by, learn more about the Nepali language and make real Nepali friends. Your partners will be much better than you at buying any provisions you may require, negotiating for places to camp or sleep, route-finding, and all manner of other intricate tasks. You will also be able to enjoy the walk unencumbered by a monster pack and have the energy left at the end of the day to appreciate your surroundings. This is a great way to go.
With a Sirdar and Crew
For a group of friends who agreed on at least the outline of a proposed route, this is a highly recommended way to travel. Depending on your situation and previous contacts made in Nepal, a trekking outfitter in Kathmandu should be able to provide you will “full-service trekking” at a surprisingly economical price. Obviously, if you make contact with an outfitter via a tour operator abroad the price. Quoted to you will include an extra commission, though if you have no previous experience in Nepal these extra expenses do by you some peace of mind.
There are hundreds of trekking companies working out of Kathmandu and Pokhara, and no official rating system to indicate the efficiency or honesty of each. They can provide services ranging from simply obtaining your permits to furnishing an entire crew. Many people report high levels of satisfaction from the most basic, small operators, whilst some people report problems experienced with crews provided by well-known companies. When tendering for quotes, be sure to enquire about the food provided, tents used the number of Sherpa and kitchen staff, and especially if you plan to go above the snowline, the type of equipment supplied to the porters.
With a commercial Operator
Adventures travel is big business today, and those with sufficient funds but the only limited time available away from their professions will find a seemingly endless array of treks and expeditions on there in the brochures of commercial operators. By signing up for such a trip you do commit yourself to the company of strangers for the duration. Most (but not all) groups hit it off, and many people make lifelong friends during the course of this kind of trekking.
Commercially organized trekking groups, by definition, have a preordained itinerary, thus precluding spontaneous diversions and rest days. Life within such a group can be a bit introverted, and participants often find themselves communicating with each other rather than with locals, though this doesn’t have to be the case. Some companies design their itineraries to include a degree of flexibility and this should be apparent from their literature. The group always camps together, but it is by no means necessary to walk together in a single file (as many do!). An experienced leader and a professional trek crew should enable those who would otherwise never dream of experiencing the joys of trekking to find out exactly what all the fuss is about. Many people start off by joining an organized trip and then return to go it alone.
Trekking style considerations/ Advice for travelers
Generally speaking, Nepal is a safe country for women travelers. However, women should still be cautious. Some Nepali men may have peculiar ideas about the morality of Western women, given their exposure to Western films portraying women wearing ‘immodest’ clothing. Dress modestly, which means wearing clothes that cover the shoulders and thighs – take your cue from the locals to gauge what’s acceptable in the area. Several women have written to say that a long skirt is very useful for impromptu toilet trips, especially when trekking
Working and volunteering
Hundreds of travelers volunteer in Nepal every year, working on an incredible range of development and conservation projects, covering everything from volunteering with street children in Kathmandu to counting the tracks of endangered animals in the high Himalaya. The potential for personal growth and the opportunity to forge a deeper connection with a local community can give a profoundly deeper aspect to the notion of travel.
However, it is important to remember the principles of ethical volunteering – good volunteer agencies match a volunteer’s skillsets to suitable projects that result in real and lasting benefit to local communities, rather than simply offering travelers the chance to feel better about themselves during a fleeting two-week placement
Travel with children
Increasing numbers of people are traveling with their children in Nepal, and with a bit of planning, it can be remarkably hassle-free. While many people trek with older children, heading out on the trail with smaller children for any length of time or on any higher routes with children of any age is generally not to be advised. Check out Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children for handy hints and advice about the pros and cons of traveling with kids.
Travelers with Disabilities
Wheelchair facilities, ramps, and lifts (and even pavements!) are virtually nonexistent throughout Nepal, and getting around the packed, twisting streets of traditional towns can be a real challenge if you are in a wheelchair. It is common for hotels to be multilevel, with most rooms on the upper floors. Many places – even midrange establishments – do not have lifts. Bathrooms equipped with grips and railings are not found anywhere, except perhaps in some of the top-end hotels
Gay & Lesbian Travelers
Nepal is the only country in South Asia that does not criminalize same-sex relations. A landmark Supreme Court hearing in December 2007 ordered the government to end discrimination against sexual minorities and to ensure equal rights. That said, there’s not a big open gay scene in Nepal and gay Nepalis are vulnerable to police harassment and blackmail. Gay couples holding hands in public will experience no difficulties, as this is socially acceptable, but public displays of intimacy by anyone are frowned upon.
If you have any reliable contacts in the trekking business in Kathmandu, use them! Porters hired through an agency are more likely to have a reasonable idea of what they’re letting themselves in for, and you will have some sort of come-back in the event of a problem or dispute. If you decide to wait until you reach the trailhead before engaging your porters, be sure that you all know what you are agreeing to before setting off. Obviously, a rudimentary knowledge of Nepali is necessary here, as it is highly unlikely that any Nepali offering his or her services as a porter will speak any English. Establish whether or not they have walked your proposed route before, and ask to see any references they may have been given by previous employers. Agree with daily rates of pay, the size of the loads, arrangements for porter’s food and accommodation and, if you are going high, make sure they have sufficient clothing and bedding. It is usually prudent to change lowland porters for Tibetans (Bhotias). As soon as you start to get high, these men will be more accustomed to the cold and altitude.
Remember that once you engage porters you are as responsible for their welfare and safety as for the other trekkers in your party. Without the dedicated hard work and companionship show to foreigners by porters, kitchen staff, cooks, and sirdars, no expedition or trek would even reach the mountains. To repay this effort and good humor by betraying them the minute conditions get difficult is inhuman.
Your normal holiday travel insurance will almost certainly not cover you for rescue, evacuation and certainly not cover you for rescue, evacuation, and subsequent medical expenses in the event of an accident, illness, or storm in the mountains. Taking out a specialist policy to cover these contingencies is strongly recommended. If you are trekking alone or independently, register with your embassy before departing. If you are arranging your trek through a Kathmandu agency, make sure that you leave details of your insurance cover with them in case they need to organize a rescue for you. Most adventure travel operators insist on this type of cover, and unless you can demonstrate that you are in fact insured, or have sufficient cash (US$) on your person, you will find securing a ride in a helicopter very difficult. The cost of chartering a helicopter is roughly USD$ 1500 per hour of flying time, and in most cases, a rescue will cost between US$ 3000 and US$ 5000. You will be responsible for any such cost. Before going to a remote area, find out the locations of the nearest telephones and radio transmitters.
02: Climbing in Nepal
Several attempts to climb the world’s highest mountain, Everest, were made in the 1920s and 30s from the Tibetan side of the Himalayas. When Nepal was opened up to foreigners, a vast array of new challenges presented themselves to adventure climbers. Over the following 30 years, however, what began as near-free access to the mountains, including Everest and the sacred Machhapuchhare, gradually become restricted to a few named expedition peaks. These mountains required a hefty peak fee and liaison officer in addition to unusually onerous bureaucracy and months of pre-planning.
The trekking peaks attract a fee, which has to be paid in addition to any fee for the trek approaching the mountain. The fees and the lists of peaks have been under review in recent years and the situation looks as if it will continue to be fluid. If you intend to climb any trekking peaks, check the current lists and fees before departing from home.
The fees for the trekking peaks on the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA) categories as Group “A “and Group “B NMA Peak
Although there are straightforward routes on many of these peaks, they certainly should not be underestimated. Several have no easy way up to them. The routes selected for this volume are generally the easier ones, mostly around Alpine grade PD, with two Ads and a couple of Fs. All require the use of rope, Axe, and crampons; and ice screws, snow stakes, and often a small selection of nuts and pegs may be useful. Many of the climbs cross seriously crevassed ground and should not be attempted without a firm grounding in the fundamentals of glacier rope-work and crevasse rescue.
Most of the additional climbing equipment needed for trekking peaks can be hired or purchased in Kathmandu, and often sold back again if necessary.
Himalayan climbing does not easily fit into normal degrading systems because the major difficulties are often not so much technical as those associated with acclimatization. High altitude and/or large verticals (the difference in height between base camp and the summit). That said, it has become most common to use the French Alpine Grading System.
|Easy Scree or gentle snow or short slope up to 30°|
|Scrambling ground, slopes maybe 40°|
|Some pitched climbing on rock, snow/ice 45-50°|
|Sustained pitched climbing on rock, ice up to 50-60°|
|Serious technical climbing, vertical ice|
|Expect sustained vertical or overhanging sections|
|The ED series is open-ended and gets harder with each generation|