It leaves a lasting impression when you first visit a place and fall instantly in love with it. It has that little something that makes you open your eyes just a little wider. It’s the kind of realisation that makes you acutely aware that forever more you will shamelessly talk to your friends and family about it until their ears bleed; a deep love like your first high school sweetheart or discovering that chicken nuggets fix not only hangovers but everything. Serious stuff.
A good friend of mine, Sam, has made that connection with Nepal. So much so that through his business, Reconnect Outdoors, he is running a tour of the country aiming to share what made him fall in love with the place using the local connections he has made.
Below is a post he wrote for his business’s website in which he graciously explained his first trip to Nepal, his experiences there and what he loves about the country and its people.
I´ve been fortunate enough to travel to many destinations throughout Australia and the world. Only a few make me want to return no matter how many times I travel there.
Nepal is one of those destinations.
I´ve travelled to Nepal 3 times over the past 2 years. The first time I went, I was not sure what to expect. I had read books about Nepal, I´d talked to people who travelled there and I’d watched documentaries on Nepal which all focused on the wonders of the Himalaya’s. This had all given me a slightly skewed view that Nepal was all mountains, monasteries and monks riding Yaks chanting and banging gongs….
So it was a pleasant surprise to learn that around 50% of the population live in the Terai (a low subtropical region with elephants, rhinos and tigers- how RAD?!)), 80% of the population follow the Hindu religion (the other 20% being split between Buddhism 10% and an ‘ism’ cocktail), and upsettingly monks do not ride yaks, but do still bang gongs and chant (small solace).
With this new found enlightenment (without the chanting and the gonging), I spent my time being chaperoned by my beautiful cousins and their friend Ashok, founder of ‘People for Nepal’ with my cousins (see story here http://peoplefornepal.com/).
Our itinerary for the 3 weeks I was with them wasn’t your typical first time experience in Nepal. I was lucky enough to visit schools in Bhaktapur and the Kavre district that ‘People For Nepal’ had organised help build emergency shelters for the kids to attend after the devastating earthquake in 2015. I witnessed firsthand, the work ‘People For Nepal’ did and the heartfelt appreciation and love the community showed back to them. It was incredibly touching. This was mixed in with seeing the sights throughout the Kathmandu Valley, Bhatapurs Durbar square, Swayumbunath (lots of monkeys), Bouddhanath (giant Buddhist Stupa) and Pashpuntinath (oldest Hindu temple in Nepal).
We then travelled to Ashok’s home town, Maidel, a remote village, a hopeful 10 hour jeep ride east of Kathmandu into the foothills of the Himalaya. Maidel was not spared during the 2015 earthquake, with Ashok’s mums home one of many severely damaged. We spent a few days there being involved with two days of Hindu celebrations (not a good time to be a goat) where I ate a variety of bits of goat, from its head to its…ahhh…tail- including an unusually tasty goat blood curry.
The following day was Buddah’s birthday which saw us enjoy a blessing with the local monks and shared a Buddah birthday party pack (I believe I heard goats wail in relief).
In amongst this was a very special visit to the school where we were overwhelmingly welcomed. At one stage I feel asleep under the burden of floral garlands and khata, which had created its own biosphere around my head.
After a final wakeup call from the resident potato man (not sure who he was but he seemed enamoured with Ashok’s mum), it was time to journey to our trek. We were led by Ashok from Phaplu to Shivalaya, via Pikey Peak, along the lower parts of the original Everest Base camp trek (the part that gets flown over by thousands of intrepid trekkers every year on their way to Lukla). The profile of the trek is different to most in that instead of taking you up spurs and along valleys, you walked across them (think steep up and down).
The trek led us across valleys and over saddles, past chortens, mani stones and prayers flags. Stopping along the way at teahouses with welcoming hosts and much needed chiya (spiced tea) and dal bhat (Nepali power 24hour!). The highlight of the trek was to be the summit of Pikey Peak. I previously didn´t believe Ashok that we would be able to see Mount Everest (Sangarmartha) from the top, but at just 4000m (enough to leave me breathless) and 2 attempts at waking up at 4am to get to the top from the teahouse at the base, the sun rose, the clouds stayed low and we could see a massive expanse of the Himalayan range, from Mera Peak all the way across to the Annapurna range in the West. And there she was, poking her glorious triangle head over the back, Sangarmartha, the world’s highest mountain. It was a surreal moment. After a few photos and a lot of time staring, contemplating, we started our decent back to civilisation. 4000m down in 2 days (if you want a leg busting workout, that´s it) and a precarious drive back to Kathmandu (not a fun time for driving monsoon season in Nepal). A few days rest and relax, I said good bye to Cassie and Jonno and I spent a few more days exploring around Pokhara and surrounds.
I’ve returned twice to Nepal since, leading school students on month long expeditions, mainly based in the Annapurna region and Pokhara. Amazing journeys, both.
Nothing will beat the remoteness and feel of my first trip. The love and generosity shown to me by the community was amazing and I will be forever grateful, and I made a lifelong friend in Ashok.
After organising and leading month-long expeditions to Nepal with high school students over the past few years, I realised that I wanted to share this amazing country and its people with others. Not wanting to let the kids have all the fun I developed the concept of Reconnect Outdoors Nepal Adventure for adults (big kids) too. In conjunction with People for Nepal, you too will have the opportunity to experience the wonder and beauty of Nepal too.
For more information please visit https://reconnectoutdoors.com/reconnect-nepal/.
WAYWARD TIP: It’s hard to compete with the big boys when it comes to tours, but with a little research there are a mountain of smaller tour providers that will give you a tour that is not only insightful but also directly give back to local communities.
NOTE: this is not a paid post. I’m posting this as I love the concept, love the country and love what my friend Sam has written. Good people with good hearts and good ideas should be acknowledged.