High Altitude Adventure – Touring Nepal

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When people think of Nepal they invariably think of mountains, and for good reason. The northern edge of the country is bordered by the Himalayas, and Nepal itself contains eight of the ten highest peaks in the world, including Mt. Everest. Nepal has 1310 peaks that exceed 6000 meters (19,685 feet). To give a comparison, the highest peak in Western Europe is Mont Blanc at an elevation of 4807 meters (15,771 feet). Most trekking guides and porters in Nepal will tell you that anything below the 6000 meter range is, in fact, just a hill. This makes Nepal a veritable playground for mountaineers, but can seem a bit daunting for those of us from flatter parts of the world.

Nepal does have many easier treks for those uninitiated in the finer arts of walking up the sides of glaciers at elevations in which the air thins and the clouds are below you. One of the more popular of these less strenuous treks is the Poon Hill to Ghorepani loop. The trek usually starts in the town of Pokhara, which is north-west of Kathmandu. Pokhara is a town set up for tourism, with lodges, shops, and tour companies tailored for those interested in trekking. Pokhara can be reached from Kathmandu by either a short .ight on one of the domestic carriers, like Yeti airlines, or by an eight hour bus journey through stunning countryside on some precarious roadways. Once in Pokhara itself, it is easy to arrange a trip. Our trek was organized by the owner of The North Face Inn, Raju Acharya, a former guide who was incredibly helpful.

The trek itself is in the Annapurna range and is what’sknown as a “tea­house” trek. The trek entails around 5 to 6 hours hiking a day, with the late-afternoon and evening spent in one of the numerous tea-houses along the trail. The accommodation varies, with some of the nicer ones including a hot shower, but this is in no way guaranteed. This trek can be done in .ve days and offers some breathtaking sunrise views of the Annapurna range. This includes the 10th highest mountain in the world, Annapurna I, which measures in at a staggering 8,091 meters (26,545 feet). The trek itself does require some physical fitness, but the range of hikers I saw on the trail ranged from a gentleman in his 70’s down to young kids on a hike with their family. The entire trip is beautiful, and may just inspire you to try the longer and more difficult treks, such as the 10 to 12 day Annapurna Sanctuary trek, the 14+ days of the Annapurna Circuit trek, or even the 21 day hike up to Everest base camp.

Another activity that attracts tourists to Nepal is an elephant safari in Chitwan National Park. Chitwan is west of Kathmandu and can be reached by a short flight on one of the local airlines, or by a five hour bus ride. The safari is one to two hours on the back of an elephant as you roam through the park looking for one horned rhinoceros, leopards, crocodiles, monkeys, deer, sloth bears, over 450 species of birds, and if you are extremely lucky, a Bengal tiger.During the end of December, the village of Sauraha hosts the Chitwan International Elephant Race.This is an event that includes an elephant beauty pageant, ox and horse-cart races,  culture shows, a food festival, elephant football, along with the elephant races.

The capital, Kathmandu, is a chaotic and vibrant city with a number of beautiful temples and smaller well preserved medieval cities, such as Patan and Bhaktapur, in the outlying areas. Days can be spent exploring the numerous sites that the Kathmandu valley has to offer. For those needing a shopping fix, the tourist area of Thamel offers great deals on hiking equipment and cold-weather clothes, along with a range of restaurants that cater to travelers. In the center of the city is Durbar Square, which is dotted with Hindu temples, the old royal palace,and the house of the Kumari Devi, the city’s living resident goddess. Two of the most revered and well-known temples in Kathmandu are Swayambhunath, the Monkey Temple, and Boudhanath, which is surrounded by Tibetan monasteries and draped in prayer flags. Both are topped with golden stupas adorned with the painted eyes of the Buddha.

Nepal is a land with a rich history and an impressive geography. Though it is most famous for its mountains and hikes, there is plenty more to offer anyone that takes the time to visit this beautiful country.

Nepal Airlines (formally Royal Nepal) offers direct flights Monday through Saturday to Kathmandu. The office is located Suite 6.05, 6th floor, Semua House, Jalan Bunus 6, Kuala Lumpur, near Little India. They can be reached at 03-2692 2375. Visas are available on arrival for most nationalities. Visa cost $25 for 15 days, $40 for 30 days, or $100 for 100 days. Treks and tours can be organized with Raju Acharya at or by e-mail at [email protected].

Source: The Expat March 2012 Issue

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