Walking in Nepal is like no other place in the world; some say it’s life-changing.

The majestic Himalayas loom as if time has stood still, their silent presence a reminder of the shortness of our existence. Standing at the bottom of the 5400m  mountain is an experience like no other, as is walking along an escarpment at 4800m with towering mountains on either side, some higher than 8000m.  Those who walk these sacred paths cannot help but be overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude and magnificence.

As for life-changing – well, it certainly was for me, and in no small part why I now run and own a walking and trekking holiday business. Indulge me as I reminisce on the transformative experience I had over 3 decades ago – and again in 2023.

Annapurna Circuit 1986

It is often said that with each step you take in Nepal, you’re transported into another world, where everyday worries just fade away.  This is exactly what was set in motion for me when I first trekked in Nepal, where I realised I could make my vacation my vocation.  That first trek back in 1986 was incredible; not just the walking, but the staying and living with these amazing mountain people. As I traversed the trails, I encountered a rich tapestry of cultures and communities, each with its own unique customs and traditions. The warmth and hospitality of the Nepalese people are like a balm for the weary trekker’s soul, reminding us that kindness knows no borders. But the most important part back in 1986 for me, was realising that in comparison to the lives of these people, who were fundamentally happy despite having next to nothing, we as Westerners have so little to complain about. And it was abundantly clear that in my instance my abject failure as a professional sportsperson was nothing worth wallowing in (which I was doing a fine job of). Onwards and upwards!

It was my first lesson in that in embracing nature’s magnificence and stepping back from ourselves and getting perspective, we find our own insignificance, whilst discovering a profound sense of connection to the world and to ourselves. A lesson that never ends.

Everest Base Camp Track Nov 2023

I have just spent another month wandering around the mountains, including tackling the EBC track and Mera Peak with 2 guides and a friend from Germany, Janek. It was a very cool experience. And once again, I was blown away by the sheer majesty of these massive mountains and the incredible people.

At 6461 metres, Mera was, in part, an expedition; the highest mountain you can trek in the world. Tack on some crampons, cross over a glacier with the standard crevices, and easy peasy you’re there – unlike dealing with the call of nature at -28 degrees!

sunset while walking mera peak

Mera Peak walk at sunrise

My first hike was solo around the Annapurnas.  When I first visited, there were no roads into the mountains, and you walked from Dumre, a truck stop on the road, from Kathmandu to Pokhara. The foothills were the real killer, up and down, up and down, for days on end. I remember cursing, wondering why the Nepalese don’t go around the mountains, instead going up and over. It was because they didn’t consider the hills of 2,800-metre mountains an issue. The fastest way is straight. One of the natural wonders of the Himalayas is witnessing the locals virtually skip up the mountain tracks, hopping from rock to rock; elevation is evidently not a consideration. Now those less interesting sections on the Circuit can be missed out, with the walk starting in the heart of the mountains, every day experiencing something new and amazing.

The biggest change, other than new roads cut deep into the mountains,  is the hike up (literally) of the comfort level. In 1986, on the way up, we stayed in rudimentary huts some nights, sleeping alongside families and their small children. Dinner and board was less than one dollar; one night, it was 50 cents. I was so embarrassed that I gave them a big tip. On many of the nights when you did have a room, it was so basic that it didn’t include a mattress. It was a real adventure but also part ordeal, as you had no idea of what was coming next.  And thankfully, toilet facilities have improved immeasurably!

Dahl Baht EBC Track Nov 2023

In 1986 and on the return visit in 1991, I ate Dahl Baht every day, pretty much for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  I can’t remember how excited I was to finally have a pizza, anything other than Dahl Baht!  I was therefore somewhat relieved in 2023 to discover Dahl Baht has morphed into a more elaborate dish with the quality of the ingredients having much improved. I should not have complained as by the time I finished the walk in 86, I had lost over 20 kilograms; walking in Nepal was a weight loss program like no other. It was both the walking but also the limited food options that contributed to my much trimmer waistline, along with, shall we say, the effects of dubious hygiene practices! Thankfully these days not only is hygiene top-notch, but you can stay in a (mostly!) warm, comfortable room, and even avail yourself of a pizza every night if you so desire.

In 2023 I marvelled at the linen, ensuites, and room warmth, in towns that are now powered by hydro and solar power.  What a treat to witness an excess of mattresses and toilets! At 25 years old, I powered through.  But at 60, this is the only way to do it (and my 25-year-old self would have preferred it too!)

Since starting in this business, I have wanted to return to Nepal and work towards offering treks in the Himalayas. I really love this destination, maybe more than any other. It is wonderful, but it comes with a few caveats. The walking is challenging; it is incredible but challenging. And then there’s the altitude. It can be tricky if you are gung-ho. But if you’re careful, it most likely won’t be an issue.

Hiking in the Everest Region Nov 2023

I love that my vacation became my vocation.  And that this vacation (my job!) was even better the 3rd time around: after finishing up on the Mera side we flew back with a helicopter, saving 3 days to the Everest Base camp side of the Everest region. It was fabulous, particularly experiencing the less popular tracks to Kongde and a few other cameo walks we tacked on. The troop were all fit walkers, including our guide Pemba, who has climbed Everest 9 times. I had the privilege of meeting his wife Karma, in their family home in Debouche near Everest. We were given first-hand insight into what is a dilemma for many Sherpa families: the harsh choice between climbing Everest and making $15,000 with the downside that you might die vs trying to find other lower-paid work, including work like guiding for us. I could only assure Karma that we would do our best to bring people to hike in Nepal. It is always a reality check visiting the subcontinent. Despite many great improvements in my experience of hiking in Nepal, one thing that sadly hasn’t changed is the locals’ poverty. It still amazes me how they remain so upbeat in the face of hardship.

Brett in the Helicopter

Heli waiting to depart and on the way to Kathmandu

The last day’s helicopter ride was the highlight, with Everest, Ama Dablam, and all their amigos in full view. After 21 days, I was very pleased to not have to hike back down to Luckla and then wait for the flight that might or might not arrive and/or depart depending on what the weather decided to do.

We were back in Kathmandu from just below Everest in about 70 minutes. It was epic. The massage, swim, and a beer or two overlooking Kathmandu felt pretty satisfying. The relaxed dinner with Mingma, our partner on the ground, and his family at their open-air restaurant was a great way to end the walk.

As I grow older, time becomes my most valued commodity, which is why I have designed these Everest adventures the way I have, to optimise the time spent in the mountains.  Not to mention maintaining a certain level of comfort, there’s nothing left to prove to anyone, so there’s no reason to be rough it needlessly (my kids tell me I am getting soft but I say no, just smarter). Saving our knees from the pain of backtracking the trail was also a major consideration. You might have Everest on your bucket list (I prefer ‘life list’) or never thought it was possible for you. But with the great accommodation now available, super food, expert English-speaking guides, and helicopter transportation saving you days and days, it might well be within your reach.  It’s certainly a trip I will never, ever forget.

If you have any thoughts on the above please don’t hesitate to drop us a line we are always interested in why people have or might want to trek in Nepal.

Happy hiking!

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