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Trekking in the Khumbu Valley, Nepal
It may sound a little strange, but after getting married, my wife and I decided to go do some trekking in Nepal for our honeymoon. It's not your typical honeymoon destination, but we wanted to experience something special. After coming back, I couldn't think of any place I'd rather have visited. Time and future holidays will tell I guess, but anyway, here's a few thoughts, tips, and info on visiting the region.
I was lucky enough to have a GoPro camera during this adventure, and caught what I could on video (and stills). The downside was I had the camera configured incorrectly in a 4x3 aspect ratio, so no wide screen, which most people have come to expect now days - you'd think someone with an IT background would get this kind of thing right, but not in this case! Anyway, here is a montage of our time in Nepal:
As you'll see from the video, we didn't quite reach our goal, but we got pretty close and got to see and experience a lot more than we set out to.
If you're thinking of honeymooning in Nepal and participating in some trekking, here are some tips I came to learn, both the hard way (i.e. the experience) but also after talking to friends and experts:
- When we first arrived in Nepal, we had to wait in an hour long queue to get our Visa on arrival. Whilst this didn't bother us too much, the alternative is to contact the Nepalese Embassy or Consulate in your home country and organise a Visa with them before you travel. The Nepalese Embassy in Australia is located in Canberra, so for us (living in Perth), we would have had to post our passports to them. Only take this option if you have plenty of time to organise replacement passports if something goes wrong.
- The trekking seasons are October to early January, and March to May, which avoids the monsoon season in June-Sept, and the Winter season of January to March. We trekked during the first two weeks of October, and found the ascent very peaceful and relaxed, but on the descent, had lots of traffic. Avoid the busy busy periods if you have a choice, and stick to the start or end of the seasons.
- If you've never done high altitude trekking before, then you want to be as well prepared as you can for potential issues. Firstly advise your doctor of your travel plans, and they should be able to prescribe you Diomox, which can be used as a preventative or as a reliever of acute mountain sickness symptoms. Basically, it increases your breathing rate and helps your body to excrete CO2. Check out the wikipedia page for more info. It's also good to have a supply of Imodium, Paracetomal and anti nausea meds, but your tour company may carry these anyway.
- Fitness level shouldn't necessarily be a barrier for this adventure, but if you are fit, then you'll have a much more comfortable trip, and less likely to injure yourself. Try to stick to the fitness regime your tour company gives you. Age should also not be a barrier either - we saw plenty of people in their 60's doing this trek, without a problem.
- If you're travelling from Australia and don't have much equipment or warm clothing, don't bother buying stuff in Australia - it's far too expensive. Instead, when you arrive in Kathmandu head to the Thamal district of the city and buy what you need there. The genuine stuff is still cheaper than in Australia, but even the fake stuff will be sufficient for the trek. Down jackets, trekking poles, etc - it's all very cheap (relative to AUD), and good enough for at least one long trek like an EBC trek.
- When organising your schedule with your tour company, try to add a day or two to your schedule, to allow for delays with the Kathmandu to Lukla flights. It's very common for these flights to be delayed or cancelled due to foggy weather. If you don't mind paying extra, you can also opt to doing helicopter flights, which are more tolerant to dangerous weather conditions.
- Drinking plenty of water is critical, so you need to have a plan for a purified supply. There are many options from using purification tablets, to paying for boiled/bottled water (1L gets up to 300Rs at the last lodge stay Gorak Shep), or using a sterilisation pen on tap water. We took the latter option, and didn't have any stomach issues. The problem was that the batteries in the sterilisation pen drain out very quickly, so bring a few packs, as they get very expensive as you ascend up the mountain.
- Quick dry and breathable shirts and undies make things a lot more comfortable. Washing clothes isn't really an option so be prepared to wear things for a few days at a time. The dryness of your clothing makes it more bearable to wear after a third day.
- For a 14 day trek, bring a decent amount of local currency (Rupee) - specially in small denominations (as not everyone can give you change for a 1000R note). If your tour company provides all meals (like Crystal did) then you probably only need about ~15,000Rs (US$150) for the odd bottle of coke or water or chocolate, and another US$100 for backup.
- Don't go with the cheapest tour company you can find. Read the fine print of what they offer and pick a company that suits your experience level and need for convenience. We went with Crystal Mountain TReks who definitely aren't the cheapest nor the most expensive, but are a local company employing locals, operating for over 23 years, so they know their stuff and look after their staff and clients, which counts for a lot.
The shot above is from the summit of Kala Patthar, the highest point of the EBC trek, at 5545m above sea level.
Reading over these tips, it may sound like more trouble than its worth and a little bit stressful, but its all worth it. I'm sure different people get different things out of the trek, so I'd not want to ruin or pre-empt your experience, except to say, get out there and experience it, no regret!