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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Basic Information on Nepal Teahouse Trekking


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Trekking in Nepal, in the Himalayas, has been one of the most memorable travel and life experiences I've ever had. Let me borrow the words of the writer of the Lonely Planet guidebook:

“Many of the joys of trekking are intangible. Most people enjoy the peace and settling of the mind that the rhythm of a long trek can bring. You’ll have time to think, to breathe the mountain air and enjoy the sense of feeling fitter and stronger as each day passes. A highlight may be enjoying a section of trail to yourself in the silent early-morning light, surrounded by glorious mountain peaks, or simply sitting in a sunny lodge garden sipping sweet milky tea, reading that Dostoyevsky novel you’ve never had time for. On a trek, the stripped down simple pleasures of life comes to the fore. “ 
 – Lonely Planet : Trekking in the Nepal Himalaya, 9th edition

You will understand how each and every detail of this is true after trekking in Nepal. Many people have a misconception that trekking in Nepal is dangerous, hard, and expensive. Yes, it is hard and can be dangerous, but with enough planning and preparation, you'll be fine. And it is worth it, it's definitely worth it. ;)

Hope the information below can convince you to give it a try, and help you in your planning stage!

Is trekking in Nepal safe? 

The one thing you should always keep in mind about the mountains is that they should be respected. They decide the weather and temperature for the whole day. But don’t fret. As long as you’re alert and careful, and listen to warnings, trekking in Nepal is relatively safe and rewarding! 


Is it complicated? 

The word ‘trek’ and ‘Himalayas’ are a bit intimidating. But a good amount of research and asking around will make things easier for you. Buy a map, know the weather for the right gears to bring, it also helps to buy a guide book. 


Do you need a guide? 

This depends on the trek you plan to do. Most teahouse treks are pretty simple and straightforward. And you will meet a lot of trekkers along the way that you can trek with, or ask directions from. Again, it would make things easier to buy a guide book to know the estimated time it takes to go from one teahouse to another so you can plan your day properly. You don’t want to still be trekking as the night comes. ;) 


Is it expensive? 

I think the cost of trekking in Nepal will depend on your type of traveling and trekking. Some people prefer to do it independently, some in a very relaxed way, some with a porter and/or guide. We were on a budget, so we decided to do it independently. It will also depend on the region you’d want to do the trekking in, some would require more days, or a special permit from the government. 

Now that we have gotten those intimidating questions out of the way, below are some basic information that I hope can help you in your planning.

 Trekking in the Nepal Himalaya Lonely Planet

I highly recommend buying this book for a comprehensive background and guide to the different treks in Nepal. Just buy the book in Nepal. ;) 


How to go to Nepal? 

You can fly from Delhi (like we did after backpacking India) to the capital, Kathmandu. Cheapest flights are via Spicejet Airlines. Or cross the border by land from Varanasi to Kathmandu. There are also direct flights from Singapore and Bangkok. If from Bangkok, Royal Nepal Airlines have the cheapest flights available. 


Visa needed? 

Yes, Filipinos need a visa to enter Nepal. But you can do it on arrival. You just have to fill out a form (very brief) and pay USD25 for a 30-day single entry visa. Prepare 2 copies of passport size photos. 


What are the permits needed? 

The first thing to do once you get to Kathmandu is to go to the Nepal Toursim Board office (if you have a map and a good sense of direction, you can just walk going there from Thamel) to apply for a Trekkers Information Management System Card or TIMS which is a database of all trekkers in Nepal; and a Trekking Permit which is also a conservation fee for the region you’re visiting. TIMS cost USD20 or approx NPR1600; Annapurna Trekking Permit cost NPR2000. Everest Region is cheaper at NPR1000. The TIMS and Trekking Permit cards should be carried at all times during the trek. There will be checkpoints in some of the villages you’ll be passing by. 


What clothes/equipments do I need? 

This depends on the month you’ll be trekking. We trekked during the pre-winter season so we needed more stuff as compared to those trekking during the summer/wet season.


2 pairs of thermals (top and bottom)
2 dri-fit tops
2 shirts
2 pairs of trekking pants
2 pairs of trekking socks
Trekking boots
Shell jacket (that can be compressed!)
Windbreaker jacket 
Fleece
Scarf 
Beanie
Gloves
Trekking pole (one is enough) 
Trekking backpack with good back support 
Sleeping bag (optional, but highly recommend bringing one) 
Sunblock 
Cap 
Lots of chocolate bars 
Iodine tablets for drinking water 

I highly suggest ‘practicing’ carrying your backpack a few times before the start of the trek. Put all your stuff in your bag and find out if you can carry them especially if you’re not going to hire a porter. As with packing, it’s not always easy. Try not to bring so many unnecessary things. ;) 


What are iodine tablets? 

In order to lessen the garbage and also to protect nature, trekkers are highly encouraged to bring their own water bottles and iodine tablets. Iodine tablets are used to purify tap water. So what I did was to bring an 800mL water bottle, put tap water in it, and put 2 tablets. I also put Vitamin C in it before drinking to balance out the taste of the purified water. 


What is the daily cost of trekking? 

Teahouse trekking is surprisingly cheap. But of course don’t expect a very nice room with big beds. They’re not as comfortable as you’re imagining now, but they will do. They’re enough to be a shelter for the night.

Food menu is normally the same in almost all of the teahouses. They will just differ in prices, same as with lodging. Prices go up as you go up in the mountains. This is because getting the food and all the supplies are transported only by porters. 

A whole day’s cost (3 meals and a bed) can cost you around Php300-Php500. A bed can cost you Php50 (low areas) to Php150 (high areas). Food budget can cost around Php100 per meal, this already includes masala tea/ginger tea. Hot shower can cost around Php50. Extra blankets can also cost Php50, so bring a sleeping bag! 

Hope all this information helps you! Now for another question most friends ask me about trekking in Nepal:  


IS IT HARD?

Just have the right amount of will power to push yourself everyday and a little bit of preparation. ;)

I don’t consider myself athletic. I even have vices. But I do try to play sports once a week, or run thrice a week. I guess that helped me a LOT during the trek. I believe that the secret to a long run is conditioning your mind and your legs to continuous running. And this again helped me a lot in trekking.

The Annapurna Sanctuary Trek is not hard altitude-wise. But it can be very physically strenuous. A typical day especially during the start of the trek may involve going up and down two mountains. So strong legs will really help a lot. 

I carried 12kgs for 10 days while trekking. This will feel very heavy during the first 2 days. But for some reason they won’t matter that much anymore after the third day, you will eventually get used to the weight. ;)  
It’s very cold at night, but it can also be very sunny and hot in the daylight. Just stop for breaks if needed and always rehydrate! Be alert and careful, but still enjoy the scenery! 

Another tough part for me was having symptoms of AMS. They say the threshold for this is different for each and every person. But if you do encounter symptoms, just try to relax and breathe. It will not be easy especially for worry warts like myself, but try your hardest to relax. As soon as the morning comes, try to get out in the sun, this really helps in blood circulation. Bring Diamox for precautions, eat lots of garlic soup, and rehydrate! 

Hope this helps you in your planning. Feel free to leave a comment or email me if you have questions. ;)