Wed, Mar 11, 2015 - Page 12 News List

Trekking on the cheap

If you’re looking for a family adventure that immerses you in nature, beauty and a fascinating culture — and you’re willing to rough it some — consider trekking in Nepal

By Malcolm Foster  /  AP, GHOREPANI, Nepal

Mount Everest, pictured last year, may be Nepal’s most iconic trekking destination, but there are several other mountains in the country that offer spectacular views.

Photo: Reuters

Dawn’s golden light caught the tops of the snowcapped Himalayas and gradually crept downward as the rising sun lit up a sweeping arc of soaring peaks, at once forbidding and starkly beautiful.

The stunning vista from the top of Poon Hill — at 3,193 meters, the highest point of our family’s six-day trek in Nepal — was among many highlights of a Lord of the Rings-like adventure through lush forests, terraced fields and traditional villages nestled above plunging valleys.

Sometimes the going was tough — like hiking two hours up steep, stone steps. Other times, we walked along gently undulating woodland paths.

Along the way, there were rewards: children who ran to greet us (sometimes asking for money or candy), wildflowers beside the path, breathtaking views and cups of hot masala tea at cute little rest stops.

FAMILY ADVENTURE

If you’re looking for a family adventure that immerses you in nature, beauty and a fascinating culture — and you’re willing to rough it some — consider trekking in Nepal.

Our two boys, 12 and 10, loved the experience. One of my older son’s favorite parts was the camaraderie with other trekkers from around the world in common rooms at the “tea houses,” or simple lodges where we stayed.

Children as young as eight or nine could handle the popular 65km Ghandruk-Ghorepani-Poon Hill loop we hiked, located just south of the Annapurna Range. Small children can be carried on the backs of porters.

We hiked four to six hours daily, depending on the trail’s difficulty, usually reaching our destination by 3pm, allowing time to relax before supper.

With good weather, this route will give you stunning views of a string of mountains, including Annapurna I (8,091 meters), 10th-tallest in the world; Machapuchre, or “Fishtail,” with its distinctively shaped peak; and the towering Dhaulagiri (8,172 meters), the world’s seventh-tallest. Mount Everest, located 300km to east, isn’t visible on this loop.

The circuit starts and ends near the lakeside town of Pokhara, central Nepal’s trekking hub. We used 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking, which specializes in training and employing women, to hire our guide, Mana Kunwar, an experienced, flexible and fun Nepali woman who spoke good English. Her knowledge of the trail, culture and language — and contacts at tea houses where she booked our rooms — enhanced our experience immensely.

We also hired a male porter to carry one backpack while I carried another. My wife and kids hiked with smaller knapsacks. Hiring guides is not only a way to get to know locals, it also offers them a valuable source of income.

TREKKING SEASON

Peak trekking season in October and November, when skies are clearest and temperatures hover between 15 to 25 degrees Celsius. We mostly hiked in T-shirts and shorts (women’s shorts should be knee-length out of respect for the local culture). But early mornings and evenings, when it got as cold as 5 degrees Celcius, we needed fleeces and long pants. We encountered no snow, but a week before our October visit, a freak blizzard and avalanche hit a pass at a much higher elevation about 50km to the north, killing more than 40 people.

April and May, also a good time to go, can be cloudier, but the rhododendron trees are in bloom. June, July and August are rainy.

Be prepared to rough it. Some teahouses offer hot showers but water supplies are often limited. Rooms run US$3 to US$5 a night, Spartan but clean. Blankets are available, but most trekkers bring sleeping bags, which can be rented or bought in Pokhara or Kathmandu at shops that sell everything you need, including knock-off brand fleeces and backpacks. Trekking poles, about US$5 apiece, are recommended, especially when descending. Don’t buy hiking shoes when you arrive; break those in at home.

This story has been viewed 4355 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top