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First Impressions

I had a pretty good idea of what the ‘Himalayas’ looked like before I went to Nepal. I’ve seen them often enough in countless photographs and on television programmes that show a familiar distant horizon lined with snow-capped peaks as far as the eye can see. I knew it was going to be spectacular but I was still blown away when I got my first glimpse of these iconic mountains. Breathtaking? Absolutely!

But what was the country going to be like? I pondered. The terrain – we were going to walk, after all. The people – would they be friendly? The accommodation – would it be clean and comfortable? And the food – I hope I’m going to enjoy the meals…

Guided walking holidays in Nepal

Thankfully, it didn’t take long for all my fears and reservations to be allayed. After that first meal in the first village enjoying our first view seated on the balcony of our first hotel, I wondered what all the fuss had been about. It was only Day 1 – and this had all the promise of becoming a truly great trip – the adventure of a lifetime, an unforgettable experience. And so it proved to be…

The moment we arrived in Dhulikhel, we knew that all the hype surrounding the panoramic views was not hype after all. I was mesmerised, little knowing that they were going to get better the further we edged into the foothills of the remote Sailung Valley. We were heading well off the normal tourist routes – not for us the forced march to Everest base camp, rewarding though that must be. No, for us it was a journey back in time to villages where mechanization is rare; where the people live a simple, but productive agrarian way of life; where old customs and traditions prevail, and where visitors are greeted as honoured guests.

Guided walking holidays in Nepal

On arrival in our first mountain village, we knew that we were about to experience something really special. Our accommodation was in a newly converted village house. Simply furnished, but neat, tidy, clean and comfortable. These houses are run, managed and maintained by a village committee and so, as we approached, a welcome party came out to greet us. Not just the guesthouse manager; not just the committee; not even just the village elders – but (almost) the entire population.

Guided walking holidays in Nepal

From grandmas and babies to teenagers and labourers, they were smiling and courteous, though nonetheless curious about these intruders, and respectful in a way that made their welcome all the more endearing. Garlanded with orange marigolds, we were soon taken to our rooms, served tea and given time to settle in while the villagers resumed their daily tasks, chattering excitedly between themselves – no doubt about us. We initially assumed this treatment had been reserved just for us as we were pioneering our new holiday, but not so – we were greeted like this everywhere we went and so were the few other (very few!) walkers we saw on our travels.

Mealtimes turned out to be another revelation. Nepalese cuisine will be curry, curry and more curry, I thought – and so it was. But not curry like you might get from your local takeaway. The people here cook mainly vegetarian dishes – meat is reserved for festivals – and they grow an amazing and varied array of crops on their neatly terraced, albeit very steep, hillsides. And it’s not as spicy hot as you may imagine either. The flavours are delicate, the meals wholesome and, because of the aforesaid variety of vegetables grown, they are varied too, in look and taste. I soon got quite used to curry three times a day – we were even taught the basics by the village women – and I began to worry how I would cope when I got home to the less exotic delights of toast and cereal for breakfast.

Guided walking holidays in Nepal

And as for the walking? Well, that did not disappoint either. In fact, it was far more exhilarating and rewarding than I had imagined possible. Admittedly it was tough in places – this is Nepal, after all – but our guides ensured that each day’s walk was manageable with plenty of time to stop and rest and take photos of those views, or simply to chat about the wildlife, the people and what it’s like to live in a country as remarkable as Nepal.

Postscript:

So here I am, back in Yorkshire, sat at my desk and looking across the fields towards a rather grey and flat Vale of York. No garlands to greet me; not a snow-capped peak in sight, and a rather plain ham sandwich for lunch. Oh, to be back in Nepal!

Guided walking holidays in Nepal
Posted: 29/01/2014 16:47:14 by Rob Lockwood, Inntravel | with 0 comments
Filed under: heritage, lifestyle, Nepal, opinions


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