Everything You Want to Know before Everest Base Camp Trek

Posted Sep 2nd, 2018 under Photo Essay, Travel Guide, Trekking & Hiking,

Everyone knows Everest Base Camp trek is an ambitious adventure but with proper planning it’s not that intimidating. Trust us! After all, we are speaking with more than 20 years of experience.

Everest Base Camp Trek is normally a two-week trek with 10/11 of pure trekking days which starts and ends at Lukla. However, this can be extended with a side trip to Gokyo Lake. This way you can have the complete experience of “Trekking in Nepal” as the classic Everest Base Camp trek is all about going straight to the Base Camp and retracing back the same way, whereas the extended trip allows you a circuit and adds the adventure of Cho La Pass (5420m), a High Mountain Pass and Gokyo Lake (4750m), one of the highest freshwater lakes. In both cases, you get to see the kaleidoscopic beauty of magnificent mountains, amazing highland settlements and unique flora and fauna of Everest region. For more details on the itineraries and daily activities, you can go through https://www.explorehimalaya.com/packages/everest-base-camp-trek/ and https://www.explorehimalaya.com/packages/gokyo-kala-pattar-everest-base-camp-trek/.

Namche Bazaar (3450m), the trekkers’ hub of Everest Region

Trek to Everest Base Camp is well known for being one of the most adventurous treks, and some people even make it sound treacherous. However, the pleasure of comfort is not that unattainable if you are aware of certain things beforehand. Feed yourself with a bit of information, plan well and you are all set for this incredible journey! Below is a list of few things you need to know to make the most of this wonderful adventure.

Trek Type

Depending on your budget and interest, there are three ways of trekking in Nepal – GAP, TH and Fully organized camping trek. The most popular are GAP and TH. GAP includes Guide, Accommodation and Porter; whereas TH (teahouse) includes Guide, Accommodation, Porter and all meals. Fully organized camping trek is popular in remote areas only where there is no adequate accommodation facility, which naturally makes this type outdated in Everest region. So you can choose between GAP and TH. You can also be an independent traveler but it’s not recommended considering the geographical extremities and remoteness of the region.    

Trip Grade

Everest Base Camp Trek is rated as “Moderate to Fairly Challenging” trek. Physically quite tiring, it involves approx 6-8 hours trekking along rocky ridges of high Himalayan peaks. No previous experience is required. However, you should be moderately fit, used to some regular exercises and enjoy walking in the high altitude conditions.

Gokyo Lake

Climate and Weather Condition

Climate, as expected, is extreme in Everest region. So, travelling during winter (from December to February) is not recommended at all due to piling of snow in trails. During monsoon also (from mid May to mid-September), the weather is cloudy resulting in very poor visibility. The best seasons to trek to Everest region is Autumn (from mid-September till November end), and Spring (from the beginning of March until mid-May). Temperatures will drop considerably as you trek higher every day. The nights are cold (between -10 C to 5C) but the days are sunny and hot (between 10C to 20C). The mornings are usually clear, with clouds building up during the afternoon, disappearing at night.

 People 

Everest region, also known as Khumbu region is the home of Sherpas, the able bodied, hardy and fearless world-class mountaineers and high altitude guides. They emigrated from Tibet about 600 years ago. In the past they were traders and porters, carrying butter, meat, rice, sugar, and dye from India, and, wool, jewelry, salt Chinese silk and porcelain from Tibet and beyond. Now, most of them are involved in mountaineering expeditions and trekking. They are the ardent followers of Buddhism.

Altitude Sickness

The highest point of Everest Base Camp trek is Kala Patthar (5545m) and the trek starting point (Lukla) is 2800m. So Altitude sickness is a concern as it has the potential to affect all travelers from 2500m. It is caused by going up high too fast and can be fatal if the entire warning signals are ignored. Normally Everest Base Camp itinerary has gradual climb and the duration itself is short; hence, chances of AMS are not high. However, one needs to be careful and take all the necessary precautions.

Everest range as seen from Kala Patthar (5545m)

 Visa and Immigration

All visitors except the Indian nationals must hold passport and valid visa. Visa can be obtained at the Nepalese diplomatic missions and consulates abroad. Visa is also issued at the entry points. It can be extended at the Department of Immigration, Bhrikutimandap, Kathmandu. Children under 10 years need not pay any visa fee. People willing to get entry Visa at the air port or any of the land entry points are required to fill a visa form with passport photograph. For more information, please go to  http://www.nepalimmigration.gov.np/page/tourist-visa

Permit

Permit is mandatory while trekking in Nepal. For Everest Base Camp trek or any other trekking in Everest region, you need to get Sagarmatha National Park entry permit and a local permit card. Sagarmatha National Park entry permit (NPR 3000 per person) can be obtained at the park entrance gate at Monjo. However, it is better to get from Nepal Tourism Board in Kathmandu just in case the Monjo point goes through some technical problems. You also need to get a local entry permit at Lukla (NPR 2000 per person). Previously you had to take TIMS card, which is replaced by the local entry permit. Have the copies of your passport ready for both.     

Health

Consult your doctor at least 2 months prior to your trip. Let your doctor know about the area you are travelling to. It is especially important if you have ever suffered from altitude sickness, or have a heart or breathing complaint. If you are travelling with a travel agency, normally your team carries a medical kit with standard prescribed medicines along with a users’ manual which you can use upon your own risk. It’s better to carry your own personal first aid kit.

A female Himalayan Tahr

Insurance

A travel insurance which covers cancellation, medical expenses, helicopter evacuation and emergency repatriation is a MUST if you are trekking in Nepal.

 Luggage

During trek your main luggage will be carried by porters or pack animals (usually yaks or cross breeds). You simply carry a day pack with water bottle, camera, sun-screen, spare jacket, etc. – a small load that allows full enjoyment of the trek. A trek bag is ideal for your main luggage, plus a small lockable bag for anything that you do not need during your trek which you can leave at hotel’s locker room/safe deposit box in Kathmandu.

Trekking Gears

You don’t have to spend a fortune on this. Just be rational on your choice. Please visit https://www.explorehimalaya.com/2018/07/23/trekking-gear-list-for-everest-base-camp-trek/ for a complete list.

Clothing

As geographical variation is very wide, you should go with layering style. While trekking in Everest region during the day at lower altitudes, lightweight trekking trousers and T-shirts are recommended. It’s always a good idea to carry a waterproof jacket and some warmer clothing with you as mountain weather is notoriously unpredictable. For the cold nights, thermal underwear, a warm fleece jacket and even a down jacket will help to keep you warm. Good shoes are of great importance. For more info on clothing, please go to https://www.explorehimalaya.com/2018/07/23/trekking-gear-list-for-everest-base-camp-trek/

Weight allowance

In Nepal’s domestic airlines the weight allowance is 15 Kgs. Excess weight is chargeable about USD 1.5 or more per Kilo depending on sectors.

A Chorten at Phortse

Accommodation

Trekking in Everest region doesn’t need tremendous logistics in terms of accommodation as you will find plenty of clean and friendly lodges along the trail. You stay in single rooms where possible, but often you will have to share. Rooms are basic, normally just a bed with a pillow and blankets. So a sense of adventure is required. In Kathmandu, you can find a wide range of star rated hotels.  

 Food and Water

You can find a considerable variety of Nepali and Western food as well as drinks (coffee, tea, milk, soft drinks, and beer) along the Everest Base Camp trail. You can also buy bottled water in local lodges and shops. However, it’s a sensible thing to bring water purification pills.

Transport

The starting point of Everest Base Camp trek is in Lukla which is connected by a 30 min flight from Kathmandu. For ground transfers, travel companies use private vehicles like car, van, hiace and coaster bus depending on the size of the group. You can also find public transports like bus, taxi and micro van in Kathmandu. However, they are often crowded, slow and uncomfortable (but very cheap).

 Personal Expenses

You can expect to spend around 2500-3000 Rupees a day for your basic food and snacks (excluding accommodation and transportation as they vary widely depending on the level of service). Tips are appreciated by your support team after the trip. The amount depends on your budget and appreciation of their work. You can allocate 5- 10 % of the total tour cost as tips.

A local hotel

Communication

There are a plenty of telephone facilities in the Everest region. Cell phones work throughout the trek in Everest Region. However, keep in mind that it can’t be as smooth as in lowlands. If it is crucial for you to keep in contact with your family or others, you can get a rental satellite phone if necessary.

 Money Exchange

Money exchange is not a problem in Kathmandu. You can find many local certified moneychangers. But same can’t be expected during trek. The facility is available only in major stopovers like Lukla, Namche etc. Card payment (Visa, MasterCard, JCB and American Express) is also widely accepted in tourist- class hotels, restaurants and shops in Kathmandu. During trek, be prepared to pay in cash as it is accepted in major stopovers only.   

Responsible Travel

Travelling is not just about what you get, it is also about what you leave. Try to leave positive impact behind. Respect the mountains, its fragile environment and the local culture. Choose the responsible service providers only. Go through “Dos and Donts in Nepal” thoroughly before travelling to Nepal.

 

 

 

 

Naga Panchami, the Festival of Snakes

Posted Aug 16th, 2018 under Culture & Festivals, Photo Essay,

Any snake lover here? Never mind, you can simply be a curious kind and still get insights and enjoy “Naga Panchami”, one of the interesting festivals of Nepal.

A vendor selling the posters of “Nagas”

Nepali calendar is full of religiosity and festivities. If you are in Nepal, especially in Kathmandu; and stumble into one of the religious celebrations, that’s quite normal. That’s how things work in the Valley especially from August onwards. Out of this myriad festivals in Nepal, Naga Panchami, a unique festival dedicated to the Nagas, is one of them. Naga Panchami, a Hindu festival, falls on the fifth day of bright half of lunar month (Sukla Pakshya) of Shrawan (July/August). This year, it falls on 16th of August. Naga means Snake and Panchami means the fifth day tithi on which the festival falls. Every Nepali household that celebrates the festival pastes a picture of the Nagas at their main door using dubo (scientific name Cynodon dactylon) and cow dung to ward off evil spirits. People also visit Naga temples near to their place. During the puja, they offer milk or a white liquid made from rice paste, barley, black sesame, flowers, vermilion powder, incense etc. and ask blessings from the Nagas for their protection and prosperity.

Naga Panchami Celebration at Naga Pokhari, Kathmandu

Like any of the oldest religions of the world, Hinduism also has Snakes as one of the most recurring motifs. According to the Hindu myth, Snakes are the sons of Kasyap (Son of Brahma, the Creator) and Kadroo, one of his thirteen wives, making the Nagas sibling of Gods and Asuras, the demon race. They live in Patal Lok, the underworld, one of the seven worlds; protecting gems, gold and other treasures which Patal Lok is full of. Not only in Patal, they also live in water bodies like river, lake, spring etc. Lord Vishnu often reclines on serpent coils while resting in Cosmic Ocean, and Shiva wears Vashuki, the King of Nagas, around his neck. In a way, Hindu myths and iconography are  incomplete without the reference of Nagas either in abstract or concrete form.  

A local selling posters of “Nagas” at Ason

So, they have a special honorary order in Hindu pantheon, and are especially remembered as the giver of rain, wealth and protection from illnesses, which is why there is a special festival in their honor. There are many myths on the origin of this festival however. One of the popular tales relates the story from Mahabharat, one of the important epics of the Hindus. Once Janamejaya, the valiant Kuru king (the great grandson of Arjun, the epic warrior hero of Mahabharat), performed Sarpa Satra  Yagya to wipe out all snakes as a revenge of his father Parikshit’s death caused by the bite of Takshaha, the King of Nagas. However, the Yagya was stopped in middle due to the intervention and convincing of Astik, a young Brahmin, whose mother was a Naga. After that, Janamageya had a peaceful accord with them and all the snakes were let free. It was the same day, the fifth day of Sukla Pakshya, which is marked as the day for worshipping the Nagas. Another story from Mahabharat says that the festival has been started after Lord Krishna defeated Kalia Naag, who was terrorizing people.

Poster of “Naga” pasted at the main door

There are some local stories popular in the Valley as well. As per a myth, Kathmandu Valley was once a big lake and the abode of many Nagas. After the water was drained out for human habitation by Manjushree, one of the Boddhisatwas, the Nagas became angry because of their displacement. Then, humans offered them certain areas and started to worship to appease them, which continued as a tradition till date. There are many stories behind the celebration of this unique festival. Whatever the beliefs are, one truth is singular that Nagas are revered as a respectable companion and guardian in Hinduism, which actually makes a complete sense if we are talking about the harmony of our beautiful Earth with every species.   

Offerings for Puja: Milk, Incense sticks, Nag Poster, Barley, Black Sesame Seeds, Vermilion Powder, Kesari etc

   

 

 

Nuwakot Sindure Jatra, a Festival of Color and Celebration

Posted Mar 29th, 2018 under Culture & Festivals, Photo Essay, Special Events,

The Dhami and the Dhamini, the central figures in the whole rituals of the festival

This year also we have come up with some fresh updates on Sidhure Jatra, a unique cultural spectacle observed in Nuwakot. Sindhure Jatra, which literally means “vermillion powder festival”, is celebrated annually at Nuwakot Durbar Square vicinity in Nuwakot district.  Nuwakot Durbar Square, an iconic landmark with Seven Story Palace, Bhairabi Temple, Taleju Bhawani, Narayan Temple and  Bishnu Temple, is 75 km north of Kathmandu valley. Situated at a hilltop, overlooking the valley, the Durbar Square and its town is historically and culturally an important place having a significant connection to King Prithivi Narayan Shah, the founder of modern Nepal.

Nuwakot Durbar Square

Kumari of Nuwakot, who starts the festival by performing an ablution ritual to the Dhami

 “Sindhure Jatra” is celebrated on Chaitra Purnima (March/April) for 10-12 days mainly by Newar community. This year, it falls from 30th March to 10th April. The festival marks the Nepali New Year and arrival of spring season. During the festival, people worship Goddess Bhairabi, observe various rituals and feast with family members. The major highlight of the festival is the chariot procession of Goddess Bhairabi to Devighat, where the Goddess meets her sister Jalpa Devi. The special meeting takes place only once a year, in which the Dhami (the Priest) is believed to gain the power by the grace of the Goddesses to foretell the future of the country. As per the tradition, the Dhami, then, tells the prophesy to the State representative in secret. During the procession, people smear Sindur (orange vermillion powder), and sing and dance to the tune of traditional music. Not only the locals, the State army and people from the neighboring region also come to participate and observe the festival. The festival, which is also considered as having the longest chariot procession in Nepal, is one of liveliest festivals offering some of the lesser known but fascinating cultural display of Nepal.

Let’s have a look at the daily activities of the festival:

Day 01: 30th March/16th Chaitra: The first day ritual starts from the evening time. Living Goddess Kumari and Dhami perform a special ritual bath in which the priest receives the ablution ritual by Goddess Kumari symbolizing the purification process. Then after the priest performs special puja in the temple. In the premises of the temple, two wooden poles are erected, which will be pulled down at the end of the day.

Kumari, the Living Goddess of Nuwakot

The Procession 

Day 02: 31st March/17thChaitra: On this day, devotes carry the chariot of Goddess Bhairabi to Devighat (Riverbank), where the Goddess meets her sister. The procession takes about 4-5 hours. They stay overnight there and perform puja.   Day 03: 01st April/18thChaitra: Early morning, puja ritual includes the sacrifices of 108 he-goats (which are not castrated yet), which the Dhami offers to the Goddesses. The Dhami, by the power of the Goddesses, gets the insight to foresee the country’s future, which he tells to the State representative in secret.  After the whole ritual finishes, at about mid-night the Chariot is brought back to her own Temple to Nuwakot Durbar Square. However, they dont go to the temple directly but rest at Dharampani. Later on, the procession continues to the temple from the same place accompanied by State Army with great honor and elaborate music.    

Day 04: 02nd April/19thChaitra: Sindure Jatra (vermillion powder) festival, after which the whole festival is named, is observed on this day. The festival starts, after “Dware”, a State representative, scatter Sindur to the Dhamini, Dhami and the devotees. Then after, everyone smear the powder to each other. The ritual symbolizes the celebration of victory.

 Day 05: 03rd April/20th Chaitra: On this day, the Dhami performs another ritual following the sacrifice of the goats and buffaloes in the premises of Bhairabi Temple. He sucks the blood for three times as a part of ritual.                       

The Dhami sucking blood from the sacrificed goat

 Day 06-10: 04th – 08th  April/ 21st -25th Chaitra:  During these days, devotees and locals gather and have feast.  

Day 11: 09th April/ 26th Chaitra: A special puja is performed to the Wooden Pole which was raised on the first day. Locals gather around Bhairabi Temple to pull down one wooden pole, and the other one is left for the next day’s ritual.

 Day 12: 10th April/ 27th Chaitra: Today is the final day. The second wooden pole is brought down following the same ritual as the previous day and the festival comes to an end.

Honey Hunting in Nepal- a Journey no less than an Adventure!

Posted Mar 6th, 2018 under Photo Essay, Special Events,
Honey Hunter at work

Honey Hunter at work! (Picture Credit: The Guardian)

Treacherous cliff, swarm of angry bees and just a dangling slender rope ladder to hold your life – can anyone think of any other act as extreme as this?
This daring act is performed, every Spring and Autumn, by Gurung and Magar tribesmen of Annapurna region in a bid to harvest honey of the giant Himalayan wild bees from their nests overhanging on the vertical rock faces. This honey hunting practice is also found among other communities in lesser known areas like Dhading, Jharlang across Ganesh Himal and Arun Valley of Makalu Barun area. As this practice is carried out in an insanely extreme working condition by just using some primitive tools, it can be rightly called as a testament of perseverance and fortitude that equals any death defying endurance feat.

The honey hunter in the middle of nowhere

The honey hunter in the middle of nowhere (Picture Credit: National Geographic)

The whole ritual of honey hunting is carried out with great care – any misjudgment can be fatal, or at least be ominous! The activity starts right from choosing an auspicious day to carry out the hunt to appeasing the Forest spirits, which is as crucial as their survival in the wilderness! However, the core activity involves hanging from vertical cliffs as high as 300m using a hand-made ladder of bamboo and ropes to harvest the honeycombs from the nests of Apis Dorsata Laboriosa, the world’s largest honey bee. The nest can be found perched in the sheer rock face at an altitude ranging from 2500m to 3000m. But, strangely enough the hunters don’t use any additional gears and safety equipments. The only thing they seem to have is the faith in the Forest Spirits who they have appeased before starting the act.

Just some bamboo poles, a basket and a hunter with faith larger than life; one needs see it to believe it!

Some bamboo poles, a basket and a hunter with faith larger than life; one needs to see it to believe it! (Picture Credit: Eric Valli)

The most intense situation starts when the hunter climbs the rope carrying a bamboo stick with a sharp end and a tuft of smoldering grass to make the bees confused. With every step upward, the climb becomes more edgy and the height more dizzying. After he reaches the nests, taking the opportune time when the bees are driven out, he pokes the honeycomb with the sharp end of the bamboo stick, and slices it off which is collected in a basket lowered by the helpers from above. Phew, it’s finally done but the hunter still has a long way to climb down safely to celebrate the success of his prized honey.
Why people risk their life? Does the battle against thousands of angered bees really worth it? Though the hallucinogenic quality and medicinal value has made the honey 7-8 times more valuable than the normal honey in the market, the reason doesn’t just seem enough. The way the tribesmen are giving continuity to the tradition with such reverence and dedication indicate to something deeper and subtler beyond our comprehension, something we may never understand.

The prized honey!

The prized honey! (Picture Credit: Eric Valli)

Now, the practice is not just an esoteric ritual hunting limited to certain communities. Its antiquity, unsullied continuity and surreal appeal is making it increasingly popular among the curious minds. Thanks to Eric Valli and Diane Summers, the pioneer documentary makers who made this largely unobserved cultural practice known to the wider global audience. Now, there are many tour operators that are easing the curious travelers to honey hunting destinations. Though there is a wide range of award winning documentaries and videos on this practice, it is so out of the world that one needs to see it to believe it!
[If you are interested in the tour, we are more than happy to make your adventure one of its kind.]

Singaporean Corporate Travelers in Nepal for Cultural Tour

Posted Feb 23rd, 2018 under Photo Essay, Special Events, Trip Report,
At Annapurna Base Camp (4130m)

At Annapurna Base Camp (4130m)

This February, we welcomed a mammoth group of 54 Singaporean corporate travelers from Pejandy Corporation Pte Ltd. The group spent 5 nights 6 days in the two iconic cities of Nepal, Kathmandu and Pokhara.  The cultural tour that started from 14 February not just included the natural and cultural highlights but also had special delights like Annapurna Heli Tour, mountain flight, Zipflyer, Chinese New Year celebration and even a refreshing picnic in the wood. This tour provided the members with a welcome relief from their daily work life, and also offered them a chance to share beautiful moments together, which helps in making Pejandy a bigger and stronger family.

At Kade, pick up point for Heli tour

This multi activity tour comprised of Singaporean families including two Greek travelers with members ranging from 6 years of age to 80. So, the trip was more like an extended family tour rather than a bunch of colleagues just sharing corporate bonding. The group started their tour with a mountain flight the very next day after arriving in Kathmandu. After the magical views of stunning Himalayan range, they flew to Pokhara. Enroute they had yet another beautiful aerial experience of endless Himalayas including majestic Mt Manaslu and Annapurna. Once in Pokhara, they explored the city, did boating and had a pleasant stroll along lakeside- something typical in Pokhara. However, that was just a beginning. On 17th Feb, the group had a picnic at Dibolla, a quaint wooded area with a flowing river nearby. The same evening, they had a mini “lantern festival” to welcome Chinese New Year “The Year of Dog”. Well, a tranquil evening and gliding lantern rising up and up was some sight to behold!

Zipflying, a vertical drop of 600 metres covering a distance of 1.8 km with an inclination of 56 degree.

Zipflying, a vertical drop of 600 metres covering a distance of 1.8 km with an inclination of 56 degree.

After Zipflying!!!

At Pokhara Airport

The next day came with another greater delight of having an adventurous heli tour to Annapurna Base Camp. To organize a heli tour in the Himalayas for a group of 54 people was a feat in itself. However, everything went perfect with our two standby choppers. Thanks to Fishtail Air, one of our subsidiaries, who made this challenging tour flawless and memorable! After the real close up view of Annapurna, the members flew back to Kathmandu on the same day.

The thrilling memories of Pokhara were still fresh in mind but Kathmandu was all set to offer some historic moments. In Kathmandu, they visited two UNESCO World Heritage sites, Swayambhu and Patan Durbar Square. Both places known for immense architectural and cultural wonders offered rare glimpses of the heritages dating back to medieval age of Nepal. Finally after spending 6 days exploring the two mesmerizing cities, the trip concluded. However, the trip was not limited to touring alone – the group also took delight in the culinary richness of Nepal in some handpicked restaurants in Kathmandu and Pokhara including Kava, Pho 99, Boomerang, Mezze, Evoke, Gokarna House etc. 

So as you can see, so many things and so few days – yet the trip made sure to hit up all the best spots and best activities by the end.  As it is said “A happy employee is a happy business”, so needless to say, “Happy Pejandy” at the end! If you are also thinking of doing similar corporate incentive tours, just let us know at  enquiry@explorehimalaya.com . We are always ready for some extra miles! 

 

 

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