Just do it, Nepal has something for everyone – Heinz Egli
Nepal is not a new place for Heinz Egli, a Tourism Goodwill Ambassador for Visit Nepal 2020, a master chef, a role model hotelier and a person of global influence! He has been here not once, not twice or not even thrice but a whopping 7th time. So, Nepal does qualify to be his second home, or at least the place where he feels at home. But this time’s visit was extraordinary. He along with his 6 friends didn’t just hike but also biked around Annapurna beyond the Himalayan frontiers – totally immersing in the beauty of the Himalayas! And the most interesting part of the trip was, not only did they ride the bike, but the bikes also rode them quite often!
You might have gauzed the level of adventure involved in the trip by now. His team included Urs Besmer, Fritz Gross, Marco Foehn, Johhny Mathis, Stefan Herzog and Heinz Fischerall – all of them senior Hoteliers and Restaurateurs with more than 30 years’ experience in Hong Kong and China. As mentioned earlier, they were not here for their day in and day out job, but for the Himalayan adventure that would help them to meet mountains and people, build friendship and of course burn few calories!
The one and half week’s adventure started on 19th April – through snaky highway, continued towards the villages nestled on the lap of the Annapurnas, followed Marshyangdi River from the subtropical lowlands to the Manang basin and then crossed the Thorong La Pass (5416m- the highest point of the trip, which is also Heinz’s one of the favorite parts) before descending down to the deepest gorge in the world, the Kali Gandaki. From the lush greenery to the formidable expanse of land sculpted by the raw forces of nature manifested in its eroded cliffs and moraine valleys, from the snaky highways to impenetrable gorges and high passes – so to cut a long story short, the journey was just enough to turn anyone into a mystic, let alone Heinz and his team!
For Heinz, not a single moment or day was the best, but the whole trip! “Every day a new highlight, starting with the charity dinner at GATE School, coming out of the valley and seeing the majestic peaks, reaching the summit, relaxing in Pokhara and ending hours before going to the airport when receiving the Ambassador certificate!”
If you want to relive what Heinz and his team experienced, you can go through https://1drv.ms/f/s!AkLUjDw1n6gNguN4sWWmaP48fu6mOg for some of the greatest adventure pictures you can ever find. For now, let’s have a peek on the day to day account of their trip prepared by Heinz himself.
Day 1, 17th April 2019: Arrival in Kathmandu
The tour representative picked us up at Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu, and escorted us to the Hotel Marshyangdi in Kathmandu.
Day 2, 18th April 2019: Kathmandu
On our first day we all went to the GATE Hotel School where we were welcomed by Khem Lakai, the CEO of the school. Each one of us prepared a course for a gala dinner which was served to celebrities and friends from Nepal.
Day 3, 19th April 2019: Kathmandu to Jagat 1,300m
Early in the morning, we drove 170km westwards to the starting point of our trekking and biking in Jagat. Here we were joined by Laxman Sunar, the biking guide. The road was curvy and passed through the hills that connected us to countryside villages and farming lands. The drive moved along and crossed several main rivers flowing from the glacial mountains to the north; including the Trishuli River, a popular rafting point. At Dumre, we turned north towards Marshyangdi River to reach Besi Sahar.
The drive followed Marshyangdi River towards Syange (with a high waterfall), and we drove on to Jagat (a previous toll place on the ancient salt-trade way to Tibet).
Day 4, 20th April 2019: Trek from Jagat to Dharapani 1,860m
Moving along the east bank of Marshyangdi River, the track ascended slowly, before the valley opened into a large highland at Tal (1511m), the first village of Manang district. After crossing the broad flat gorge and the barley and potato fields, the trail climbs sharply on a stone stairway high above the stream. There were some sudden ups and downs on this section passing through jungles of blue pine to Dharapani (1,946m).
Day 5, 21st April 2019: Trek from Dharapani to Chame 2,670m
From Dharapani, the track passes a school, ascends, and again descends gently to Bagarchhap. Bagarchhap is a small village with distinctive Tibetan houses and peaceful vibes of Buddhist culture. The trail ascends to the mule track through pine and fir forests and then follows the stream for some time amongst the higher oak and maple trees. We passed through dispersed small villages before arriving in Chame (2,670m).
Day 6, 22nd April 2019: Trek from Chame to Pisang 3,200m
We followed the trails of Marshyangdi to Brathang from where we got a spectacular close-up view of Annapurna II (7,937m). Afterwards, we continued the trek via the forest with the amazing Paungda Danda rock face escalating more than 5,000 feet from the stream.
Passing a suspension bridge, we ascended for some time and then walked and rode downhill to the valley floor. Finally, we walk and biked across dry grazing land dwelling at Dhukur Pokhari. After moving for around half an hour from Dhukur Pokhari, we reached Pisang (3,190m). There we had great views of the Annapurna range and Pisang Peak (6,091m) seen from the village of Pisang.
Day 7, 23rd April 2019: Trek from Pisang to Manang 3,540m Upper trail
We followed on a difficult road onto the dry Nyesyang region that started from Upper Pisang and offered some of the best landscapes. Ghyaru is a captivating cluster-village with attractively built stone houses enclosed by meadows of wheat, barley, buckwheat, potatoes, and beans.
Then, along high cross with great landscape, up and down the valley, to Ngawal–an exciting village with Gompa and age-old juniper trees. The trail then slowly descends to Mungji from where we head to reach the renowned Thakali village of Manang. Here we enjoyed the best view of Annapurna range.
Day 8, 24th April 2019: Acclimatization Day: Hike to Chhunker viewpoint
Today it was acclimatizing/rest day. We hiked to Chhunker viewpoint where we got to relish the view of the pristine Gangapurna Lake with a backdrop of the Annapurna Range, Tilicho Peak (7,134m), Pisang Peak (6,091m), Chulo Peak (6,584m), Thorong Peak (5416m), and so on.Then we retraced back to our lodge for lunch, a typical Thakali meal. After some card games in the afternoon, we return back to the lodge for the overnight stay.
Day 9, 25th April 2019: Trek from Manang to Yak Kharka 4,018m
From Manang, we ascended alongside Thorung Khola in the main Annapurna Circuit trekking and biking trail. The trail ascends steeply to the village of Tenki, which was the last permanent settlement, around Thorung La. We headed a little further and then slowly outlined the meadows to Yak Kharka (3,900m).
Day 10, 26th April 2019: Trek from Yak Kharka to Thorong Phedi 4,450m
It was a difficult trek to Thorang Phedi. After walking and riding further, we passed a suspension bridge and reached Ledar village. We climbed furthermore the pass via immense cliffs before reaching Thorang Phedi. On this trip, we were are able to witness one of the finest views of peaks like Gundang (5,312m), Syagang (6,026m), Thorung (6,144m), and Khatungkang (6,484). The word “Phedi” in Nepali denotes the foot of a mountain.
Day 11, 27th April 2019: Trek from Thorong Phedi to Thorong-La Pass 5,416m to Muktinath 3,800m
We had an even tougher ride today than that of yesterday. The bikers had to push our bikes on a steep trail till we passed Thorung-La Pass (5,416m), which is the highest mountain pass in Nepal. The panorama of the Himalayas looked stunning from the top of Thorong-La Pass. We then descended to the holy temple of Muktinath, the God of Salvation. This is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for Hindus. Holy water flows from the 108 carved taps surrounding the temple.
Day 12, 28th April 2019: Biking trip from Muktinath to Jomsom 2,710m via Lupra valley
An early morning visit to Muktinath Temple where we also could bathe under the 108 water sprouts, which is supposed to wash our sins away. After spending some time at the temple, we continued our bike ride and headed towards Marpha.
We had a relatively easy journey. Riding on rocky trails, we passed many walls and chhortens before we entered Lupra Valley. Chasing the stunning view of the Himalayas, we rode through Kali Gandaki Valley to reach the Apple Capital of Nepal: Jomsom. Jomsom is famous for its apple orchards and the apple by-products. Overnight we stayed at Om’s Home in Jomsom, which certainly was one of the most luxurious Hotels in the area.
Day 13, 29th April 2019: Jomsom to Pokhara by flight
Early in the morning, we boarded a flight back to Pokhara enjoying the scenic landscape. We decided to stay one night at the Pavilion Himalayas, which must be one of the most beautiful Hotels in the country, if not in the whole of Asia. The town of Pokhara offers splendid views of Annapurna (8,091m), Machhapuchhre (6,993m), Dhaulagiri (8,167m), and Manaslu (8,156m). Before checking in to the Hotel we visited the FAB Hotel School which trains children of underprivileged background. This was a very impressive and memorable visit.
Day 14, 30th April 2019 Full day in Pokhara
On our last day we enjoyed the Lakeside Village of Pokhara for shopping and relaxing. Overnight we stayed at the beautiful Temple Tree Hotel. I was able to invite my student, Yam for dinner at the world class Roadhouse Pizzeria.
Day 15, 1st May 2019: Flying from Pokhara to Kathmandu for 25 minutes and final Departure from Kathmandu
Relishing the astonishing panorama of Annapurna range, Lamjung Himal, Manaslu range, Ganesh Himal range, and Langtang Himal, we flew back to the capital. After a 25-minute flight, we reached Kathmandu and headed to Thamel. Here we met Suman Ji who showed us the way to a Palace nearby where I was awarded Tourism Ambassador Visit Nepal 2020. This was indeed a big honour for me and a great surprise too. After visiting Suman Pandey’s new restaurant, we were dropped off at Tribhuvan International Airport for our final departure.
Annapurna Base Camp has been a mecca for trekkers all the time. Either you are a beginner in the world of trekking or an aficionado for whom mountains are the second home, Annapurna region never ceases to lure the hungry feet of all sorts. And everyone knows the reason why – Annapurna Base Camp Trek is one of most rewarding treks in the Himalayas yet one of the easiest one! However, one should not be duped by the word “Easy”. There are certain things you need to know about Annapurna Base Camp Trek to make this adventure “a lifetime experience”.
There are three ways of doing trekking in Annapurna region– GAP, TH and Fully organized camping trek (FOT). The most popular are GAP and TH. GAP comes with Guide, Accommodation and Porter; whereas TH (teahouse) includes Guide, Accommodation, Porter and all meals. As the Annapurna region has adequate accommodation facility, FOT is not recommended. There is also a choice of travelling independently, but it’s not recommended considering the remoteness of the region.
Annapurna Base Camp Trek is rated as “Moderate to fairly challenging”. The trek goes through villages, rolling hills, forested area and then right into high mountain landscape leading to Annapurna South Base Camp (4130m), the highest point of the trek. It involves approx 6-8 hours trekking along rocky ridges. No previous experience is required, you should be moderately fit, used to some regular exercise and enjoy walking in the high altitude conditions.
Best Time to Travel
The best seasons to trek to Annapurna 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. Travelling during winter (from December to February) is also possible but the temperature will be harsh and higher places will have heavy snow. Those who don’t like crowded trails and can bear extreme weather conditions can trek during this time. During monsoon (from mid May to mid-September), the weather is cloudy resulting in very poor visibility.
*March, April, October and November are the most popular and favored months for traveling.
The Gurungs form the largest group in the Annapurna region. They come from Tibeto Burmese stock. They inhabit the higher northern slopes of the Annapurna, Lamjung,Chuli and hills around Ganesh Himal. A large number of Gurung men serve in the British and Indian armies. The immediate vicinity of Pokhara is largely populated by Chettris and Brahmins. The Magars inhabit the lower trail between Baglung and Dana. They live high on the steep ridges along the tributaries of the Kali Gandaki. Another ethnic group of this region is the Thakalis. Known throughout the country as accomplished hoteliers and skilled traders, they are noted for their aggressive trading spirit. Baragaun Bhotiya, Lopa, Manages also inhabit in the region towards the northest of Annapurna region.
Climate, Flora & Fauna
The climate in the Annapurna region varies from subtropical to alpine. The southern slopes of the area has the highest rainfall rate in the country- 3000mm per year, whereas the northern slopes lying in the rain shadow has the lowest rate – less than 300mm per year. The difference in the climatic conditions in this region is responsible for its varied flora and fauna.The Southern lowlands are lush with subtropical forests consisting of chirpine and alder. In the Northern highlands temperate forests of oaks, rhododendron, fir, and blue pine are found. The wet regions yield a variety of bamboo species. The higher altitude further North give rise to forests of birch, blue pine and juniper trees. The area is also rich in wildlife. There are around four hundred and seventy-four species of birds, and around a hundred species of mammals. The Annapurna region serves as an excellent habitat for rare and endangered mammals like the snow leopard, musk deer, blue sheep, red panda and many of Nepal’s brilliantly plumaged pheasants.
The trail on Annapurna Base Camp does not go too high i.e. not above 4130m, so chances of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) are very low. Though Altitude Sickness has the potential to affect all travelers from 2500m and higher, itinerary should be planned in such a way that you make very gradual ascent, spending some days at a low elevation to build necessary acclimatization before walking up to Annapurna South Base Camp at 4130m (the highest point on this trek). If you have ever suffered from altitude sickness, or have a heart or breathing complaint, consult your doctor about your suitability for trekking in high altitude areas before planning the trip.
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.
As vaccination requirements change frequently, we suggest you to consult your doctor at least 2 months prior to the beginning of your trip. We recommend protection against malaria, tetanus, typhoid, hepatitis and polio.
Your travel insurance must cover cancellation, medical expenses, helicopter evacuation and emergency repatriation if you are trekking in Nepal.
In case of a serious sickness or a casualty (which we hope won’t happen), helicopter rescue and evacuation is available. Since you are entirely liable for all the expenses incurred in evacuation please make sure that it is covered by your insurance before assigning for it or be prepared to pay on your own after getting back to Kathmandu.
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.
You don’t have to spend a fortune on this. Just be rational on your choice. You need walking boots, sleeping bag (4 seasons/ -20C rated), waterproof jacket and trousers, fleece jacket, warm hat and gloves, sunglasses, water bottle, sun-screen, day pack etc.
As geographical variation is very wide, you should go with layering style. While trekking in Annapurna 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.
*If you book with a travel company, they will provide you a complete list of gears and clothing.
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.
You will find plenty of modest tea houses along the trekking trail. You can stay in single rooms where possible, but often you may have to share. Rooms are basic, normally just a bed with a pillow and blankets. So a sense of adventure is required. In Kathmandu and Pokhara, 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 Annapurna 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. Also, make sure that your day pack is well stocked with snacks, chocolates and bars.
You can either take a 30 minutes’ scenic flight or drive (6/7 hours) to Pokhara. From Pokhara, you have to drive to Nayapool (approx. 2 hours), the starting point of the trek.
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.
There are a plenty of telephone facilities in the Annapurna region. Cell phones work throughout the trail.. However, keep in mind that it can’t be as smooth as in lowlands. If it is important for you to keep in contact with your family or others, you can get a rental satellite phone.
Money exchange is not a problem in Kathmandu and Pokhara. You can find many local certified moneychangers. But same can’t be expected during trek. So, make sure that you have enough local money during your trek. Card payment (Visa, MasterCard, JCB and American Express) is also widely accepted in tourist- class hotels, restaurants and shops in Kathmandu and Pokhara.
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.
All the best for your adventure in Annapurna!!
By Ingita Dangol, EH Sales Department
“When you leave the comfort of your home and home country to engage in volunteer project in Nepal where your help is greatly needed, it will have a deep impact on you as well as the local people life also. Sometimes we forget how privileged we really are. We complain about our daily lives, health, education, work but when you spend time in a local community of Nepal that has significantly less than you do and is struggling in different ways, you might realize that your problems aren’t all that bad.” – CKY Student Group, Helambu Circuit Trek
As previous year, Explore Himalaya Travel & Adventure of Nepal in partnership with Travel Adviser (Hongkong) once again operated 6 nights/7 days Full Camping Trek of Helambu Circuit from 25th Nov to 01st Dec 2018. The trek which included 16 students and 3 teachers of CKY School of Hong Kong had the objective to explore the rural communities and discover the natural beauty of Nepal. The group had a whole week of fun and adventure. However, the students also wanted to make the trek purposeful. They donated medicine to the local health post and educational equipment to the local schools. At every donation point, the group was warmly welcomed and cheered by teachers, students, health practitioners and local people. The trek started their Helambu Circuit Trek from Sundarijal, north of Kathmandu valley and ended at Kiul.
A brief outlook on the group’s daily activities is as follows:
Day 1: Drive to Sundarijal and Trek to Chisapani (2054 m) – around 5 hours
At around 8:30 am, the group departed from Hotel Shangrila to Sundarijal. The groups reached Sundarijal, their trek starting point at 10 am. The first two hours was a bit strenuous due to a steep uphill path which looked like never ending. Everybody took lots of short rests during the first few hours. On the way, they passed through Shivapuri National Park. It took them around 5 hours to reach at Chisapani.
Day 2: Trek to Golfu Bhanjyang (2142m) – 6/7 hours
The trek continued through the refreshing forested area and beautiful settlements to Chipling village for lunch. After lunch, it continued to Golfu Bhanjyang for overnight camp.
Day 3: Trek to Manginggoth (3285m) – 8 hours
Early in the morning after breakfast, the trek started. Before lunch which they had at Khutumsang, there was a short program held at Khutumsang Health Post where the group donated medical supplies and had short briefing about health post. Later on, the group visited Himalayan Primary School where they conducted events like Hungry Hippo, football and paper airplane. During these event, the group got mixed with local students and enjoyed their moment together.
Day 4: Trek to Melamchi Gynag (3300m) via Tharepati (3685m) – 7 hours
Early morning, the group went for a 3 hours’ trek to Tharepati from where the magnificent mountain ranges could be seen. After lunch at Tharepati, they hiked down to Melamchi Gyang where they stayed for overnight.
Day 5: Trek to Malerepo – 4 hours
Before they moved towards Malerepo, the student group visited Melamchi Gyang Secondary School and donated stationery, sports materials and medicine to the Headmaster of the school. After lunch, they headed to Melerepo.
Day 6: Trek to Kiul – 5 hours
After breakfast, the group trekked to Kiul where they had a short program at Shree Bhumeshori Secondary School. They donated stationary and sports materials to the students and had a short briefing about their goals. Later on, the group spent some moments together with the local students by playing and dancing.
Day 7: Drive back to Kathmandu from Kiul – 4 hours and International Departure
After early morning breakfast, the group headed towards Kathmandu by bus. On reaching Kathmandu, the group had a sightseeing tour to Kathmandu Durbar Square. They also had refreshment and lunch program at Hotel Marshyangdi. After lunch the group explored Thamel Bazaar for shopping and hunting souvenir and gifts to their friends and family. Finally, a week of adventure was wrapped up with a candle light dinner at Hotel Shangrila, where the group had a short review session with the members and the staffs of Explore Himalaya. This was one of the best parts of their trip, where they got to share their words and daily experiences. All of them expressed their gratitude to Explore Himalaya for arranging such a meaningful trek for them and expressed their hope to get such opportunities in upcoming days.
Everest Skydive, world’s most adventurous aerial event, organized its 13th edition on 16th and 17th November 2018 at Syangboche (3780m/12400ft), a small plateau at the base of Mt. Khumbila. The two days’ event had two solo and two tandem jumpers from Indonesia, UK and Nepal. The first day’s jump started with clear blue skies at scheduled time. The first lift, which was done by AS350 B3 chopper flown by Captain Eric from Summit Heli, took place at 10:00 am local time. The lift had two solo jumpers Christopher David Ings (Britain) and Naila Novaranti (Indonesia); and two camera flyers Wendy Smith (New Zealand) and Paul Henry (France). After reaching the height of 19000ft, the members jumped off the chopper with Everest and other beautiful peaks in the backdrop. After the most exhilarating free fall, the jump concluded with terrific landing on Syangboche airstrip at 10:23 am local time. After the first lift, the jumps had to be pulled off due to poor weather condition.
The next day, the jump started at 7:35 local time with the same crew and jump members but this time they had high-jump from the altitude of 20000ft. Both jumpers had spectacular touchdown at 8:00 am. Due to inclement weather on the second day also, rest of the jumps including tandem jumps, wing suit jumps and Amadablam jump were cancelled which brought the event to a close for this year. Considered as one of the most thrilling skydiving adventures in the world, the event was also particularly unique because of the two days’ exciting trek to Namche and a short uphill climb to the dropzone the jumpers had to do before their most anticipated jumps. Both skydivers Christopher David Ings and Naila Novaranti expressed their whole experience as the one nothing can beat! Now the whole Everest Skydive team is heading for Pokhara for Pokhara Skydive 2018, another splendid skydiving adventure in the Himalayas.
*Everest Skydive is an exclusive annual event of Explore Himalaya!
This October has been quite exciting for us as we had a wonderful opportunity to operate an amazing off-the-beaten trip to Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve, the only hunting reserve of Nepal, for a group of 13 trekkers from Kipling Travel Denmark. Dhorpatan, which is one of the least known trekking areas in Nepal, literally means “dhor – the marshland” and “patan – the pastureland”. Beside the hunting reserve, the region is also famous for numerous pastureland, Kham settlements, rich wildlife and impressive views of the Himalayas. Though the hunting reserve, which is the major highlight of the trip, was established in 1985, the area was developed as a trekking region quite recently, the fact that also made the trip even more special.
The trip started with the group’s arrival in Kathmandu on 7th October followed by a flight to Pokhara the next day. Upon reaching Pokhara, they drove to Beni, which is the district headquarter of Myagdi and the starting point of the trek. On 9th October, leaving the traces of modernity behind, they continued through the untouched countryside along the shadows of Mt Dhaulagiri (8167m), the 7th highest peak in the world. Passing through the welcoming villagers, pristine jungles, wide meadows, sparkling rivers, the Jaljala Pass (3400m) and the amazing views of mountain ranges including the Annapurnas, Dhaulagiri and Gurja Himal, the group finally reached the hunting reserve on 12th October.
The next day they explored the surrounding nature and spent a night before retracing their journey back to Pokhara. However, that was not the end of the fun! Once they were back in Kathmandu, they had a full day sightseeing in the UNESCO Heritage sites of Kathmandu namely Pashupatinath, one of the world’s biggest Hindu shrine; Boudhanath, one of the world’s biggest Buddhist stupa and Kathmandu Durbar Square, an artistic palace courtyard dating back to medieval time. Finally, after about two weeks’ of adventure and fun, the group departed to their home on 19th October. As it is said, trekking in Nepal always comes with organic taste, this trip in particular offered a real experience of authentic trekking in Nepal which our members are going to keep in their for long.