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.
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/.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 travel insurance which covers cancellation, medical expenses, helicopter evacuation and emergency repatriation is a MUST if you are trekking in Nepal.
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. Please visit https://www.explorehimalaya.com/2018/07/23/trekking-gear-list-for-everest-base-camp-trek/ for a complete list.
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/
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.
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.
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).
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.]