By Ingita Dangol, EH Sales Department , Helambu Circuit Trek “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
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.
On the way to Tharepati
A photo moment while on the way to Golfu Bhanjyang
Bhumeswori Secondary School at Kuil
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.
At Khutumsang Health Post
On the way to Chisapani
Painting Activity at Himalaya Primary School at Khutumsang
Himalaya Primary School at Khutumsang
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.
Camping at Golfy Bhanjyang
Medicine and Stationery materials donation at Melamchi School
Lunch at Melamchi Ghyang
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.
Christopher and Naila before the jump
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.
Naila Novaranti with Indonesia flag
Christopher, Naila and Wendy Smith above Namche Bazaar
*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.
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.
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.
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 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 female Himalayan Tahr
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.
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.
A Chorten at Phortse
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.
A local hotel
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.
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