Many years ago, before my first trip to Nepal, I didn’t think I liked trekking. In fact, I knew I didn’t like trekking. I avoided it, opting for cable cars at every opportunity, and planned my holidays around other activities. But, there are no cable cars in the high Himalaya, and during my first few months in Nepal I really came around to the idea of trekking in Nepal. If I can do it, almost anyone can! Here are five reasons why you should give trekking in Nepal a chance, even if you think you don’t want to.
1) The infrastructure is good
While not luxurious, many parts of Nepal have well-established networks of tea-houses, so there are always places to stay and eat. This is not the case in many parts of the world, where to trek through the most spectacular scenery it is necessary to camp (carrying your own tent) or stay in over-crowded, shared huts. The quality of Nepali lodges varies, but abundant blankets, warm (if not hot) water and private rooms can be expected.
2) You will be well-fed while trekking in Nepal
Lodges are run by the local people, and all food is made fresh. Menus are standard–momos, noodles, rice, pancakes, porridge, tea, deep-fried Mars bars–because these have proven to be what foreign trekkers like, so it is reliably tasty.
Paying attention to your meals will also give you a deeper socio-cultural understanding of the areas you are trekking through. Fresh fruit and vegetables disappear from the menus the higher into the mountains you progress, as little grows at high altitudes and everything must be transported on foot (human, donkey or yak), and the shape, size and filling of momos differ radically as you move between ethnic Nepali and Tibetan regions.
3) There is no other way of being face-to-face with the tallest mountains on earth
Yes, the Himalaya are sometimes visible from Kathmandu, but only in the distance. The perfect fish-tail peak of Macchapucchare looms beside the lakeside town of Pokhara, but it is fairly lonely. A flight east or west over Nepal affords expansive, jaw-dropping views, but only if you’re sitting on the correct side of the aeroplane on a daytime flight.
To really experience the awe-inspiring grandeur of the Himalaya, it’s necessary to walk to them. The slower pace means that you can creep up on the mountains as they inch closer into view, taking in how they change in the light and atmospheric conditions. Even the most gorgeous photographs cannot capture what it means to be standing at 3000 metres and looking up at peaks another 4000 above you. Trekking is the only way to really see Nepal.
4) To avoid the roads
There is no other way to put it: Nepali roads are terrible.
Even the “good” one–the highway between Kathmandu and Pokhara–is slow, windy, potholed, congested with trucks, short on convenience stops, and suffers from roadworks and landslides with annoying regularity. The bad ones, connecting small towns in Nepal’s valleys, are treacherous. You will be advised to sit on the roof of the bus so that you can jump off in the case of an imminent plunge into a river or canyon, and you will assume that the person telling you this is joking. They are not. Trekking keeps you off the roads a little longer.
5) Because you only live once
Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.