Memorable Moments in the Himalaya
By Olly Townsend, Exodus' Leader Operations Manager
'Good morning; bed tea', says Lapka, our guide. By the third or fourth day, we’d got into a routine and knew that we had about 15 minutes between the bed tea being delivered and the arrival of the hot ‘wash water’. This meant we could snatch another two minutes in bed, down-filled sleeping bags pulled up to our chins, before the frantic rush to get dressed in the chilly early morning bedroom. Although I wouldn’t call myself a seasoned Nepal trekker, I’ve been lucky enough to visit this beautiful place three times now, so I know pretty much what to expect. Tantalising glimpses of snow-capped peaks as you fly into Kathmandu, incredibly friendly people at every turn and fantastic sights, sounds and smells which batter your senses as you stroll through central Kathmandu.
Once out on trek there are the ever-changing views to admire and a tangible buzz of excitement each morning, wondering what the day will bring. Some people may think that going on an organised trek takes the fun out of it, but having slogged my way around the Annapurna Circuit with my sister six years ago, where we stupidly chose to carry all our own gear (about 20kg in my case, though that was my own fault for stubbornly insisting on taking a portable CD player and 80 of my favourite CDs!), the novelty of ‘doing it yourself’ soon wore off. Although a group trip means slightly less freedom to go where you like, the benefits are huge. You have friendly and competent experts leading the way and the security of knowing that if anything bad happened to you, they would be there to help you out. Plus there’s a great sense of camaraderie with the other members of the group as you share the challenges and triumphs of your trek. And then there are the little things, like getting a hot water bottle made up for you
when the temperature drops!
Most mountain lovers will be able to picture iconic photographs of Hillary and Tensing nearing the top of Everest, or prayer flags strung out in the sunshine, but once you’re actually in Nepal yourself, you begin to notice the more subtle aspects. On my last trip, high up in the Langtang Valley, we entered a village right at the end of the day. Beside the trail on the way up to our tea hut (modest accommodation built near the main trekking routes where you can have a comfy bed, a dining room warmed by a small log burning stove, and an incredible choice of food to eat), we came across a small group of children playing. We stopped and watched them for a while (it was a good excuse for a rest after the long climb up to their beautiful location) and my partner pulled out a small camera with which to take their picture. Instantly the children signalled their unhappiness with this, and hid their faces. It was only after another 10 or 15 minutes had passed, during which time we practiced our limited, but poetic Nepali - 'Namaste', the typical greeting (meaning I salute the god within you), that the children approached. One little boy was wearing a Tweed jacket, about 10 sizes too big and was so happy he danced around in front of his friends. My partner videoed him and showed him the resulting images using the screen on the back of her camera. The effect was electric; children who shortly before had hidden their faces and turned away, suddenly all wanted to be filmed and happily danced, sang and pulled faces – anything in fact, to get our attention, and more importantly to get ‘on film’.
It’s only when you look back on your trip that you realise that it’s not always the ‘big ticket items’ that make you smile. It’s often the little things, like a small group of children being delighted at seeing their own images played back to them on a small camera screen, that make the biggest impression.
Walking Grades: A – leisurely B – moderate C – challenging D – tough E – tough+
Remember: there is no additional ‘local payment’ to pay on any of these trips.