Just back from: Nepal
Angela Tinson, Associate Product Director in Lonely Planet’s Dublin office, recently returned from a trip to Nepal.
Tell us more… Two friends and I recently hiked the Manaslu Circuit in the Nepal Himalaya. It’s a teahouse trek, meaning you mostly hike from village to village, staying in (very basic) guesthouses and cabins. The trail reaches an altitude of 5135m. We completed the hike over 13 days, including an acclimatisation/rest day in Samagaon. We followed the hike with some recovery time in beautiful lakeside Pokhara and vibrant Kathmandu.
In a nutshell… Hiking from the foothills of the Himalaya up over Larkya La (this pass is the highest point of the circuit), you traverse an astounding range of landscapes – from lush farmland and forests to stark, rocky plateaus surrounded by enormous snow-capped peaks (Manaslu I is the eighth-highest peak in the world, at 8156m). The weather also varies from sun-blazing 30 degrees Celsius in the valleys, to below zero as you head higher up; we were lucky enough to have only a couple of days of rain and no snow.
You walk on the same paths that villagers and kids use to get to market and school every day, alongside an amazing array of pack animals, including yaks, mules, water buffalo and dzo (a yak/cow hybrid). Every child you pass greets you with an enthusiastic ‘namaste!’. It’s a special way to see the cultural diversity of Nepal, as you travel from Hindu villages in the middle hills to Buddhist areas up near the Tibetan border, passing mani stone walls (intricate structures made using stones inscribed with Buddhist prayers), stupas featuring Buddha eyes and colourful prayer flags.
Serious hikers only? Not at all! Don’t get me wrong, every day was tiring and some days were particularly physically and mentally challenging (especially the Larkya La crossing, where the altitude saps all of your energy), but with a reasonable level of fitness (plus good boots and appropriate clothing!) it’s an achievable trek. It’s illegal to hike in parts of this area without a local guide, so we had a Sherpa guide and two porters looking after us: guiding us, negotiating our food and accommodation and carrying the majority of our belongings.
Good grub? Not so much (at least while trekking)! To be fair, I was expecting nothing but dal bhat (lentils and rice) for every meal, so we were pleasantly surprised to see that the teahouses did have more extensive menus. But after two carb-heavy weeks we were overjoyed to see Pokhara’s international selection of bars and restaurants. Top tip: you can never pack too many Snickers bars for hiking!
Recovery treats? After the hike we spent three days in Pokhara, where I had a massage, attended a singing bowl meditation class and drank lassis to my heart’s content. Then we moved on to Kathmandu; we did some shopping (my top picks were singing bowls and cashmere scarves), visited Swayambhunath (the monkey temple; so called for the hundreds of monkeys living around the stupa) and relaxed in the Garden of Dreams (a neo-classical garden built by Field Marshal Kaiser Sumsher Rana in 1920).
The entire trip was amazing and I highly recommend it!
Want more behind-the-scenes adventures? Find out what Destination Editor Tom Stainer got up to on his recent trip to Bahrain.
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