Parting Shots: Nepal

9 09 2013

Nepal-7

ManAboutWorld Global Correspondent Scott Holman recently returned from Nepal, and we selected his journey to feature as this month’s Parting Shots in our magazine. Here’s his expanded story, and more of his photos.

1. Why did you go?
My spouse and I both independently had always wanted to see the Himalayas in person. Together, we wanted to do the popular Mt. Everest Base Camp trek and see the world’s tallest mountain up close.

2. How far in advance did you plan the trip?
We started planning five to six months in advance. For the trek specifically, there is much preparation from choosing and booking a trekking guide to buying equipment, taking care of any medical requirements, extra Stairmaster sessions and obtaining any necessary visas.

3. Who did you travel with?
My husband, Chris.

4. What surprised you about the trip?
On the trek, there are no cars or mechanical vehicles except for emergency helicopters, so you’re on foot heading towards each day’s destination while slowly adjusting to the altitude. You also don’t really bathe since opportunities to do so are limited and lodgings can be very rustic often with no electricity or heat. I developed a kind of scruffy existentialism where I let go of vanity and reveled in the fact that I was on the other side of the world so far removed from the life I know. You can’t help but shrug your shoulders and go with it — very surprising how freeing that feeling was.

5. What do you know now that you wish you knew before going?
This was my first time traveling to a developing nation on this level. I’m generally a patient person but it took an extra dose of patience to deal with situations that didn’t happen on the schedules we expected coupled with some occasional chaotic disorganization. I wish we had padded in a bit more time to account for several delays that ultimately affected the trip.

6. Favorite moment was…
There were many… But my husband proposed to me during the trek while staying in a small, beautiful village high in the Himalayas — unforgettable. Then there was the perfect, cloudless day trekking across a high alpine meadow at roughly 16,000 feet surrounded by mountains 5,000 to 10,000 feet higher — breathtaking and humbling.

7. Best time to go…
Best time to go is during the dry seasons before and after the monsoons: October and November (the most popular) or March and April.

8. Gay Factor
The gay factor was minimal and we weren’t expecting or looking for specifically gay experiences on this trip (i.e. bars, clubs, etc.). However, we would randomly come across locals who were clearly gay although it was generally unspoken. My husband and I were not openly affectionate with each other (and Nepalis are not in general), but we never felt unsafe or uncomfortable.

<h4>More of Scott’s Photos</h4>

1.  Monkey Temple, Kathmandu
Situated on a hilltop above and to the west of Kathmandu, Swayambhunath,, aka Monkey Temple, is obviously named because of a large population of holy monkeys that occupy the Buddhist temple grounds.

Nepal 1

2. Durbar Square, Patan
Located to the south of Kathmandu, Patan, one of the oldest known Buddhist cities, is a complex of royal palaces, temples and residential buildings. Patan is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the current structures date back to the 1600’s.

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3. Idols, Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu
Pashupatinath was erected in the 17th century and is the largest Hindu temple in Kathmandu. This UNESCO World Heritage site is largely used as an area for public cremations, which can be seen on a daily basis.

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4. Domestic Airport, Kathmandu
The domestic terminal of Tribhuvan International is a loud, busy and generally chaotic hub for all flights within Nepal. It is also the starting point for most treks within the country so it is filled with travelers from around the world.

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5. Flight from Kathmandu to Lukla

Nepal’s landscape from the air is a variety of greens, terraced crops and the boxy style of architecture that makes up most of the country’s buildings. As you approach the Himalayas, the landscape becomes more rugged, forested and less populated.

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6. Mani Stones, Mt. Everest Base Camp Trek
These stones are carved with the mani prayer, “Om Mani Padme Hum,” are placed all along the trail. Many are small and tablet size but there are also rock walls and large stones both carved and painted with the prayer. The stones are to bless travelers on their trek.

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7. Suspension Bridge, Mt. Everest Base Camp Trek
Since there are no motorized vehicles in the Khumbu region, the trail to Everest acts as the main highway into the Himalayas. Several steel bridges cross the Dudh Koshi River, such as this one, to the small village of Phakding.

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8. On the Trail, Mt. Everest Base Camp Trek
The trail is shared by many traveling in the Khumbu region including pack animals that carry the supplies of trekking groups as well as goods and to various villages.

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9. On the Trail, Mt. Everest Base Camp Trek
Many groups make the trek to Base Camp. At times, the trail can be crowded with brightly colored trekkers with their walking poles. This stone stairway was the beginning of a 3-hour ascent to the hub of the Khumbu, Namche Bazaar.

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10. Spring Rolls and Milk Tea, Namche Bazaar, Mt. Everest Base Camp Trek
The food options on the trek are varied. From traditional, regional dishes such as Sherpa stew, curried veggies and rice with dahl, to the wacky — pizza, spaghetti and deep-fried Snickers bars. And everyone serves some variation of apple pie. But tea is a constant. As a way to stay hydrated without worries of little critters in the water, stops for tea happen many times throughout the day.

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11. Outdoor Market, Namche Bazaar, Mt. Everest Base Camp Trek
Namche is the largest village in the Khumbu region and, usually, a 2 night stay for all trekkers as a place to regroup, buy supplies and adjust to the altitude. The village includes an outdoor market selling everything from fruits and vegetables, to candy, clothing and cooking tools. This seller has dried hot peppers, beans and dough balls for soups and stews.

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12. Namche Bazaar, Mt. Everest Base Camp Trek
Since Namche is a stopping point for everyone on their trek, the village offers shopping opportunities for colorful souvenirs.

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13. Namche Bazaar, Mt. Everest Base Camp Trek
Namche’s setting is very dramatic. Trekkers arrive at the village after a 3 hour uphill climb. The village is set up like a tiered amphitheater where the stage is a dramatic drop into a river gorge. To help adjust to the altitude, trekkers make day hikes high above Namche.

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14. Practicing Monks, Tengboche Monastery, Mt. Everest Base Camp Trek
Situated at over 12,500 feet, this monastery is home to more than 60 monks and is a traditional stopping point for Mt. Everest climbers to receive blessings. These monks are practicing their dance for the upcoming annual Mani Rimdu Festival — the most important festival for the Sherpa people.

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15. Dingboche, Mt. Everest Base Camp Trek
At 14,500 feet, Dingboche is one of the more pleasant and peaceful villages on the trek. Pathways and yak pastures are separated by chest high stone walls among clusters of lodges, The Himalayas sore over the village on all sides as seen here at sunrise.

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16. On the Trail, Mt. Everest Base Camp Trek
Our porter carries our duffles as he enters an area of chortens (monuments to the dead) between the villages of Dingboche and Lobuche. These chortens are specifically for those who have died while climbing Mt. Everest and includes stones carved with names, prayer scarves and personal items.

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17. Gorak Shep, Mt. Everest Base Camp Trek
Gorak Shep is the last village on the trek for visitors to Base Camp. At over 17,000 feet, the landscape is desolate and lunar, but the views of the Himalayas are unobstructed and spectacular. In the distance at the base of the mountains is the Khumbu Ice Fall at the edge of which sits the base camp for Everest climbers.

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18. Mt Everest, Mt. Everest Base Camp Trek
The view of Mt. Everest is partially obstructed from the Nepal side of the Himalayas making its height of nearly 29,000 feet visually shorter than the peaks in front. To reach base came itself, you cross the Khumbu glacier, which pops, cracks and shifts under your feet. Behind the taller peak on the left of this shot is the peak of Everest below and to the right.

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19. Tengboche Monastery, Mt. Everest Base Camp Trek
Statue at the entrance to Tengboche Monastery. Monasteries are often bright swirls of colors and strongly scented with incense. Detailed illustrations of Buddha’s life adorn the walls and ceilings are painted with mandalas.

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20. Lukla Airport, Mt. Everest Base Camp Trek
Lukla is the starting and stopping point for all Everest Base Camp treks. Considered one of the world’s most dangerous airports, Lukla’s runway is perched on a mountain ledge and is sloped. When taking off you zoom downhill towards a drop off into a deep ravine then fly between mountain peaks towards Kathmandu.

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