I was asked by my boss last week why could he find an Everest Base Camp trek online for just under ₹55,000, when the one MHE offers is more expensive. “YOU HAVE TO MAKE IT MORE AFFORDABLE” he said.
Let me say at the start, you get what you pay for. if you pay peanuts you get monkeys. And always read the fine print.
Let’s assume you select the EBC-Gokyo trip offered by one of "India’s Largest Trekking Community". The listed price is around ₹54,590 - for their September/October 2017 departure. What does that include? Here's a quick comparative, to help you out:
Yes, at first glance we look more expensive. Once you add in all the above, you’ll find that you aren’t saving much at all, and adding a lot of aggravation to your trip.
Our prices include all taxes, staff, accommodation on twin share, food on trek, the required drinking water of 5 - 6 litres per day for every trekking day and transport from the time you land in Kathmandu to the time you leave for home.
Perhaps most importantly, all our guides and sherpas have relevant experience and training, certified by the Nepal government, and as with all MHE trips, your safety is our prime concern. There will always be an experienced MHE trip leader; we won’t leave you to wander the trail on your own, and if you feel unwell there’s always a sherpa by your side. If you need to be medically evacuated, a quick decision will be made, the insurance company contacted and if weather permits, you will be airlifted as soon as possible.
We are upfront, we are responsible, we’ve got decades of field experience, and we care about you. Do let us know if you'd like us to refer you to guests who have done this trek with us - feel free to speak with them directly.
Himachal Pradesh has some stunning mountain treks to be savoured. These mountains are so beautiful and offer so much variety, from the trans Himalayan districts of Lahaul and Spiti, to the green Dhauladhars that it becomes difficult to choose what I would call the top 5 treks here, however, I will list my favourites and tell you why I chose them.
Chandratal to Baralacha
An introductory trek to the area of the trans Himalaya. Today you can drive almost to this beautiful lake nestled amid green meadows where shepherds graze their sheep and the buttercups turn up their deep yellow faces to brighten your path. After an acclimatising day here, you start your walk along the valley of the Chandra river up to the cross roads of the Himalaya - the Baralacha Pass. The walk is along scree slopes and across streams, watching the spread of the river into myriad, silvered channels when the valley spreads, and growing into a raging torrent where it narrows. You camp in meadows by streams, observing the nomadic shepherds and getting some of their stories. You finally top out into a chocolate and cream world at the top of the Baralacha pass. This is the cross roads into the valleys of the Chandra, the Bhaga, the Spiti and the Tsarap rivers. Basically the head waters of the Chenab, the Sutlej and the Zanskar rivers. A trek I would grade as comfortable if you have taken the precautions that altitude always demands.
Duration : 5 basic trekking days, add a few for acclimatising and travel to and from. 7 to 8 days.
Season: Mid May through September.
For inspiration on treks in the Chandratal area click here.
The Indrahar Pass or Across the Dhauladhar
This is one of the most used passes across the Dhauladhar, traditionally used by shepherds getting their flocks from Kangra into the high pastures around Barmour in the Ravi valley.
I first did this trek following the shepherds, starting from Macleodganj, across the pass and down into the valley of the Ravi river. It is a green trek on both sides unlike the passes that cross the Great Himalayan ranges. You get to see, if interested, the Tibetan community in exile and their temple, school and monastery where the ancient tibetan arts are being revived. Then once you cross the pass you come into the valley where ancient Hinduism has been preserved in the temples of Bharmour and Chamba. No conquests got to this protected valley and thus the ancient art of the miniature painting was preserved as well as the unspoilt temples.
Duration: 6 -7 trek days, add 3 for travel. 10 days.
Season: mid May - June. Sept - Nov.
The Pin Parvati Pass
This is a magical trek, up along the valley of the Parvati river, which branches off the Kullu valley. You visit the temple and gurudwara at Manikaran and hear the legend of the hot spring. Carry on up along this beautiful river to the village of Pulga where you start your trek. Up above the hydro electric project you start walking to Khir Ganga, where you can lie in a hot bath to soak our your first days aches - carry on up the valley till you reach the holy lake Mantalai, the source of the Parvati and said to be a tantric centre of great power. This is where you challenge across the Pass starts - this is normally glaciated and a long pass to cross, but it brings you across into the Pin River valley and the village of Mud, where you meet the road head and drive into the Spiti valley. On the one side you start with green forest walking through oak and red rhododendron trees, to where the red of the rhododendron turns to pink, lavender and then white as it turns from a tree to a shrub with the changing altitude. Then across the pass - you meet the spiring rock and dust mountains of a land where time stood still and the mind has room to soar.
Duration: 7 -8 trek days, add 4 for travel. 12- 14 days.
Season: mid May - June. Sept - Nov.
The Chandrakhani Pass
Himachal is a fast progressing state where the roads are providing connectivity almost everywhere, but there are still a few areas that need to be accessed by foot. This pass takes you from the Kullu valley into the Parvati valley via the ancient village of Malana. A lost village in it’s high mountain fastness protecting a people and culture based on the ancient Greek. From the meadows of the Bijli Mahadev temple which you reach through forests of high deodar, you climb through the Chandrakhani pass, down to Malana village and on to the road head near Kasol. A village that has grown to be a hub of young tourists with all sorts of cafe’s and bars. Malana has gained fame as defining of the quality of marijuana that grows there, however, the trek is a lovely walk through great mountain scenery.
Duration: 3 -4 trek days, add 2 for travel. 6 - 7 days.
Season: mid May - June. Sept - Nov.
The village home stay trail in Spiti
To get the truly local flavour and experience the real life style of the people of Spiti, this is a trek that takes you from village home to village home, meeting and living with the families, eating off the produce from their fields - peas, potatoes, beans and the various flours and Satu grains. Wonderfully healthy all that walking, fresh air and fresh food. Then there is the food for the mind and soul that the very essence of the mountains, and the complete sense of immensity and space provide. You can also visit the monasteries along the way, sit in on the monks prayers and post a letter from the highest post office at Hikkim.
Remember though - that it is an actual home stay - they have not provided flushing toilets and mod cons, you would use the traditional outhouse privies with the dry composting technique unique to the area. Your beds are the flat divans covered in traditional rugs and shawls. You sit in the central room around the stove and eat off the low tables the traditional fare. It is a truly immersive experience for those that would relish it.
Duration: 5 - 7 trek days, add 5 - 6 for travel. 10 - 12 days.
Season: Mid May through November.
- Pavane Mann, Director, Unique Explorations, MHE
This blog post originally appeared in sulekha.com
Nepal, India’s nearest neighbour, is a fantastic and often overlooked destination. Did you know you can get a return flight from around ₹10,000, and Indian citizens don’t need a visa? Nepal is not just about Mount Everest – it has so much more to offer!
1. LANGTANG TREKKING
Langtang National Park, less than a day’s drive from Kathmandu, offers some of the most spectacular treks in Nepal without the transport access issues of other trekking areas. In the spring, the enormous rhododendrons are a delight of red, pink, yellow, white and mauve. Any time of year is great to visit the Langtang area – enjoy a trek to holy Gosainkund Lake, have the chance to see wild red pandas and soak in the hot springs on the Tamang Heritage trail, trek right from Kathmandu itself on the Helambu Trail.
2. POKHARA AND PHEWA TAL
Pokhara, Nepal’s second city, is situated on the shores of Phewa Tal. With spectacular views of the Annapurna range, particularly Mt Machhapuchhare (Fish Tail), and a pleasant tropical climate, Pokhara is a favourite for honeymooners and adventure lovers alike. It is the starting point for many treks in the Annapurna, Naar Phu and Mustang area, as well as Lumbini, Chitwan National Park and the west. In Pokhara you can relax by the lake, go boating, paragliding, soar with the eagles in a micro-lite, or play some holes on one of the world’s most scenic golf courses.
3. FESTIVALS AND UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES IN KATHMANDU VALLEY
UNESCO World Heritage sites are dotted all over Kathmandu valley’s three ancient cities of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur. The sacred Hindu temple and ghats of Pashupatinath, Buddhist stupas of Boudhanath and Swayumbanath, and hundreds of tiny, often overlooked, temples in the narrow alleyways make every excursion a step back in time. Stunning stone and wood carvings were first created by the original inhabitants of the valley, the Newari people, who still live in the valley today.
Because of the many different cultural ethnicities - estimated at just over 100 distinct castes - Nepal, and particularly the Kathmandu Valley, has elaborate and frequent festivals (some claim there is one almost every day!) with Hindu and Buddhist influences.
4. NEPAL'S FAR WEST
Nepal’s Far West – a day’s drive from Delhi – has wonderful untouristed jungle parks such as Bardia and Royal Suklaphanta, where tigers, elephants, leopards, rhino and otters roam. These jungles, cut off from most tourism during internal troubles in the 1990s and early 2000s, had suffered from poaching but are now guarded by the army and as a result the jungles themselves are much more pristine and lush than Chitwan. You can even fish for mighty mahseer in the Babai and Karnali rivers. The Far West also offers treks to unspoiled areas like Khaptad National Park, Rara Lake, and Simikot en route to Mt Kailash. You can also trek Dolpo, the high altitude home of Tibetan nomads which possesses arguably the most stunning lake in the Himalaya, Lake Phoksumdo.
5. ADVENTURE GALORE!
Adventure is what Nepal is all about. You can trek, climb, bungy, raft, mountain bike and paraglide your way around some of the most beautiful scenery on the planet. There’s absolutely no reason to wait any longer. As one of their recent tourism promotions stated “Nepal – Once is Never Enough”.
Director of Pole To Pole Expeditions and Nepal advisor to MHE. Judy spent almost 20 years trekking in Nepal.
If you’re trekking in the Indian Himalaya, you got to learn to pack light. Airlines in India now allow only 15 kgs as check-in luggage, so you got to be a smart packer, unless you want to shell out extra cash for all that stuff you’re carrying that you will never use. And if you’re lugging your own backpack, then all the more reason to keep it light.
If you have porters in your Himalayan trekking party, there’s a standard rule of thumb - he will not carry more than 20 kgs. And no hard tops please. Make it a duffel bag – hard tops hurt the porters and injure their backs.
This isn't an exhaustive list of everything you need to carry. It’s a list of my Top 15 items I simply cannot do without on a Himalayan trek, some of which are, what I call, the forgotten essentials
Ankle- high trekking shoes - don’t scrimp on these, invest in a good pair (my personal favorite are Salomons) and floaters (sandals), useful once you've finished trekking for the day. You’ll be dying to remove those boots after eight hours!
2. QUICK DRY CLOTHES
Dri-fit T-shirts, long sleeves dri-fit sweat shirts, quick drying underwear – just ditch the heavy cotton clothes. They’re cumbersome to carry and don’t dry quickly enough. Walking in wet undies isn’t a pleasant experience I assure you!
3. SUNGLASSES AND CROAKIES
If you’re trekking in the snow or if glistening snow peaks are on the itinerary (in the Himalaya? Really? ;-), then lean towards the polarized ones. Polarized glasses reduce the glare from shiny surfaces like water and snow. Either ways, make sure they’re wrap-arounds so minimum light filters through and always have a securing strap (croakies). The latter is particularly useful if you’ve got head gear on. Slipping them on your head when you don’t need them is not an option. And if you take them off and leave them lying somewhere, the chances that you will forget them are pretty high. You won’t win the “most popular person in the Himalayan trekking party” vote if you make people wait while you head back to pick up your precious sunglasses.
4. HYDRATION PACK
A 2-litre hydration pack – you get some super ones now which also double up as a day pack. It comes with a plastic bladder and a pipe, leaving you hands free when sipping water. Make sure the water bladder inside has the ability to withstand hot boiling water.
5. ORS FOR YOUR WATER BAG
One of the forgotten essentials. High altitude trekking requires you to drink LOTS of water. In an 8-hour trekking day I consume almost 4 litres and yes, it makes me pee a lot. Because of this, body salts need to be replaced. Hence the ORS. It takes some time getting used to that sickly sweet flavoured ORS powder, but it’s a life-saver. So carry loads of sachets with you. Remember, a clear pee is a good pee!
6. A RAIN JACKET WITH A HOODIE
Mountain weather is unpredictable. Let no one tell you it’s not going to rain. More importantly, don’t try to save money on this - buy a good quality one. It’s a life-saver. You may use it for just one day on a 10-day trek, but you’ll thank your lucky stars you brought it along.
7. SLEEPING BAG
A down sleeping bag – the quality of down will depend on the altitude you’re going to be at. Even if you’re not in tents for the night and don’t use it to sleep in, it’s the perfect blanket. I prefer to use my sleeping bag than an unwashed blanket provided by the accommodation we’re living in.
A fleece one that covers your head and ears and a sun hat – the wide brimmed one with a securing strap so it doesn't blow away in the wind. Ditch the baseball (peak) caps - the photos you've seen of models posing in baseball caps against a mountain range – they’re rubbish. They don’t help.
Another forgotten essential (and it rhymes with poof!). This multi-purpose out-door headgear doubles up as a hairband, ear muffs, balaclava, muffler…just use your imagination! I find it particularly useful to protect my nose at high altitudes – it keep the winds from freezing up my proboscis and I can still breathe through it’s thin layer.
You will be surprised how useful this 5½ feet piece of garment actually is! Fling this traditional lungi (as we call it in India), around your head and shoulders to keep the sun out; wrap it around yourself while at dinner to keep warm; get your friends to hold it for you while you take a pee on the side of the walking track; wear it when you come out of the common bath and head to your tent – this is one piece of clothing I never ever forget. And yes, it's yet another forgotten essential!
Carry your prescription drugs. You’re not going to find them in the little Himalayan hamlets you pass on the way. Also, take your regular painkillers, Band-Aids for corns and blisters, an antiseptic ointment and tablets for tummy upsets and diarrhea – the change in food and water can wreak havoc with the steeliest of stomachs. And if that's not bad enough, the price you have to pay for this stuff as you go higher will definitely make you sick!
Sunscreen - minimum 30 SPF, lip balm, and moisturizing lotion are a must. So are wet wipes - for that leaky but delicate sun-burnt nose, and also to wipe yourself down every morning. Bathing at high altitudes is only for the super brave! A forgotten essential? You got that right.
Protein bars, dry-fruits like almonds, walnuts, figs, dates and raisins. Channa and Gur is a brilliant combo as well – you’ll see the horses that carry your bags eating that all the time – and for a good reason!
14. WIND-PROOF GLOVES
Leave the woolen ones mommy knitted for you at home. Even the fleece ones may leave your fingers numb at high altitudes. After 4,000 M, the cold winds can be cruel. Wear the wind-proof gloves over your fleece ones for a warm snug fit. You’ll probably wear them only for two days on the whole trek, but you’ll be glad you brought them along.
A forgotten essential you'll land up shelling out money for. City-wear for when you return, is mandatory. Most of us forget that we have flights to catch, probably a farewell dinner, a celebratory night at the local pub. Whatever it is, you don’t really want to wear the same clothes you've been wearing for the past 10 days do you?
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