Hey Everybody! Justin and I are currently in Kathmandu. We have just returned from trekking on the Annapurna Circut and head out tomorrow to start trekking in the Everest Base Camp area. Though we are on this journey together there are many different ways we have experienced it and if you ask us a question you might get different answers. We try to alternate how we share our experiences on this blog. For this blog I did the writing and Justin picked out the images. As always, I find personal experiences difficult to put into words. However, I do think it is important to make meaning, make words of out experiences- so here is a short sharing of our travels so far.
It is hard to believe is has only been two weeks since we landed in Kathmandu! Some initial impressions: driving is totally crazy and the air is really polluted. I was both viscerally and mentally reminded of what a wealthy country I come from. Clean air should not be a privilege!
We walked around a lot to take it all in. We are both a little rusty at traveling abroad and there have been some funny moments where we really looked like dorks. We started eating Dal Baht, the traditional Nepali meal, applied for trekking permits with help from an awesome guide named Karma Sherpa, got our bearings straight-ish, and then headed out to the countryside and the Annapurna Circuit.
The bus ride was wild, filled to the brim with folks, lots of honking, windy roads, and an amazing views of the transition from city to small village life. We transferred to a jeep because the road turned into a 4×4 as it climbed into the mountains. On the ride up a man we were sitting next to touched Justin’s thigh and I enjoyed witnessing a cultural norm of same-sex public affection. It is common to see men or women of the same sex walking and holding hands here.
We got dropped off in the village of Syange and the next morning we started waking from there. The trail is also a 4×4 road for a while and it follows the incredible gorgeous Marsyangdi Nadi River. This is one of the most visited treks in the world. In the high season there can be as many as 5,000 folks a month. February is much less traveled with about 500 people and I feel so thankful that we were able to go in the off- season. It was amazing to watch the landscape change from day to day as we climbed higher and higher. We started hiking at an elevation of 3,600ft and seven days later we topped out at Thorung La Pass at 17,769ft and then dropped back down to 8,923ft to a town called Jomson where we ended our trek. With all the elevation change we got to hike through jungle, forest, high desert and snow! It was incredible to be surrounded by such giant mountains and to be in villages where people live in such rough and isolated areas.
We try to be mindful of our impact as we as tourists travel through this country that Napali’s call home and I know that this is a complex issue. It was nice knowing this because we were trekking on the off-season were bringing income to the quiet and small villages. It is clear that tourism makes a large impact on their economy. Our presence felt very welcomed with many warm Namaste’s and smiles. Our foreign presence in their villages does make me think about the sensitive dynamic of trying to get to know people, their culture, walking through their small villages without contributing to a sort of comodification out of their culture, their traditional foods, and their way of life. Anybody out there relate? Impact is a subject that I have lots of thoughts and feelings about and it is not a simple subject but in order to minimize my impact I must continue exploring it.
The people of Nepal are very diverse, have many casts, languages, and ethnic backgrounds. I will say that my experience so far of the Napali culture is that is is BEAUTIFUL and we have been treated so kindly! I have witnessed a resiliency and tenacity that I have never seen in such force.