There are 14 mountains in the world that reach above 8000 meters. 8 of them are located in the Himalayas, one third of the whole mountain range being contained within Nepal's borders. Therefore I would like to name this corner of the world as my trekking destination number one. It's a perfect starting point for anyone not familiar with mountains yet but willing to explore and savor them. An authentic, totally first-in-a-lifetime experience is guarantied. Climbing the world's highest mountain is a challenge to any seasoned professional, yet the Himalayas offer plenty of routes for any skill level. Having landed in Katmandu, a huge crowd of adventure-thirsty tourists dissolves in all directions to search for the right trek. Two routes are particularly popular, however - one that goes around the Annapurna Range, another leading from the capital up to the foot of Mount Everest at the altitude of 5000 meters, both within the ability of almost anyone. It was proved by the ex-President of Latvia, Mr. Guntis Ulmanis, a man in his 70s.
Walking from Katmandu, it takes about 2 weeks to reach Everest base camp, yet it's not so difficult either. In fact, it feels much like treading the familiar trails at the Gauja National Park in Sigulda, Latvia - just much higher, reaching 5000 meters - the altitude of Mount Elbrus, the highest peak of Europe. Reaching the destination is a moment to remember! Press your palm gently to the majestic mountain-side and contemplate its peak, which seems touching the sky in the distance of "merely" 3 more kilometers.
Another most popular trekking route curls around Annapurna peaks, Annapurna I being the very first eight-thousand-meter peak to have ever been climbed. Two incredible weeks and you are on the north side of the Himalaya range. With wind-swept desert-land and very dry air, it feels oozing hopelessness of Tibet. Like a huge shield, the massive mountain range blocks the rain clouds travelling this way, letting the aridity rule. At the same time, blooming bushes of rhododendrons splurge with their dazzling colors elsewhere in the Himalayas, especially beautiful in the area of Makalu Mountains. Amazing colors suffuse the slopes all through the 3-day climb from brilliant white and yellow to orange and even bright red. Reaching size of pretty tall trees in the lower areas, they shrink to small shrubs higher up the mountains. Going down in few weeks time, you will see some other rhododendrons, yet still bursting with lushness of colors. Beauty of the nature reaches its peak in springtime, April and May being the best time to climb the Himalayas. Winter monsoon gradually shifts to its summer pattern, warming up the dry and cool air. Note that there is no rainfall during the winter season, while coming spring tucks up the mountains in a pale mist, veiling up the otherwise magnificent views. If you wish to savor fantastic sights of mountain peaks, the best time to go to Nepal is end of September - beginning of October. There is nothing much to do there in summer as daily rain-showers make trekking impossible. And indeed - two thirds of the neighboring Bangladesh gets flooded during this time. As autumn sets in, an exuberant blooming time is over, yet now you can feast your eyes upon mountain views, and they are magnificent!
Perhaps even more wonderful are the people and the culture of Nepal, so unique, amazingly lucid and clear. The first day in Katmandu comes as a massive culture shock. The capital of Nepal seems so foreign and different. The second day is filled with incomprehension. And then suddenly you realize that it's going to be hard to leave it! The Nepalese sincerity, unselfishness and consideration for others - the qualities gradually dwindling away from hasty western lifestyle, are still alive and thriving there. Friendliness follows you from one village to another, form one home, you happen to stop on your way up, to another. It doesn't matter that so called lodges and hotels are more like simple sheds. And it doesn't matter that a few years ago Nepal was the world's 7th poorest country, and nothing much has changed since then. The true wealth of this country lies in its people, the ones who can cook a delicious meal on the roadside and never cease smiling.
You will meet some locals at the altitude of 3.5 - 4 km, yet higher up there is nothing, just rocks. The most favored routes attracting a steady flow of tourists are sufficiently provided with lodgings, yet, if you wish to turn aside from much treaded tracks, most probably you'll have to sleep in your own tent. Good news is that you can always hire someone to carry your stuff and cook a meal for you.
- Trekking in Nepal can easily be combined with a rafting trip. Himalayan Rivers are perfect for that and down, at the Nepal-India border, you are brought into a tropical thicket. Managing all that into 2 weeks, your trip will be packed with impressions. Climbing an 8-thousander up to the very top requires at least 6 to 7 weeks - in a week's time you can reach the foot of the mountain, following acclimatization takes 3 weeks but the remaining time is spent in an attempt to reach the summit
- The former Kingdom of Mustang (current Nepal region) is situated to the north of the Annapurna Range. Just small number of tourists visits the area, mostly due to expensive trekking permits. Then again, maybe it is worthwhile for someone who wishes to savor the solitude.
- The Himalayas (including Tibetan Plateau) are rising few centimeters per year. It is because the Indian Plate is still moving northward as if under the weight of the huge mountain range, therefore forming a growing mountain fold.
- Big expeditions, aiming at some of the 8-thousand-meter peaks, have to pay 4000 USD security deposit as a pledge that you will carry all your garbage off the mountain. If you fail to do so, you risk losing your garbage deposit.
Keywords: mountain, mountains, trekking