Before I found out that I had the chance to travel to Nepal, I had never heard of it. I had heard of the Himalayas, and I had always wanted to see them. Nepal is almost entirely in the Himalayas. 8 out of the world’s 10 tallest mountains are in Nepal, including Mount Everest. It’s a small country in South Asia, on the Northwest edge of India, boarding Tibet to the East.
After I arrived there, I found the country to be unlike any place I’ve ever been, or even seen a picture of. The mountains were always visible, no matter where I traveled in the country. The clothes, building, and flowers were the most vibrant as I’d ever seen, and the people were kind, friendly, and welcoming.
Nepalese Basic Etiquette
Before I began my 24-hour long journey to Pokhara, I made sure to familiarize myself with some of the country’s basic etiquette:
- PDA between men and women is scandalous to the Nepalese. However, platonic touches from men to other men and women to other women are common.
- Namaste is their standard greeting. To show extra respect, fold your hands in front of your chest and bow your head when you say it.
- Nepalese avoid touching things with their feet & left hands.
- Many Nepalese do not like having their pictures taken, so be sure to ask permission first.
- For females, modest clothing is a must. In South Asia, that means cover up your shoulders, and don’t show skin above the knee. Plain t-shirts are ideal. They’re easy, breath well and cover the important parts. However, I highly recommend bringing a scarf. While I was fine wearing just a t-shirt in touristy Pokhara, in Kathmandu, I noticed a Nepalese man ogling my chest. After that, I stayed covered up with a scarf for the rest of the trip.
- A nod of the head means yes, and a shake of the head means no (the same as in the West). A light bobbing of the head from side to side means OK, or agreement.
- Haggling is the norm! If you go shopping, the merchandise isn’t marked with a price. If you ask for the price, the person working at the shop will tell you. That’s the starting point. In most cases, you can get them to greatly reduce the price.
How Many Days Do You Need Off for Nepal?
You will need at least 1 day to travel to Nepal, and 1 day to travel back. The time difference is 9 hours and 45 minutes ahead of Eastern Standard (NYC) Time, so the jet lag can get pretty intense. I took 8 days off of work, which with weekends, equated to an 11 day trip, including travel time. I found it to be the perfect length for an awesome trek, travel to and from, and some site-seeing.
Mardi Himal Base Camp Trek, Near Machapuchare
A large portion of the time I spent in Nepal was in the Annapurna Himalayas, doing a trek to Mardi Himal Basecamp. The trip was magical. It began with a hike through lush forests with steep hills, finishing in the barren, dry, and mystical top of the Earth.
Along the way, we saw buddhist temples, wild monkeys, goats, and yaks. You could smell rhododendrons in the fresh mountain air, and the snowy mountain peaks were always visible between the trees, until they were right before us.
You’re hiking to the bottom of Mardi Himal, which is right next to Machapuchare, which translates to “Fish’s Tail.” If you look closely, you’ll see how the mountain resembles the forked tale of a fish.
What are the Accommodations Like?
Sleeping: At night, you’ll stay in tea houses, basic structures located along the trail. They each have a building with a kitchen and dining area, and small hotel rooms with twin-bed-sized wooden platforms with foam pads on top. Putting your sleeping bags on top of the pad. It makes for a comfy bed. Most provide a pillow and comforter, but you will be cold with just that. Definitely bring a sleeping bag.
Food: The tea houses offer a surprisingly large menu with traditional Nepalese foods and even some Western options, like pizza! The pizza is actually pretty good, better than I expect. Breakfast is traditional tibetan bread that reminds me a little of pita bread, eggs, porridge, and potatoes. As you might guess, there are also plenty of tasty teas available. My favorites during the trip are lemon ginger tea and masala tea, which is very similar to chia.
Bathroom Situation: The tea houses have shared bathrooms, and two of them have hot showers. Taking a shower costs 200 rupees ($1.76). The bathrooms have squatting toilets. These are basically toilet bowls sunk into the ground with two textured spaces on either side for your feet. They take some getting used to, but they aren’t so bad. Bring your own toilet paper!
Sleeping at Altitude: As a rule of thumb, altitude typically starts to effect you at approximately 10,000 feet above sea level, especially if you sleep there. So altitude wise, the only rough parts of the Mardi Himal Basecamp trek come on day 3, when you arrive at High Camp, and peaks on day 4, when you wake up at high camp and do your summit push.
What’s the Weather Like?
Like most high-altitude climates, the weather warms up and cools off very quickly. I was comfortable in a t-shirt and long pants during the day, but at about 4 PM, a chilly wind would set in. I would put on a fleece jacket, fleece vest, down jacket, hat, and scarf, and still be a bit chilly.
The higher up you go, the colder it gets. By the time we arrived at high camp, the weather stayed pretty cold all day long.
Itinerary for the Mardi Himal Basecamp Trek
The itinerary for the trek looks like this:
- Day 1: Car Ride to Deurali & Hike to Pitam-Deurali-6,890 feet (2,100 meters)
- Day 2: Trek from Pitam-Deurali to Kokar Forest Camp-10,007 feet (3,050 meters)
- Day 3: Trek from Kokar Forrest Camp to High Camp-12,795 feet (3,900 m)
- Day 4: Summit to Mardi Himal Base Camp-14,764 feet (4,500 m) and back to High Camp
- Day 5: Trek from High Camp to Sidhing-5,877 feet (1,700 m)
- Day 6: Jeep ride from Sidhing back to Pokhara
Follow My Trek to Mardi Himal Basecamp