MESSAGE: Nepal *Videos*
No two ways about it, Nepal’s Annapurna mountain range is spectacular, hosting 3 out of the 10 highest mountains in the world: Dhaulagiri, Annapurna 1 and Manasul. The area’s main city is Pokhara, Nepal’s third largest, with 350,000 inhabitants.
For centuries Pokhara has served as a stop on the main trading route between India and China. But more than a 7-hour bus ride from Kathmandu, it still retains a small-town charm and a discernible hippy vibe. I like it and think you should go!
And when you do, here’re 7 insider tips to pave your way:
MEET (Cool Meet Ups) – Lakeside, Pokhara. Situated on the banks of Phewa Lake, Pokhara is full of restaurants. My last days in town were spent hanging out in the lakeside cafes, enjoying views of the Peace Pagoda in the late afternoon. My favorite spot was a little Japanese-style tea house that served chips and salsa (well, sort of a chips and salsa – the closest I’ve seen in a while anyway!). So pleasant!
EAT (Tasty Eats) – Nak Cheese Pizza . Food in Nepal is incredibly unvaried. Basically everyone eats daal baht (a tasting platter of white rice, lentil soup, curry, pickled vegetables, and a paratha) 3 times a day. Unfortunately, at some point early in the trek, my body started to reject daal baht in a big way.
This left me a choice of momos (dumplings), roasted potatoes with curry, or nak cheese pizza (not to be confused with yak cheese pizza). Inside scoop: There is no such thing as yak cheese because the cheese comes from the female yak, the nak. Confused? Doesn’t matter, cheese is cheese! Yum!
SEE (Must-see Sights) – Annapurna Mountain Range. Check out this panoramic view of the mountains. So lovely! I have to say, I appreciated the mountains even more after reaching ABC. Something about the satisfaction of getting up close and really understanding their enormity and towering magnificence!
Check out this video and see for yourself:
Can’t see the video? Click on this link: Annapurna Panorama
SHOP (Gotta Have) – Yak Wear. When I arrived in Nepal, my wardrobe was lacking in cold-weather gear. Instead of stocking up in Kathmandu’s backpacker grotto, Thamel, I decided to buy my warm clothes on the trek, helping out some of the local communities we were passing through.
Along the way I picked up a kickin’ sweater, a favorite multi-hued hat, and yak-knit booties. When worn all together, I was more than 75% yak! Thankfully I left this look on the mountain…
ACTIVITY (Gotta Do) – Trekking! If you book your trek with 3Sisters Adventures (www.3sistersadventure.com), then 15% of the trek fee will go to support Empowering Women of Nepal (EWN).
As a nonprofit, EWN trains young women in Nepal to be trekking guides by offering a paid apprenticeship training program, field experience, health insurance, hostel facilities, and English classes. I thought my 3Sisters guide and assistant were the BEST! Interested? Read more about 3Sisters and EWN in the post: The Lucky Ones.
Here I am describing the trek in some detail. Look closely to see the village on the next hill, which was our next stop before lunch!
Can’t see the video? Click on this link: Erin Treks ABC
GIVE (Greatest Need) – Widespread Poverty. At least 40% of Nepal’s 29 million people live in poverty and a third don’t have clean drinking water. Exacerbating the problem, the country has an entrenched caste system, no mandatory schooling, and little healthcare. It is one of the poorest countries in the world and you can see it on the faces of some of the women and children.
One program that is taking a holistic approach to alleviating Nepal’s poverty is Khotang Development Forum. I met with Madan Rai, the founder, and he told me all about his program the teaches young adults how to be self sufficient by learning the life skills of farming (using organic methods), home building, and clothes making.
Volunteers can visit the rural communities, learning these same skills while also trekking and teaching in schools. On my next visit to Nepal, I’m slated to volunteer with Madan. Want to join me?! In the meantime, check out their web site: http://www.kdf.org.np.
ENJOY (Extra Fun) – After-Trek Message. Well deserved! My choice was a Swedish Relaxation Massage from Seeing Hands, a nonprofit organization that provides the blind in Nepal with a vocational skill, economically and socially empowering them so they can lead independent, dignified lives.
Nepal shoulders one of the largest burdens of global blindness in the world, with an estimated 600,000 people either partially or totally blind. Seeing Hands has locations in both Kathmandu and Pokhara. Visit online at www.SeeingHandNepal.org to find out more. The cost of my massage was 1500 NPR (or US$20). Money well spent every way you look at it!