While Nepal is famous for Mount Everest’s infamous peaks, our Flightie Sam shows us there’s so much more to see and experience. Sam shares his discoveries off the beaten track in Nepal with G Adventures.
As much as fellow travellers may talk about a particular destination or style of travel that appeals to them, I’ll be the first to admit that an adventure in Nepal… was not on my list of places I desired to see or travel. Nonetheless, an opportunity arose and my instincts led me to go.
This trip was a series of firsts for me: my first tour; my first time in Asia for more than four or five days; and my first opportunity to see a country with such incredible depth and insight with G Adventures and National Geographic. I did not know what to expect nor was I prepared for the incredible sights I’d see upon arrival.
I explored Kathmandu with my G Adventures group. I wandered through the mazes of the market of Thamel and visited a local restaurant where I gazed at sacred temples, like the Pashupatinath. In one of the Hindu temples, a family held a funeral, a process which included the ritual of burning the remains of the deceased family member, by the river banks.
It fears me that many of the visitors of Nepal go to Kathmandu, Mount Everest’s base camp, and see no more of the country.
While I was phenomenally lucky to see Mount Everest, an opportunity that I never thought I would have, I experienced many other stunning and equally inspiring natural wonders, like the Pharping countryside, the Chitwan jungle, the Pokhara lake. Not to mention the centuries-old temples in centuries-old cities, monasteries, beautiful plains and rivers, and one of the most impressive mountain ranges in the world. Nepal is easily one of the most visually striking and astounding destinations I have ever seen.
Despite this, the breathtaking nature of the scenery was not what made the biggest impression on me. It was the locals. The people of Nepal were possibly the most welcoming and friendly people I ever had the pleasure of meeting. Their inherent warmth displayed constantly in the most incredible of smiles.
My trip to Nepal just so happened to fall upon Dashain, the most anticipated festival in the Bikram Sambat calendar, whereby most Hindus celebrate the period of battle between Durga (the mother goddess), and Mahishasura (the demon). Legend has it, the battle ended in the eventual defeat and destruction of the demon who had triggered terror throughout the Devaloka (the plane of existence where gods lived). One evening at the height of the Dashain celebrations, my friends and I stumbled upon a café filled with locals celebrating. Not being the shy types, we quickly decided we needed to investigate.
We weren’t sure whether we would be welcomed with open arms, or if we would be entering one of those pin-dropping, head-turning scenes out of a movie that many outsiders see themselves upon entry to a local establishment filled with regulars. To my extreme glee, we were met with the former. And then some. The scenes that welcomed us in that small café-turned-bar were some of the most joyous and free-spirited I have ever witnessed. It seemed not to matter that we knew not the steps to the dances, the words to the songs, or the tastes of the food. The drinks we understood to be the universal language of beer. What really seemed to matter was that this group of 50 or so people taught us about their country, city, and even just the bar we were in. Patrons talked to us and opened up about their culture – an opportunity I would learn that no Nepali would pass up.
Looking back on my trip, I find it difficult to pinpoint one defining moment or aspect of my trip in particular that made it memorable. There are so many memories I’ll treasure. From time to time, I wonder how I could have ever gone without experiencing such beautiful people, delicious food, and breathtaking scenery, both natural and man-made structures. I can see why Nepal made Lonely Planet’s top 5 countries to visit in 2017.
When Nepal was faced with a devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake in 2015, death tolls and injuries climbed into the thousands. Nepal suffered and persevered together and today Nepal continues to rebuild together. While the evidence is less visible more than a year later, the odd bit of rubble and scaffolding here and there, the memory proves Nepal’s unequivocal strength and beauty will always remain. I will always be grateful for experiencing that.
For more inspiration, check out our top destinations for 2017!