‘In all your travels, where would you return to?’ without consideration, my response time and time again is ‘Magical Nepal’.
Some places you visit. Some you stack up a list of experiences. But with Nepal. You feel. Your senses come alive. You sink into it all. You don’t want to leave.
Nepal surprised me. Bhutan had always held a curiosity within me, to experience the land of happiness, where Buddhist traditions are visible, where they shun the rest of the world. But having spent time there (another blog post…) it was Nepal that touched me.
The Nepalese Smile
Above and foremost, the people. They are warm, their smile authentic, they intentions genuine. In a non-subserviant way, their pleasure so obviously comes from seeing you happy. Seeing you enjoy their land, their traditions, their history, their way.
I was blessed to be guided through the Himalayas, by four absolute gems. Led by Exodus expert, Lakpa Sherpa, a educated Indian gentleman who understood the etiquette and was incredibly knowledgeable about the area. Three beautiful souls. Mingmar Sherpa, Lapka Rinji Sherpa and Kaji Sherpa. Unbelievably Kaji has summited Everest 5 times, and was looking to break more records before the last two years of devastation on the mountains. On meeting him, you want to make his dreams come true. A heart of gold. A determination so strong he can’t hide it.
Each village we traipsed through with our walking poles, our dusty faces, yaks in toe, we were greeted with smiles and offers of food, a home for the night and precious homemade yak bells, jewellery, and woven hats and accessories. My right hand touched almost every prayer wheel I clocked, completely falling in love with the tranquility that this world and those in it has to offer. Such a simple existence. So it appears. But harsh it is, with frightening winters and limited by the altitude and remote access. People walk for days to get food. They carry their own body weight, plus more, for miles and miles to feed others, build homes, create incomes. Humbling doesn’t do it justice.
Mount Everest. A peak which surprisingly isn’t protruding from every visual frame. As we walked from Lukla to Base Camp (with Adventure Company Exodus) , I was surprised that it only came into view every other or third day. Even from Base Camp itself, you can’t see the world’s highest mountain. But what you do quickly come to appreciate is that Mount Everest doesn’t stand alone. It’s surrounded by Shisha Pangma, Gauri-Shanker, Makalu, Lhotse and Cho Oyu, Nuptse and my favourite name Amadablam, all placed in the highest mountains in the World. You are spoilt. The enormity of the range only really hits you on the final few days walking in the glacial, Khumba Valley when the air is thin, the temperature is biting, and you feel like you’re on another planet.
Not as overt as Bhutan, but the Buddhism symbols and essence are in every corner of these mountains and villages. The prayer wheels, temples, Buddhist monks are there for you to experience and immerse yourself in. You certainly can’t leave feeling impacted by the religion and how it is interpreted by the locals to impact their every day life.
You can’t write about Nepal in 2016 and not acknowledge the devastation of the April 2105 earthquake. The demolition of some of the ancient sites including Bhaktapur, and the thousands who lost their lives, families and homes. All our guides and their families are safe but the cruelty of Mother Nature on what I see as one of the most spiritual and soulful places in the World is difficult to comprehend.