Local businessman and avid adventurer, Geoff Martin, takes us trekking throughout the mountains of Nepal. He shares his enthusiasm for this unique country and the rich cultural experiences and heritage that it offers travellers willing to explore it.
Geoff Martin has been taking trips to Nepal and Tibet for over ten years. He has enjoyed advanced, intermediate and introductory treks throughout the Annapurna and Everest Regions in Nepal and to Base camp in Tibet. This year he took an introductory trek to the beautiful Annapurna region. Here is an overview of the Nepali region, food, people and culture.
The Journey …
Life is a cascade of experiences flowing together down the river of life. Sometimes the flow is diverted and we have to overcome the obstructions until we feel free to move forward again. The ebb and flow combine to make us what we are. When we reflect too much on the past instead of anticipating the future, the flow slows and becomes muddy, bogging us down and slowing our growth.
Trekking has a way of bringing each personal story to the surface. Maybe it’s the time spent alone walking or the isolation which tears people away from their daily routines. Some will learn a lot about themselves from the demands both physical and mental that a trekking adventure brings. Most come away with a new and fresh attitude to a healthier lifestyle, and problems which seemed to be significant are put in their true perspective.
The joy of bringing people together and reading the stories along the way gives me immense satisfaction. Congratulations to all who finish a trek, but will it change your journey.
Trekking is a word, which is from Afrikaans and originally meant a journey by ox cart across South Africa. It was first applied to hiking in Nepal in the early 1960s by retired Ghurkha Col. Jimmy Roberts. He was the first person to take paying clients on guided hikes in Nepal. He patterned his treks after early Nepal mountaineering expeditions. His trips had basically everything the big expeditions had: guides, porters, cooks, and kitchen boys. Clients didn’t scale the peaks – but they came close, and that was what they wanted.
Today, camping treks are still done the way Col. Roberts pioneered them, but many things have been modified to suit the modern trekker. There are now hundreds of lodges scattered along Nepal’s many miles of trails, and trekkers have the option of hiking from lodge to lodge.
For most first-time visitors, the chance to view the Himalayas, the highest mountains on earth, is the primary reason for trekking. Trekking in Nepal is a cultural and a wilderness experience combined. It is an ethnic mosaic, and a trek is not just an opportunity to gaze at snow-covered peaks, it is a chance to observe the lifestyles of the different peoples who have inhabited these mountains for centuries.
Cuisine and Food in Nepal …
Nepali cuisine, also known as the cuisine of the Himalayas, bears its uniqueness by incorporating the two great culinary traditions of the region, Indian and Tibetan, into a mainstream culinary culture of its own which reflects the geographic and demographic diversity of the Himalayas. Nepal, a tiny country by any geographic measurements, stretches from the lowlands of the sub-tropical Terai plains in the south to the highlands of the Himalayas, as dominated by the majestic reign of Mt. Everest, in the north. Hence, Nepal has resurrected its own unique cultural identity into a harmonious culture, combining different traditions of different indigenous cultures.
Nepali food, which is simple and subtle in flavour, is prepared by using a unique blend of common ingredients and spices. Commonly used flavoring ingredients are garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, turmeric, nutmeg, bay leaves, black pepper, chillies, onions, cilantro, and scallions. Also, distinct Himalayan flavours are derived from the use of such unique spices as Timur (Szechwan pepper, commonly used in marinades and achars) and Jimbu (Himalayan herb, used fresh or dry), found only in the Himalayas. In addition, most dishes are flavoured with mustard oil, clarified butter (ghee), and sometimes Yak butter. Because of harsh conditions prevailing in the highlands of the Himalayas, foods are preserved by dehydrating or fermenting staple ingredients during their growing season. A typical full-course Nepali meal would include an appetizer, a vegetable or lentil soup, two or more vegetable and meat preparations, and an achar or chutney, served with roti (flat wheat bread), steamed rice or rice pilaf, supplemented with a local beverage, such as yogurt drink (lassi), beer or liquor, and followed by a dessert and tea.
The Cultural Diversity …
Nepal has more than 40 different ethnic groups all having their own culture and mother tongue. It is very rich in culture and history. You can spend a week just in Kathmandu looking at the art & architecture of places like the Monkey Temple, Bauddhanath (Little Tibet) the great Hidutemple of Pashupatinath, Kathmandu Darwar Square, Patan Darwar Squae, Bhaktapur Darwar Square, Freek Street and Thamel. You can also go to Nagarkot, about 15 km from Kathmandu to see the sunrise/sunset and panoramic mountain views.