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Margaret and Keel's Asian Adventure
Riding Tigers: REPORT #21

Mar. 23, Y2K Katmandu, Nepal

1$=67.9 rupees

We are currently in Katmandu for one week, while we wait for our Sherpa guide, Dawa, to get a root canal. I am paying for it, it cost about 25.00 US. We have just finished two treks with our friends Izzy and Rick from Newburgh, Maine. They had three weeks and we squeezed as much as possible out of that time! Our first trek was to the Langtang valley and National Park area just north of Katmandu. We actually rented a Toyota land cruiser and a driver to take us to the starting point town of Syabru. Its a grueling drive that takes 6-8 hours and the road looks like it came from a road runner cartoon. Sheer drops of a thousand feet if you make a mistake. No such thing as a guard rail, better to hire a driver. The bus takes 10 hours and is packed but is certainly the budget alternative. Its an amazement a bus can make this trip but it does!

The langtang trip is a fabulous trip though simple by design. Your are simply following a river up the valley. It takes about 10 days to hike in and out with a maximum altitude of about 14, 500. That's high enough to have to schedule in an acclimatization day. The mountains and glaciers are right there and its like you can reach out and touch them. It helped that the weather was cooperative and views were continuous. We had no real problems though Izzy had to go down because of altitude related sickness. Altitude is a funny thing, my advice is go slow and drink water all the time. I was consuming 4-6 liters of water per day not counting tea and drinks associated with meals. If you have problems, descend.

Our second trek was as short trek around the Annapurna region near Pokhara. This area is the most developed trekking area of Nepal. There are plenty of lodges and food available. The trails are well maintained and the views are outstanding. When is was in this same area 10 years ago, a cup of tea was one rupee, today the same cup is 15 rupees. This trek lasted one week and full views of the Annapurna's were available, but only in the morning. By 10:00 am the clouds would obscure the view. You can get to Pokhara by bus or plane. We flew to save the time and it cost 60.00 US for the twenty minute flight.

As I have one week in Katmandu I hope to file several updates to discuss issues in Katmandu for trekkers. It is amazing the number of inexperienced trekkers I have met:

Hiring a guide or porter and getting the lingo straight.

The first question every trekker has is should I hire someone to carry my pack or show me the way. Everyone will have to make that decision for themselves based on their own circumstances. While it is certainly possible to trek without a guide or porter its a hell of lot more fun and easier with one! The main advantage to me of hiring a guide is that I don't have to spend my whole day figuring out where the trail is or wondering if I am on the right trail. Many times the trail is very obvious and well marked, many times it is not. I have made three treks now and I wouldn't trek without a guide. Same goes for Porters...Truthfully for me its an ethical issue. If your going to come to Nepal and hike these trails and photo these mountains and utilize these natural resources, I believe you have some obligation to hire the locals so they can benefit from your activity. One word for those who will not consider hiring a guide, please don't come and try get my guide to answer all of your questions about which way is the trail and what is the name of that mountain and how tall is it.

Now if you want a really outstanding guide you want to look for a Sherpa. The word sherpa refers to tribe of people, an ethnic group, a caste in Nepal. There are 250,000 sherpas in the world. It doesn't mean a coolie or someone who carriers your gear. The sherpa are famous for their strength and honesty and distinguished themselves as far back as the turn of the century when Europeans came to conquer Everest. Not that other castes of Nepalese can't guide but the Sherpa specialize in it and do the best job. One guide who I would recommend is Dawa Sherpa of Katmandu. Dawa can be reached at sherpa_d@hotmail.com If he is unavailable he has a network of contacts. I personally would not use and agency though many people seem to. You pay too much and can have other problems. I am going to close this update for now and will write another soon! thanks for being interested enough to check me out!

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