THE BEAUTIFUL THING ABOUT TAKING TIME OUT TO RETREAT IN NEPAL, IS THAT EVEN THOUGH EACH DAY WILL INVOLVE THE SAME ROUTINE, YOU CAN NEVER REALLY KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT ON THE TRAIL!
WHAT TO EXPECT EACH DAY
It probably goes without saying, but the Yoga & Trekking Retreat in Nepal will involve walking on consecutive days. Although the journey into the village of Bupsa is a short journey, we will be walking anywhere up to 20 km per day. Although porters will be carrying most of your gear, you will still be required to carry a small daypack, which we recommend does not exceed 5-10 kg.
Your retreat is set in November, which is the end of autumn and beginning of winter, and there is a chance there will be snow on the ground at higher elevations. Information about the climate and average temperatures can be found here, but during the peak of winter (February) you can expect temperatures to reach as low as -20C at the highest point. Yes, that is very cold! However the discomfort of the cold is really only a momentary experience when you consider it in the context of your whole life! It also makes the trekking aspect of your retreat a little more physically demanding, which can be a catalyst for an even deeper personal connection, allowing you to more fully tap into your own personal strength and courage.
For most of the trekking days we will be walking along trekking trails, but there may also be times when we will also be walking along the access roads or travelling by jeep.
The scenery and terrain varies depending on the region in which we are travelling, and this depends on the retreat you are joining. In the lower areas of the country, down by the rivers, the conditions may be near tropical. You may find yourself traversing deep gorges, crossing ancient pine forests, trekking through snow, descending into barren and arid landscapes or emerging into lush rhododendron forests. You will be continually walking up and down as we ascend into the mountains, and some sections of the trail may be steep with may stairs. The trail can be slippery and treacherous in a few areas, depending on the weather, and there will be a number of narrow suspension bridges that you will cross along the way. We will no doubt come across mules (yaks are confined to the the higher elevations), as well as the most charming and hospitable people you will ever meet!
For your safety and comfort, the days are self-paced, and we will not expect you to walk any faster than you are capable of, or want to walk. This is a time of reflection and deep connection for you, and we understand and appreciate that this is going to be different for every person. As stated above, you can expect to walk up to 20kms each day, taking about 6-8 hours each day.
As we ascend on our retreat, civilisation starts to drop away, and the mountains become even quieter, giving you the opportunity to immerse yourself in your journey back to the heart of who you are.
During the retreat we will be staying in teahouse accommodation, which is very basic hotel style accommodation. Rooms will generally be twin share, so at the beginning of our retreat we will ask you to buddy up with someone to share rooms with along the way. On our Yoga & Trekking Retreat you may also choose to stay with a Sherpa family in a homestay arrangement.
Bear in mind that we will be travelling through very remote areas of Nepal, some of which don't even have road access. So getting certain supplies to the areas is either very difficult, or not prioritised as a necessity. As a result, you can expect the simplest accommodation to be a small room with a pallet bed for sleeping. There may only be electricity for lighting (ie. you won't be able to charge your phone in your room), and this may not always be turned on. So be prepared with a head torch! The rooms will also be simply constructed, and therefore can be quite drafty.
Most teahouses we stay in will have shared bathroom facilities. These are generally rather simple, and (in some places) may consist of a shower within the toilet. Some teahouses will have western style toilets, while others will only have traditional Nepali style squat toilets.
There is an expectation from teahouse owners that we will order and eat in the dining room of the teahouse in which we are staying. This allows us to get our accommodation at a cheaper rate, while also supporting the owners of the teahouse in which we are staying.
You will find a wide variety of meals on the menus of most teahouses on the trekking trails. This may include both Nepali and Western style cuisines. Unfortunately, we cannot control the catering of the teahouses, and so we cannot guarantee that certain dietary requirements can be met. However, vegetarian meals are generally available, and finding a gluten-free option is usually possible. On our Trekking & Yoga Retreat, the meals will be set so that we are all eating the same vegetarian meal together.
You will order your breakfast the night before, so that the teahouse owners can have it prepared for us and we can eat before the time we are ready to leave. Along the way we will stop for morning tea, and lunch, and we will order dinner when we arrive at our destination for the evening. If we arrive at our evening destination before lunchtime, we will also order and eat lunch in the same teahouse.
In some teahouses, menu options may be limited. As part of the retreat package, all meals (including one hot beverage per meal) are included, and these will be set for the whole group. Much of the time we will be eating the local favourite: Dahl Baht! This is a local traditional meal that consists of rice with curry and a dahl (lentil) soup. It sometimes comes with chapatis (flat bread) or pappadums, and is a wonderfully warming, filling and nourishing dish, especially after a hard day of trekking! Traditionally, you will be offered second or third helpings, so it is always a good option! As it can be difficult for for teahouse owners to take delivery of certain (Western) goods, and as valuable fuel needs to be used for cooking, we organise our meals this way so that we tend to be eating the meals that the owners will already be cooking for themselves (as a sign of respect and consideration).
As with any physical activity, it is very important to keep hydrated while trekking. We recommend drinking anywhere from 2-5L of water per day. However, drinking the local water can come with some risks and make for a very unpleasant trip.
Buying bottled water is an option, however we strongly recommend against it. It can become costly the higher we go and is a huge environmental concern, as there are no facilities to recycle or remove your rubbish from the mountains. Therefore, we encourage you to bring a water purification system with you. There are many methods available, and we recommend bringing more than one if possible (consider it a backup!). We recommend that you do some research for the best option for you, or talk to your local hiking or camping store. The following also offers some ideas.
Water purification options (general information):
Boiling: We don’t recommend relying on boiled water to be safe. Water needs to be boiled for at least 10 minutes at a roiling boil to be effective at killing micro-organisms which cause water borne diseases, however, boiling isn’t effective against all of these. In addition, the local mountain people don’t always know the best way to boil water for purification purposes, and the higher we go, we risk using valuable fuel in order to boil water unnecessarily.
Water purification tablets: These are little effervescent tablets which dissolve in water to kill micro-organisms that cause water borne diseases. There are a number available on the market, with some working in as little as 30 minutes, while others can take a few hours to be effective. These tablets are a great first choice as well as an excellent back up purification method.
Water purification pen: These pens use UV light to sterilise water in the same way as water purification tablets. The pro is that they work within a few minutes, the con is they can break more easily or the batteries can go flat.
LifeStraw bottle: This bottle was designed with natural disasters in mind and works instantly to purify water. You just fill the bottle and drink through the filtration straw. This type of purification method has been personally tested by us while backpacking through India and Nepal for 6 weeks, and on multiple other trips through the mountains of Nepal, with complete success. However, the bottle does have a tendency to leak when placed on its side, and doesn’t work if the water freezes inside it! Again, have those water purification tablets and a spare bottle on hand!
For the most part, although trekking in Nepal comes with some very real risks, it can also be done very safely. We will be walking on designated trails, and following any safety requirements to check in along the way at specific checkpoints. We will do our utmost to ensure your safety, however there are a few small things you can do to help us out, as follows:
Altitude sickness: Unfortunately, altitude sickness is a very real risk when trekking in Nepal. However, our Yoga & Trekking Retreat won’t be reaching the elevations normally associated with altitude sickness. Nonetheless, as it is a very serious (potentially fatal) condition, we have dedicated a separate page to it. You can read more here. We expect you to read this page and do your own research on the topic before trekking. It will also be a topic of discussion at our group meeting before we depart for our trek.
Yaks and mules: During this retreat, you will see things you never imagined seeing before, including trains of mules and yaks! Both are rather large animals with no regard for anyone but themselves, and you could consider them a danger. When we come across either of these, it is safest to ensure that you keep to the inside of the trail and away from the edge. These guys won't give you a second thought, and have been known to knock unsuspecting travellers off the path! Yaks also have a reputation as being rather temperamental, so it's best to give them a wide berth where possible.
Landslides: These are very common in the mountains of Nepal and there is nothing we can do to prevent or predict them. If we come across an area of landslide and deem it is safe to cross, we will encourage you to move quickly and quietly, to avoid unstable, falling debris.
Ice and snow: During this trek, in certain areas you may be walking along trails that are covered in ice and snow. For your safety, you may be advised to purchase a pair of crampons, which are a set of spikes that slip over your shoes to help you grip the path better as you walk. Although it is unlikely that we will be walking along paths that are buried in snow, should we come across such a path we encourage you to walk slowly, and follow your guide and the path. Deviating from the path into a snow laden field can be dangerous, as you don't know what is beneath you. There might be nothing!
Suspension bridges: The suspension bridges on this trek are all very new, sturdy structures made from thick wire and metal, which allow the local people to safely and quickly travel. We consider these bridges to be very safe, however we do encourage you to approach them with care and consideration. Also, some of your trekking companions may not be very comfortable with the bridges, so please do your best not to swing them unnecessarily!
Our retreats aim to be all-inclusive, however you will still require your own money while trekking. How much you decide to take with you is up to you, but generally you will need to take money for the following:
Snacks, confectionary, bottled water
Gratuities and tipping
Boiled water for drinking or showering
Personal care items such as toilet paper, soap or toothpaste
Charges for wifi or using the electricity (for charging your phones, cameras etc)
We recommend always carrying your important personal items in a money belt under your clothing. However, if you can’t (or don’t want to carry it this way), ensure the money is securely located in your personal daypack, and that you never leave your daypack unattended. Always ensure the door to your room is locked when you are not present.
While you will be able to withdraw money from an ATM in Kathmandu or Salleri prior to trekking, once we have started there will be no ATM or Western Union facilities available. Therefore, you will need to ensure you are carrying all of the money you require for the trek with you. We recommend changing your money for smaller notes while in Kathmandu, as some places on the trek may have difficulty providing change.
We hate to say it, but hygiene may become a secondary consideration while trekking! The higher we ascend, the lower temperatures become, and you may not feel like taking a shower every day. Additionally, shower facilities may not be available in all teahouses we stop at. However, there is always the option of having a ‘bucket shower.’ Please note that should you wish to have a ‘hot bucket shower’ there will be a fee charged for heating the water.
Some people choose not to shower the entire time they are trekking. After a long day of trekking, and in the colder temperatures of the higher altitudes, many people decide it’s an unnecessary luxury. If you choose to be amongst them, there are still things you can do to freshen up if you need to! Some people travel with baby wipes to give themselves a wipe down, however this is not environmentally friendly, and adds to the problem of unnecessary rubbish along the trail and weight in your bag. A good option is to carry a small, quick drying cloth that you can use to wet and wipe down with. Grab a cup of hot water from the hotel dining room (for the cost of a cup of tea), and in the privacy of your own room, enjoy wiping away the sweat of the day’s trek. Pack a small bar of soap or spray bottle to freshen up those areas you feel are extra smelly!
It is essential that you pack as little as possible when trekking, which means you are not going to have the luxury of wearing clean clothes everyday. In the winter temperatures (in which we are trekking) it also means that anything you do wash will take time to dry. We talk more about what to pack on our Preparation page, and a comprehensive packing list will be sent to you prior to retreat departure.
As a general rule, we recommend packing according to the Rule of Three: pack no more than three of everything you need and then wear one, wash one, dry one. This means you only wash one item at a time (one pair of socks, one pair of underwear, one shirt etc), and don’t wash another until these are dry. We don’t think you will need (or want) to wash your clothes everyday, and it certainly wouldn’t be practical. For this reason, we also recommend investing in clothing that is made from natural fibres (such as merino), which is light but warm, and quick drying.
Should you wish to wash any of the clothes with you, they will need to be hand washed. It is expected that you will wash your own clothes, however some teahouses may be happy to provide this service for you at a charge. Most teahouses will have laundry soap available, and so we don’t believe it is necessary to add the extra weight to your bag.
Having said all of that, on our Yoga & Trekking Retreat, there will be an option to have your washing done for you for the entire time you are in the village of Bupsa, for a small fee, so that you can enjoy your time on retreat.
CARING FOR YOUR ELECTRONICS
These retreats are a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience for most people, so we understand that you will want to capture as much of it as you can (or feel comfortable doing). Please note that any electronic equipment that you bring with you (such as cameras, phones, GoPros etc) is at your own risk and your sole responsibility to care for. In some teahouses, you will not be able to charge these items in your room, however there will usually be facilities to charge them in the main dining room. In this case, we advise that you don’t leave your equipment unattended.
We recommend carrying multiple batteries for your cameras, in order to change them out when they go flat. Batteries tend to lose charge very quickly at lower temperatures. To keep them warm and holding their charge for longer, carry your extra batteries in a pocket close to your body and sleep with them in your sleeping bag. Keeping your phone close to you in this way should also help it to hold its charge for longer.
It goes without saying, that you need to take extra care of your equipment during this trek. As you become tired from trekking all day, and with cold hands (or hands encumbered by gloves) you may become a bit more clumsy (Funuru’s brother dropped his phone on the summit of Mt Everest while attemtping to take a photo!). So always make sure you have a good grip on your gear, and keep it stored safely in a protective bag.
THE PEOPLE AND THE CULTURE
In Nepal, you will quickly get used to hearing the word Namaste. This is a traditional Nepali (and Indian) greeting, but it means so much more than just hello! Coming from the Sanskrit language, Namaste literally means “I bow to you”. So, with the hands placed before you in a prayer position (sometimes to your heart, sometimes touching your head to your hands), and with a bow of your head, saying Namaste is a deeply respectful and beautiful way of acknowledging the divine essence within another person.
The people and the culture of Nepal are very diverse. The most prominent ethnic groups in the Solukhumbu region it is the Sherpa and Rai people, all with their own history, language and culture. Along the way you will witness a mix of Hindu and Tibetan Buddhist architecture, including mani walls, some of which house spinning prayer wheels. When rounding mani walls or spinning the prayer wheels, ensure you walk in a clockwise direction, spinning the wheels with your right hand.
When taking photos of your journey, it is always polite to ask people if you can take their photo first. Many younger people will be delighted, but a lot of older people and women are not comfortable with having their photos taken. We ask that you respect their wishes and privacy.