Nepal is known as the land of giants. Where the adventurous come to conquer mountains, which include the highest in the world, the mighty Himalayas. While the draw of raw adventure, challenging peaks and personal accomplishments bring travellers here, they often leave talking about the locals who walk among the mountains.
Google what to expect when you land into Kathmandu and most (if not all) guidebooks will advise you of the chaos at the airport, not to trust taxi drivers and watch out for street sellers. They will tell you to watch your purse and will load your mind with expectations that everyone is after your money. What a positive way to begin research for a trip, right?
Instead of reading what the guidebooks warn you about, try taking in what they don’t talk about. Like the true generosity, the incredible smiles, the kindness and sounds of laughter of the people of Nepal. Put the guidebooks away and start to talk to other people, go back and read the article or book that inspired you to look at Nepal and you’ll notice just how much the people of Nepal, make your adventure possible and that much more incredible.
Do you think Edmund Hillary would have reached the summit of Everest without his main Sherpa Tenzing Norgay? The depth of knowledge, experience, respect and dedication made him not just a teammate, but a loyal and trusted friend and mountaineering legend to come!
You may not be climbing mountains, but as you walk through the giants of Nepal you’ll meet those who not only walk but live among the mountains.
As you pass through small mountain hamlets, stalls and communities many people will invite you in for Chiya. Eyes full of curiosity, they genuinely want to show you their home and sit down with you and enjoy a cup of Chiya. The conversation may or may not have a language barrier depending on your host. But whether it does or doesn’t, this simple act of generosity will brighten up not only your day, but theirs. So if you have questions, ask them. Laugh and show them pictures of your trip and at the end say goodbye with a Namaste. No money will exchange hands or even be asked for, who charges friends for a cup of tea?
Whether you are walking Everest Base Camp, the Annapurna circuit or simply taking a stroll expect curious questions. It may be foreign in Western Culture to be so forward and direct, but in Nepal, acting on your curiosity is how you learn… why not ask if you don’t know? So yes, you may be asked seven times that day where you’re from. Instead of finding it tiring, answer with a smile and why not ask where they are from? Many people in Nepal, like us, do not live where they were born and they want to tell their story as much as they want to hear yours. While you may have a big day of walking ahead, take the time to stop and share a story with a stranger. In a world full of strangers, it’s nice to finally meet someone.
Are you hungry? Then say it! ‘Bhok Lagyo’ is the easiest way to say you’re hungry, but make sure you know how to say you’re full, or the food will keep coming! The communities you stay in are not wealthy but the food is some of the freshest and in my opinion, best in the world! After a long day walking the thought of warm Dal Bhat and assorted spiced vegetables starts to make your mouth drool! Pugyo (Pug-Yo) means I’m full, you’ll definitely want to remember this word! It’s likely your host will keep trying to feed you but be persistent. Only take more if you are genuinely hungry. Why? Traditionally the host of the house will not eat until the guests are finished and so, what they eat and how much they eat will depend on what and how much their guests have eaten. By no means starve (it’s pretty impossible to, anyway) but don’t fear saying you’ve had enough. You won’t offend them, you’ll feed them.
Wander the maze of streets through Kathmandu, hike the trails among the mountains, get off the beaten track and stay in homestays because no matter where you are in Nepal, from my experience, the people are the soul of this country. They are some of the most generous, kind and selfless human beings I’ve ever come across. Nepal is one of those places that you will visit and see that people may not have ‘much’ (like we are so used to in the Western World) but they are ten times happier and content than most of us are. The people of Nepal will share and give away what they have if someone else’s need is more. If you find yourself in a rainstorm or bad weather, they will open their doors and welcome you in with hot Chiya without question. If your shoes have broken along the trail, your shoes will be repaired quickly and efficiently for very little expense. The people of Nepal will offer more than just great Chiya (tea), the generosity of Nepalese people reaches so far and this is something we are not used to anymore that it is so uplifting and beautiful, it can turn a bad day to one of the best ones.
Nepal is an incredibly beautiful country. The mountainous views are the greatest in the world and there is so much adventure out there to keep you busy! Whether you land nervous or confident, whether you start off weary or strong everyone at the end of their trip will be leaving with great stories. Not just about the hike and the mountains, but the people they met along the way! You may have met many strangers, but you’ll be leaving with a lot of friends. So introduce yourself to those who walk among the mountains and let your simple hiking adventure become a trip of a lifetime.
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