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Exodus’ Managing Director Sam Seward is just back from Nepal, home to the beginnings of Exodus’ Walking and Trekking Programme over 40 years ago. Here, he shares his first ever experience of the mighty Himalaya.
The Road from Kathmandu to Bandipur
‘The road from Kathmandu to Bandipur’ sounds a bit like a folk song, but it’s where I find myself on my first trip to Nepal. I am always excited to tick a new country from the list but Nepal holds a special allure to me, as well as being part of the Exodus Travels DNA given our 40 years of bringing travellers to the country.
Exodus first came to Nepal via overland truck, but I am pleased to say this time we flew with Jet Airways, which was slick and a lot more efficient!
After the first night in Nepal, staying at the excellent Royal Singhi Hotel, we now follow the Trisuli river north-west towards the Annapurnas. During the climb to Bandipur, our bus follows a series of gravity-defying alpine switchbacks as the detail of the mountains emerge.
The white peaks are painted by the golden sun, it’s pretty special and we’re all a bit awestruck and slightly mesmerized by the movie-set backdrops around us. Our travels take us through miles of lush green scenery dotted with field workers clad in brightly coloured outfits.
All too quickly we cross the Seti river bridge and begin to encounter the urban sprawl of Pokhara, where the conquering heroes of our Annapurna Circuit will return after 18 days trekking.
We first meet our mountain guide here, at the start of the trek. Hari Khada (who we immediately nickname Prince Harry to his great delight) has been working for Exodus for over 20 years. He has a kind and patient demeanour and I like him immediately.
Hari started out doing the tough work of the porters in 1998 followed by a two-year stint as a kitchen boy, before his 10 years as an assistant guide and has been a senior guide for a little over four years.
At our first overnight stop in Birethanthi, I chat to Hari while we take in the mountain views, I sip a cold Gurkha beer while Hari, a Hindu, enjoys a cup of sweet Masala tea. His home is in western Nepal in the Dolkha region. He will complete a 7-hour bus then a 3-hour walk from Tikidhunga to return to his wife, three daughters and one son.
With the opportunity to lead treks limited to the autumn and spring seasons, his other (much more meagre) income is from farming millet, rice, goats and buffalo. Hari is emphatic about the critical importance of a sustainable, well-managed approach to tourism in Nepal. He explains that dangerous and demanding construction work in the Gulf states has been the only viable alternative for many men from his caste and region.
Hari’s English is very good and he has a genuine affection for his charges. He is attentive and supportive from the moment he wakes us with a restorative cup of coffee in the morning until time to turn in.
Sunrise over Poon Hill
The climax of our trip, following a night in Ghorepani, was seeing the sunrise on Poon Hill at 3,200m on the 1st December. After a 5am wake up knock, with sore legs and tired eyes we join the winding snake of head-torches on the 45 min huff to the plateau and viewing platform.
The fairy lights on the teahouse halfway up are so welcoming and homely that I instantly think of family and friends. The burst of warmth and orange-golden light painting the Annapurnas around us is an emotional experience for all of us and I’m glad to say I will always wake on the 1st December with that priceless memory in mind. The photos will never do it justice, so I implore you to go to Nepal, meet Hari and Bikash and see it for yourself.
View our tours in Nepal and explore the country for yourself.