- Carlos Almaraz
It all started in the summer of 2016 when a dear friend of mine – Bea – and I decided to take an adventurous trip to escape from the tumultuous and classical beaches that one may tend to look like a summer holiday destination.
I had a clear need for somewhere that was not only beautiful to the eye but also something and relaxing to deal with the high level of stress and internal struggles I was dealing with at the moment.
Before the trip I did not want to read much about Nepal, the places I would visit, about its history, culture or people. I decided to be like a blank canvas, free of prejudices and preconceived ideas. Yet deep inside I hoped Nepal was going to be a turning point in my travel book.
We started our journey with great excitement and some degree of concern, partly because we were first-time visitors and partly for the lingering memories of the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal in 2015.
We did not mind the long airplane trip from Madrid to Kathmandu as we found a vibrant city full of energy, cultural and historical sites. Amidst the hectic traffic and the dusty roads, one can find here and there an oasis of peace and spirituality.
Walking through its intricate streets is almost hypnotic. Around the magnificent Boudhanath, one of the largest spherical stupas in Nepal, it is easy to pass by monasteries, monks and merchants tending to their daily chores. Wandering in that area with the omnipresent giant stupa, the chants and ceremonial music and rituals mixed with the penetrating scent of the incense is a mesmerizing memory that still feels fresh to me, even today.
We continued our visit to other stunning places like Bhaktapur where many of the finest Nepali craftsmen and wood or metal artisans and mandala artists are trained in the numerous schools scattered throughout the town.
We quickly realized that Nepal was not only about high mountains and daring landscapes but also about arts, creativity, education, and respect for its rich cultural and historical heritage.
Nepal has also surprising animal wildlife not only in its mountainous areas but also in more tropical and exuberant regions like Terai. In Chitwan national park we made several attempts to encounter tigers. Although unsuccessful, we were able to enjoy the company of elephants, rhinos, peacocks, crocodiles and countless types of birds in the presence of jaw-dropping sunrises and sunsets.
Travelers often associate Nepal with trekking and climbing so we could not leave the country without the taste of it. We spent several days trekking in the area near Pokhara, going up and down those hilly silhouettes decorated by rice fields and quaint tiny villages.
Villagers were curious while displaying ample welcoming smiles that were the best “energizer” one could have. It was from one of the viewpoints in this area where we first had a glimpse of the Himalayan range: what a view!…
I can still feel the chill through my spine. From that moment on, I knew this was just the beginning of a long-lasting story. This first trip was so full of emotions, colors, scents, gazes, smiles, chants that it made me want to stop the clock so that every individual memory, moment and experience could find its own distinct and well-deserved place.
When we left Nepal, strangely, I was not sad to return home. I was becoming increasingly aware that my trip to Nepal had just barely started.
It is difficult to explain why certain places in the world make an impression on you that others of seemingly comparable beauty do not.
I like to explain it by saying that in those places in Nepal, you feel a special energy, a sense of hope, peace, and tranquility. That’s what Nepal inspires me and that’s why less than 9 months after my first trip I decided to go back. This time on my own.
I was not very familiar with ‘solo-traveling’ so it brought with it some extra challenges to the trekking I planned to do in the Himalayan region. Accompanied by a guide- now good friend- Jangbu Sherpa, I spent almost two weeks in a paradise of forests, rivers, villages, and breathtaking gorges observed at all times by imposing snowy mountains that seemed to touch the sky.
I am so grateful to have had Jangbu with me. He was always supportive when I struggled with my poor physical condition facing endless steep slopes and high altitude.
The second trip was a confirmation of the bond that had emerged between me and this country, rendering unimportant the hardness of the long trekking days, the simplicity of the lodges, the facilities, the isolation and remoteness from the modern and technology-dependent world I was used to.
The areas of Sagarmatha national park we crossed during our trek offered villages such as Namche Bazaar hosting real treasures of history and Buddhism with imposing monasteries and old traditional houses.
This territory is inhabited by hardworking people who make their living from agriculture, livestock and tourism. Locals have a hard life and many leave their homes temporarily during the worst winter months but they always show a friendly, open and respectful attitude towards foreign visitors.
A genuine human interaction when traveling has always been an aspect that is dear to me. Nepal and especially the part surrounded by the highest peaks in the world, not least the famous Mount Everest, brought me closer to the locals, talking, drinking, and eating with them.
Listening to their stories and songs. In short, I felt that I lived with them, forgetting for a moment that I was just passing by.
I knew again and for the second time that this would not be my last time in Nepal. As I finish this humble attempt to put in words my story, I find myself preparing my next trip to Nepal.
This time I will explore the Mustang region: one of the most remote and best-preserved regions in the country. A cradle of a fascinating ancient civilization and intriguing landscape.
I cannot wait to continue my trip to Nepal that began in 2016 and stretches to infinity like those beautiful landscapes and warm inhabitants.
(This article written by Spanish tourist Carlos Almaraz is republished under a new title, which was published earlier in, “Guide Nepal” a publication of Trekking Guides Association of Nepal-TGAN)
Kathmandu: The pre-monsoon has made its way into the country from today, ending the winter…