With hands pressed together at the breastbone, our driver bowed slightly and welcomed us to Nepal with the traditional greeting of “Namaste”. This mystical and mountainous country is our newest travel frontier. Our two-month mission: to go further from home and higher in altitude than we have ever gone before.
For the first month, we will be based in Nepal’s second largest city of Pokhara, and for the second month we will move to the capital and largest city of Kathmandu. In both locations, we will explore Nepali culture, observe important Hindu festivals, and embark on hiking treks into the highest mountains on earth.
Just as the Himalayas are central to Nepal’s earthly identity, Hinduism and spirituality dominate Nepali society and culture. Worldwide, Nepal has the most citizens per capita that identify as Hindus. They practice Hinduism more as a way of life than as a religious duty, and worship various gods and deities in temples scattered around the country.
During these early autumn months, Nepal celebrates its two most important Hindu festivals. The largest and most prominent is the 15-day Dashain harvest festival commemorating the Goddess Durga’s victory over evil. Two weeks later, the enchanting 5-day Diwali festival kicks-off with singing, dancing, and the lighting of oil lamps and firecrackers.
While we are excited to experience Nepal’s Hindu festivities and culture, the primary purpose of this trip is to hike in the Himalayas. First, we will attempt a ten-day trek to the base camp of Annapurna, the world’s tenth highest peak. Later, we will endeavor a 12-day trek to the base camp of Mount Everest, the world’s highest and most famous mountain.
For this two-month expedition in Nepal, we transported over 8,000 miles to hike over 18,000 feet in elevation. We have never been this far from home or tried to climb this close to the stars. In recognition of the experiences and challenges that lie ahead, we return our driver’s greeting with our own humble bow and reverent reply of “Namaste”.
Feature Photo: Our eldest daughter Claire meeting us at the Kathmandu airport. Back in April, Claire set off on an open-ended around-the-world backpacking adventure. She is an extremely adaptable and high-spirited traveler. We are thrilled that she could meet us in Nepal, and overjoyed that we can travel together for the next several weeks.
Blogger’s Note: This week, we will begin our first hiking trek into the Himalayas. For ten days, we will be on the trail and off the grid. As such, I may not be able to react to your comments in a timely fashion. I apologize in advance and promise to reply when I return to civilization. Wish us luck.