Namaste Nepal

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.

Hindu sacred cow on the streets of Kathmandu

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.

Hindu human cremations on the banks of the Bagmati River, Kathmandu

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.

Hindu festival, Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu

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.

Himalaya trekking scene, by Prakash Gurung

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.

First beers with Claire in Nepal

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”.

“Namaste”, Shopkeeper, Kathmandu

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.

24 thoughts on “Namaste Nepal

  1. This sounds like an epic adventure, Joe. During lockdown, I watched endless YouTube videos of Mount Everest hikers, including many alone of that angular landing at the Tenzing-Hillary airport — certainly not one for the faint-of-heart! Good luck to you both! – Marty

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    • Too excited to sleep, Marty. We leave in the morning for the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek. Later in October, we will fly into Tenzing-Hillary in Lukla to begin our trek to Mount Everest Base Camp. I will probably loose another few hours of sleep anticipating the landing on that mountainous runway. Thanks for the timely encouragement and well-wishes. I am going to need them!

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    • Hi Moira! This is a trip that Esther and I have wanted to do for a long time. We finally realized that we weren’t getting any younger and the trails weren’t getting any easier. Given the remote nature of the treks and limited internet access in the teahouse lodges along the way, I will have to wait to write my next post. We will be collecting lots of pictures; however, and should surely have some good ones to share. Thanks for cheering us on!

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    • I will look for your old footsteps, Neil. You must have some indelible memories of your own epic 1982 trek to Everest Base Camp. We are also planning to hike to Kala Pattar for the spectacular views of Everest, weather permitting. It will be the highest elevation we will reach while in the Himalayas. Thanks for the inspiration. I’ll be thinking of you up there.

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    • Thank you, Janis! This is a very special adventure for us. Having the chance to travel to Nepal and hike in the Himalayas with Claire is really an exceptional opportunity. She may have inherited her love of travel and adventure, but she is doing things that I never dreamed of. We are fortunate that she was in the area and our schedules fit together so nicely.

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  2. Oh wow this is going to be amazing just following you, let alone actually being there and doing it. Love your dual objectives, so exciting to have aims and ambitions with travel. The trek to the first base camp is something I’ve coveted for years – not sure I’ll do it now but will definitely enjoy tagging along with you two. Good luck to you both!

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    • We made it, Phil & Michaela! The trek to Annapurna Base Camp was not that difficult. The trail was well maintained and involved a lot of stone stairs. The accommodations were tight but clean and comfortable. The food was monotonous (rice, noodles, potatoes, soup) but pretty tasty and nutritious. The post-monsoon weather was mostly pleasant and dry, but base camp and surrounding mountains were shrouded in clouds on the day of our stay. We did enjoy many beautiful mountain views and Himalayan village scenes along the way. Now that we are back in a hotel in Pokhara, I will try to sort through our hundreds of photos and put together a post on our experiences. Namaste.

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  3. I’m so glad you are able to see your daughter and share part of this trip with her! Clearly, she inherited your love of travel. And I’m very impressed with your upcoming trip! I’m looking forward to reading about it, and I know you’ll have lots of great photos too!

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    • Thank you, Ann. We were so fortunate to share this adventure with our daughter Claire. She set the pace on the trail leading us up and down an infinite number of stone steps, through flooded muddy sections, and across high-wire pedestrian suspension bridges. She also attracted the many friendly dogs we met in the mountain villages. They liked her so much that they usually followed us out to the edge of town. At Annapurna Base Camp, we came across a heard of sheep. Several of the curious small lambs even let her touch them on the nose. Along the trek, we also saw monkeys, cows, water buffalo and working pack animals. I think an animal lover like you would love it!

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  4. Joe, wow… such an amazing adventure. Something that Brian and I have had on our travel wish list for ages. I will be there with you guys vicariously, can’t wait to hear all about it? Will you be joining a group or will you be trekking independently?

    Sent from my iPhone

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    • Hi Gilda and Brian. Long-distance trekkers like you would have no problem accomplishing the Annapurna Base Camp trek. I hope you get the chance to do it some day. We met many trekkers along the way. Some trekked totally independent, some hired a porter to carry their gear, others hired a porter and a guide to assist with guesthouse logistics. We went through a trekking company that provided a guide and two porters. Next time, I would go either independent or hire a porter only. The guide was not really necessary, and limited the flexibility of our schedule. On three of the days, we only hiked about four hours. It would have been nice to hike longer days so we could stay an extra day at base camp to enjoy the mountain views.

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  5. Hello Joe and Esther,
    Love hearing if your safe arrival and seeing some of the sites and people so far.
    You are such a wonderful writer – we will enjoy learning of your new discoveries along the way.
    Safe trekking and Namaste!
    Kimberly and Steve, Pia too

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    • Namaste Kimberly, Steve, and Pia! Thank you for your lovely comment. We survived our first trek. A ten-day affair to Annapurna Base Camp. Only moderate in difficulty, we had plenty of time to enjoy the mountain and nature views and Himalayan village culture (and friendly dogs) along the way. On the second-to-last day, we hiked for four hours in a steady downpour. I picked up a lower respiratory infection and Esther and Claire have head-colds. I saw a Nepali doctor and started on antibiotics. All three of us are now resting comfortably in our hotel, and should be back to full strength in a couple days. Please say “hi” to our fun-loving pickle ball group. We miss you all and look forward to banging at the kitchen line again in November.

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      • Hi All,
        Thanks for the update.

        We hope you are all getting better and ready to tackle your next challenge. Wish I could send you chicken soup!

        Will give your wishes to the PB crew when we return from Santa Fe.

        Enjoy and hugs to all!

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  6. I didn’t know there was a way to top the Inca trail, but somehow you’ve managed it. I look forward to the stories and the pictures.

    I understand Hinduism is by far the oldest continuously active religion in the world. I’d be curious if you find any insight into that.

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    • LOL, Dave. Just got back into town after completing the ten-day Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) trek. I think the trek to Machu Picchu was much tougher than the ABC trek. Later on this trip, we will attempt the Everest Base Camp trek, which should eclipse them both in difficulty and altitude.

      I have never visited a predominantly Hindu country, and it is very interesting. As you say, it is the oldest religion. Unlike other major religions, they do not worship a founding deity or prophet. Instead, they worship many gods, and maintain some primitive religious practices. Most notably so far have been the riverside human cremations, pandering of cows in the streets, and reincarnation beliefs toward other animals. I have also been surprised by their acceptance of the caste system, which they do not seem to find discriminatory. Now, back in civilization, it is festival season, where I hope to learn more about this mysterious Hindu culture.

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    • Thank you for the well-wishes, Bahanur. Traveling to Nepal and hiking in the Himalaya Mountains is something we have always wanted to do. Going in, we knew it would be a challenging adventure. We have never been this far from home, and so removed from our own customs, attitudes, and culture. We are embracing the challenge, and learning a great deal about a new, interesting, and spectacular country.

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  7. Hey Joe. Katri shared your blog with me just now. What an Incredible journey you and Esther (and of course your daughter) are taking. At least it looks like they have BIG beers to wash that bland food down with. Glad you haven’t abandoned all of our American cultural habits! Give our love to Esther and stay safe! I walk Gus by your house almost everyday and think about you guys. Miss you on the PB court.
    Warm Regards,
    Ted, Katri and Gus

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    • Hey Ted! It is great to hear from you. Esther and I are having an amazing trip, but missing you, Katri, Gus, and our new PB friends. Hope you are learning some new tricks that you can teach us when we get back to the kitchen line. Here in Nepal, we completed our first trek and are now resting and recuperating for a few days. The aches and pains just don’t go away as fast as they used to. For a little history with your cold beverage, the big beer label in the photo honors the elite Gorkha soldiers of Nepal, many whom continue to fight in the British and Indian armies. Cheers! Joe & Esther

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