Doing the job I do I often get asked what my favourite place in the world is. As you can imagine, when you have been to as many places as I have it’s a difficult one to answer. Actually, what makes it your favourite place – is it the location itself, is it the culture, the people you travel with or the people you visit along the way when you’re there. For me, it is all of those things!
Whether Nepal is my favourite or not, I don’t know but it is definitely up there at the top of my list. And I know for a fact that a large part of my love for Nepal is the people I know there and meet there.
I’ve been fortunate to visit the country many times and do some of the little walking tours. Not major treks (although that is definitely on my list of things I still want to do!) but I have been to some of the lodges / tea houses where the trekkers hike to and overnight at. I’ve stayed in some of the smaller lodges and woken up with the sunrise over the Annapurnas and that in itself is pure magic. These days on my more sedentary tours, I like to take groups to watch the sun come up over Fishtail Mountain near Pokhara in a place called Sarangkot.
It is one of the more accessible hikes you can do from Pokhara and what I like to do is set off at 4am. When I suggest that to my groups, they look at me in horror but there is nothing more amazing than arriving in the dark (with only the local dogs for company!) and watching as the light slowly fills the valley beneath and then even more slowly light up the Annapurna Range of mountains and then at the last moment the light comes on the top of Fishtail Mountain. When you arrive in complete darkness, you have no idea of the wonder that will open before you once the light comes….. And not one person has ever come back and said the 4am wake up call wasn’t worth it and more often than not, it is the highlight of their entire trip in Nepal. That for me is worth the early morning in itself – being able to share this magnificent view with my group.
Going back to what is it that makes Nepal special….. The people of Nepal are warm, friendly and more than hospitable. I have made great friends out there over the years and despite the recent earthquake, Nepal is very much open for business. A few scars are still visible in the towns and more visible in the countryside. Kathmandu has lost a few of its stupors and Durbar Square is propped up from behind but if you have not been to Nepal prior to the earthquake, the scars would not be instantly visible.
It is a country of vibrancy and friendliness and mountain ranges that are simply breathtaking and I for one can’t wait to return again soon.