'Nepal is now open' - Tourism and Adventure in a Post-COVID Nepal
5, Mar 2022 | nepaltraveller.com
Yes, Nepal is open. We are back again.
I was recently in Everest Base Camp with my client from Alaska. He was here in Nepal for his wilderness first responder recertification course and also a short vacation to Everest Basecamp. Conner, my client, said it was pretty simple to get a Visa and all he needed was a ticket and Negative Covid PCR test report 72 hrs. before boarding. He also mentioned how easy it was for immigration to get through and was out of the airport in no time. Conner seemed pretty excited about his trek and I was equally excited too because my last visit to the region was back in 2019. At that time, I went to Gokyo lake and came back via the Renjo Pass. It was a beautiful trek that I gained a lot of experience from.
Now, more about this trek; The airport at Kathmandu seemed pretty empty when we reached there. There are always less foreigners travelling in Nepal during this time of year even when there was no pandemic but having seen none of them for the last two years and seeing few of them now, it actually made me happy. I wouldn’t necessarily say it lit a candle of hope inside me saying “tourism is back” but it definitely felt good. We had a pretty smooth flight. The flight was delayed which is normal for a flight to Lukla as there are few reasons for e.g. Weather that affects it. But yeah it was as smooth as it could be.
Flying from Kathmandu (1,300 metres) at 7:30 AM, after 30 minutes there was Lukla (2,800 metres) waiting for us with her arms wide open and the beautiful weather. As soon as we landed, I could feel that cold, crispy-fresh air going through my nose all the way down to lungs. “Feels good to be back” I whispered silently to myself and smiled.
As we were waiting to collect our baggage at the airport, I experienced something that I had never experienced before. There were people around the baggage collection point asking if we needed any assistance (porter service). I had never seen that in Lukla before. It didn’t take me even a second to realise how bad it’s been for the people who were completely dependent on tourism. Yup COVID times! We then went to Paradise lodge for breakfast where we met the third member of our team, Pasang.
Pasang is a young Sherpa boy form solu who has just completed his advanced mountaineering course from Khumbu climbing centre at Phortse. More than a porter, he was an assistant and a new friend to me on this trip. Pasang was not in the team in the beginning as Porter service is optional and it entirely depends on our clients if they want to have it or not. Conner seemed ok without it. I brought Pasang in the team anyway, paying him directly from my daily wages because I just couldn’t keep my head away from the reality. I was like not drinking a few beers for a month is not going to kill me. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. By the end, he was our superhero Sherpa guide.
Our Itinerary was pretty simple as any other basic Everest Base Camp(EBC) itinerary would look like. Extra days in Namche (3,400 metres) and Dingboche (4,500 metres) following the path led by legendary Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary. As it was February, there was still that last bit of winter left in the country. There were a few days where it snowed up to three feet and temperature went down till – 14 degree Celsius at night. Well, trekking in winter in the Himalayas one shouldn’t expect sunshine all the time right? But hey, you can still have some quality time with not so many tourists around. Yeah, let’s just call it a good hideaway .
We always started early though, latest by 8:30 AM, just to avoid unseen possible weather changes. One Black tea and an unhealthy tango juice later we reached our tea house, Life was good.
As we were moving up from Namche, we met a handful of tourists; those were the very faces that we met at the basecamp. We definitely took our responsibility of ploughing the snow on the trail very seriously in order to help one other. For this barter of kind gestures amongst us we exchanged a nice cup of coffee and good laughter with the view of Amadablam. Just being out there and living in the moment was already more than enough for us. Beside all these good times, we were also equally aware of the elevation we were gaining. We were eating well, taking enough water breaks and stops so that we wouldn’t over exert ourselves. We had a good daal bhat ( A highly consumed food all around the country) at Mong Danda (3,900 metres) followed by an overnight stay at Namaste Guest house in Phortse. It was cool catching up with amazing mountaineers that evening who had climbed and were about to climb some 8000 + mountains this season in Nepal.
Moving on, the next morning, we headed towards Dinboche. By this time we had started feeling the effects of the thin air. As mentioned earlier, we stayed an extra day at Dinboche for acclimatisation. We went for a hike and gained an elevation of 5,000 metres that day. It took us about 4 hrs to get back to our tea house. And the rest of the day, We just took it easy by talking about Nepal’s history, religion, lifestyle of people and drying out wet shoes and shocks. Another great day in the mountains.
Our next stop was Labuche, 4,900 metres. One thing that everyone should understand, especially if you are new in a high altitude zone anywhere above 2500 metres, You are not there for physical training or challenge. Taking it nice and easy is the way to go. You might experience light headedness, might not have the best sleep at night and might feel out of breath once in a while, that’s ok. Just listen to your body and plan next. Take suggestions from your guide or anyone who is experienced around you. Feeling all these changes and seeing what our bodies can do provides the right amount of time, it’s a beautiful experience. We made it to Labuche in 5 hrs with lunch at Thukla as expected.
Looks like time slipped somewhere in between and we didn’t realise. Yup, the next day was the day to go to the furthest place in this trek, Everest Basecamp. This day we were walking on top of the glacier most of the time. We reached Gorakshep, checked in, had a cup of tea and went to EBC. It was a bit windy so we had our puffy and wind breaker on most of the time. We reached the basecamp, had our own moments filled with emotion, excitement and high altitude (lol). We spent like around 20 mins, had a bar snicker and came back to Gorakshep.
As we were coming down, we took a different route via Tsyangboche Monastery. To my surprise, We encountered lots of tourists on the way back. The biggest was the group of 21. Seeing all these trekkers, It definitely lit that spark of hope inside me. There used to be a time where people used to feel that energy of overly crowded Khumbu but this time it was different. I couldn’t resist myself from greeting everyone we passed by in our last days. We ended our trip with a nice evening at Little Lukla, the small local restaurant with Tongba, momo and Sukuti.
Wrapping it up, It definitely changed my perspective about post Covid adventure tourism in Nepal that I had during the start of the trek. Things seem promising. All we have to do is respect everyone (People, nature and wildlife) and have a fresh start again with a positive mindset.
Yes, Nepal is open. We are back again.
The name “LaMa Walks” comes from the last name of the Founder and Director of the company, Rajesh Lama, who also belongs to the same ethnic group.
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