On the roof of the world: solo adventures in Nepal

View from Tadapani guest house

View from Tadapani guest house

The latest guest post on 501 Places is written by Kathryn Bullock, a travel industry entrepreneur who has just returned from a solo trip to Nepal. Kathryn shares with us a glimpse of her 6 day Himalayan trek and gives some valuable insights into her experiences of visiting Nepal as a solo female traveller.

Following his successful jaunt around Laos on trail bikes last year, my partner Dave proudly announced he was back off to Thailand this February. He would travel with his biking buddy for a jaunt around the hill tribe villages on a trail bike. I prefer more active holidays so I decided it was time to book a ticket to the country I’d wanted to go to for years: the stunning Himalayan kingdom of Nepal.

Nepali family at lakeside village

Nepali family at lakeside village

As it was too late to persuade a friend to join me I thought, why not just book it anyway? It’s been all of 24 years since my last solo adventure around Indonesia so I was well out of practice. I loved every minute of it! I had read that as a woman if you want to meet people you just need to sit at a bar and not sit at a table. So I tried this at a little bar in Kathmandu and I met some really friendly locals.

Bandipur child

Bandipur child

The city is overwhelming and I was a bit concerned about getting lost the first night. It’s such a labyrinth of small lanes which all look the same and are jammed with signposts of every shape and colour. I did some reading ahead of time and booked the first two nights in Kathmandu at the charming Hotel Courtyard which was blissfully quiet. I left the rest to chance. The freedom this gave me was liberating. I stepped into a small travel agency and had my ticket to Pokhara booked and paid for within minutes for the next morning. I enjoyed the first glimpse of the Himalayas in their full glory peaking above the smoggy clouds over the Kathmandu valley as I gazed out from our tiny Guna air plane.

Dal and I at Poon Hill

Dal and I at Poon Hill

On reaching Pokhara I explored the trail on the ridge between Serangkot Hill and Nau Danda, watching the paragliders in full flight. February is the best month for thermals in this dreamy place. I hired a bike to explore the lakeside villages and was invited into a friendly farmer’s home for tea and a chat, whilst we enjoyed the last of the sun’s rays on his terrace, watching the world go by.

The 6 day trek around the Ghorepani and Chomrung circuit was a real highlight. My expert guide Dal is a seasoned trekker and recounted enchanting stories of seeing snow leopard in the Mustang Valley and other amazing trekking adventures through snow drifts. The views from the guest houses in the early morning sun were breathtaking and everyone must have heard a series of excited exclamations as I stood on the balcony each morning taking in the views. You have to earn this treat as you climb the very steep staircases for what seem hours on end – but they really are worth it! A tip is to make sure you take at least one walking pole or ideally two, as they do help especially up to Poon Hill (3200m) on the ice for the very special Annapurna panorama at sunrise.

View from Poon Hill at sunrise

View from Poon Hill at sunrise

On returning to Kathmandu I decided on the slower route back and stopped off at the charming medieval village of Bandipur which is nestled in the hills. I loved the peace and quiet of the place. I imagined that I was living there in medieval times as it was so dark and quiet at night with the power cut and traffic banned in the village centre. I also stopped off at the original Nepali capital of Gorka and climbed another 1500 stairs to appreciate the views from the Hindu temple above the town, and saw the women preparing the goat sacrifice for the gods.

Main St Bandipur

Main Street Bandipur

On coming back to Kathmandu I stopped in at the very friendly Everest Irish pub in Thamel to see a great Nepali blues band I had seen on arrival. I encouraged some new Dutch trekking friends to come with me and we had an amazing night of blues magic. The band had been thrown in prison and beaten up for playing just 10 minutes after a noise curfew at 10pm last year and  have the scars to prove the brutality of the local police.

I learnt a lot from my new Nepali friends about life in this country and I’ve already bought my maps to plan my next trek. I would book another trip in a heartbeat. The only challenge now is to knuckle down to some work to pay for it and stop day dreaming about my trip.

For all the pictures on the places described above and more in Nepal, please visit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kb_adventures

Kathryn Bullock image

Kathryn Bullock is a frequent traveller and an ecommerce expert and entrepreneur who has worked in the travel industry for the past 25 years. She is now working on a new business venture in social media for travel and is a regular blogger for business owners at:  www.enterprisebritain.com and her blogs can be found at http://anothereb.blogspot.com/

Author Information

Freelance travel writer

17 Responses to “On the roof of the world: solo adventures in Nepal”

  1. Ben Smart #

    Kathryn,
    Sounds like a great trip! I see you stayed at the Hotel Courtyard.
    Nepal must be one of my favourite countries to travel to.
    HRS.com Ben

    March 12, 2010 at 10:54 am
  2. Great post. I’m also a solo traveler, I’ve been thinking about adding Nepal to a trip to Central Asia, and I’d appreciate any info on costs.

    March 12, 2010 at 5:09 pm
  3. Kathryn,

    Incredible! I travel solo often and this looks like a pretty breathtaking adventure – I never have before, but I may have to consider Nepal :)

    March 12, 2010 at 5:17 pm
  4. We are in Nepal right now and heading to Everest Base Camp tomorrow. The Nepali people are some of the friendliest that we have met ever! Already we are feeling a kindred spirit. We are absolutely loving Kathmandu. The energy and vibe is awesome in the Thamel part of town that we are staying in. We are enjoying eating the international food before leaving for our 16 day trek where we hear we will be eating a steady diet of dahl. I am glad that you loved Nepal, we have only been here a few days, but already it feels like one of our favorite destinations on the planet!

    March 13, 2010 at 7:28 am
  5. Kathryn Bullock #

    Thanks for all your lovely comments. Here are the costs and some further practical tips for those of you that want to know more and are planning a trip:

    Flight
    Cost of airline ticket £491 on Gulf Air with Opodo from LHR but was a bit of a cold wait at Bahrain airport on way home and dirty toilets onboard – suggest you also look at Eithad and other Middle Eastern airlines which might also have good deals. I also heard of good deals from Amsterdam to Kathmandu with budget airline belonging to TUI group. 25 min flight to Pokhara from Kathmandu was US$65 booked with Guna air through Oxford Travel Agency in Thamel. Flight is highly recommended in morning as you get to see mountains above clouds although there are tourist buses between Pokhara and Kathmandu for about $6US but it’s a long journey (6-7 hours) and can be slow in traffic gettting into or out of Kathmandu. You can fly cheaper to Delhi and travel overland but then you have to hassle with an Indian visa which is costly and if you only have a few weeks I’d recommend flying straight into Kathmandu.

    Trek
    Cost of trek for guide who also carried my pack was $15US per day with Jomsom Trek in Pokhara lakeside – a long standing agency run by guides who were very friendly and helpful – highly recommended. http://www.jomsomtreks.com You also need to budget about $15US per day for food and accommodation in the mountains and more if you want to drink beer as it’s not cheap at about $US4-5 per 660cl bottle. Your permit costs depend on your route but allow about $5US plus cost of transport to start of your route.

    Bars to Visit
    Kathmandu
    Don’t forget to go to Everest Irish Pub in Thamel – some of the friendliest people in Kathmandu
    and do say hi to Ram and Chiram and Ahsesh and his very cool blues band who play there on a Friday night.

    Pokhara
    I would recommend Oxygen pub in Pokhara Lakeside. Great live music and also show great films about Everest – highly recommend and yet again a very warm welcome from the staff which makes all the difference.

    Places to Stay
    Pokhara
    I really liked Amrit guest house in Pokhara, Lakeside – about US$10 per day and was quiet and lovely friendly staff. It was close enough to the action but near the lake and rooms furthest from reception have the best views.

    Kathmandu
    Some dutch friends were recommending the Kathmandu Resort about $27US per night with very comfy beds. I stayed at Excelsior which was $25US which was also comfortable and quiet.

    Hope that helps and Happy Travels and all best to Dave and Deb on their trek who maybe I think I met at the Monkey Temple last week – are you Canadian???

    March 13, 2010 at 1:58 pm
  6. Thanks so much for the detailed information! That’s very helpful.

    March 13, 2010 at 2:15 pm
  7. Elsa Trujillo #

    After reading your blog I am even more eager to return to the Nepal and the Himalayas (this time with a digital camera!). I’m glad you had such a good time.

    March 15, 2010 at 8:51 am
  8. Fantastic! Congrats on finding the courage to undertake this journey. I see how the Universe blessed you with an amazing time for it! ;-)

    PS You’ve made me desperate to travel to Nepal now. I’m off to India in 2 weeks and I wish I had the time to fly over to its neighboring country…

    March 21, 2010 at 9:52 pm
  9. David Radcliffe #

    Hi Kathryn

    Well done on this solo adventure. You have put our trip to Egypt totally in the shade

    March 22, 2010 at 10:30 am
  10. Dear All,

    Thanks for all your lovely comments. I was particularly wowed by Andi’s amazing photos of Brazil and the Amazon. I recommend you have a look if you get a chance.

    Where to next?
    I hear that Machu Picchu will also be open again on April 1 after all the landslides which damaged
    the railway and that the full rail service will be restored by Summer 2010 – date to be confirmed – so maybe that will be my next trip but I’m sure I’ll want to walk there if I can!

    Best Wishes

    Kathryn

    March 22, 2010 at 11:31 am
  11. Great article.
    I’m touring India for six months and then going onto Nepal.I went to Tibet a while back and the mountain ranges are stunning.It’s my favourite part of the world.

    May 15, 2010 at 12:44 pm
  12. Hi AnnaBella,
    Thanks for your kind comments and have a fantastic time in Nepal. I’ve not been to Tibet yet so would love to contact you for some tips when I make it over there. Enjoy those mountain panoramas and let me know if you need any further help with your planning.

    May 16, 2010 at 6:17 pm
  13. elsbeth #

    I am going to Nepal in October and will stay with the Chhetri sisters in Pokhara. My husband and 10 other people are going to the Mera Peak. They are doing a hike for 17 days. They will start from Lukla. I am alone at this moment still and a friend of mine wants to come with me. I will go to Pokhara and from there visit Chitwan National Park and further just explore Pokhara for the rest of the time and maybe do a 2 day hike. Is it safe? What must I do not to become ill in that place?
    Elsbeth

    May 23, 2010 at 5:29 pm
  14. Dear Elsbeth,
    I suggest that you make sure you are careful about not eating salads and unpeeled fruit. I was ill whilst trekking and staying at the guest houses and I think there is little you can do to stop this happening. As long as you drink plenty of water it often does not last long. I would recommend eating local food eg Dahl, rice and boiled vegetables rather than western style dishes with dairy food as you don’t know how items like cheese are stored.

    I would avoid alcohol as this will be even more potent at altitude and make sure you drink lots of water. I walked alone in the hills around Serangkot and cycled around the lake and did not have any trouble at all but I would recommend trying to find a walking companion if you can and always make sure you tell someone where you are going and what time you are expected back. I did not see any evidence of trouble around Pokhara with Maoists but the Lonely Planet does warn about not walking to the Pagoda alone from Pokhara due to some muggings. Nepal is on the whole a very safe country as long as you seek local advice and much safer than many western cities at night. You will find that October is a very popular time for trekking so there should be plenty of people around to go walking with and you will meet lots of people on the trek. Hope that helps and have a wonderful time.

    Kathryn

    May 23, 2010 at 8:04 pm
  15. What a fantastic article. The article inspired me and my wife to visit Nepal to go trekking. It was helpful to us and assisted us to find a reliable trekking company. In Pokhara, there are numerous trekking agencies so it is a bit of a minefield when it comes to finding a reliable agency. We selected Jomsom Trekking Agency and were both pleased that we had.

    My wife Kyla and I have just got back from a fantastic 4 day trek from Birethanti to Poon Hill and back again. Our guide was Shiva. He was a wonderful guide and we had fun from start to finish. On the first day, we trekked from Birethandi to Ulleri. This took approximately five hours and was tough in parts but enjoyable. The first nights lodgings were simple but very authentic with fantastic views of the mountains. On the second day, we trekked from Ulleri to Ghorepani. This was another five hours. Another beautiful day trekking through some amazing villages with friendly people. The guesthouse in Ghorepani was very plush for the mountains with hot showers and friendly staff. On the third day, we trekked up to Poon Hill. Unfortunately, the weather was not on our side so we were not to see the much anticipated views from the peak. I think this was poor timing on our part as we still had the tail end of the monsoon. Still, we continued our trek to Gandruk through the forest, seeing monkeys, birds and many local friendly people. The lodgings on the third night were simple again but with fantastic views and good food. I woke up with a badly twisted knee and Shiva, the guide, fashioned a walking stick and wrapped my knee up with a bandage. This enabled me to complete the trek with my wife.

    In summary, enough can’t be said about our excellent trek. Our guide Shiva was perfect from start to finish and we had many a good laugh and happy times. The trek provided a good insight into Nepali life and the day to day existence of the locals. I would not hesitate in recommending Guru and Jomsom Treks and Expedition Ltd to organise and assist you in the planning and execution of any treks in Nepal that you may be thinking of in the future.

    Good luck and happy travels.

    Peter Townsend
    Birmingham
    England

    N.B. Please feel free to e-mail me with any queries

    September 9, 2011 at 11:07 am

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