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Whilst we often refer to trekking here, this information is equally applicable for all holidays that involve physical activities in the Himalayas
The lure of Everest and trekking amongst the pristine, spectacular scenery of the Nepal & Bhutan Himalayas is almost irresistible. It is of course a natural, romantic ideal for the experienced, fit and healthy mountain walker to be able walk and walk and walk. However, that romantic ideal is not just limited to the experienced, the inexperienced can easily and quickly find themselves way out of their comfort zone. "Biting off more than you can chew" is far from ideal. In the best instance it can often mean you've travelled half-way around the world and spent a lot of money to find out that trekking or other activities just isn't for you, or that your fitness levels are not up to continuous, challenging mountain walking at high altitudes. In the worst instance it can lead to a major problem.
All too often we've heard people saying "don't worry, you'll be fine" to prospective customers. Quite how a sales person can make such a judgement over the phone or by e-mail to someone they simply don't really know leaves us mystified and bewildered.
The reality is, that only you alone can decide whether a particular trekking or active holiday is within your capabilities and suitable for you.
As with many things in life, if there is an element of doubt, then choose a holiday that is more in line with your capabilities. Be honest with yourself, and take into account the health, fitness and experience of all the people in your party. As people we are all different in our experience, fitness and health, so it will be the same with your private, tailor-made trekkin/active holiday.
Here some of the things we think you need to seriously consider when choosing a private, guided, tailor-made trekking or multi-activity holiday.
Most active holidays in the Himalayas involve being physically active at moderate to high altitude and every year (literally) thousands of people enjoy trekking, biking etc in the Himalaya without any major difficulties. The human body is capable of adapting to a very wide range of barometric pressures. This adaptation process is known as acclimatisation and it does take time. There is a correlation between daily fluid intake and successful acclimatisation and you must pay particular attention to hydration during physical exertion at high altitudes. On itineraries to 3000 metres and above most people will need to drink between 5 and 6 litres each day to achieve suitable hydration levels and you must adopt a responsible approach to achieve this target. Avoid alcohol and smoking.You should also discipline yourself to walk/exert yourself at a slower pace than you would usually and notice when you are out of breath, stop, and then continue when your breathing is more normal.
Before embarking on a trek/activity holiday to high altitude it is important that you familiarise yourself with the signs and symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) and that you report any illness to your guide straight away. Only one drug is currently known to have a useful role in preventing AMS and to be safe for this purpose: acetazolamide (Diamox). We recommend that you carry Diamox in your first aid kit for high altitude holidays (above 3000m). Diamox can only be obtained from a medical professional on prescription and it is important that you first consult your own doctor so that you know there are no contra indications with other medicines you may be taking and that you do not have an allergy to acetazolamide. On trek, the decision whether or not and when, you should take Diamox , will rest solely with you. If you intend to take Diamox, you must familiarise yourself with the appropriate dosage and procedures prior to travel.
If you or any of your party have an existing health condition you/they should consult your/their doctor for advice as to whether trekkking/physical exertion at altitude could have an additional detrimental effect.
For more on altitude and acute mountain sickness we recommend you visit the following websites below and ensure you are fully aware of advice, rules, procedures and symptoms.
Naturally we are always happy to discuss any concerns you may have with regard to trekking at altitude.
Our high altitude guides are also trained in wilderness first aid, CPR and the use of PAC bags and administering oxygen as well as in evacuation procedure and methods. We also equip our crew with PAC (Portable Altitude Chamber) bags and oxygen cylinders (Nepal only) on treks above 4000m and also with satellite phones on itineraries which go to regions where there’s no mobile connectivity. A PAC is a sealed bag, big enough for a person to comfortably fit inside, which can be inflated with a constant air flow and is used to simulate rapid descent. A person suffering from AMS can be effectively 'brought down' as much as an equivalent of 2000 metres in a matter of minutes inside a PAC bag.
Of course your guide will want to ensure that your party all enjoy a wonderful holiday, with mind-blowing mountain views, great cultural encounters with the locals and problematic free. As well as your enjoyment, your guide is there to do their best to ensure the welfare and safety of both your party and whatever support crew you have. We would politely remind you of your responsibility in such matters too. As such your guide has the ultimate authority on your holiday to make whatever decisions they feel are most appropriate particularly in matters of welfare and safety. It is part of the Nepalese & Bhutanese culture to wish that foreigners desires are met and thus situations can arise when a guide has been bullied into following demands that have proven to be detrimental to the welfare and safety of the travelling party and contrary to the guides advice. Thankfully such instances are a rarity, but we would respectfully insist that you unconditionally always follow the advice and decisions your guide may make. If you have any questions/concerns in this regard, please have a chat with us.
Respect your support team & the local culture
It should go without saying really that respecting the customs and culture of wherever you travel is an absolute. Particularly on trekking holidays you may be walking into regions that rarely see foreigners. In all instances we would implore you to act both responsibly and respectfully towards the local inhabitants. In fact to do so is often the 'gateway' to those ad hoc cultural encounters many hope for. Often the locals are far too polite to show their disdain when foreigners behave (or dress) inappropriately. There are many great guide books about Nepal & Bhutan (Insight Guides etc) that provide detailed information on the culture and customs of Nepal & Bhutan, as well as what not to do! Most likely you'll be treating yourself to a copy of a Nepal guide book, but if not, please do so. Acting responsibly and respectfully will help you get even more out of your holiday and if in doubt, just ask your guide for guidance, and just because you've seen some idiot from another party not travelling with Rural Heritage Journeys behaving in a manner contrary to the culture and what your guide books says doesn't make it OK to follow suit. Quite often your support team members will hail from remote village of the Himalaya too. So, please afford them the same sensitivity.
Not all of us enjoy perfect health and may already have some kind of medical condition. Please consider whether you or any of your party have a pre-existing medical condition and if so, consult your/their doctor for further advice as to the suitability of the itinerary, especially if it involves higher altitudes. Please also let us know and have a chat with us if you or any of your party has a known medical condition before booking your holiday.
To trek (or engage in activities) anywhere in Nepal & Bhutan a trekking permit is required. Our team in Nepal and Bhutan will arrange these, and the permit costs will be included in your holiday price but please make sure each member of your party takes 4 passport photographs of themselves with them. Our team will ask for these when you arrive in order to obtain the necessary permits. Even if you're holiday does not involve trekking you still need a trekking permit to engage in the activities in the Nepal & Bhutan Himalaya.
Most treks and other activity holidays are trouble free and pass without incident. However, you must also assume responsibility for your own actions and should take greater care than usual whilst in Nepal and Bhutan and in the Himalaya as something as simple as a turned ankle can be a major problem in remote areas. Do not take uneccessary risks and resist the temptation to switch entirely to 'holiday head'. Sorry to sound 'preachey' on this, but due to the difficulties that can arise when specialist medical assistance is far from immediately available makes taking care of yourself paramount. Do please be mindful of the safety of others in your party, your support team etc and avoid putting others at risk.
Porterage & Baggage on trek
On trek you'll have porters* to carry your main baggage and during each walking day you need only carry your usual day pack containing the items you need with you until you reach your next overnight halt. Your porters (even though they are carriying heavier loads than you) are invariably fitter and stronger than you are and they do not walk with your party. Chances are they've arrived at your next overnight halt way ahead of you. However, you need to restrict your main baggage on trek to a maximum of 15kg per person in Nepal-20KG for Bhutan. Your main baggage on trek must be in a soft 'holdall' type bag- Suitcases and Framed Rucksacks must not be used for your main baggage on trek. We will be providing you with a COMPLIMENTARY KIT BAG**. This will be issued to you at your pre-trip briefing in Kathmandu. Of course what you don't need on trek can usually be left at a hotel where you are departing from/returning to after trek. It's a good idea to pack your clothing and items in your main trek baggage in plastic bags in case it rains as kitbags aren't waterproof. We also find that 'compartmentalising' items in trek baggage makes things easier to find when you start rummaging around. The number of porters, crew etc you will have on trek will depend upon the number of people on your party and whether camping is involved - see Camping section. It should go without saying that we value the welfare of our porters and support teams highly. Porter loads are nowadays (thankfully) regulated and our team in Nepal ensure that all support teams are adequately equipped and appropriately paid. We wholeheartedly encourage you to engage with your support crew as much as possible. Although they may not all speak english, you'll find them a cheerful, friendly bunch of people and they certainly love it when our clients interact with them. Impromptu games such as 'make do' cricket between clients and porters seem to happen in the most odd of places! Being a porter in Nepal is seen as being a respected, valued profession and being a porter is not restricted to gender. Please respect these men and women who work hard for you.* Bhutan trips generally use pack animals instead of porters.**For Bhutan trips we can only provide kitbags if you are travelling via Kathmandu.
We will be providing you with a bespoke list of items that are either essential or recommended for your particular holiday and we are always happy to chat about trekking gear and the various items needed/not needed. As a general guideline we suggest you adopt the "there's no such thing as bad weather, just bad equipment and clothing" principle. Being in the Himalaya means you are likely to experience a variety of climactic conditions from warm and dry to very cold, windy, wet and snow! We do not recommend trekking in trainer style shoes generally as they provide little in the way of ankle supprt and as mentioned previously even a turned ankle can be a major problem if it occurs in a very remote area. Of course (like us) a forthcoming trek is often a motivation to purchase a new pair of walking boots. Do make sure (if you do) that your boots are well and truly broken in and super comfortable before you start your trek. Yes, we have seen dream holidays to see Everest on foot ruined by brand new boots that could no longer be walked in after 24 hours. Please don't let that be you. Whilst treks tend not to require the need for mountaineering equipment, one or two do require the use of items such as in-step crampons (not to be confused with mountain climbing crampons) and a walking ice-axe. Where such additional items are a necessity this will be indicated on the relevant trek page.
Fitness Levels & Experience
As we've said above the common sense principle of 'don't bite off more than you can chew' is particularly applicable to lengthy, challenging and high altitude trekking & activity holidays. Whilst we appreciate that some people do wish to challenge themselves on their trekking/active holidays, and others prefer to be within their known comfort and capability zones, it is crucial that you choose a trek/activity that is not beyond your capabilities. The consequences of finding out that the trek/activity you've started is beyond your capabilities has the potential to be catastrophic and most probably very costly financially for you. We suggest respectfully that the Himalaya is not the place to find out that your travel insurance does not cover you for helicopter evacuation if you find yourself in such a position. Sure, in an emergency situation your travel insurance should cover you for heli-evac, but not for non-emergencies e.g. too tired.....can't do it etc. So, please, please be honest to yourself as to your health, fitness and experience before choosing your active holiday. If you don't like walking and wilderness, then trekking is not for you. We will never say "don't worry, you'll be fine", but we are always more than happy to chat about each particular itinerary in detail to help you decide which is most appropriate. Naturally, we can wax lyrical about the beauty of the landscapes etc, but we'll always endeavour to give you the reality check stuff we think you will need. With multi-activity holidays the same principles apply. Choose the types and levels of activity that you enjoy. That's what tailor-made Himalayan holidays are all about, tailoring them to your level.
We give each trek and activity holiday a grade e.g. easy, moderate, challenging, very challenging as well as an indication as to the number of days spent being active and the highest altitude. We fully understand that words like 'easy', 'moderate' etc are just that.....words, and that we all have our own views as to what is easy, challenging and so on. We use such wordage purely for the purposes of 'at a glance', and as such are based on trekking and actvities by Himalayan and general mountain walking/activity standards. After all, a walk/bike ride in your local park, walking along a canal towpath etc is easy. But, this in no way compares to an easy Himalayan trek. Even on an itinerary that may be described overall as 'moderate', some days may be relatively easy and some days particularly challenging. For each active day we endeavour to provide you with information such as the total amount of hours spent walking, how much up and down there will be as well as altitude gain. Timings are always approximate and do not include rest stops & refreshment breaks. They are an estimated indicator as to how much you may be active each day and are based on the assumed times that a regular, healthy, experienced mountain walker or active person with a good level of fitness may take. Clearly it is impossible to estimate how long each days activity would be for yourself. So, when choosing a holiday be clear in your own mind what each day involves. If there is any element of doubt, do please have a chat with us and we'll give you all the information we can. We find that providing daily walking distances can be very misleading, particularly for inexperienced trekkers. There's a very big difference between a 5km walk on level ground to a 5km walk that is all uphill and at high altitude. The trek to the Annapurna Sanctuary is indicative of this. Each days walk (distance wise) isn't particularly far but most days are either very steep uphill or downhill, as well as being at high enough altitude to make them even harder.
Our guides are all english-speaking Nepalese or Bhutanese. We firmly believe that the best person to guide you around their country is someone from that country. To be honest, we think our guides are brilliant, and our clients seem to agree with this. Nothing ever seems to be too much trouble for them and indeed long lasting friendships between our guides (and other support crew members) and clients are often forged on holiday.Their cheerful, friendly, helpful nature is most endearing and to some whom have never travelled in Nepal or Bhutan before, quite revelationary. That's great. Of course you want your guide to be helpful, friendly etc. But, our guides are also trained and qualified too. Your guide will have first aid training - See also the Altitude section
Trekking Lodges aka 'Teahouses' (Nepal Only)
Where these exist our treks tend to use them. Indeed it is more cost effective to use the facilities/services provided by these than camping. For camping a much larger team of people, equipment etc is required. Of course if you prefer camping for the treks we feature utilising trekking lodges, that can be arranged. If you've never trekked in Nepal before (or never stayed at a trekking lodge), no doubt you're curious to know what they are like. For the avoidance of doubt here we are not referring to the lodges used on our luxury lodge trekking holidays. In a word the trekking lodges are 'variable' in terms of standard and facilities. As a general rule, the further you are away from the road head/landing strip the more simple and basic they become by default. Never forget that all supplies have to be carried by people to these places, and again that bottle of Coke by default becomes more expensive the further you are away from the transport hub too. In regions like Everest, Annapurna and Langtang the trekking lodges (considering their locations) often surprise many as to how good they are (particularly after the days walking, they are a welcome sight!). In other areas they tend to be very simple, basic affairs. Many will provide simple twin bedrooms, with wooden beds and a foam mattress and more often than not, that's it! In some lodges (particularly at higher altitudes) only dorm rooms may be available.You may be divided from the other rooms by a wall or nothing more than a few planks of wood. So, you do need a 4 seasons sleeping bag. and a torch! The dining area tends to be the focal point and is where most trekkers congregate other than for sleeping, as often it is the dining area only that has any form of heating. Toilet and washing facilities will be shared. Some lodges can provide hot showers for additional cost (£1+). Electricity (where it exists) is at a premium, so for recharging batteries you may need to pay. Toilets may be flushable western style, sometimes western style toilets where you will flush it with a bucket of water, or the 'French/Turkish' style toilet again flushed with a bucket of water. In very remote teahouses the old 'thunderbox' drop toilets may be encountered. There's usually a couple of wash hand basins (often cold water only) that guests will share. Lodges that are often further away from the transport hubs only have small dorm sleeping facilities. Whilst we always endeavour to provide our clients with private sleeping arrangements please note that we can never guarantee this, particularly the further you are away from transport hubs. We find that these lodges are a great way of getting to meet other trekkers and locals alike. They are a good craic and invariably provide tasty, wholesome cooking and in many areas lodges are encouraged/regulated to locally source produce. Never forget you're in the Himalayas and most likely to be in a remote, isolated area and do not expect to be staying at a hotel type facility. The alternative is of course camping.
In terms of specialist camping equipment all you need to bring a is a sleeping bag (4/5 seasons) and we can arrange sleeping bag rental if you'd like*. Treks that involve camping need a much larger support team than just porters/pack animals for main baggage. There'll usually be a mess tent (to eat in), tables, chairs, cooking equipment, cooks tent, crew tents, pots, pans, fuel, supplies, latrine tent and a whole host of items required and it all needs to be carried. Nowhere seems to do camping quite like the Nepalese & Bhutanese. Oh.....of course there'll be two person tents for your party too. You'll not be doing the cooking or washing up, erecting and dismantling tents. That's what your 'army' is for. Each morning you'll be gently awoken by the crew and treated to 'bed tea' and bowls of hot water for washing and sterilised water for drinking for the walking day. Really all you need to do is wake up, drink tea, wash, eat breakfast, pack your bag and walk carrying your day pack. Breakfasts often include porridge, cereals, omelette/boiled eggs, toast (maybe even curry) and more tea! Lunches are usually picnic style. Dinner is usually a three course affair with soup, a main course and pudding (often tinned fruit). Camp cooks produce surprisingly good and varied food, especially considering what they are preparing meals with and the locations. In fact they do like to show off a bit. You are always welcome to (in fact we urge you to do so) pop into the cooks tent and see what's going on. Don't forget that cookie has done the same walking day as you and then continues working to prepare your meals, so it's always nice (and very much welcomed) to say 'thank you' to the cook and all the team each day. Please respect your support team. Please note that camping locations are often dictated by variants such as where it is actually possible to pitch a camp and where water can be sourced. Can you imagine how much water would need to be carried (as well as the amount of people to carry it) for each day of trek for not just your party, but the whole crew too! We've been asked once or twice for walking days to be longer and more challenging particularly on camping treks, but it is often those factors that determine the walking day, as well as just how far/long it is reasonable to expect the trek crew to walk. They are carrying much heavier loads than you.* From Kathmandu only.
Of course we are always very happy and pleased to chat with you and answer any questions/concerns or anything else you wish regarding a holiday in Nepal and Bhutan
Your holiday may include internal flights and these are booked by us.
Please be aware that baggage restrictions apply on all internal flights in Nepal and Bhutan. In Bhutan all internal flights as well as International flights to/from Paro allow 7KG Hand Baggage and 30KG Hold Baggage
For non-mountainous flights in Nepal e.g. Pokhara, Biratnagar, Bharatpur
5kg Hand Baggage and 15KG Hold Baggage
For flights into mountainous regions in Nepal e.g. Lukla, Jomsom, Juphal, Taplejung
5kg Hand Baggage and 10kg Hold Baggage
Any excess baggage charges must be paid for by yourself.
Internal Flights in Nepal are below the global safety average
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