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Trekking in the Everest Region

Trekking in the Everest Region

Excerpt:
Facilities for the trekker


Contents List | Introduction | Planning your trek | Facilities for the trekker | Sample trek | Minimum impact trekking


ACCOMMODATION AND FOOD

Our travels in Solu-Khumbu depended on Sherpa hospitality. When we arrived at a village where we wanted to spend the night, we would yell up at the window of any convenient house and ask to spend the night there.

Permission was invariably given, whereupon we went upstairs to the main room, cooked our meal on the family fire, and went to sleep on whatever flat surface was available, usually the wooden floor.

The host typically gave us any extra pillows lying around. We paid for food but, from Junbesi east, not for firewood.
James Fisher, in the 1970s.

The development of lodges
The hill peoples of Nepal have traditionally provided food and accommodation for the many travellers passing through their villages on the trade routes that cross the country.

These small family-run establishments were nothing like hotels in the Western sense: guests were traditionally charged for food but not for their lodging, which was very basic. Not so long ago these teahouses were providing the same level of facilities as they had for the first foreign trekkers: little more than dal bhaat or a plate of potatoes and a hard bed.

As the flow of trekkers grew, however, it was soon realized that these foreigners were prepared to pay more for better accommodation and a choice of food.

Development was slow at first. In 1985 Kenja, Junbesi, Kharikhola and Monjo were the only places below Namche that had proper lodges. In the 1990s, however, many new lodges were built and teahouses upgraded in a building spree which continues to this day.

Double rooms gradually replaced dormitories, showers and toilets were added and chimneys installed, so that the traditional smoky lodges are rare these days.

Extensive menus catering to Western tastes are now provided too (most Nepalis have just two main meals a day, both dal bhaat). Perhaps the biggest change of all, however, is that lodges are now run as businesses, very different from the teahouses of yesteryear with their hosts eager for news of the world beyond the village.

Nepal now has well-developed mountain lodge systems in the Solu Khumbu, Annapurna and Langtang areas, and on average the lodges of the Khumbu are the best in the country.

This is, however, a developing country and still one of the world's poorest, so the lodges are not as grand as those you might find in the European Alps – but nor are they as expensive.

Each lodge is, for the most part, owned and managed by a single family. Supplies are purchased or grown locally where possible, or carried in by porters if not; by staying in lodges, therefore, you are supporting the larger local economy.

As long as you don't expect star-quality facilities, you should be pleasantly surprised and happy with both the food and accommodation along the main trekking routes.

Hygiene
Once you could almost be guaranteed to get sick on a trek in Nepal. Now, although there is still a reasonable chance of a real stomach upset from Kathmandu, out on the trek there is a good chance you won't get sick at all.

Remember, too, that if you do get sick there are a number of possible sources, including your own hygiene, so don't automatically assume that the lodge food is to blame.

Eating in well-established lodges is now probably safer than eating a cooked meal on an organized group trek, and getting sick from lodge food is becoming rarer, especially since Namche changed its water supply.

Basic hygiene measures such as washing hands and boiling water have been learnt from courses in Kathmandu and while kitchens may lack stainless steel sinks and running water they are, nevertheless, cleaned frequently.

The style of cooking (frying or boiling) renders much of the food safe and salads are rare. Hot drinks are safe, too, but local drinks such as chang are not always so hygienically prepared.

Lodges on the main routes
Food A typical lodge in this area offers an extensive menu based on noodles, rice, flour, potatoes, eggs and the sparing use of vegetables.

Breakfast offerings include muesli, a variety of porridges, pancakes and bread with jam or eggs.

For lunch it is worth considering what can be quickly prepared, with veg noodle soup being popular. Pancakes and Tibetan bread are also relatively quick to make. Increasingly toasted sandwiches are on menus too. ‘Yak’ steaks are increasingly available, although are without exception, actually buffalo. Apple pie is generally delicious, deep fried in the same way as the spring rolls are.

Most meal choices are carbohydrate-heavy; exactly what trekkers require. All lodges serve tea, coffee, hot chocolate, hot lemon, soft drinks and beer (check its temperature first) and some places even offer wine.

Bathroom facilities Below Lukla and at more simple places these are still developing. Most lodges now offer hot showers and in the ones that don't a bucket of water is usually available.

Above Lukla there are many Western (ie sit-down) toilets and an increasing number of lodges offer rooms with an attached bathroom. In other places, toilets are usually just the Asian squat type, so watch your ankles.

The rural Nepalese have land that needs fertilizing so before foreign trekkers took to the mountains there was no need for toilets.

Rooms Most modern lodges offer twin rooms. If they have a dormitory it is more usually for trekking crews. While mattresses have become thicker, beds still tend to be narrow and the room partitions are still thin enough for a snorer to be heard throughout the lodge.

While bed sheets are not changed each day, they are still usually clean and the mattresses are regularly aired out. The fussier may still want to bring a pillow case, or at least drape a towel over the pillow. Hard pillows are best replaced with clothing, with a down jacket on top.

Very few lodges have double beds but in many places you can push the two single beds together; in smaller rooms this will probably also block the door so check this in advance if it bothers you.

Below Lukla facilities tend to be homelier and more basic. It makes sense to always use a sleeping sheet and your own sleeping bag, though relatively clean blankets are often available too.

Seasons Some lodges remain open year-round, even at Gokyo, Lobuche, Gorak Shep and Chukhung. They also never seem to suffer the problem of being full to the extent that trekkers are stranded without a bed, so you'll rarely be turned away.

There are, however, a few busy places (Tengboche and Lobuche especially) that during October-November are filled almost to bursting. Sometimes this is because people on a group trek inconsiderately decide a lodge is more attractive and warmer than their tents.

The national park has been reluctant to allow the building of new lodges or the expansion of old ones in this area so it pays to arrive early at these places during peak season. Elsewhere, the law of supply-and-demand seems to work well.

Accommodation off the main routes
In general, wherever there is a village, accommodation can be found. There may not be a lodge as such but people will often invite you to stay. If this does not happen try asking around (this is not considered rude by Nepalis) and something will turn up.

Conditions can be extremely basic, however, and very different from the lodges on the main trekking routes. In strongly Hindu areas your presence may be considered jutho (polluting) so you may have to eat alone and perhaps even sleep on the porch.

Wilderness areas and base camps offer no shelter other than the occasional overhanging rock. You should also be aware that on detailed maps the dots marked in kharkas (high-altitude pastures) are usually just roofless stone buildings occupied only in the summer. Even then they are rarely able to offer food or shelter.

SERVICES AND FACILITIES

Most lodges run a small shop offering canned drinks, Nepali and sometimes imported biscuits, chocolate, Mars Bars and some sweets. Often tins of fruit or fish can be found, along with noodles, coffee, drinking chocolate, tea, muesli, porridge, milk powder, jam and batteries.

The Khumbu shops, especially in Namche, are well stocked. If you're not choosy it's quite possible to assemble enough food for a few nights’ camping from the better shops in almost any village.

There are banks for foreign exchange at Namche (reliable), Lukla, Salleri and Khandbari. Post offices are also found in these three places, plus Junbesi. All are closed on Saturdays.

There is reliable internet access in Lukla and Namche and, by the time you read this, probably a number of other places too. Charges are around $10 per hour.

GSM mobile phones now work in and around Namche, even up to above Dingboche and the service area is likely to expand to Lukla and other areas. Other centres such as Phaplu have services too, but often only CDMA services, which are expanding rapidly in rural Nepal.

Trekking in the Everest Region

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