Exploring the Himalayas, Authentic Nepali Village Life, the Jungles of Chitwan National Park, Everest Learning Academy for Disadvantged Children, and Magnificent World Heritage Site Temples + Optional Tropical Retreat in Thailand
~ October 6 - October 20 or 23, 2011 ~
A trek to Mardi Himal takes us deep into one of the less explored, unspoiled areas of the Himalayas, where only a few villages can be found. Situated at the most southern point of the Annapurna massif, most of the trek traverses wilderness that gradually and comfortably reaches higher altitudes while offering breath-taking views of the famous, holy "Fishtail Mountain" peak from an unusual vantage point, which remains one of Nepal's best kept trekking secrets. The majestic mountain ranges you will see include three out of the eight tallest mountains in the world. All this awaits you on this eco-trekking journey to the high camp (4,000 meters). Upon reaching the optional 4,800-5,000 meters altitude, the great ice fields and blue glaciers of the Annapurna Sanctuary Wall lie below us. The view from here is almost incomparable, making Mardi Himal a unique trekking destination.
The Gorkha region is famous for the brave Gorkha soldiers who fought alongside the British in the World Wars. It is rarely travelled by tourists, since it houses no official national park and since it has not been open to tourism until very recently. The villages in Gorkha represent many ethnicities, and the region's culture and history are rich and varied. During the Maoist uprising, the civil war within Gorkha was extremely intense and many hundreds of Nepalese died, leaving behind orphaned children, who lack social or educational opportunities and are at risk of great abuse. This is why Dr. T and his Ecopolitan community are building an orphanage there, providing poor children with scholarships to attend local, established schools. This is in addition to Ecopolitan's Everest Learning Academy community schools in the Chitwan area, which offer high-quality education to local orphans and low-caste children.
During the trip, we will have time to relax, engage in yoga or meditation (individually or as a group), and benefit from disscussions with Dr. T about Nepal's unique geography, topography, and geology, as well as its colorful history, religion, and ethnicities. We will also discuss health and nutrition-related topics, focusing on principles of sustainability. Dr. T has guided many groups in Nepal (roughly 20 times in the past 13 years) and is happy to share his knowledge and experience. Usually, tour guides in Nepal are Nepali themselves and speak difficult-to-understand English. With Dr. T, the foreign accent is more understandable. :)
After the trek, we enjoy a glimpse into authentic Nepali village life in areas that remain unadulterated by extensive tourism. We have the fortune of working with CCODER Nepal (Center for Community Development & Research in Nepal), a non-profit that helps 200,000 Nepalis improve their lives by teaching them how to sustainably organize to create socio-economic, educational, and health care opportunities within their communities. Part of the income from this Eco-Trek goes to support socioeconomic development in Nepal via the two official non-profit organizations - Everest Learning Academy and CCODER. By joining this trip, you are giving to those in need while observing principles of sustainability!
This trip introduces you to the activities of humanitarian, non-profit Nepali organizations that work with the Ecopolitan Eco-Health Community. 100% of the income generated by Ecopolitan for these activities reaches its destination, since there no middlemen are involved. Therefore, we are very efficient in implementing our goals and manifesting our projects. After the trip, individuals are given the opportunity to volunteer their time and skills to assist teachers and students in improving the educational goals of the Everest Learning Academy (ELA), or to assist in other capacities with both the ELA and CCODER. Comfortable room and board are provided for all volunteers.
Optional Tropical Thai Mini-Retreat
We're adding an option for a 3-day tropical fruit retreat in Thailand at the end of the Nepal trip, for a modest addition of $545 in price - covering transportation, accomodation at Dr. T's rustic Thai home, unlimited tropical fruit, and Thai attractions (hot springs, Tiger Temple, water falls, "Railroad of Death," and The Bridge on the River Kwai). Transportation and food in Thailand is relatively expensive, and we enjoy a lot of both in these 3 days. If you wish extend your stay in Thailand, you may return from BKK to the USA a few days later, arranging it with Joyce (see below) or your travel agent. Arrival in Thailand is the evening of October 20th, and departure to BKK is late in the evening of October 23rd.
Trip duration: Trip duration: 15 or 18 days - October 6 - October 20 or 23, 2011. (arrival in Kathmandu by 2 PM October 6, departure October 20 from Kathmandu, or October 23rd from Thailand)
Food: 100% vegan and wholesome, as specified by Dr. T
7 nights in Nepali hotels (4 in Kathmandu, 1 in Gorkha, 2 in Chitwan National Park), breakfasts included.
4 nights tent-camping, including mattresses provided by the staff.
3 nights in authentic community village home-stay.
Optional 3 night stay at Dr. T's Thai home
Bring your own sleeping bag, or rent one in Kathmandu at around $2 per day.
Trip Difficulty Grade: Moderate. Maximum altitude: 4100 meters (optional 5000 meters for the strongest trekkers). A medium-level hiking capability is required. If you can walk at a reasonable pace on a flat surface for two hours non-stop, or for 30 minutes non-stop up and down stairs (you can easily build up to this within a few weeks), you qualify. We will walk leisurely most of the time, taking breaks as needed. People with weak knees can manage with walking sticks/poles, especially downhill.
Transportation: Private bus, depending on group size.
Local porters (who are happy to earn the extra income!) will carry the heavy/larger luggage pieces (please bring soft-sided luggage, since they usually carry 2-3 per person), camping gear, and the mobile kitchen. Trekkers only carry a small day pack (with water, camera, and essentials - including an extra layer of clothing/fleece for higher altitudes).
Boiled water to replenish our water containers will be provided by the kitchen staff after each meal. No plastic bottles will be purchased during the trek.
Group size: Minimum 10
Itinerary Outline (itinerary is subject to changes because of unforeseen circumstances, but every effort will be made to deliver most or all the attractions promised here):
Day 01: Upon arrival at the Kathmandu airport, we are transported to our hotel in the colorful, vibrant Thamel market area (a shopper's delight!). Explore a world heritage site, the famous "Monkey Temple," before sunset, with a full view of the Kathmandu Valley. Enjoy a welcome dinner of typical Nepali food.Day 02: Cultural heritage tour in Kathmandu Valley. Explore the most important Hindu and Buddhist temples in Nepal, which have been awarded the special status of world heritage sites: Visit the anciet city of Bhaktapur, known as the cultural capital of Nepal, containing popular attractions such as Pottery Square, Taumadhi Square, Fifty-Five Windows Palace, The Golden Gate, as well as the famous Durbar Square; observe one of Bhaktapur's main thanka scools; visit the mighty Shiva temple, Pashupatinath, where the dead are creamated along the Bagmati River; circle around Bodhnath, which is cosidered one of the holiest temples among followers of the Buddhist faith. Free evening in Thamel.
Day 03: 200 km (6 hr) drive to Pokhara (915 meters), then to trail-head and start trekking a few hours toward Dhampus and Deurali (1650 meters, 3 hrs).
Day 04: Trek to Suiredanda (2235 meters, 4 hrs). After lunch, trek to Forest Camp (2550 meters, 3 hrs).
Day 05: Trek to Low Camp (3050 meters, 3 hrs). After lunch, trek to High Camp (4000 meters, 5 hrs). After just a short, steep climb, we are out of the forest and above the tree line. A ridge, either grassy or under snow (depending on the season) takes us up to High Camp. The views here are majestic. Annapurna South seems close enough to throw a stone at, while Machhapuchare seems close enough to touch.
Day 06: Optional (for fit trekkers only, while the other group members relax) excursion above High Camp (4800 meters) & return to High Camp (4 hrs). On this day, those who are willing can venture further, closer to 5000 m (16,667 ft) elevation or even higher, depending on how we feel. The clear mountain views are amazingly breathtaking, weather permitting. The route is characterized by a series of steep, rocky climbs, separated by leisurely paths through lush, green, high mountain meadows dotted with purple and yellow flowers. After lunch, the entire group descends to Forest Camp (5 hrs).
Day 07: Descend to Ghalel, right above Mardi Khola River (1530 meters, 3 hrs). After lunch, descend to Mardi Khola and catch the bus to the celebrated Gorkah region, where we stay at a hotel in Gorkah Bazaar.
Day 08: In the morning, we follow the Daraundi River by bus (3 hr drive). Trek to Bhachchek (1800 meters, 6 hrs). Home-stay in Bhachchek overnight.
Day 09: Visit the site of the future orphanage built by Dr. T's Ecopolitan community as a part of the Everest Learning Academy. The orphanage will include a magnificent guest house situated at the most spectacularly panoramic location on earth (with views of three Himalayan ranges), where Western contributors will receive lifelong timeshares. Descend toward the Cheppe River (700 meters, 6 hrs) and stay at a picturesque (off the beaten path) Nepali village with a family. Enjoy local food and this introduction to village life and culture.
Day 10: Explore authentic Nepali village life, participating in a villager’s daily activities and learning about CCODER's impact on the villagers' socioeconomic status.
Day 11: After saying goodbye to our village hosts, we drive (4-5 hrs) to a Golaghat, a secluded wildlife safari resort within the famous Chitwan National Park. Here, we will enjoy one of the world's best sunset locations at a merger of two holy rivers. Unlike the more popular hotels in the park's center town, Golaghat is not crowded with tourists. We are fortunate to have this new and yet-unexplored resort available to us, thanks to Dr. T's connections in Nepal.
Day 12: Jungle activities (boat ride, elephant ride, jungle walk, bathing with elephants, and cultural activities).
Day 13: Enjoy a elaxed morning at the resort. Drive back to Kathmandu (5-6 hrs). Free evening in Thamel market.
Day 14: Free day for shopping and relaxing.
Day 15: Departure from Kathmandu.
Day 16 - 18: Optional Thai Retreat.
COST: $2,875 ($175 extra for single occupancy in city hotels).
Additional $545 for optional Thai Retreat. Bring a friend and receive a $150 discount.
2 stipends ($300 each) are available for qualified individuals, who will be given an assignment or a project in exchange for their services (contact us for an application). This will depend on the number of full-paying participants (minimum 10). The trip is organized by the Ecopolitan Eco-Health Community, a non-profit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to global health, sustainable socioeconomic improvement, and ecological principles. It is also organized by CCODER Nepal and by the Functional and Dental Health (FDH) Foundation.
The price includes: hotel accommodation on a bed & breakfast basis; double occupancy for the hotel nights listed in the itinerary (additional $175 for single occupancy in hotel rooms only); all surface transportation; sightseeing tours as specified; all trekking arrangements (trekking permits, national park entrance fees); all camping gear and tents/mattresses; full mobile kitchen and a trained cook experienced with Dr. T's requirements; full complement of trekking crew, porters, and guides; an English-speaking main Nepali guide; unlimited boiled (safe) water; delicious vegan meals three times a day; and authentic village community home-stay that includes locally-grown food. All organized group activities, guiding, and discussions and topics covered by Dr. T are included as well. Part of this cost covers contributions to the Nepali non-profit CCODER and its beneficiary villages, as well as to the Everest Learning Academy for disadvantaged children, which the group will visit!!
ALSO INCLUDED is:
1. An article written by Dr. T about flight preparation and protection, containing information on how to maintain maximal health despite the many challenges of air travel, as well as how to protect your health in the face of challenges during the trek itself and the stay in Nepal.
2. Insights from Dr. T on preparing your body during the next three to four months for this trip. Even if you feel "out of shape" or "overweight," you can be ready in only three months!
The price does not include: air travel to Nepal and related expenses (please call Joycee from Melrose Travel, 866-722-6440, for group-ticketing information); Nepali visa (approximately $25 - visa obtained at the Kathmandu airport upon arrival); Travel insurance (required, please inquire with Joycee); 5-6 meals (lunches and dinners, around $5 each) when we are on our own free time in Kathmandu/evenings at hotel sites; tips for the guides/porters, community organizers - approx $80-90 per trekkeris recommended- for the entire trip); any expenses of personal nature; and charges incurred as a result of delays or unforeseen circumstances beyond the organizers' control. The organizers will always make every effort to make your Himalayan trip enjoyable and safe, even in the event of inevitable changes.
To join: email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Tamar at 612-870-2974.
- To secure your participation, please pay immediately the non-refundable deposit of $400. Remember - first come, first served - maximum 12 participants! To get to our target as quickly as possible, please act fast, and refer friends who may be interested. This deposit payment can be made by credit card (call 612-870-2974 with your visa/MC or discover info) or by bank check/draft to FDH Foundation, 2409 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55405.
- Flight tickets may be purchased anytime prior to the trip. Call Joycee fromMelrose Travel & Tours 866-722-6440 (or 215-728-7870) to arrange ticketing and travel insurance. Note that ARRIVAL TIME is October 6 early afternoon AT THE LATEST (people can arrive on the night of the 5th as well). The departure date for most people is October 20 (or later for those who wish to stay a few extra days to explore further on their own or who choose to volunteer for Ecopolitan's non-profit organizations). Dr. T will provide suggestions and ideas for those who wish to extend their stay.
- By August 13, an additional $1,000 of the package payment is due ($800 of it is refundable if you cancel by August 18).
- By August 18, the final payment is due (varies based on your single/double occupancy selection). This final payment, minus $300, is refundable if you cancel by August 28). No refunds will be offered after August 28, except in extreme circumstances (such as a major accident or injury making trekking impossible - and certified by a physician), and in those extreme circumstances $500 of the final payment will not be refunded. Travelers who join late will have the payment schedule above accelerated (or combined), with the same cancellation refund amounts, combined. This payment and refund policy takes into account the expenses of individualized trekking permits and other preparations in Nepal, plus administrative costs and the non-profit commitments to the Nepali villagers and school children you will meet.
A typical trekking day:
On a typical trekking day we wake up around 6 a.m. with a cup of herbal tea, served at our tent, followed by a bucket of warm water for washing and cleaning. When you have cleansed, dressed, and packed your duffel bag, your breakfast awaits you, while the staff organizes your tent and bags. The staff packs all the camping equipment and gear, and the porters carry them to the next camping site. The trekkers should carry only personal belongings that they may need for the day (water, camera, toilet paper, etc). The walk to the lunch spot normally takes about 3 hours. The cook and kitchen assistants serve hot lunch upon arrival. The afternoon walk takes about 3 hours to reach the night camp. The evening meals are usually served around 6.30 p.m. in a Dining Tent, family style. After dinner, the main Nepali guide will brief you on the following day’s program, leaving you to retire to your sleeping tents.
At least once a day (most trekking days and the other days as well) around mealtime, the group will hear from Dr. T about Nepal's fascinating geography, geology, mountain terrain, history, and about social plus cultural aspects of Nepali life. This way, the trekkers will be mentally prepared for the unique experience of our authentic village home-stay, which follows the trek.