Exploring The Himalayas, Authentic Nepali Village Life, The Spiritual Birthplace of Buddha, Chitwan Jungle Park, and Magnificent World Heritage Site Temples
~ March 23 - April 8, 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 is within 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 that is one of Nepal's best kept trekking secrets. Annapurna South seems near enough to throw a rock at, and Fishtail Mountain close enough to touch. The majestic mountain ranges you will see include 3 out of the eight tallest mountains in the world. Late March is the perfect season to marvel at the spectacularly colorful bloom of the Himalayan Rhododendron forest. All this awaits you on this eco-trekking journey to the high camp (4100 meters). Upon reaching the optional 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.
During the trip, we will have time to relax, engage in yoga or meditation (individually or as a group, optional), and opportunities to discuss topics of interest 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 topics, and focus on the principles of sustainability. Dr. T has been to Nepal 20 times (more or less) and guided many groups in the past 13 years, and will be happy to share his experiences. Usually the guides are Nepali, with difficult-to-understand English. With Dr. T, the foreign accent is more understandable...
After the trek, we enjoy a peak into authentic Nepali village life, far away from places where tourists have altered the natural scene beyond repair. 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 lot by teaching them how to sustainably organize to create socio-economic, education, and health care opportunities for themselves. Part of the income from this Eco-Trek goes to support socioeconomic development in Nepal, in coordination with the non-profit CCODER Nepal. By joining the trip you are giving to those in need, while observing the principles of sustainability!
Trip duration: Trip duration: 15-16 Days - March 23-April 8, 2011. (arrival in Kathmandu by 2 PM March 25, departure April 8 or 9)
Food: 100% vegan and wholesome, as specified by Dr. T
5 Nights in Nepali Hotels (4 in Kathmandu, 1 iin Bhairawa), breakfasts included
7 Nights Tent-Camping, including mattresses provided by the staff.
1 Night in Authentic Community Village Home-Stay
2 nights in rustic Golaghat Wildlife Resort
Bring your own sleeping bag, or rent one in Kathmandu, at around $2 per day.
Trip Difficulty Grade: Moderate. Maximum altitude: 4100m (optional 5000m for the strongest trekkers). A medium-level hiking capability is required: If you can walk at a reasonable rate for 2 hours non-stop on flat surface, or 30 minutes non-stop (you can build up to it within a few weeks easily) up and down stairs, you qualify. We will walk leisurely most of the time, with breaks. People with weak knees can manage with walking sticks/poles - especially downhill.
Transportation: Private Bus, depending on group size. Flight from Chitwan National Park to Kathmandu (included in package).
Local porters (who are happy to earn the extra income!!) will carry the heavy/larger luggage pieces (bring soft-sided luggage, since they usually carry 2-3 per person), camping gear, and the mobile kitchen; the 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 in what should become an enjoyable, unforgettable trip of a lifetime):
Day 01: Arrival in Kathmandu; transfer to Hotel Marsyangdi Mandala in the Colorful Thamel Market (a shopper's delight!!). Explore a World Heritage Site, the famous "Monkey Temple" - before sunset, with a full view of the Kathmandu Valley.
Day 02: 200 Km (6 hours) Drive to Pokhara (915 meters), then to trail-head and start trekking a few hours toward Bhasi Kharka (1800 meters, 4-5 hrs).
Day 03: Trek to Forest Camp (2550 meters, 7 hrs).
Day 04: Trek to Low Camp (3400 meters, 7 hrs).
Day 05: Trek to High Camp (4100 meters, 4-5 hrs).
Day 06: Optional excursion above High Camp (5000m) & return to high camp (8 hrs).
Day 07: Trek to Sidding Village (1750 meters, 8 hrs).
Day 08: Trek to Mardi Pul (1160 meters, 6 hrs).
Day 09: Return to Pokhara (3 hrs trek) and drive to a CCODER village in Palpa (3 hrs); Introduction to Village Life.
Day 10: Explore authentic Nepali village life and village activities. Drive to Bhairawa (near Lumbini) to stay the night.
Day 11: A tour of Lumbini, the world-renown birth-place of Buddha, a pilgrimage destination for Buddhists and tourists from all over the world. Drive to Chitwan National Park Resort, for one of the world's best Sunset Location at a holy merger of 2 rivers.
Day 12: Jungle activities (boat ride, optional elephant ride, and more).
Day 13: Fly back to the Kathmandu (a short flight of 30 minutes, avoiding a 6-7 hour drive - this adds value, without price increase!), free afternoon and evening in Thamel market.
Day 14: Cultural Heritage tour in Kathmandu Valley - exploring the most important temples for Hinduism and Buddhism in Nepal, that have been awarded the special status of World Heritage Sites! Free evening in Thamel.
Day 15: Free day for shopping and relaxing.
Day 15 or 16: Departure from Kathmandu
Day 01: Arrival in Kathmandu
You are welcomed at the airport in Kathmandu, transported to the hotel (1 hour drive), and organize within the Hotel in the colorful, exciting, vibrant Thamel area. Then, in the late afternoon, the group climbs up to the Swayambhunath temple (also known as "monkey temple") at the Western Side of Kathmandu, perched atop a hill overlooking the city and the Kathmandu Valley towards the East. In the evening you are invited for a welcome dinner where you enjoy typical Nepali food and get more information about the following days.
Day 02: 200 Km (6hrs) Drive to Pokhara (915 meters) and start the trek (3-4 hours) to reach approx 1500 meters at the campsite.
Today we start our drive to Pokhara through one of the major ‘highways’ of Nepal heading West. We enjoy the diversified landscape along the Trishuli river. After a short lunch near the Phewa lakeside, we will reach the trailhead (30 minutes from Pokhara) in the mid-day and start our trek uphill. We climb up the stone stairs passing through terraced cultivated fields, settlements and forests, arriving at the village of Dhampus where the panoramic view of the peaks of Annapurna, Machapuchare (Fish Tail) and Lamjung Himal reveals itself. We will walk 3-4 hours to our campsite (1-2 hours before Bhasi Kharka, which is at 1800 meters). Here we enjoy our first cookout Dinner prepared by our expedition chef and our mobile kitchen staff.
Day 03: Trek to Forest Camp (2550 meters, 7 hrs)
Next morning we begin our day with cup of herbal tea and the morning's first sunrise view over the Annapurnas and Machapuchare. After breakfast, we trek slowly, climbing the southwest ridge to reach Bhasikharka (1800 meters) (which may have a few other tourist) with good mountain views, through the village of Pothana and Deorali, filled with teahouses built for the tourists as we are still within the popular tourist trail area. After Deorali, we enter the deep forest, following a ridge towards Mardi Himal, our final base camp at the lap of Fishtail mountain. The forest is indeed dense here. Moss hangs to all the trees and rocks and the sunlight is filtering thrugh. We trek up and down the ridgeline and finally arrive at a clearing, which will serve as our camp for the night.
Day 04: Trek to Low Camp (3400 meters, 7 hrs)
As we climb the vegetation changes into forest with mosses and lichen, tree ferns and orchids. We can enjoy the Rhododendron bloom in March-April, in many places along the trail. Occasionally there are clearings through the woods that look out onto the exciting panorama, towards Hiunchuli and the knife-sharp traverse towards Annapurna South. Far, far below, we can see the Modi Khola Valley leading up into the Annapurna Sanctuary. We stop climbing at lunch so as not to go too high too fast. The afternoon is at leisure, camped at 3,400m (11,020 ft) and through the forest we have impressive views of the ever-closer Fishtail.
Day 05: Trek to High Camp (4100 meters, 4-5 hrs)
After just a short steep climb we are out of the forest, above the tree line. A ridge, either grassy or under snow depending on the season, takes us up to our 'High Camp', which we reach at lunch. We take another afternoon at leisure to acclimatize, at 4,100m (13,550 ft). The views here are majestic. Annapurna South seems close enough to throw a rock at while Machhapuchare seems close enough to touch.
Day 06: Excursion above High Camp (5000 meters) & return to high camp (4100 meters, 8 hrs) - optional, and depending on the weather. Some of us may chose to relax in the High Camp instead - read, journal, or explore the area around the camp.
On this day we (the strongest among us, or those who don't want to relax) can venture further towards the mountain closer to 5000m (16,667 ft) elevation or even higher, depending how we feel. The clear mountain views are amazingly breathtaking, weather permitting. Our route today will be through a series of steep, rocky climbs separated by leisurely walk through lush, green, high mountain meadows dotted with purple and yellow flowers. After getting almost to the top, we descend back to the 'High Camp'.
Day 07: Trek to Sidding Village (1750 meters, 8 hrs)
We retrace our route to the low base camp and then trek downward through winded steep, slippery trails. We enter Sidding Village on the way down to our riverside campsite. The village lies on a hillside of terraced corn, wheat and rice. A winding, hand-laid rock pathway traces the terrain up through many neat stone houses. We enjoy increasingly closer views of the famous Fishtail Mountain.
Day 8: Trek to Mardi Pul (1160 meters, 6 hrs)
The trail from Sidding now follows the contour of the river valley, gradually going down between the pastures and through Tamang and Gurung villages at 1,160m (3,800 ft). Our campsite today will be by the river where we can enjoy swimming and relax with the musical sound of the water.
Day 9: Return to Pokhara (915 meters, 3 hrs) and travel to a CCODER village in Palpa District (3 hrs drive)
After breakfast we trek for a few hours to merge onto the road and meet our bus. After a three-hour drive we reach an ethnic village (participant in CCODER activities), where we stay with a family and enjoy local food, plus get introduced to village culture.
Day 10: Explore village lifs and culture. Afternoon, drive to Lumbini area, where Buddha was born.
Today we explore authentic Nepali village life, participating in a villager’s daily activities and learning about CCODER's impact on the villagers' socioeconomic status. In the evening, after saying good-bye to the villagers, we drive to Bhairawa (near Lumbini) and stay overnight at a local modest hotel.
Day 11: Visit the holy site of Lumbini, the birth place of buddha. Then drive to Chitwan area, after a short visit at a local school for poverty-stricken children.
Early morning, we tour one of Buddhism's holiest sites, perhaps the holiest - Lumbini, the world-renown birth-place of Buddha - a pilgrimage destination for Buddhists and tourists from all over the world. Every Buddhist country in the world is represented here, with a temple built according to its own architectural and spiritual style. After 3-4 hours in Lumbini, we drive to our unique, remote, off-the-bitten-path Golaghat Wildlife Resort, stopping on the way in a community-supported school for orphans and poor, low-caste children, founded and sustained by Dr. T and the Ecopolitan Community. The resort gives a portion of the income from our stay (and other tourists' stay) to the school, according to an agreement made with Dr. T.
Day 12: Chitwan National Park in the flatlands of Terai. Wildlife and Nature activities
A visit to Nepal remains incomplete without visiting Chitwan, a World Natural heritage Site and one of the finest wildlife preserves in Asia, with many rare and threatened species, including one-horned rhinocerus, Royal Bengal Tiger, leopard, spotted dear, and many others. We will explore by boat, elephant, and a 4-wheeler, plus enjoy the quiet natural environment surrounding the camp. We will see one of the world's best sunset Locations at a holy merger of 2 famous rivers, enjoy a cultural dance show, and perhaps (weather permitting) enjoy a river-side camp. Golaghat Wildlife Resort is not crowded with tourists, unlike the more popular hotels in the park's center town. We are fortunate to have this new and yet-unexplored resort available to us, thanks to Dr. T's connections in Nepal.
Day 13: Flight to Kathmandu directly from the Park, saving ourselves a long drive...
Fly back to the Kathmandu (a short flight of 30 minutes, avoiding a 6-7 hour drive - this adds value, without price increase!), free evening in Thamel.
Day 14: Cultural Heritage tour
We begin our day sightseeing of the highlights of Kathmandu valley by visiting Bhaktapur Durbar Square, (14km drive from Kathmandu) the medieval cities of devotees and the best preserved of all the old cities of Kathmandu Valley. Then we visit other world heritage sites - Pashupatinath Temple and Bauddhanath stupa. Pashupatinath temple is the holiest temple for the Hindus, set upon the banks of the holy Bagmati river, where the dead are cremated. Boudhanath stupa is possibly the largest Buddhist stupa in the world and the center for Tibetan school of Buddhism. Free evening in Thamel.
Day 15: Free day for shopping and relaxing in Kathmandu and Thamel.
Day 15 or 16: Departure from Kathmandu
COST: $2875 ($175 extra for single occupancy in City Hotels).
Bring a friend and get a $150 discount.
2 Stipends ($300 each) are available for qualified individuals (contact us for an application) who will be given an assignment or a project in exchange. 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, internal flight (or surface transportation in case a flight is not advisable) from Chitwan to Kathmandu, 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 with locally-grown food. All organized group activities, guiding, 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. A document written by Dr. T, about flight preparation and protection - how to maintain maximal health despite the many challenges of air travel. Also, how to protect your health from the challenges during the trek itself and the stay in Nepal.
2. Insights from Dr. T on preparing your body during the next 3-4 months for this trip. Even if you feel "out of shape" or "overweight" you can be ready in 3 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 ($25 - visa obtained at the 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 the Cities of Kathmandu/Evenings at hotel sites, tips for the guides/porters, community organizers - approx $80-90 per trekker is 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 case of inevitable changes.
To Join: Email Tamar@Ecopolitan.com 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 March 25 early afternoon AT THE LATEST (people can arrive on the night of the 24th as well). The departure date for most people is April 8 (or later for those who wish to stay a few extra days to explore further on their own. Dr. T will provide suggestions and ideas for those who wish to extend their stay.
- By January 31, an additional $1000 of the package payment is due ($800 of it is refundable if you cancel by February 5).
- By February 5, the final payment is due (varies based on your single/double occupancy selection). This final payment, minus $300, is refundable if you cancel by February 15). No refunds will be offered after Feb 15, 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 the dinner, the main Nepali guide will brief you about the following day’s program and retire you 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.