~March 16-31, 2012 – Rhododendron Bloom~
Join us for an amazing adventure of a lifetime that includes an off-the-beaten-path trek of the magnificent Himalayas, an authentic Nepali community tour, a jungle safari in Chitwan National Park, a World Heritage Site tour, and much more! Guided by Dr. T, this group adventure also supports sustainable rural development and education for poor Nepali children and orphans, and launches the humanitarian project “Touching The Untouchables,” offering massage, therapeutic touch, and general bodywork to members of the lowest classes of the ancient Hindi caste system (called “Untouchables” by the higher castes) in an effort to help society abolish this racially-biased system.
This unique trek bridges three different Himalayan areas, taking us to some less-travelled mountain paths that are usually reserved for local Nepali people on pilgrimage to holy sites north of the Kathmandu Valley. We will visit some the less-explored, unspoiled areas of the Himalayas, where only a few villages can be found, while also enjoying more common paths frequented by adventure seekers because of their stunning beauty and religious significance. We will trek initially through the Helambo region, climbing north of the Kathmandu Valley toward the Himalayan range and viewing spectacular snow-covered summits to the east of the famous Langtang range. We will then “connect” via a challenging 2-day path and a high pass (4610 m, 15,125 ft) to the holy Gosaikund region (camping at 4380 m, 14,370 ft) with its suspended series of holy lakes. Finally, we will trek downward and then upward toward the Langtang range itself, camping near a famous monastery (3730 m, 12,240 ft) at the foot of the range’s glaciers, where the strongest trekkers will have an opportunity to climb to around 4800-4900 m (15,750 – 16,000 ft) or more (depending on snow and cloud conditions) to better see the magnificent glaciers and surrounding Himalayas. The majestic mountain ranges you will see include some of the world’s tallest mountains. Mid-to-late March is the perfect season to marvel at the spectacularly colorful bloom of the Himalayan Rhododendron forest.
During the trip, we will have time to relax, engage in optional yoga or meditation (individually or as a group), 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, focusing on principles of sustainability. Dr. T has been to Nepal over 20 times and guided many groups in the past 13 years, and is happy to share his experiences. Usually in such treks, the guides are Nepali, with difficult-to-understand English. With Dr. T, the foreign accent is more understandable.
After the trek, we enjoy a peek into authentic Nepali village life, far away from places where tourists have altered the natural environment 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 Nepali improve their lot by teaching them how to sustainably organize to create socio-economic, educational, 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: 16 Days; March 16 - March 31, 2012 (arrival in Kathmandu by 3:00 PM on March 16; departure on March 31).
Food: 100 percent vegan and wholesome, as specified by Dr. T. 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.
Accommodation: 4 Nights in Nepali Hotels (3 in Kathmandu, 1 in Bandipur), breakfasts included. 7 Nights of Tent-Camping, including mattresses provided by the staff. 1 Night in Authentic Community Village Home-Stay. 3 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: 4610m (optional 4800m+ for the strongest trekkers). A medium-level hiking capability is required: If you can walk at a reasonable pace for 2-3 hours non-stop on flat surface, or for 30 minutes non-stop up and down stairs (you can build up to it within several weeks easily), you qualify. Some portions of the trek will be challenging (especially the high pass on the 6th day). We will walk leisurely most of the time, taking short breaks (and a long lunch break). People with weak knees can manage with walking sticks/poles – helpful especially during long downhill stretches – and possibly with elastic knee support.
Transportation: Private bus, depending on group size. Flight from Chitwan National Park to Kathmandu (included in package).
Luggage: 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 daypack (with water, camera, and essentials - including an extra layer of clothing/fleece for higher altitudes).
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 will be an enjoyable, unforgettable trip of a lifetime):
Day 01: Arrival in Kathmandu; transfer to our hotel 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: Enjoy a cultural heritage tour in Kathmandu Valley, exploring the most important temples for Hinduism and Buddhism in Nepal, which have been awarded the special status of world heritage sites; free evening in Thamel.
Day 03: Drive to Gul Bhanjyang (2130 m, 3-4 hrs); trek to Kutumsang (2470 m, 2 hrs).
Day 04: Trek to Tharepati (3510 m, 6-7 hrs).
Day 05: Trek to Phedi (3630 m, 4-5 hrs).
Day 06: Trek to Gosainkund (4380 m), crossing the Lauribina Pass (4610 m, 8-9 hrs).
Day 07: Trekking to Pahare (1610 m), then following the Langtang Khola River upward to Lama Hotel (2410 m, 8-9 hrs).
Day 08: Trek to Kyanjin Gompa (3730 m, 7-8 hrs).
Day 09: OPTIONAL trek for a breathtaking view (4800 m) of two glaciers and a panoramic 360-degree view of Himalayan peaks (4-5 hrs); the entire group descends to Ghora Tabela (2992 m, 4-5 hrs).
Day 10: Descend to Syabru Besi (1460 m, 2-3 hrs); bus drive to hotel in Bandipur (180km/8-9hrs).
Day 11: Trek to village community school (9 km/3 hrs); introduction to village life and culture.
Day 12: Drive to Chitwan (2-3 hrs), arriving at the Everest Learning Academy’s (ELA) headquarters, where we are introduced to school and community activities; drive to Golaghat wildlife safari resort in Chitwan National Park (20 km/1 hr).
Day 13: Wildlife activities in Chitwan National Park (boat ride, elephant ride, and more).
Day 14: Participate in Dr. T’s “Touching the Untouchables” program, designed to help dismantle the ancient discriminatory Hindi caste system by offering therapeutic and compassionate touch to low-caste Nepali people; enjoy an evening sunset at the merging point of two holy rivers.
Day 15: Drive to Kathmandu for a free afternoon and evening of shopping in the Thamel market (170 km/6 hrs).
Day 16: Departure from Kathmandu.
Day 01 (March 16): We arrive at the Kathmandu airport no later than 3:00 PM on March 16 (you may arrive in the morning of the March 16, or even one or two days earlier if you wish). Regardless of our individual arrival times, we are transported by our Nepali agency to the hotel, which is located within the colorful, vibrant Thamel market area (a shopper's delight!). After settling in, we explore a world heritage site - the famous "Monkey Temple" - before sunset, with a full view of the Kathmandu Valley. In the evening, we enjoy a welcome dinner of typical Nepali food.
Day 02: During a cultural heritage tour in Kathmandu Valley, we explore the most important Hindu and Buddhist temples in Nepal, which have been awarded the special status of world heritage sites. We visit the ancient 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, the famous Durbar Square, as well as one of Bhaktapur's main thanka scools; we visit the inspiring, mighty Shiva temple, Pashupatinath, where the dead are cremated along the Bagmati River; and we circle around Bodhnath, which is considered one of the holiest temples among followers of the Buddhist faith. Afterwards, we enjoy a free evening in Thamel!
Day 03: We drive 50 km (3-4 hrs) to Gul Bhanjyang (2130 meters) on a rough/dusty/bumpy road and then arrive at the trailhead, beginning our 3 km (2hrs) trek uphill to Kutumsang (2470 meters). This northerly ascending trail is easy and gentle.
Day 04: We trek 11 km (6-7 hrs) to Tharepati (3510 meters) along a ridge through thick pine forest. Along the way, we see intermittent settlements and pastures with grazing yaks. Most of the trail is relatively easy with a gentle ascent. The gorgeous blooming rhododendron – Nepal’s national flower – is conspicuous throughout the trek. We stop at Mangin Goth for lunch.
Day 05: We hike down to Ghopte (3430 meters) and then ascend to Phedi (3630 meters). The trail ascends and descends, and our hike is relatively short (7 km/4-5 hrs), allowing us to acclimate in preparation for the next long day.
Day 06: We trek to Gosainkund (4380 meters), crossing the Lauribina Pass (4610 meters). This steep trail ascends up to the pass and gently slopes down to the holy Gosainkund lake area. A 10 km/8-9 hour hike makes this the most challenging trekking day of the whole trip.
Day 07: We walk down to Pahare (1610 meters) in the Langtang Valley and then follow the Langtang Khola River upward to Lama Hotel (2410 meters). The trail is a long, steep descent most of the day (21 km/8-9 hrs).
Day 08: Trekking to Kyanjin Gompa (3730 meters), we follow the river in the Langtang Valley, passing by the famous Langtang Village. The trail is easy, ascending gently the entire day (18 km/7-8 hrs).
Day 09: For the strongest trekkers among us, in the early morning we have an OPTIONAL half-day climbing excursion to the nearby peak (4800 meters or higher, depending on the weather and snow conditions) for the breathtaking view of two glaciers and a panoramic 360-degree view of Himalayan peaks. This brings us extremely close (less than 5 km) to the Tibetan border! We re-join the rest of the group at the campsite for lunch, after which we begin our descent to Ghora Tabela (2992 meters). The trail is an easy, although lengthy, descent (16 km/4-5 hrs) for just a half-day walk, forcing us to move at a decent pace.
Day 10: We continue walking downhill to Syabru Besi (1460 meters). It is an easy walk along the river (10 km/2-3 hrs). After an early lunch we take a long bus drive to famous Bandipur (180km/8-9hrs). Accommodation is in the Bandipur hotel.
Day 11: Situated in the mountain saddle, Bandipur is a famous hill station for the best view of Annapurna, Manaslu, Ganesh Himal, and Marsyangdi River Valley. After a spectacular morning view, we walk down to the village community (9 km/3 hrs), where local villagers are waiting to welcome us to the community school. We explore authentic Nepali village life and perhaps participate in a villager’s daily activities. We enjoy a taste of village culture in the evening and are hosted by the villagers in their homes.
Day 12: We drive to Chitwan District (2-3 hrs), arriving at the Everest Learning Academy’s (ELA) headquarters. This school and its many community outreach locations and orphanages – all started by Dr. T’s non-profit “The Ecopolitan Eco-Health Community” – care for many hundreds of orphans and Nepal’s poorest children, providing them with quality education, offering them a loving, nurturing environment, and feeding them organic, local food, thus protecting them from the risk of child trafficking. After lunch, we are introduced to school and community activities. We drive (20 km/1 hr) to Golaghat, a secluded wildlife safari resort within the famous Chitwan National Park. Unlike the more popular hotels in the park's busy, dusty central 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 13: We enjoy wildlife activities in the national park, including a boat ride, elephant ride, jungle walk, bathing with elephants, and cultural activities.
Day 14: Early morning, we continue our activities in the national park. We then participate in community activities, offering therapeutic and compassionate touch to low-caste Hindi Untouchables (Dr. T’s “Touching The Untouchables” program, designed to help dismantle the ancient discriminatory Hindi caste system). In the evening, we enjoy one of the world's best locations for viewing the sunset at the merging point of two holy rivers.
Day 15: Early morning, we drive back to Kathmandu (170 km/6 hrs). One last shopping opportunity awaits us during the free afternoon and evening in the inviting Thamel market.
Day 16 (March 31): Arrive at the airport for the flight back home.
COST: $2,875 ($175 extra for single occupancy in city hotels).
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.
Pricing 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. 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 (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) during our free time in Kathmandu or during evenings at hotel sites; tips for the guides/porters and community organizers (approximately $80-90 per trekker, depending on the number of trekkers, is recommended for the entire trip); personal expenses; and charges incurred as a result of delays or unforeseen circumstances beyond the organizers' control. The organizers will always make every effort to ensure that your Himalayan trip is 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. Your 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 from Melrose Travel & Tours 866-722-6440 (or 215-728-7870) to arrange ticketing and travel insurance. Note that ARRIVAL TIME is March 16 early afternoon AT THE LATEST (people can arrive on the night of the 5th as well). The departure date for most people is March 31 (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 February 15, an additional $1,500 of the package payment is due ($800 of it is refundable if you cancel by February 28).
By March 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 March 8. No refunds will be offered after March 8, 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 at 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. After we have washed, dressed, and packed up our gear, we have breakfast while the staff organizes our tents and bags. The staff packs all the camping equipment and gear, which the porters then carry to the next camping site. 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, Dr. T will discuss Nepal's fascinating geography, geology, mountain terrain, history, and social/cultural aspects of life. This way, the trekkers are mentally prepared for the unique experience of our authentic village home-stay following the trek.