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Trekking introduction

Trekking is simply walking; it is not mountaineering or climbing. You walk mostly on reasonable trails and will only occasionally encounter snow. We trek to enjoy, so the walking days are not long and we stop frequently, most days involve 3-6 hours actual walking, so you don't need to be an athlete.

Fitness required varies from trek to trek but for standard departures you should be at least moderately fit, used to some regular exercise. It is most important that you know you enjoy walking in the great outdoors but you certainly don't need to be an experienced hiker. For some people this is their first real trek. The older you are the more important prior fitness and training is, see the last paragraph of Trekking reality.

Understand that you trek with a day pack with water, spare clothing, knickknacks and camera; porters or animals carry your sleeping bag and other gear you don't need during the day in a kitbag. So in theory your day pack will be light and you can skip along the trail - except that you are at altitude and this really does make a difference, and we are walking easy days but day after day they still build up so that you feel like you really are getting fit and really do have to push your body a bit.

The start date is the day you must arrive in Kathmandu and on the end date you are free to fly out of Kathmandu. Normally there are no other activities planned on those days. You can of course arrive earlier or leave later.

Time, the ultimate luxury... Most of our trips are compact, but a day or two longer than comparable itineraries, and for a good reason. You need time to adjust after a long flight so an extra day is no luxury or waste. Also we are serious about following sound acclimatization programs (volunteering at the Himalayan Rescue Association taught us that), and we really do allow for an untimely day or two of bad weather. If you can take or make extra time for relaxing, a rafting trip, a Tibet adventure or a visit to Chitwan, do! We can help with ideas, sketch itineraries and/or concrete bookings.

Teahouse & Lodge Treks
Teahouse trekking means staying and eating in locally-run lodges, almost all quite luxurious these days. We stay in single rooms when possible, but often you will have to share. We stay in lodges where we know the lodge owners, ones that have an atmosphere and are clean and friendly. The rooms range from basic to really quite nice (nothing like they used to be). Some include blankets, all include clean sheets, some even have attached bathrooms. Many have electric lights and all have lovely, cozy dining room-lounges.

We eat at the lodges off the lodge menus which have been improving dramatically over the years. All offer a variety of potato, rice and noodle dishes, as well as soup and seasonal vegetables. Many now offer such Western meals as pizza, burritos and pasta. A variety of cereals, bread and egg dishes are always available for breakfast. There is also an extensive array of snacks available from canned juice to Toblerone bars, biscuits, beers and soft drinks, and in some areas you will find fresh fruit in season.

Camping (expedition-style) Treks
Camping means sleeping in tents. We provide a Western four-season two-person tent for one client, and large three-person tents for a couple.

On the trek we provide three tasty, plentiful and nutritious meals daily with a variety of local, Asian and Western dishes (some treks even include Mexican, Italian, Indian & Chinese fare - see individual styles for more information). To start the day, breakfast consists of a choice of porridge, muesli and cereal followed by omelets, fried or scrambled eggs with chapattis or bread. Other treks include such delicacies as cinnamon rolls, French toast, crepes and chocolate croissants!

Lunch is generally a selection of cheese, salads, cooked vegetarian dishes, pasta, peanut butter, other staples and freshly baked breads.

After a day on the trail dinner is a hearty three course meal: soup, followed by a variety of vegetable dishes and salads, meat, rice and/or pasta and completed with a simple dessert. We often serve meat but only along with the usual vegetarian choices.

Tea, coffee and hot chocolate are also provided during the day, the first thermos of hot water and chai arriving in the dining tent as soon as the kitchen team can manage.

We use as much fresh produce as possible and our cooks and kitchen crew maintain good standards of cleanliness and food preparation hygiene. Special dietary requirements can be catered for.

Your crew and the leader are the most important people on the trek (second to you!). Our operation is small and personal, run by a handful of special people who enjoy taking care of people. Almost all of our trips are lead by western leaders because they are more experienced interfaces, can better relate to your expectations and have a more thorough medical background. They are backed up by our irreplaceable local staff, many of whom speak English and enjoy showing you around their cultures and country.

Prices are in US dollars and are ex-Kathmandu, ie you have to buy your international flight tickets to Kathmandu. The price includes all airport transfers in Kathmandu, 3 star hotel in the tourist area single/double as required, all guiding and portering, all accommodation and meals while trekking, all group transportation including domestic flights according to the itinerary and all local government taxes and entrance fees (see individual trek itineraries for more details). While trekking all accommodation, all meals and hot drinks are included. Alcohol, mineral water and soft drinks not included. Porters/yaks carry your personal gear leaving you with a daypack. Not included: international airfares, meals in Kathmandu, Maoist fees if any, equipment rental, alcohol, soft drinks, snacks, laundry, tipping and other items of a personal nature. Single supplement: this is already included; a single hotel room and single room in the lodges where available, or a single tent when camping.

Teahouse group sizes
The maximum group size is 12-15 clients and we trek with as few as a couple of clients. We rarely (perhaps never) cancel a trek due to numbers; we do actually love to trek!

Expedition-style group sizes
The normal maximum group size is 12 clients, although this sometimes stretches to 13 if friends/a couple books last. The minimum number is 3-5 although we often will trek with less, or sometimes substitutes a Nepali/Sherpa qualified guide if it's not feasible to run with a Western guide.

Nepal Visa
You are responsible for obtaining your visa for Nepal; the easiest way is at the airport on arrival in Kathmandu.
Nepal visa on arrival
At the airport there are several visa choices:
+ 48 hour visa (plus 24 hours free) for $5
+ 15 days for $25
+ 30 days for $40
+ 90 days for $100

Payment by cash ONLY in any major currency (change is returned in rupees), and you need one passport photo too.

Going to Tibet? Tourists are not permitted to stay more than 150 days in Nepal during one calendar year (1 Jan to 31 Dec).
Visa extensions
These are obtainable from the Department of Immigration in Kathmandu or Pokhara.
+ 15 days is $30, additional days are $2 per day

and 15 days is the minimum. Payment is in rupees only, calculated at the government exchange rate.

Trekking and TIMS permits
If a permit is required, we take care of them, unless otherwise stated. Trekking permits are needed for Manaslu, Dolpo and Kanchenjunga treks and need 2-4 passport photos. TIMS (Trekkers Information Management System) permits are needed for the teahouse trekking regions.

National park/conservation area entry fee
We pay for this, unless otherwise stated.

Transiting via New Delhi
If you are transiting New Delhi en route to Kathmandu then staying in the 2011-new Eaton transit hotel may be the best option, rather than getting a visa so as to leave the airport.

Nepal has cool, clear winters, pleasant moist springs, hot wet summers and fantastic mostly clear autumns.

Spring - the rhododendron season - March-April-May

Spring dances ever higher, painting the rhododendron hillsides. The arriving warmth generates staggering cloud formations and the occasional pre-monsoon downpour (everyone dives into the nearest house to wait the squalls out over tea). Some days are staggeringly fine, others the views cloud in around lunchtime or in the afternoon, great for reading and relaxing and just when you begin to worry about tomorrow, mostly the evenings turn sparklingly clear. This is the second traditional trekking season, and definitely less crowded but still a great time to trek.

March and April are often drier than May, but May has the advantage of more alpine flowers.

The monsoon (summer) June-July-August-September
In late May and early June at low altitude the heat stifles. Clouds billow ever higher cumulating in crescendos of rain. The downpours are usually brief leaving plenty of time to admire more than just the forces of nature. Kathmandu is sticky, with rain as a relief and, in the Terai, elephants rather than jeeps are used for crossing the swollen rivers. The jungle is lush, vibrant and tropical. In the high rain-shadow areas it is surprisingly pleasant, balmy with only occasional showers. It is a time for wandering among the flower carpets and vivid colours while the locals are absorbed in the traditional cycles of agriculture. Tibet and Ladakh are barely affected by the monsoon.

The harvest - mid-September to mid-October
The monsoon dwindles in late September but a few tail-end clouds and showers (or short-lived snow at altitude) must be expected. Locals and trekkers simply take cover in the nearest teahouse and wait the afternoon shower out. There's also a chance that the monsoon may not quite have ended, staging a dramatic return for a few weeks. The middle hills are either hot and sweaty under the fierce sun or perpetually grey and cloudy, while higher up it's pleasant with cool but mostly frost-free nights. If you skip the lower country, this is a particularly pleasant and under-trekked season. At this time the whole country changes from a lush, verdant green into the harvest colours.

Autumn - perfect trekking - mid-October thru early December

This is classic trekking time, famed for clear skies and fantastic fine weather. Early October through to late November is also the busiest period with the teahouse regions brimming with trekkers. This is the season to head off the beaten track, to Kanchenjunga, Manaslu, Around Dhaulagiri etc.

The long fine periods are occasionally broken for day or two by a front sweeping overhead causing high cloud or cloud banks that roll up the valleys, then usually clear at altitude with the sunset. The odd stronger front brings a spot of wet weather as well but it is impossible to tell (even the locals can't) whether a front contains rain. Barring unusual conditions during this trekking season perhaps two or three periods of showers and drizzle, or short-lived snow at altitude, can be expected. In an odd year there is perpetual high cloud and less than crystal clear skies.

In the low country evenings are balmy while in the middle hills they are pleasantly chilly. Above the tree line (4000m) nights are sharp and below freezing, early morning sun is particularly welcome.

Winter - white Christmas's
At an equivalent latitude to Brisbane or Miami, frost rarely graces Kathmandu. Fresh evenings and pleasant days characterize the capital and trekking in the foothills or travelling the Indian plains becomes pleasant.

While trekking although winter, the weather is at its finest and driest; great conditions. It is the nights that are cold. In the middle hills nights are a crisp cool and clear, the high country the air is tinkling sharp and the stars have that crystal twinkle. Temperatures drop below freezing every night. Higher up after a snowfall only the Solu-Khumbu (Mt Everest region) is reliably accessible and pleasant. Mostly fine, any light snow clears quickly while the deeper powder, yak-tracked, rarely slows us. Merry White Christmas.

What you need - the basics

The major items you require are:
+ Good wind/rain jacket
+ Warm fleece jacket or jersey
+ Good boots, either light-weight trekking boots or light full leather boots
+ Good 3-5 season sleeping bag (which can be rented in Kathmandu)
+ A comfortable day pack, preferably with a waistband.
+ A can do, positive attitude - this is a holiday !

Accessible from the navigation bar are more detailed equipment discussions and upon booking we will discuss gear in more detail and the conditions we are likely to encounter.

We take acclimatization very seriously and plan plenty of time into all our itineraries. The higher you go the less air there is. At 5500m (top of Kala Pattar and Thorung La) there is half the amount of oxygen (and nitrogen) compared to sea level. Your body takes days to adjust - time to acclimatize.

We care for our porters and staff
For our expedition-style treks we often rely on porters to carry sometimes heavy loads, and our staff work in sometimes challenging conditions but we truly care about them. We ensure that all porters going above the tree line are given wool socks, new shoes (usually given at the beginning of the trip), wool gloves, wool hat, jacket and pant set, sunglasses, have adequate shelter and all have access to our medical knowledge and supplies. Jamie was a representative of the International Porters Protection Group (IPPG) and runs this trek according to the letter and spirit of their guidelines. Sure, this costs a little more, but my - our - conscience is clear. We care.

A typical day
One of the great joys of trekking in Nepal is to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and relax with the simple day to day routine of life on the trail. Each morning after packing our bags and having a good breakfast, we set off on the day's walk. All we need to carry is a small day pack containing water bottle, camera, sun cream, hat, rain jacket and warm jacket, just in case. The porters will carry the rest of our gear for us. After walking for 3-4 hours we stop for lunch at around midday. The afternoon's walk is generally shorter and we usually arrive at our destination in time for afternoon tea. The remainder of the afternoon can be spent exploring the village, doing a bit of washing or simply relaxing with a good book. On some days we will arrive at our destination by lunchtime and the entire afternoon will be free. After dinner, the evening will often be spent playing cards and reliving the day's adventures, before heading off to bed for a well-earned sleep.

Climbing trips
We will discuss what is, and what isn't included. For all trips we include climbing permits, staff insurance, fixed ropes as necessary, portering of your personal climbing equipment (plastic boots, crampons, ice axe; everything you need only for the climb). We provide all accommodation (including high altitude tents), food (you may be asked to assist with preparation if we camp above base camp) and porters to base camp. We can provide a limited number of harnesses, ropes and associated equipment, a limited number of sleeping mats and Thermarests, crampons and ice axes. You must provide or rent plastic boots, and sometimes crampons and ice axe. We don't normally use helmets, although this is your choice.
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Mystique Nepal Himalayan Trekking and Expedition Pvt. Ltd.
Kathmandu, Nepal

Tel : +977-9849193453
Email : mystiquenepaltreks@yahoo.com