‘Will it be winter time in Nepal and the Himalayas during December? How many days will you be trekking? Have you been there before?’ asked my work colleagues.
‘Er, yes, 12 days of actual walking, and no,’ I replied, knowing my Noosa workmates would be experiencing daytime temperatures of 25-32oC (77-90oF) while I would be experiencing 0- 15oC (32-59oF). Maybe lower. Definitely lower at night. Pretty cold for someone like me, born in the subtropics of Australia. I was 44 years old. I’d become reasonably fit over the past few years, but I’d never considered myself “sporty or athletic” at school. This would be the second trek of my life. The first trek, elsewhere, had only been four days long.
I emailed Responsible Adventures often while preparing for the trip. Raj always replied promptly, and supplied a list of clothes and equipment to bring. An excellent all-season sleeping bag for sub-zero temperatures was essential. “You can hire a sleeping bag in Kathmandu but not trekking poles. You can buy them here. I know from experience that cheap ones can last from a few hours to perhaps a whole trek. A good pair is an investment if you trek regularly... Bring a repair kit too.”
Raj’s words became golden along the Manaslu Circuit. I remained comfortably warm inside my Kathmandu-hired sleeping bag during sub-zero nights. And because I had a repair kit, I was able to super-glue one trekking pole together again, after over-zealously using it as a thorn-clearing scythe.
As I walked with my 8kg daypack from 800 to 5135 meters above sea level and down again, I realized that the walking track exists so that food, goods, and people could move between the villages along the way. We, trekkers, were recent additions.
Raj and his team carried my other 12kg of gear, organized trail visas, procured evening accommodation, regularly checked on the health of my travel-mates and me; and ensured a supply of safe water and nutritious food. They included super-food ingredients such as goji berries, for energy, altitude acclimatization, and anti-inflammatory effects. And every morning, we got a lovely warm ayurvedic tea to start the day.
In a relaxed, informative and sometimes humorous way, the Responsible Adventures team informed us about Kathmandu’s colorful road traffic, how to pass mule-trains (these are the “Mack goods-hauling trucks” of the Manaslu circuit walking track) and how to pass goats (surprisingly easy, even when there are hundreds). I learned the names of trees, animals, and mountains, how to estimate altitude by the tree-line; and got involved in a discussion about pros and cons of Nepal’s planned upgrade of some walking track sections to vehicle- class roads.
When we encountered the unexpected, like heat waves, landslips or freezing gale-force winds, Raj and his team always got us through.
In essence, I could focus on walking and enjoy the adventure, while Responsible Adventures took care of the rest. I can highly recommend them, for anyone looking to do guided treks or tours. They operate in Nepal, Tibet, India, and Bhutan.
By Chris Dowding – structural engineer, amateur trekker, and author of ‘A Few Drops Short of a Pint.’ He did the Manaslu Circuit Trek.
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