The Himalayas, Roof of the World, Nepal has captured the imagination of travelers for generations. Home to the highest and mightiest mountains on Earth, Nepal’s rugged geography serves to isolate and preserve ancient cultures. The isolation of these valleys led to a diversity of language, cultures and traditions unrivaled anywhere on Earth.
Nepal is a crossroads between Buddhism and Hinduism, with traces of mystical thought, such as Bon, from the highlands, and 3000-year-old pre-Vedic religions from the lowlands, still found today. The birthplace of Buddha himself, Nepal may be considered the cradle of Eastern religious thought.
It is this combination of stunning natural beauty, and the tradition of spirituality which it breeds, that make Nepal the perfect destination for this trip – a mountain trek and
yoga and meditation retreat.
Join Peter Bartesch, an accomplished yoga, meditation and fitness instructor, and Jonathan Stewart, an experienced travel professional with over 20 years of travel to Nepal, for the trip of a lifetime in a mountain paradise, an adventure packed with natural beauty, spirituality, exercise, new friends and mind-opening experiences.
Nepal is the world’s preeminent destination for trekking, with routes to Everest base camp, around-Annapurna, and the Langtang Valley attracting hundreds of thousands of tourists each year. This has led to some regions, particularly Everest and around-Annapurna, falling victim to their own beauty with trail overcrowding, commercialization, westernization, and the worst, road-building, which exacerbates all of the other problems while leading to a total loss of the wilderness experience.
For our adventure, we’ve chosen the Mardi Himal Trek, a hidden gem in the Annapurna region which has so far kept off the radar of the masses. Over the course of seven days, we’ll walk through lush forests of rhododendrons populated by langur monkeys, red pandas and colorful Himalayan monal pheasants, over small, winding paths above the tree line and over the rugged high- mountain landscape.
We’ll enjoy breathtakingly close views of the sacred Machapuchare (“Fish’s Tail” in Nepali), known as the “Matterhorn of Nepal.”
We’ll enjoy awe-inspiring sunrises and sunsets over the entire Annapurna range, with views of Mardi Himal peak, and Annapurna itself, the 10th highest on the planet. Each day, we’ll hold a yoga and meditation session in some of the most beautiful locations on Earth, following up our daily hikes with guided light stretching. The trek will culminate with a long day hike to Mardi Himal base camp and viewpoint, at an altitude of 4500 meters (14,800 feet), offering a staggeringly beautiful panorama.
The journey is so much more than the trek, yoga and meditation. We begin with a tour of Kathmandu, the bustling capital of Nepal, visiting a trio of unique Buddhist and Hindu Temples. From Kathmandu, we’ll drive along the foothills of the Himalaya to the relaxed lakeside city of Pokhara and the next day begin our seven day trek into the mountains. Upon returning to Pokhara, we will drive deep into the hill country of Nepal, to its ancient capital of Nuwakot, a region heavily affected by the 2015 earthquakes.
Amidst the centuries-old architecture live ethnic groups that have inhabited this region for centuries. Through local connections, we will donate any supplies or clothing that you may wish to share to people whose lives were permanently altered by the disasters of 2015.
The following day, we return to Kathmandu for a farewell dinner of delicious Nepali food, before our international departures the next day.
For a preview photo gallery taken by Jonathan in Nepal.
DAY TO DAY ITINERARY
APRIL 13, 2020
International arrival in Kathmandu. Upon your international arrival and visa processing, you’ll be met at the airport by one of our local staff and transferred to the group hotel in the Thamel region of Kathmandu, approximately 30-45 minutes from the airport. This evening, we’ll have a welcome dinner (vegetarian and vegan options always available upon request) to introduce ourselves and to provide an overview of what to expect in the coming days, as well as offer advice on Nepali traditions, teach a few basic phrases in Nepali, and meet our local guides.
This evening we’ll conduct a light session of stretching and meditation, with the goal of recovery from our long flights.
Kathmandu City Tour. Today we explore the burgeoning metropolis of Kathmandu. Its chaos of colors, smells and sounds can be disorienting at first, but before long a certain logic emerges. One learns to flow with these new rhythms, to let go of pre-conceived ideas of time and order, and to just enjoy each moment. We’ll begin with a visit to the temple of Swayambhunath, a Buddhist shrine overlooking the Kathmandu valley. Noted for its large population of monkeys, considered to be holy, Swayambhunath has become better known as the “Monkey Temple.
From here we travel to Boudhanath Temple, one of the largest Buddhist stupas in Nepal, and a center for the Tibetan Buddhist Diaspora. Following lunch, we’ll visit Pashupatinath temple, a sacred Hindu complex located on the banks of the Bagmati River. Considered the home of Nepal’s national deity, Lord Pashupatinath, the temple is a UNESCO World Heritage site, first erected over 1500 years ago, and the source of many legends, of which we’ll learn. After our day of exploration we return to our hotel, chosen for its peaceful gardens suitable for yoga. After dinner, we retire for our early departure the next morning.
Departing after our early breakfast to speed our transit through Kathmandu’s notorious traffic, we head west, out of the Kathmandu valley for the daylong drive to Pokhara.
From our comfortable private bus, we’ll travel through the hill country, the foothills of the Himalayas, enjoy a delicious typical Nepali lunch along the way, and, following the Trishuli River, eventually arrive in the relaxed city of Pokhara, situated on the shores of Phewa Lake, with views of the Annapurna Massif, Dhaulagiri, and Machapuchare. Our hotel in Pokhara offers a rooftop space with breathtaking views of the mountains, large enough for an evening and morning yoga session. Dinner in Pokhara.
Following our sunrise yoga and meditation session on the rooftop of our hotel, we drive approximately one hour to begin our trek at the roadside village of Kande. Here, our porters will take our loads (10kg/22lbs per person), and we’ll begin the slow uphill climb through hill-country villages of Gurung peoples, with their red and grey mud homes with straw roofs, and emerge in Australian Camp village, where we’ll take our lunch. Weather permitting, we’ll have spectacular views of the mountains. From here, it’s a short walk to Deurali Village, where we’ll spend the night at our comfortable teahouse. Yoga/meditation, dinner at teahouse.
Following our sunrise yoga/meditation session and then breakfast, we trek along lush forest paths, alongside countless rhododendron trees of red, whites and pinks. Here, it’s possible to spot langur monkeys as well as a number of colorful bird species. If we’re incredibly lucky, we may spot a red panda, known to inhabit the lush south – facing forests of the Nepali Himalaya. After 5-6 hours of trekking, we arrive at our stop for the evening, known as Forest Camp. Overnight at teahouse.
After another morning yoga/meditation session and after breakfast, we continue our slow ascent, stopping for the night after 3-4 hours at Low Camp, at just under 2900m (~9500’). At this altitude and above, the evening and morning temperatures will be cool.
Today we break through the tree line onto the
rugged mountain ridge of Mardi Himal. For safety reasons, we limit our ascent to manageable levels, which allows us to hike at a leisurely pace. After approximately 3 hours, we reach our next teahouse, at the aptly-named High Camp (3580m– 11,700’). Following a mild yoga session, we retire for an early dinner with a view of the Himalayas.
This morning we depart before dawn in order to catch the sublime sunrise at Mardi Himal Base Camp (4500m – 14,800′), a continuation of the summit ridgeline of Machapuchare. With close-up views of some of the largest mountains on Earth, the feeling of being amongst the giants of the Himalayas has to be experienced to be understood. The sense of awe is overwhelming. Today’s hike is optional. Those wishing to stay behind and rest are free to do so. We return to High Camp for our second night, with yoga and meditation at sunset.
Following breakfast, we backtrack downhill before deviating towards the village of Sidding, back in the forest. Able to cover greater distance on descent, this will be our last night in a teahouse before returning to the city of Pokhara. This afternoon, we’ll enjoy a meditation session, taking in every last detail of the beauty around us.
Following morning yoga, we trek downhill for 3-4 hours to Lumre, where our trusty bus will be waiting to take us back to Pokhara, approximately 1.5 hours away. This afternoon we’ll drive up to the Peace Pagoda, which offers a panoramic view of Phewa Lake and Pokhara, Dhaulagiri (the 7th highest peak in the world, and highest entirely within Nepal), and the Annapurna Massif. Unfortunately, they’ll kick us out shortly before sunset, but the views are still sublime. Tonight we dine on restaurant – prepared food with fish options, straight from the lake. Overnight hotel.
After our sunrise rooftop yoga and meditation, taking in views of the highest mountains, we drive 5-6 hours east, then follow the Trishuli River north through rice fields and local villages into the foothills to Nuwakot Durbar, an historic complex and palace that served as capital, lookout and trading post for over 1000 years. Several of the buildings of the complex, many centuries old, were severely damaged in the 2015 earthquake, as were the surrounding communities.
Our visit to Nuwakot is twofold: to visit this beautiful and historic site, and to help the impoverished and isolated communities in the region that suffered greatly from the earthquakes and are still struggling to recover. Jonathan has visited three times, and typically brings toothbrushes, donated clothing and school supplies, but anything helps. This is all optional, of course, but giving is its own reward. Time permitting, we’ll enjoy an afternoon session of meditation within the historical center before retiring to our basic lodge for dinner and rest.
After a morning walk in the cool air and a chance to visit with local people, we depart towards Kathmandu, stopping along the way for lunch. By late – afternoon we’ll arrive at our hotel, with just enough time to rest and freshen up before our farewell dinner at a classic Nepali restaurant.
APRIL 25, 2020
International departures. Airport transfers are provided according to your international flight schedules. Program ends.
Early-Bird Discount Until January 15, 2020!
■ Hotel and lodge accommodation on shared double- occupancy basis
■ English-speaking local guides
■ Porters on treks (10kg/22lbs per person)
■ All meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner), starting with dinner on Day 1 and ending with breakfast on Day 13
■ Purified or boiled water provided daily
■ All road transportation within Nepal, including airport
■ Permit fee for trek, and entry fees to all sights, reserves and parks
■ Yoga and meditation classes as led by Peter Bartesch
■ Emergency insurance for Nepali staff and staff equipment rental.
TRIP COST DOES NOT INCLUDE:
■ International flights
■ Nepal visa
■ Emergency Medical and Evacuation Insurance (required)
■ Drinks at meals (besides tea)
■ Alcoholic beverages
■ Single supplement ($500)
■ Shopping and personal extras
■ Tips to staff (we will advise on customary tipping)
Jonathan Stewart is a Ventura County-based photographer and trip leader. Working as an immigration attorney by day, he much prefers his other job, leading trips around the world, which he has been doing since 2006 to places such as Peru, Mongolia, Ethiopia, Namibia, and Kenya as well as Nepal. A former mountaineer and avid trekker, Jonathan has hiked nearly the entire Great Himalayan Trail across Nepal. He has been to the Annapurna region six times, but this will be his first time on the Mardi Himal route. Jonathan currently resides in Thousand Oaks, California, with his wife Carmen and their three children.
While this trip is cultural in nature, we will be traveling over very remote terrain, at high altitude, far from medical assistance. Travelers should check with their physicians to ensure they are fit enough to embark on such a journey, and are up to date on all required vaccinations.
Mardi Himal is generally not considered a malaria risk, but travelers should check with their physicians before deciding on whether to bring prophylaxis for our short visit to the lower elevations at Pokhara. Maximum altitude reached will be approximately 4500m (14,800’). Temperature extremes can be expected to fluctuate between-3°C in the upper elevations and +35°C in Pokhara (+29°F to + 95°F), with cool to pleasant daytime highs , mitigated by the clear, sunny skies. Precipitation is possible, but unlikely. While we will do our best to ensure that we stay in the hotels and villages indicated in the itinerary, the Organizers reserve the right to change the itinerary as conditions dictate, with guest safety and comfort the primary concerns.
Hotels in Kathmandu and Pokhara will be 3*, with private bath, hot water and wifi. Because the Mardi Himal trek is a newly-established route, not yet on the radar of the masses, the tea houses haven’t had a chance to proliferate there with the same competitive zeal as they have in some other regions. A hike in Mardi Himal will be like taking a time machine back 40-50 years, to a time where lodges did not have attached baths, electricity or hot water.
Please note, the trip cost is on a sharing basis. While we always do our best to match travelers with others of the same gender, this may not always be possible. Therefore, we recommend the $500 single supplement to those for whom this may be an issue. Teahouses in Nepal typically do not honor requests for single rooms. Because of this, those booking the single supplement will have the option to sleep in their own private tent rather than inside the teahouse in a shared room. The cost of the supplement will include single rooms at our hotels in Kathmandu and Pokhara, as well as the rental of a tent, sleeping bag and foam mattress, which will be carried by porters.
PAYMENT AND CANCELLATION
Contact Jonathan Stewart for payment options. $500 deposit is due at time of booking, with balance due 60 days before trip departure or when the minimum of 6 travelers have confirmed, whichever is later. Minimum group size is 6, maximum is 10, plus Peter, Jonathan and local staff. Do not book your international flight until you receive confirmation the group size has been met. In the event the minimum is not met 30 days before trip departure, you will receive a full refund of your deposit, minus any paypal or bank fees incurred by Organizers. Purchase of trip insurance with emergency medical and evacuation coverage is required. It is highly recommended to purchase a package policy that includes trip cancellation coverage. As the deposit is non-refundable, trip cancellation coverage will reimburse you should you need to cancel for a covered reason. Jonathan can assist you in purchasing a policy.
Extra nights lodging before and/or after the trip dates can be arranged for an additional cost.