Trekking In Nepal With Intrepid
PHOTO: Historic Durbar Square in Kathmandu.
Intrepid Travel has found the middle ground between a group tour and a shoestring backpacker’s experience. Far from the world-through-a-window experience that some tour companies offer, Intrepid gives travelers the time and space to explore on their own.
The Melbourne, Australia-based company is the original arm of Intrepid Group, which was launched by dedicated budget travelers Geoffrey Manchester and Darrell Wade in 1989. The two envisioned a type of travel that handles nittygritty details like tickets, reservations, navigation and itinerary, without sacrificing the feeling of experiential, encounter-based travel that solitary exploration affords. Now a leader in global adventure travel, and with a U.S. office in Petaluma, Calif., Intrepid Group offers something for nearly every walk of life, with six tour brands serving everyone from college students to retirees.
Intrepid is encouraging tourists and trekkers to return to Nepal. All of this year’s profits from Nepal trips will go toward efforts to rebuild after the devastating earthquake in April 2015. The quake affected the Everest trekking region, as well as many of Kathmandu’s temples and ancient squares, which were damaged or reduced to rubble.
The country is again safe for travelers, but as with many disasters, tourists have been slow to return. At the start of prime trekking season from September through November 2015, tourism had only returned to 40 percent of what it was in 2014, according to an Intrepid guide. For a small country that relies on tourism, this delayed return has been a barrier to full recovery.
Nepal will always be a destination for truly adventurous travelers. The water is undrinkable, all but the most respected restaurant food is suspect, squat toilets are pervasive, and electric outages are not unusual. Longestablished lodging companies like Kathmandu Guest House offer a level of comfort to please affluent travelers, but all who visit must be prepared to rough it to some extent.
Itinerary: Intrepid’s “Everest Base Camp Trek,” a strenuous 15-day tour of the Everest region, begins and ends in Nepal’s capital city of Kathmandu. The trek travels up from Lukla to the Everest Base Camp at 17,600 feet, and includes stops in Phakding, Namche Bazaar and Tengboche. The itinerary includes visits to cultural attractions and free time for independent shopping or wandering.
Stamina and some athleticism are required for the treks, as paths can be narrow, rocky and winding with sharp mountain drops in some areas. The narrow paths also accommodate passing sherpas and their yaks, which carry large packs of food, supplies and beer to sell in remote towns. Intrepid guides give a helping hand up steeper inclines and train guests to keep to the hillside when sherpas and yaks move past. Some paths are wider and easily crossed, with gentle elevation.
Guides: A group leader accompanies the tour and spends time with each traveler to build rapport. Intrepid employs skillful local guides who act as liaisons between guests and local people. On a recent trip in the Everest region, for example, the guide, Ram Moktan, spoke in Nepali to a group of Buddhist monks, securing an on-thespot visit for several guests.
Accommodations and Dining: Accommodations are local teahouses, which are found along the Everest route and off er room and board with clean but spartan rooms. Most group meals are eaten at these teahouses, which off er meals like omelets and spaghetti, which appeal to American tastes, as well as local meals of lentils, meats, curries and rice. Meals eaten as a group are included; meals during free afternoons are at the guest’s expense.
Transportation: Guests ride a small propeller plane over the Himalayas from Kathmandu to Lukla, the entry town to the Everest region. Each day of the trek travelers log several miles up or down mountain paths.
Who Goes on This Trip: Intrepid hosts travelers ranging from 12 to 80 years old, though most of its guests are women from 25 to 45 years of age. The itinerary model off ers elements appealing to a wide demographic. For those who prefer slower travel, the itinerary spends one or two nights in each location, enabling travelers to get a feel for each city or village. For guests who prefer a more curated trip, guides will suggest activities in town.
Top Selling Point: It’s hard to beat the price of Intrepid’s trip, which is between one-third and one-fifth of the price of other popular Base Camp tours. Much of the trekking accommodations are no-frills, but they are nonetheless comfortable – and also provide travelers with a real feel for life in Nepal.
Pricing & Commission: Itineraries start at $1,409, which includes group meals as specified, bus transportation, flights between Kathmandu and Lukla, accommodations and a visit to one of the Kathmandu nonprofit organizations that Intrepid supports. Commission starts at 10 percent and rises depending on preferred partner arrangements.
For more information on Intrepid Travel, call 866-915-151, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www. intrepidtravel.com.
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A version of this article appears in print in the March 2016 issue of Agent@Home Magazine.
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