By Sara El Halabi Jaouhari
As I lie on my bed after a chaotic day of chores, looking after my children, heeding orders at work and dealing with complaints, I realise I desperately need a vacation in a place at the end of the world. Somewhere that would offer me peace and a connection with nature. Most importantly, I need to find myself again.
My mind drifts to a place between heaven and earth, outlined by craggy hills and jagged peaks. Pictures of the Himalayas, like you see on Pinterest, swim in my head, and I wonder; why not go on a virtual adventure and explore the possibilities in my next break?
I brace myself, and with courage, start researching the challenges my dream trip to the Himalayas can offer me.
Considered the ‘Roof of the World,’ these wondrous mountains spread across five countries: China, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan, in a range that runs for 2,400km. Its highest peak, Mount Everest, exceeds 8,000m and serves as the border between Nepal and China. Inhabited by almost 53 million people, they are the cradle to numerous cultures and religions, promising a colourful background and an overview of humanity’s origins.
Such a trip is what I need: a mystical experience that shows me my place in this world.
Climbing New Heights
With five pathways to the mystical Himalayas, I am spoiled for choice. Some visitors choose to travel from New Delhi in India, finding their way into the mountains while enjoying historical and religious sites, and a myriad of ancient and spiritual traditions that offer western travellers a new perspective of life and the world.
I think I would prefer Nepal, home to eight of the world’s ten highest peaks and occupying more of the mountain range than any of the region’s other countries. I was delighted to learn that there are four UNESCO’s World Heritage sites here. Besides the stunning scenery, there are fascinating cultural and architectural places, such as Lumbini, the Buddha’s birthplace. There are fascinating people to meet, an abundance of Buddhist temples to discover and other marvellous treasures of humankind waiting for me.
After enjoying these sites, I would love to continue to one of the two Everest Base Camps, where I would take off up the majestic mountains. The South Everest Base Camp is in Nepal, and the North Base Camp is in Tibet, an autonomous region of China. However, the Tibetan Himalayas are drier and colder than the rest of the range, so I would pick the Nepalese track.
The best time to trek the Nepalese Himalayas is from March to May, or from October to November, avoiding the summer monsoons, which bring a big deal of rainfall and humidity.
To climb these challenging mountains, I would need to be in excellent physical condition as fatigue can be an issue as we go higher above sea level. Nevertheless, it would be worth it as the journey provides 360 degrees of breathtaking landscapes.
It Ain’t Cheap!
Another thing I need to consider is the daily expenses of visiting the Himalayas. In Nepal, accommodation in teahouses can cost between $0 and $5 USD per day. Cheap right! But, although lodgings are economical, the hosts rely mostly on you buying the food they offer, which costs between $20 and $30 USD and includes up to four meals a day. Of course, if I choose to stay at a much more luxurious lodge, costs will considerably rise, while each activity I decide to explore is between $40 and $450 USD per person.
Visitors to the Everest Base Camp can climb as high as 6,340m with a guide or lead. This way, you get to see the best of the altitude but avoid the higher risk of going to the peak. If I was to go higher, the expenses can reach $20,000 USD on a budget, or $85,000 USD, and sometimes even more, if going with a team and hiring a climbing company. The climbing permit alone costs $11,000 USD in Nepal, compared to Tibet, where it is $8,000 USD. Besides the initial documentation, there are other expenses such as transportation, climbing gear, camp tents and other facilities I would need for my adventure.
Undoubtedly, the Himalayas are one of the most picturesque places on the planet, providing you with an insight into nature, yourself, and the human soul. It is an extraordinary opportunity to create vivid memories and gain unique experiences. Between heaven and earth, the Himalayas proudly stand as if leading the world into eternal life. And someday, I will go there, I hope.