19 May 2012

Big Stupid Adventure: Himalayas

I became obsessed with the idea of travelling to Bhutan a few years ago after reading The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner. (Great book. Highly recommended.) Then I learned that they have a strict tourism policy that requires all visitors to pay US$200 each day just to be in the country. Fair enough, rules are rules. So I figured, why not just go to Bhutan's equally cool neighbours: Nepal and India. This is mountain-country like no other place in the world.
Mountains silhouetted at sunset.
The most spectacular mountain range in the world.

Civilisation in the Himalayas has created some unique and amazing cultures. It's hard to say if the people or the landscape is more fascinating. These are some things I'd love to get up to on an adventure in this beautiful Asian mountain range:

1.) Drink Tea in Darjeeling
Darjeeling is a beautiful mix of post-colonial Christian, Buddhist and Hindu. Chuck that in with farming in extreme mountain conditions and some of the most famous tea in the world, I'm sold!

Tea Plantations in Darjeeling, India
2.) Visit a monastery in Paro Valley
Buddhist monks are really the poster-boys of Himalayan cultures. Living in some of the most remote places on earth means that these monks can truly resist western-style modernisation and preserve their authentic lifestyles.
Monastery situated in Paro Valley, with mountains in the background.
Monastery in Paro Valley, Bhutan
3.) Get lost in Kathmandu.
I've heard there is no greater culture shock than for a westerner to land in Kathmandu. Now if that doesn't scream "BIG STUPID ADVENTURE" then nothing does! Kathmandu is the epitome of traditional old world hurtling into contemporary city culture. Tourism took off in the 1960s, which of course cued the Nepalese to cater to westerners demands (toilets and coffee for instance). Yet this city remains uniquely Himalayan, bursting with secret temples and busy markets selling unfamiliar produce.
Market stall outside Kasthamandap Temple.
Market Traders in Kathmandu, Nepal
 4.) Trek to Everest Base Camp.
There is simply no point in heading up these glorious mountains without committing to serious and challenging trek. Now I know full well there is no way I'm ever going to make it up Everest. But Base Camp is totally doable. What a dream come true to stand at the foot of a monster and marvel and the absolute magnificence of the planet we live on. Certainly a Big STUPID Adventure, but, I think, one well worth the effort.
The Highest Place on Earth

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