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Vacation in Nepal and thoughts about Porters.

By November 7, 2014 18 Comments
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To take a break in October has been the standard for the last years. This year Kilian and I discussed about Yoga in India or mountains in Nepal.

When 2 mountain lovers discuss a vacation it´s unbelievable that it would be on a beach. We tried last year, because we where on La reunion (after diagonale des foes)but after some days I gently asked Kilian if maybe we should consider changing the tickets home, and it looks like the snow has arrived in Tignes.

Anyhow.

We choose Nepal. We discussed and plan the equipment we would bring. Light of course! We ended up with 10-13 kg each.

I brought:

1 down jacket

1down pant

1 tights

1 wind pant

3 t-shirts

3 underwear

1 rain jacket

1 hat

1 buff

2 gloves

1 pair of sandals

1 pair of mountaineering boots (salomon X-alps)

1 boot cover

Together we brought:

1 jet boil

1 tent

1 sleeping bag ( summer version)

1 matt

Dry food for 6 days

1 rope some ice screws, crampons, carabineer 1 ice axe and slings

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Our plan was to start from Lukla and go as far as we could in the Khumbu Valley the first day. After that we would take it from there. See how we felt in the altitude, see the conditions for climbing mountains and just feel the atmosphere.

We went high the first day. We where aware that it might not be the smartest for acclimatization but both of us wanted to try. The first night we spent in Tyangboche 3700 meter. I just wanted to stay there and apply for job at the bakery.

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After some days of doing easy days, hiking with our big backpacks or leaving them to go lighter to small mountains for acclimatization we decided we wanted to climb higher!

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What a day! It was warm and sunny and I could walk in underwear until 5500 meter, then I realized I could get badly burned so I putted my pants on. That day we climbed to 6000 +. It was the highest I´ve been. I felt good, in the way I had no headache or so but I was very tired, I guess the acclimatization was not enough.

After some days, enjoying the mountains around Dingboche, sipping Masala tea and writing down dreams and projects we decided to leave our gear and go for a run! What a pleasure! Just a small backpack with a kilo or two and the legs was moving so easy! Well to be honest, not the second day for me. I bonked really hard. I was so tired! I think the days in altitude took out their right on me that day.

It was a new experience. I had no idea how I would carry myself over the pass we decided to go over. Seriously! I counted step by step and ate clif bars and snickers constantly. Somehow we reached the intended village.

I know that we had ambitious plans and I also understand that it made me really tired this day. To give some light to the subject; we did hikes almost everyday that normally people did in 3-5 days, and addition to that summits in one push. Also we didn´t have porters. (I will get back to this subject!)

Reaching the lodge and eating tons of popcorn and Dal Bhat and drinking lemon tea got my energy back and the next day we had in mind to start after lunch. So that would give me more hours to get on my feet.

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After some easier days running and one rest day in Namche Bazaar, at 3400 meters, which felt like sea level (!), we headed towards the higher mountains again for the last days before the ticket home, needed to be used.

These days in the Himalayas was such a treat for my mind. Like going back to the roots, where it all started, the passion for mountains and nothing more. No social media or races. It gave me so much new energy and so many ideas!

All in all this was a magic vacation in a beautiful area of the world that created magical dreams, but also it made me a little uneasy. The sight of porters carrying the backpacks of tourists filled with computers and plenty of clothes ,and tons of tourists who didn´t knew where they where or where they where going without asking their guides. I´m not saying it´s bad to have a porter, nor a guide. It´s very convenient. Exactly like our western life style standard. We consume and we don´t think about what we consume. Isn´t it a little like this?

Hiking “light” or running heavy in our sandals made people mumble and talk, often we needed to explain that no,we don´t have porters and we only have 10 kg so we can manage it ourselves. And yes, we do hike/run in sandals, the trail is convenient and it´s warm don´t you think?

I guess the sight of someone in sandals was out of the general tourist mass mind. But that most have been good, to see another angle of how you can travel in the Himalayas!

Passing porters and guides, they often asked us about why we did not have any guide or porter, and it was almost with a angry voice. We explained again and again that we dont have much to carry, and we love exploring and we feel confident reading maps so we decided it´s not necessary.

Do you know what it costs for you to take a porter? Around 10 dollars. And good knows how much actually the porter gets from that. ?

If there is something I would love to see a change are the payments of the porters. If you would need to pay more for every kilo you give to them to carry, maybe then you start to think about what you actually need on your Himalayan hike. Doesn´t it hurt all of the Himalayan tourists to see the porters destroy their back´s day out and they in carrying your stuff? For nothing! Are we the only ones who felt like this during our trip there? I´m not trying to make people feel bad, i understand that when you book a travel with a agency or even just alone, all the time you get suggestions to have a porter.

I know that it is an important resource of income for the people in the mountains to work as a porter, so I´m not saying that I want it to end immediately. I just hope for a change. And it needs to start somewhere, right?

 

 

 

 

 

Emelie

Emelie

Swedish mountain lover. Loves running and skiing, farming and baking! ❤

  • Thomas

    Hey Emelie, thanks for your truthfull vacation report. Exciting to read like always, hopefully in the future I can do a “similar” vacation. A dream for me would be to climb the Mt Blanc after running up this year to the top of germany the “Zugspitze”. Let see what the future brings. Take care on your exciting yourney exploring the world and following your passion.

    Thomas

  • Lluc

    Great holidays!
    I just want to comment that since 2012 it’s an obligation to take a local guide or porter with you. Im going to do Annapurna Circuit 30days with 11kg, i was planning to go alone, but it’s not a chance. I’ll get a guide but he will not cary my backpack.

    Have a great day!

    • Alaitz

      Hi Lluc,
      How are you? I am writing to you to say that porter is not necessary for these trekking. My boyfriend and I did Everest trekking last year and we did it by ourselves, no porter no guide just us and our backpacks!
      At the same time a friend of mine did Annapurna´s trekking and he did it by himself.
      You just need the license to go through the national park that can be taken in Kathmandu.
      Enjoy your trip.

  • Xavier

    I’m really greatfull that champions like the both of you keep such an objective point of view toward what we could consider like a kind of “moutain globalization”. It’s ok to look after records, premieres or whatever making you going further your “confort zone” but there is different ways in order to do that. Respect yourself, the others and, for sure “Pacha mama” is one way. I beleive that if you are able to win by any means you will lose something by the way. But it’s easy to think that for a guy without any prize lists, sponsors’ pressure or any contracts to think that. So thank you to make me remember what’s really expensive in life is not what is costly but what’s we cannot be purchase : respect.

  • Blanca

    Hi Emelie!
    We’ ve travelled to Nepal the same way you did, even lighter, because We didn’t reach more than 5500m. We carried about 8-9kilos and fealt great just walking every day as far as We wanted. We had the same feelings looking at the heavy luggage the porters were carrying. I understand they live from tourism, but it seems that the tourists don’t respect them. It’s a pity how it is organized and I hope it will change. I wonder when We forgot to care about each other, everything will be easier by far.
    I wish you all the best!
    Regards from the Pyrenees!
    Blanca

  • Lluc

    Hi Alaitz,
    I just said that because i read it, i’ll be on kathmandu on next week and I will ask directly there, I know the way it’s easy and We dont need anyone to take our backpack, but check that website which is an official one of Nepal governament. http://www.taan.org.np/newsdetail/now-support-staff-mandatory-for-trekkers
    Thanks for your help.

  • John Yarington

    Hello Emelie,
    Thank you for the beautiful words and pictures. I enjoy reading about your travels and racing.
    My wife and I travelled to Nepal in May this year. Amazing mountains and beautiful people. We walked for 34 days carrying all our own gear and exploring on our own, as well. We had an awesome trip partly because of our self-sufficiency. A great feeling to move in the mountains counting on yourself.
    We were in the Khumbu Valley when an avalanche tragically killed 16 Nepali men climbing and carrying loads on Mt. Everest. This event and watching young porters with packs that weighed more than they did left us with a sad feeling. It is a difficult situation with no easy solution.

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  • Sabine Wyss

    Hi Emelie
    Thanks for your toughts about the porter and guide in Nepal and for the beautiful picture. I^m living there with my life spouse Purna and we organize fairtrade trekking (www.himaal.ch). So i felt pretty homesick while reading about your vacations;)!
    Our goals are fair salaries and fair conditions (carrying only for one person, light bags, etc) for the guides and porters. We treat everybody equal. But it`s a difficult business as some tourists try to push down prices even we declare everything and they know that I teach in the vacation in Switzerland for living this dream.
    But what could be better then exploring the mountains and sharing the rich culture of Nepal with other People!!!!NOTHING!

  • Alon

    Hi

    We had a family trip to Nepal this year.
    There is no chance we could do it without those people ( Me and my wife couldn’t take 3 children staff ).
    We payed the porter and the guide well , gave them a nice tip ( 30$ each after 8 days) and treat them well.
    I don’t see any different between this work and any other work. The other option will be less toutists and less food fo their famailies…

    • Emelie

      Hi Alon!
      I can understand that, and I´m not saying it´s bad, all I was saying is that I felt a little uneasy seeing the porters carry so many kg every day for very little. I can see a different between work and work, if your body get´s destroyed early in life. I´m not saying that´s how it is, because I don´t know but I think that is the result after that kind of carrying.

      Glad you enjoyed the vacation, and what an experience for your kids!

      Best regards,

      Emelie

    • Alon

      Thanks

      At least we can Agree it that the country and above all the people are great up there…

      BR
      Alon

  • Mumz

    How different was my experience with our porters and guide! I travelled twice to Nepal, and did three and two weeks hiking, with a group of Danish friends, all around the age of 70 (me, the young one, 40) . We were accompanied by a guide and porters. The porters carried an allotted weight (I’m not sure, might gave been around 15 kg) and were as happy as we were to have the opportunity to go on the trip. Being surrounded by Nepali people on the trip enriched the experience. We learned more about their culture,because they were a part of our group. One day trek we went on, a few of them decided to come with us, just because they like walking in the mountains TOO. And I, as a trail runner, was happy to get some downhill lessons……

  • tite

    Fast pack, best way! Namastè yogini

  • Anna-Maria

    Hello Emelie,

    You are such an inspiration for me. I am learning to be a guide in my home country and one of the things I really don’t like in our profession is the commercialism that is now all over the tourism business. I totally agree with your remarks about how a hike is supposed to be and how little respect and money these people get. It is offending and not fair, having the fact that they are natives, know the mountains so much more than we do and are humble enough to carry everything we want to. It’s time to change the way we think about them and the way we treat them..

    Much love from Bulgaria.

  • Carrie

    Hi Emelie! We actually met at the Island Peak base camp. Regarding porters, we hired both a guide (Chewang Sherpa) and a porter. We found Chewang through friends, he is from the Khumbu Valley. His family has been in the region for decades and all of the tea houses we stayed at were owned by some relative of his. We were fortunate to meet his entire family, this gave us more of a feel for the culture. Tourism is his family’s only source of income, and since so many people follow your blog-hopefully a few will read this comment and use Chewang (find him on Facebook:) We paid our porter directly ($10/day for 25 days and $100 tip). He is on holiday from school and Chewang said our trip will pay for an entire year of school for he and his 2 brothers. We too left from Lukla and bought our porter shoes, down jacket, and sleeping bag before we started. (its good to take care of your team!) Hope this helps for anyone traveling to the region. Support the local economy, use a guide (hire him privately, don’t use an agency), hire a porter (but take care of him or her and make sure they have appropriate and warm gear).

  • Massi

    Hi Emelie,
    thanks for sharing yr view,
    The porters situation is quite coplex… sure they are paid very little compared to what an agency get, I personally never hire any porters, cause I can usually carry myself all the 30 kg bag I need to trek around,.. (sure not as lightweight as yr journey!!! 🙂 ), and cause I also am quite unease with the thing that someone other has to carry my stuff. Of course I was kind of irritated from all that trekkers..or better say tourists… that go around nepal treks path with only a very light bag .. and make the porters carry ll their stuff… But… I know that for many people out there is the ony possibility to make some kind of good money, cause other works are paid very very very much less… (for exampple a cooker could get something like 30 dollar…. a month in some cases…not to mention stone breaking …).

    On a high mountain path in Tilicho lake (Annapurna circuit) I do saw a porters train going to cross the pass, was like 20 porters or around that… and all of them was for only ONE English tourist.. carrying tents, tables, chairs, fuel, other tents for porters, food, and so on…more people you bring around more things you should carry.. I was quite impressed from all of this, and of course I was feeling much more proud of myself walking around with my only strenght, and I was looking to this man with a kind of superiority, thinking of him as a “weak babylon officeman full of money making his adventurous travel in himalaya” … after a talked with friends and think about that porters, realizing that this for them was a great opportunity to work for 2 weeks long getting a fair pay and carrying a fair weight… This just show that evry thing we see has different aspect that we need to think about when we give our judjement.

    When you go around in even less touristic developed places around nepal, you will always see horses and then porters carrying evrything has to go up in the village, .. rice lentils salt..and so on to mantain the life of the people.. in the turistic places there is only much much more work for this people.. I saw few years back one guy, aged 15, carrying two big hardwood wooden blocks high 2 meters and weighting more or less 150 kg!!! (carrying such amount of weight is only possible cause they carry it on the head and straight on their back, otherwise on shoulder they could carry only around 40kg maximum as we could do)….. I was ashamed from this view, the guy sits next to me and we start talk, he explain me that is one of the only work you could do for earning good money (and for there 10$ a day is an ENORMOUS amount of money for normal people) He told me that he carry so much weight cause he is paid by KG and that if he carry two instead of one he make double money!!!.. I was really touchd from this young boy who with 150kg will make in one day (EARLY MORNING TO LATE EVENING ) the same path a normal trekker would walk in 2 or 3 days, slowly slowly, but always walking, with few rest and dhal bhat.

    As you can see, the situation is not so easy to be understood and dealt, cause many things are involved in the porters situation, which at the end are one of the good income job in nepal compared to all other kind of jobs they could find in such poor places.

    Thanks for taking the time for reading my thought, I wish you the best for your life, you are an amazing true person!

    Om Mani Padme Hum
    Massi

  • Eléa

    Thank you Emely, it is a very shared feeling. To have to discuss with a carrier he has me the same attorney to put two in three months to recover from a trek. That is why he make it only one or two times a year. The tourists have generally no ethics. It is very sad and shameful.. Thank you to share your thoughts – You are models for a lot of peolple. I’m sure you could change the point of view of a lot . It is a permanent fight to change the mentalities