What are you looking for when you decide to embark on a week-long hiking journey across the world in a tiny, remote country such as Nepal? I would assume separation from society and picturesque views- for personal memories and perhaps social media- are two of the top reasons. Well, the adventure only starts there with Himalayan Diamond Adventure.
When I first started looking at adventures in Nepal, hiring a guide service was one of the first decisions we came across. The Nepalese government requires visitors to hire a guide service to the region we decided to hike in – Mt. Manaslu. With some traveling under my belt and being a natural planner, figuring out large unknown cities or USA National Parks come easy to me. However, trekking a continuous loop through a country that speaks little English in the countryside, requires one to traverse terrain at high altitudes for multiple weeks in a row, and has overnight stops in villages that don’t appear on google maps all made it very clear we should put some effort into picking the right guide service. You will find hundreds of companies either online or in the capital to choose from. However, my travel companions and I are beyond lucky, and I’d even call it blessed, to stumble upon Chandra and his company, Himalayan Diamond Adventure.
I immediately knew within one email response from Chandra that we were onto something special. First, he responded while preparing on his way up to Mt. Everest! Many trekking companies are led by guides without a deep knowledge of the mountains. Having a mountaineer outline and guide your trip gave us immediate comfort and accelerated our excitement. He also mentioned that he wanted to customize our entire trip! When doing research with other companies, there often was a no flexibility policy when customizing trips or else you would incur a huge surcharge. This worked well because our group was interested in a heavily modified/customized trip compared to what you would find online. During the months leading up to the hike, we had so many questions. There are lots of resources to help plan small hiking trips back home in the United States with detailed routes, gear, food, and weather expectations, but there isn’t clear direction on all these topics available online for trekking in Nepal. By the time we arrived in Nepal, we had bought 95% of the correct gear for our trip through Himalayan’s prompt and helpful replies. We picked up the last couple of items with them before the hike. They even had all our government permits ready. While the main intent of the trip was hiking, our first few days exploring the capital city and experiencing culture were incredible. We arrived during a 5 day long religious holiday called Tihar. We were immediately immersed in the experience when Chandra and his sons, one of which was also a certified guide, greeted us with Marigold necklaces and smiling faces. The city was buzzing with activity and celebrations at night! The most special though was the last day called Bhai Tika. Chandra’s entire immediate family invited us to spend the celebration of honoring their brothers and sisters with them in their homes. Celebrating this sacred holiday through participating in the ceremony, sharing their food, and wearing the traditional dress made this trip into something more than we could have ever asked for – and the hiking didn’t even begin yet!
Our group was able to completely immerse ourselves in the next 2.5 weeks of hiking focusing on the world around us rather than worry about logistics. After 10 hours of hiking at 12,000 feet, the last thing you want to do is worry about securing a room in a village that speaks no English. It was comforting knowing that Chandra’s team, consisting of two of his sons (one guide and one aspiring guide), another certified guide, and two porters, had our backs every step of the way. Porters were an extremely important part of the trip. We had two of the smallest porters that I came across in Nepal, but they carried more gear than any porter or hiker I encountered! Chandra has a strong relationship with the seasoned villagers that live in the mountainsides of Nepal to help porter rather than city folk that other companies commonly draw from. A couple of us fell ill and they were able to carry our packs and Chandra’s experienced team suggested ways to feel better quickly. They advised us on how to avoid altitude sickness, stay hydrated, pick which foods to eat, suggest how to interact with villagers in a respectful manner, and approach the abundant wildlife. We learned about the beautiful landscape and history of the villages around us. They even knew one of us had a birthday 2 weeks into the trip and had carried supplies the whole time to bake a cake at over 12,000’!!!
Your adventurous spirit comes alive in Nepal through its warm-hearted people, culture stretching back millennia and rugged mountains. But it was Chandra and his company that magically intertwined these pieces into one beautiful experience- one that I have a hard time doing justice expressing through words. We met hikers from around the world – Germany, Poland, Italy, France, Canada, Australia, and many others. They all would come up and ask me the same question... “How were we so lucky to find our guide group?” My soul yearns for the day that it can one day explore another piece of this radiant world with Chandra and his family.