Trip to Nepal

Earlier this fall I was fortunate enough to take a trip through Nepal. While my dream was to do a trek in the area, for a few reasons that wasn’t in the cards this time, so instead I took more of a grand tour of the country. This ended up being great as I saw more of the country than I probably would have had I only trekked.

Travel, especially to a Third World country, can provide certain challenges. That’s part of the allure, but I believe knowing a few things before departing can help you make the most of your trip, while not necessarily taking away the excitement of dealing with challenges along the way. Below are a few lessons learned that may help in your own planning for a similar trip.

Local guide

More and more I’m an advocate of at least getting a local guide for certain sightseeing, particularly where you are unfamiliar with the culture or history. On this trip, I actually traveled with Intrepid Travel. This is the first time I’ve booked an organized tour and I was admittedly a little hesitant, but their style of travel suited me well, with small groups and plenty of free time to wander as you wish. Additionally, I had a couple of days before and after the actual tour on my own. Their local guide was helpful throughout, but where it really paid was on tours of places such as Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu, as I did not know a lot about the Hindu faith.

Earthquake

There is still plenty of evidence of the earthquake, but Nepal is definitely open for business. In some places, you can’t tell they had an earthquake, but then you round a corner and see a damaged temple propped up with bracing.  Overall, I’d say the impact on our trip was minimal.

Driving

First come, first serve is the order of the road and organized chaos only begins to describe driving in the country. It’s not aggressive (despite the abundant use of car horns), but rather sporting. I’m usually up for driving in foreign countries, but even if someone gave me the keys, I wouldn’t tempt it here.

Air quality

Air quality in Kathmandu, and even other towns, can be quite poor. Dust, emissions, diesel generators, and trash burning all contribute. It’s not uncommon to see locals wearing face masks and had I been there longer, I probably would have bought one too. As is, by time I left I could definitely feel the impacts of the air quality.

Haze

Related to air quality and since we traveled in the dry season (rain can help clear the air), many photographs, even early in the morning, were quite hazy. It many ways it added to the photographs, but at other times it was frustrating. Adjusting what and how your shooting can help make the most of it. If all else fails, you can always reduce the haze somewhat in post processing.

Everest flight

This was part of our package and oddly one part that I wasn’t that excited for – I’d rather be on the ground in the mountains rather than just flying over. It was fun to do, in hindsight, and the pilots/flight attendant were very accommodating and helpful in pointing out mountains (not just Everest). From a photographer’s viewpoint, though, the windows (at least on our plane) weren’t that clear and the wings/engines were hard to avoid in your photos. Definitely bring a telephoto lens to be able to shoot beyond them.

Chitwan National Park

When you think of Nepal, you probably think about the Himalaya, prayer flags, and Sherpas. But Nepal also has lowland areas with subtropical forests. Rhinos, crocodiles, and elephants? Nepal has them. Chitwan National Park was definitely an unexpected delight, in large part for expanding my perceptions of Nepal itself.

Nepali time

True of many destinations around the world, not everyone adheres to a strict schedule. Between a delayed flight, luggage issues, then a bus mix-up, we lost the better part of a day. It happens and having a flexible itinerary with no tight connections will help you adapt on the fly.

See more trip photos on my Instagram account, @exposurebydjk.

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