Lyn Taylor of Lyn Taylor’s Adventure Travel takes Women on a special journey to Nepal, to not only hike, but experience adventure and take them out of their boundaries, to see them shine when they achieve something that in the past seemed out of their reach.
Sir Edmond Hillary once said, “I think I mainly climb mountains because I get a great deal of enjoyment out of it. I never attempt to analyse these things too thoroughly, but I think that all mountaineers do get a great deal of satisfaction out of overcoming some challengers which they think are very difficult for them, or which may be a little dangerous.”
Most of us may never be able to experience such adventure first hand, but we can always admire the beauty the mountaineers have been smitten by. A visit to Nepal’s apple capital of Marpha situated in the Annapurna region can be visited either by foot or vehicle and is now within easy reach to any visitor.
The journey is filled with pleasant surprises, there was a point where our ride was halted for the second time, which left us with uncertainty, but an opportunity to see the Rupse waterfall was totally worth it. On the third day of our journey, the sense of Marpha came to us, climbing the elevation, crossing the river streams, the smooth ride in high, but flat land, cool breeze, and the view of the stunning Himalaya mountains. Upon reaching Marpha, the famous gush of the Marpha welcomed us. Marpha is situated in the Mustang region, where the wind starts picking up its pace after 10am and blows till late afternoon.
Life in Marpha means navigating your way through stone paved walkways, gullies, and lived in stoned-layered houses with open rooftops, boarded by stacks of wood. For travellers like us, it is a difficult environment where one can accommodate themselves to one of the many hotels, choose to dine in a variety of restaurants, taste Marpha’s famous apple pie, and local made Marpha brandy, enjoy internet in the dining areas, and seek out for souvenirs at the many shops.
But what you also take away from Marpha, apart, from many photographs, souvenirs and memories, is the warmth of its people who treat you like family. Marpha is a small village with a population of 630 and getting to know the locals was not daunting. Some of the locals even allowed us to visit their farms and eat as many apples as we liked, straight from the tree.
In order to keep tourists interested, an alternative trekking route is being developed on the famous Annapurna Circuit a where the village of Marpha is situated. The new 35km route is expected to be completed by June 2015, the first phase of the route is almost complete.
On my first visit to Nepal 20 years ago, I remember trying to find my way back to my hotel situated in Balaju, I new enough to navigate my way through the maize of vendors, vehicles, and people shoving into vehicles, I am talking about 20 people in a hiace. It was like walking through a herd of elephants on wheels, except the elephants would pay more attention, and belch less smoke. Now days that’s where you would find the micros, and tempos, which are smaller vehicles that foreigners called “tuk-tuks”, perhaps because some jet-lagged visitor once confused Kathmandu with Bangkok. (If Nepalis used the term, I’ve never heard it. Don’t ask someone on the street where to find a “tuk-tuk”,or you might beep pointed to Thai Airways).
Up until today Kathmandu has never been a bastion of the English language. There are no signs telling you where to stand or which vehicle to catch; in fact, the main English for many years has tendered to involve Bob Marley, now supplemented by the statement Punk Is Not Dead”. This whilst heartening to a music fan, was unlikely to help me get to my destination. The route is on the buses in Nepali, so my best advice is to learn the language, but that does not help much when you are standing at the bus station, all bumper to bumper traffic, with motor bikes weaving their way through the maize, and the only signs say squiggle-squiggle. One gains a great appreciation for challengers of illiteracy, except all illiterate Nepalis apparently have the secret code and are getting vehicles in droves, whilst I stand there like a country bumpkin. Thankfully today I can speak the language.
Every day thousands of us, travellers and expats and Nepalis alike walk in oblivious haste past whole sections of the city. We see them and don’t see them, we pass a shadowed doorway, unmarked and head-bangingly low, bit would never enter because it seems to go into someone’s home.
Further down I pass another doorway, and then another, which occasional glimpses of murky passageways and a dusty inner courtyard. There is nothing inside a tourist map, and it’s not on the location of the shop I am heading for, so I take a peek and plunge into the hidden world of mystery that most foreigners do not dare to explore. It’s a mystery to Nepalis who aren’t native to Kathmandu – or if they are, happen to have no friends who live in the old Newar neighbourhood. After all who would walk in to what seems someone’s backyard without invitation. Try it sometime, you will see that it is a world that is both private and public, each courtyard has its own history and goes back well into the 15th century. I keep coming back to Kathmandu due to my interest in the cultural diversity, there are many fields to explore here, I come also because I have links and attachments with the people.
Colours, colours everywhere as you wander along any street in Thamel. You will probably see several shops selling felted goods. If you stepped in and checked the label, chances are it would say “Made in Nepal”.
Felt fabric is made by matting moistened wool under pressure and heat. The dyed wool which is imported from New Zealand, is saturated in hot water, and kneaded by hand. After being sufficiently worked, it is rinsed and flattened, before being laid to dry. The end product is felt, which then be cut and sewn like other fabric into array of products, from bags, purses, shoes hats, puppets, soft toys, decorative hangers, and are exported to many countries all over the world.
With Nepali men searching for job opportunities abroad, the WOMEN TOO HAVE TO FIND WORK. This is a job that uneducated women can perform with ease. Predominately women from the lower start of society are hired and most felt factories in Nepal hire females, 90% of the workforce in the felt industry are made up of women! Who create with love and passion. “If there is no love good things cannot come”
During my 20 years of traveling throughout Nepal I have experienced may changes, not only in Kathmandu or the mountains, but also in the villages I have visited. Today my passion is to not only help to increase the standard of education in remote areas, but also to improve the infrastructure of the schools. I am now on my third school project with the assistance of children from a Sydney based Public School, who organiser fundraisers. In 5 years together we have renovated a school building, which have provided the children with an amenities block, water, desks, lockers, and much need equipment, and today we are now building a block of 4 classrooms at a local high school.The journey to this remote area village of Maguwa is not for the faint hearted, it is a gruelling 9 hour journey from Kathmandu by land cruiser or local bus. A land cruiser is used when I take clients on a 4 day home stay visit to the village, on the return journey we hike downhill for 5 hours, stay overnight at a local hotel, and the following day take an adventure ride on a local bus to Pokhara, where we begin a 6 day trek in the Annapurna region.
When I ask my clients which part of the trip they most liked, all say “the village visit, as it was a unique experience into the culture of Nepali way of life, it is a place to be yourself in a world that is always trying to make you something else”. Lyn says that ” I have become part of the community itself, my passion for exploring and learning about the country is enviable”. Spending several months in the village studying and living with the people has provided her with intensive knowledge of Nepal, the people and their way of life, which she is willing to share, it makes her an invaluable friend of the community.
Some Travel tips for woman travelers
- Woman Trekking. Trekking alone is not recommended. Even in the cities, walking out alone at night can be dangerous. Do not stay in bars and pubs till late night. Do not respond to the jerks who make advances for introduction and friendship in bars.
- Follow the women-and-children rule. If you see women around, especially women with children, you’ve got less to worry about, this is critical at night. If all you see is men, men, men, high-heel it out of there.
- Don’t speak the language to creeps. If you’re dealing with an unsavoury guy who speaks English, don’t say hello back. Shake your head or shrug your shoulders and say “No English.” If he says “Speak Italian?” say “French, no.” If he says “Speak French?” say “German, yes.” However, do learn such key phrases as it help if you happen to get lost in the language of the country you’re visiting.
- Never look at maps in public. Memorise them in advance, or look at them in a cafe or your hotel room. In many cities you can buy credit card-size street and transportation maps — which you can glance at inside your purse, so no one knows what you’re doing. Sometimes I sketch a rough map of major streets and write down the exact addresses and directions for places I’m going, to avoid the map problem altogether. You might also want to bring a compass to help you get your bearings when you’re lost, or just for navigating labyrinthine streets.
- Carry embassy contact info. If you’re going to a far-flung or potentially dangerous destination, always have with you a list of local embassies, with their phone numbers and dialling codes. Let the local embassy know you’re there, and leave a list of its numbers with friends or family at home.
- Check in with the folks at home. Tell friends when they can expect your calls and give them your embassy contacts in case you disappear. Also leave them phone numbers and addresses of hotels you may be staying at, along with a rough itinerary.
- Always carry I.D. Keep your passport with you at all times. You do not have to store it with the hotel owners, no matter what they say. Many places are required to take down foreigner’s passport numbers, but don’t actually need the passport. Make photocopies of your passport in advance, and hand over one of those.
- Don’t wear a money belt. Once you fish for your bills, everyone will know you’re a tourist. And once you’re pegged as a paranoid tourist, you’re a sitting duck. Don’t place you money in your back pack, as someone can grab your arms while his accomplice rips off your pack. Your best bet is to stash only a small amount of money that you may require for the days sightseeing, stuff money down you’re bra or in your shoes, and carry whatever you carry at home — just make sure it has a zipper. If you need to carry a handbag make sue you buy a “Pacsafe”.
- Wear sunglasses to avoid scrutiny. People look away when they can’t make eye contact.
- Walk like you know where you’re going. Studies show that if you exude confidence and strength, people are less likely to try to take advantage of you.
- Be cautious in remote places. Some destinations contain open roads and beautiful scenery but few well-traveled places to stop and enjoy the view. You’ll tempted to stop and look while driving, which is dangerous. Always lock your doors, even in small towns where nothing seems likely to go wrong. And never leave stuff in plain sight in the back seat.
It is a wonderful reminder of what we can achieve if we believe in ourselves. I challenge you to take that first step to an adventure holiday, whether it be Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, India, Peru, Patagonia, Africa or Europe.