Updated: Jun 16
"I prefer travel that incorporates the great outdoors and the diversity of new cultures and people", says avid adventure trekker and committed PhD student, Andrew Reiter. Maybe that's why Nepal's light bending mountain ranges have called him no less than three times! I caught up with the cultured Adelaidean nearly four years on from hiking the Annapurna Circuit together in 2016.
Andrew's trips to Everest Base Camp and the Annapurna Circuit
Q. Andrew! How are you doing during the global lock down? I’m doing ok thanks, fortunately most of my PhD lab studies (Andrew is researching the effects of sleep at CQ University - a subject that I could definitely do with some assistance on during the lockdown) are complete and I’m now in full-blown thesis-writing mode. The main challenge is the extra care I need to provide for my mother, who is 88 and still determined to live alone at our rambling family home.
Overall, Australia has had a relatively low amount of deaths versus other countries around the world, not least you guys in the UK, but the economic impact of less tourism and relations with certain countries could be considerable.
Q. Under normal circumstances, what does travel mean to you personally? What fuels your desire to visit off the beaten track destinations?
Travel means a lot to me, both domestically in Australia and overseas. This is the first time in a long time that I have not had at least one trip organised to look forward to. I prefer travel that incorporates the great outdoors and the diversity of new cultures and people. We often live in our own little world and think everywhere is like that.
Q. We were part of a group trip to Nepal in 2016 of course. What is it about Nepal that keeps bringing you back? Annapurna marked my third visit to Nepal. I really enjoyed the Everest Base Camp trek, so was looking for a similar type of experience. As the second main trekking area in the country and often regarded as more picturesque (if that's possible!), I couldn't help myself.
Q. Just how physical are these type of hikes? Do I need to be in good shape? Most tourist trekking in Nepal requires a good level of fitness, but not an extremely high level like you may need for mountaineering or climbing. It's very high altitude of course [Thorung La mountain pass lies at 5,400m] and people react to this differently, no matter your level of endurance.
Another thing to be mindful of is water consumption and calorie intake. Nepal still lacks some of the basic sanitation that we take for granted, so stomach illnesses on the mountains are common-place. Bring a good quality water filtration device and be selective in what you eat / have countermeasures ready to keep things enjoyable.
Q. What parts of the Annapurna Trek really stand out for you? Well, the trekking was fantastic, but we also had a very good international group, guide and support team. Over the years I’ve found that these variables make a huge difference to the overall experience. The trek itself covered a wide variety of landscapes including rainforest, barren rocky outcrops and of course high mountains.
The October 2016 Annapurna Circuit trek organised with Intrepid Travel. Around eleven days hiking from the Himalayan foothills to Thorung La mountain pass at 5,400m.
Q. Any advice for people thinking of travelling to Nepal in the future? Make sure you are fit and healthy without being ridiculous about it and expect to walk for six to eight hours a day. Personally, I'll always research some of the history and culture of the destination I'm planning to visit - it really helps to make sense of your experience as it's happening.
With that in mind, I think it's easy to get carried away with the Himalayas. Of course that's the main draw for Nepal, but there is so much more to the country, from it's roots in Buddhism to it's many mountain communities, varying geologies and comparatively flat Terai-Duar grasslands (the world's tallest) to the South. Lots to explore!
Q. Looking ahead, what other countries are you interested in visiting and why? I have a vague plan to visit Tibet or Bhutan at some point. Both are part of the Himalayas and will offer a different cultural take on living in the mountains. Both are less touristy than Nepal also, which I think will add to the magic of the experience.
Thanks Andrew and look forward to seeing you in Adelaide for a coffee in the near future!
Adventure 176 Impressions
For me, there is something so special about getting back to nature and being in the presence of something you have read about all your life. Seeing and hiking the Himalayas is an all-out assault on the senses; they are so mind-blowingly gargantuan that the mind takes you away from any stresses and strains you may be experiencing in life, replacing them with an intense level of awe and wonder.
This process starts in Kathmandu though of course. Although dirty and busy, Nepal's capital city is a cosmopolitan melting pot of intrepid visitors planning for their mountain journey. The excitement and energy there is palpable and, coupled with street markets, temples and cafes hidden among the overhanging electric cables, will pre-heat the trekking oven for any adventurous visitor.
Photos by Adventure 176 covering various stages of the Annapurna Circuit trek
Today, Nepal is having a tough time amid the Coronovirus outbreak. Although lightly impacted in terms of infections and deaths relative to other countries so far, the monsoon season is just beginning and many feel that this could exacerbate the crisis. Nepal's tourism industry has all but ground to a halt of course, seriously impacting the livelihoods of many families - particularly the Sherpa.
Integral to Nepal's trekking industry, the Sherpa people provide guides and group leaders, support staff, permit administration, equipment assistance, accommodation, logistics, catering and rescue services among others. In the absence of appropriate testing and the infrastructure to support mass cases, together with thousands of migrant workers still continuing to come back from India, the country finds itself in a precarious situation for the future. All being well, the Autumn season will allow some of the 200,000 estimated trekking workforce community to recoup lost income for the year.
Official tourism site of Nepal: https://www.welcomenepal.com/
Intrepid Travel: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/
Lonely Planet Nepal: https://www.lonelyplanet.com/nepal
UK government travel advice for Nepal: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/nepal