Crowned by the highest peaks in the world and graced with a rich culture where Hindu and Buddhism intertwine, Nepal is like no other country on earth. We were first captivated by its soaring mountains and diverse people more than 30 years ago, and it has set the scene for many transformational moments our staff and travelers experienced over the decades. Nearly two years after the earthquake that devastated Nepal, we continue to support efforts to restore its cultural treasures, and we are thrilled to see the resilience of this unique country as cities, villages, and trails are being restored. In honor of Nepal, a nation that remains a beacon of exploration, we wanted to share some of our staff’s favorite reflections and memories of this magical place.
Ray Rodney, WT’s Special Projects Manager
Ray in his element
I first went to Nepal in 1979, seeking out the high mountains and the traditional culture. I found both, in spades, and reveled in trekking among the peaks of the Himalayas and joining in the festivals and rituals that still thrive in Kathmandu. I returned home after a couple of months, but quickly realized that my time in Nepal was incomplete. I sold my car, put my belongings in storage, bought a one-way ticket, and before I knew it, I had stayed in Nepal for 11 years.
What drew me so profoundly? It was the age-stained, exquisitely carved wood temples of the palace squares, the ripple of prayer flags in front of a snow-laden peak in the pink hues of a high-altitude sunrise, the cacophony of cymbals and horns in an ornate monastery hall barely illuminated by yak-butter lamps, the terraces of lush, green rice climbing ever upward on the hillsides, with the white peaks rising impossibly higher above them, and the dignified devotion of women bringing bright marigold petals to a Ganesh shrine every morning without fail. Yet more than anything, it was the people: a family warmly welcoming me into their home to share their simple meal of rice and lentils, the scruffy children clamoring after me on the trail to practice their English, and receiving a big red tika as an adopted brother in a lovely Newari family ritual.
I have traveled to many parts of the world, but nowhere else have I found a people offering such warmth and hospitality to those of us who come to their land. Why go to Nepal? Yes, of course for the mountains and culture, but open yourself up to the people of Nepal, and you will have the trip of a lifetime.
Lisa Filippini, WT’s Asia Specialist
Lisa and our guides getting ready for their grand Everest adventure
When my alarm went off in the early morning hours at the Hotel Shangri-La in Kathmandu, I jumped out of bed and threw on my hiking boots, ready to get on a small Twin Otter plane that would end up leading me to a life-changing experience. Even before the sun came up, Kathmandu was buzzing with cars and rickshaws, while candles flickered at small shrines along the roadside. We reached the airport while it was still dark, but by the time we were in the air, I gazed out the window at some of the tallest mountains in the world, gleaming in the sun – a truly spectacular sight, I was immediately entranced by their strength and beauty. Landing at the small mountain airstrip of Lukla, we began our amazing trek through the incredible Khumbu (Everest region). As we hiked along the trails, with the beautiful peak of Ama Dablam soon ahead of us, I felt completely immersed in Sherpa life – I watched Tibetans trade their goods at the bustling Saturday Market in Namche, listened to monks chant at famous Tengboche Monastery, ate fresh Nepali momos (dumplings) made by Sherpa friends, and played poker with our crew in warm lodges. Spending time with such wonderful people—in one of the most breathtaking regions of the world, was an experience that I will never forget—and one that I am fortunate to relive each time that I speak with WT travelers about our trips to Nepal!
—Lisa joined our Everest Lodge to Lodge adventure in 2010.
Brian McGilloway, WT’s Resident Photographer and Photo Editor
Two WT hikers enjoy the view from Gokyo Ri
I was fortunate enough to go on our Annapurna trek and then directly to our Everest adventure back in 2000. I was in the Himalayas for a month! One of my many “perfect moments” happened at the summit of Gokyo Ri at 17,575 feet. With tattered prayer flags flapping all around me, I looked out over the curve of the earth and watched the light change on the world’s highest peaks. To this day, it is the most beautiful vista I’d ever seen. I shot film until the last ray of light faded from the top of Everest. In the purple gloaming, it was quickly getting cold and dark. I turned to my porter and said, “we’d better get going down. Break out some torches (flashlights).” He replied, “I thought you brought them!” We had a good laugh, began inching our way down the steep face, and soon caught up to a trekker with a spare light. He was Irish and immediately tagged me as a “Yank.” He said, “You’ve got a new president, did you hear? It’s Al Bush.” And with a wink, he followed, “or is it George Gore?”
Caryn Dombroski, WT’s Quality Control Manager
One of the surreal sites in Kathmandu is Bodhnath Temple
It is the kind of place that takes your heart. The mountains are, of course, breathtaking (both literally and figuratively). The people are so incredibly nice and the culture is such a crazy stew of influences.
—Caryn visited Nepal in 1995. Her Christmas present to her son in 2016 was a trip to Nepal as well.
Shannon Hastings, WT’s Graphic and Web Designer
Shannon lighting candles at Namo Buddha Monastery in Kathmandu Valley
In December of 2009, I had the opportunity to travel to Kathmandu and Nepal’s Everest region with our Trip Leader Leila Thompson on a special New Year’s departure of the Everest Lodge to Lodge adventure. Not only did we have crystal clear skies and crisp weather, but we also celebrated New Years in Namche Bazaar with singing, dancing, and imbibing. I can still envision the beauty of our surroundings: colorful prayer flags fluttering and snow-capped mountains piercing the bright blue sky. The trip was not only naturally beautiful, but also spiritual and physically challenging—an extremely well-rounded trip. My fondest memories are of the Nepalese people and their culture. We were fortunate enough to meet many people since Leila lived and worked in Nepal for more than 25 years and speaks Nepali. Some of our Sherpa guides joined us in Kathmandu after the trek and introduced us to their families. We also facilitated the meeting of some friends, local Hindus from Kathmandu, to our Khumbu Sherpa guides, which was quite rare and a special treat to see their interaction. We went to a local Buddhist temple in the Kathmandu Valley and witnessed the locals giving blessings and the monks in ceremony. On another day, Leila managed to get us a visit and blessing from Lama Geshi, the third monk behind the Dali Lama, and well known for blessing climbers in the region before they ascend Everest. I don’t know how to top a trip like this, but I’d like to return to Nepal and try!
You can view all of our Nepal adventures here. For more inspiration, be sure to check out our story of two WT travelers who found love on our Trek to Everest Base Camp adventure!