Being a solo woman traveler heading out into the unknown is no small thing. Adventure Woman Kristen Martel did just that, however, embracing both the frenetic vibe of Kathmandu and all the possibilities of this low-altitude trek into the remote, tranquil, and jaw-dropping Himalayan Mountains. Kristen shares her story here…
By Kristen Martel
“No matter how many countries I visit in my lifetime, Nepal will always be among my favorites. I will travel there again someday with AdventureWomen, and I will bring the most important women in my life with me. Here’s why…because friendships form right from the start.
When I first arrived at our hotel in Kathmandu, I instantly recognized the AdventureWomen hats and water bottles in the lobby, to my relief. Finding my people meant friends in a foreign land – and that was worth its weight in gold! Although strangers at first, the whole time we shared soundbites of our lives and quickly became friends. We laughed, supported, and accepted one another. Plus, sharing one-of-a-kind cultural experiences in Nepal with new, like-minded friends was the embodiment of any AdventureWomen experience: taking a Mo-Mo (dumpling) cooking lesson; dancing and belting out trekking chants that our porters and guides taught us; donning orange marigolds (festival flower) in our hair; spinning prayer wheels all along the way to accumulate wisdom and good karma.
With the trek remaining under 8,500 feet, no one struggled with altitude, yet we had views of the majestic Himalayas every day. And we crossed 10 suspension bridges, conquering fears and cheering for each other along the way!
Our low-altitude trek in the Annapurna Region allowed us to experience so many different aspects of Nepal! Plus, the season to travel there was perfect for being active in this mountainous area. The highlights that we all loved and found unforgettable included:
- One week of trekking through the foothills of the magnificent Annapurna Range in ideal hiking temperatures and settling in at night to the most charming & cozy (but fully-equipped) lodges I have ever seen. Snow-capped mountain views and sunrises that moved us to tears.
- Two days of low-impact white-water rafting that garnered cheers and squeals from every guest, then camping at the tranquil Seti River Camp.
- Two days of eye-opening safari, including getting up close and personal with elephants!
- All this, wonderfully bound by exploring Kathmandu at the beginning and end of our adventure.
Most importantly, the group always felt safe. The days were seamless with regard to transportation, activities, meals, and accommodations. The AdventureWomen Ambassador and guide provided stability and a sense of comfort by anticipating and responding to our needs. They became as much a part of our group as any guest.
In Kathmandu, rickshaws, cars, bicycles, scooters, people, and your occasional sacred cow all create an inviting state of chaos. Boudhanath Stupa is breathtaking with its Buddha eyes and colorful prayer flags. Bhaktapur –a well-preserved ancient city—is full of texture, stone streets, temples, and traditional houses that are still inhabited. I rarely put down my camera! Imagine juxtaposing the brilliant city pandemonium with fresh, clean air in Pokhara and the mountains!
Besides the stellar planning by AdventureWomen, I credit the immense success of our trip to our guides, porters and all Nepali people. They are happy, understated, and gentle—always offering ‘prana’ (prayer hands meaning life force). Children scurried by, giggling with clasped hands, and wise elders bowed in prana saying ‘Namaste’ to greet the God within us. The term holds new meaning for me far beyond the way American yoga studios use it. For Nepali people, it is a way of life. For AdventureWomen guests, it became part of our everyday, and it made our hearts sing to hear it and speak it.
We connected with traditional Nepali women in many ways. They wove rugs and scarves, and showed us how to use the looms. They gave us impromptu tours of their modest mud and dung homes, and invited us to thrash millet with them. They let us use their bathrooms (we didn’t even care if they were simple holes in the ground that you squatted over!). They were gracious and accommodating. And they in turn asked us questions about our lives. These priceless encounters are the hallmark of AdventureWomen trips and stem from its founder’s belief in the value and empowerment of women-to-women cultural experiences.
The 14 adventurous women on our Nepal trip were teachers, attorneys, gardeners, wives, librarians, inventors, mothers, divorcees, photographers, engineers, widows, archery coaches, environmentalists, caregivers, potters, sisters, painters, and entrepreneurs. Some of us pinched pennies for this seminal journey, while others globe-trotted yearly. Many of us were repeat AdventureWomen travelers and some of us were neophytes. Our reasons for booking ranged from wanting to prove something to ourselves to an annual sister vacation. Others experienced a recent life-changing event, or were tired of waiting for friends or a spouse to make time for travel.
By the farewell dinner, we all agreed that our profound commonality is that adventure travel become richer and more meaningful when shared, especially with other open-minded women! Until we meet again, friends.