Selecting a trek in Nepal

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of June 11-17, 1998
Exploring the Outer Cape: Activities galore
Selecting a trek in Nepal
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Wildlife vacations fit for families

Selecting a trek in Nepal
Question: I'm planning to sign up for an organized trek to Nepal's Khumbu region. After sending away for every brochure in existence, I am now swamped with information. All the brochures look fabulous and I'm sure the companies are more or less reputable, but how do I get beyond that level and figure out which companies are the best? By "the best" I mean that the guides are especially knowledgeable and personable, and the trek offers something special or unusual, not just the same old routes and stops that others do. Thanks for your help.

Borgna Brunner
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Adventure Adviser: Your first impulse was definitely correct — to obtain every brochure known to man about trekking in Nepal. Now the hard part. I suggest you do a quick weeding process and eliminate the trips that are obviously not a match for you because they are too expensive, too short, too long, too luxurious, too hard core, too cultural, too spiritual, etc. Hopefully, this process will leave you with no more than ten companies to consider. When you've narrowed it down to ten, it's time to turn yourself into a reporter. Get on the horn with the customer service rep at each company and test their knowledge of the trip. Ask them every question you can think of and politely demand an answer, even if the information isn't on the tip of their tongue. Then ask the customer service rep for a list of phone numbers of people who have taken the trip, plus the phone number of the guide. Call a smattering of these people with a list of questions regarding the nuts and bolts of the trip: how much free time do you have, how good is the food, how much does the ability level of each group member vary, how smoothly are the logistics handled, etc. If you've had satisfactory answers from trip clients, then call the guide and just shoot the breeze with him to try to determine his or her attitude and whether he or she is a person you can like and trust for an extended period of time. It's also important that you feel the guide has an intimate knowledge of the terrain, that he or she has some kind of medical training, and that his personality generally jibes with your own. If you have concerns about the company, you may consider calling the Better Business Bureau, or the chamber of commerce in the town in which the company is located. Finally, make sure you have a good idea of your own expectations for the trip. If you're a loner, a big group may drive you crazy. If you are active and in shape, a slower paced group may make you insane. Make sure to feel comfortable with all of your concerns before you sign the dotted line.

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