05.09.2010 - 05.09.2010 40 °C
There are several ways to travel. Solo, double, group of friends, group of strangers. In line with the fact that there are a multitude of travel options available to today's adventure-seeking globetrotter - be it destinations, accommodation or transport, the options relating to the company or companion with which to experience the thrills that this world has to offer, are several.
A conundrum I have faced in etching this brilliant once-in-a-lifetime plan of wandering around globally is the question of whether I want to do it alone or with some company. My initial three month journey will (inshallah/prabhu ichha) take me to 9 countries in Asia. The first part of the itinerary consists of a trek in Nepal -- the Everest Base Camp trek. From my research it appears that one could choose to do this trek in one of the following ways -- alone, alone but with a guide and porter or in a group with a guide and porter. There are pros and cons to each:
Alone/Alone but with a guide and porter: pros -- flexibility in deciding one's schedule, i.e. if you feel you want to spend 3 extra days doing a side trek somewhere, you can; not being dependent on the fitness and altitude-sickness-resistance of other individuals; you and the guide become best friends by the end of it (whether you and he/she like it or not) / cons: more expensive; it's you, the guide and the porter..all day, everday.
Group with a guide and porter: pros -- the feeling of generally being in a group that cares or at least knows that you are doing the trek; having others to say "awesome, dude, awesome" with, when viewing stunning scenery; more people to beat at cards during the long evenings by the camp fire; less expensive than solo trekking / cons: you hate Ms. A and Mr. B said that to you and did you know Ms. C has some kind of weird contagious rash? ..you get my point.
I came across some interesting group-related options during my research and was impressed by the responsiveness and efficiency of the local companies in Nepal that offer trekking tours. I finally narrowed it down to three companies:
1) Ace the Himalayas - http://www.acethehimalayas.com
2) Earthbound Expeditions - http://www.enepaltrekking.com
3) 3 Sisters Adventure Company - http://www.3sistersadventure.com
I've fnally decided to go with Ace the Himalayas (with a name like that, do you blame me? ).
It was a tie between (1) and (2) (they basically offer the same package) but (1) won because it had a fixed trek on the dates that I wanted. (3) lost out because it was slower to respond than (1) and (2) and at least USD 500 more expensive (with quite a few things, such as flights to Lukla from Kathmandu not included in the price). However, the story behind the establishment of (3) is interesting and can be read on their website. Basically, three Nepali sisters started this company with a view to empowering Nepali women by providing them with jobs and a steady income -- quite inspiring.
So come October 16, I shall hopefully be in Kathmandu, excited and hopeful (yes, I am hoping now and will hope then too) that the EBC trek with meet and exceed my already-burgeoning expectations! Watch this space.