Guide books are a staple among outdoor enthusiasts. My shelf has guides for birds, plants, hiking trails, campsites, kid activities, climbing and backpacking, to name a few. But I went to Nepal before discovering the Mountaineers’ Trekking Nepal A Traveler’s Guide by Stephen Bezruchka and Alonzo Lyons. And now I see what an error that was!

The travel guides I have perused in the past all seem pretty similar. The author, having visited a plethora of locales, touts his favorite hotel in each city, the restaurants, the sights, the tourist attractions before issuing a battery of maps and perhaps a couple of itineraries or “best kept secrets.” That works for Italy, Mexico and the like, but Nepal in itself is about getting off the beaten path, so a list of sights and restaurants doesn’t really fit for trekking in Nepal. So my first surprise was that the book echoes the uniqueness of Nepal in its substance. I was pleasantly surprised at all the other aspects of Nepal (besides just trekking) that this book covers. Nepal is not a standard travel destination for a standard traveler. So as you might expect, the proper guide book shouldn’t be standard either.

Trekking Nepal Travelers Guide

The first half of the book is a primer in preparation for entering this culturally rich and diverse country. But the authors don’t just cover culture, tradition and history of Nepal, they go into politics, the monarchy, castes and religion. They spare no detail in immersing the reader in tidbits that might prove handy when interacting with the people. There is an entire section about how to properly negotiate a price for goods, and when not to negotiate. Even having been there and experienced this, the authors shed light on pros and cons to different ways of negotiating. There is a section on how to address beggars and how and when to employ porters, guides and when it is acceptable not to. Each aspect has been thoughtfully presented with due respect and sensitivity to the economic results of  an individual tourist’s actions. I greatly appreciate this sort of information in a guide book. The authors affinity for the Nepali people is plain in the way they address answers to some tough situations, like the economic repercussions of hiring porters through an agency versus hiring them directly. There is a wealth of experience that the authors have relayed and effectively presented throughout the guide.

Trekking Nepal Travelers Guide

There are side bars and mini-sections dedicated to explaining things like the geologic history and creation of the Himalayas (India crashed into the rest of Asia about 50 million years ago). This is such a simple and full explanation of why the Himalayas are there! I also appreciated the direct discussion of less desirable things one might encounter, such as trash along trekking paths (down even to explaining the variety that comes from tourists versus locals) and suggestions on how to be environmentally sensitive in a developing country, while still travelling safely. This sort of information is gold to an eco-sensitive traveler like myself. There are plain explanations of air pollution, potential for disease, and other potential threats, as well as a huge wealth of amazing information about the varied ethnic groups across the country and how they differ from one another.

All this before we even reach the main guts of the guide! Now we get to the the trails and maps themselves. Each trekking region is meticulously described with almost turn by turn instructions down all the major trekking routes and many of the minor ones. Alternate routes and side trips are frequently described and clearly called out. Interesting informational bits are included along the way such as weaving traditions, leech removal, birds of the alpine zone and Buddhist festivals. The last trail section is dedicated to “Trails Less Traveled” where self sufficiency is paramount, facilities are rudimentary, camping is necessary and getting away from it all takes on a new meaning.

The whole guide is wrapped in a very sensitive point of view and the authors go to great trouble to explain the details of the nuances of the Nepali people, their traditions and communication. All of these things, when absorbed, understood and heeded, will certainly give you a richer trekking experience and in that respect the book is very useful if not invaluable.

Trekking Nepal Travelers Guide

Details:

Title: Trekking Nepal A Traveler’s Guide eighth edition

Authors: Stephen Bezruchka and Alonzo Lyons

Publisher: Mountaineers Books

Pages: 415

Published: 2011 (eighth edition) First edition published 1972

Trekking Nepal Travelers Guide

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