East Nepal with Tea and Trek

A tour and trek which crosses some of Nepals most interesting but least visited places. We travel from Kathmandu valley to the hot lowlands, further east towards the tea farms and then north, to the cold, high mountain of Kanchenjungas foot before flying back to Kathmandu.

During these two weeks we have time to, among many other things, see Hindu ceremonies and beautiful temples, watching birds, plucking tea leaves and do a fantastic trek by the foot of Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world! Since we travel in areas not de-veloped for tourism the accommodation is relatively simple even though we always choose the best available. In exchange we get a unique insight in the Nepalese culture!

The tour goes mainly on some of Nepals best roads and also shorter distances on really bad ones. During to the good road conditions we can use the way for lectures and Nepalese po-etry and folk stories. Much of the everyday life in Nepal is also lived out on the streets which people use as their backyards, which makes the journey even more interesting.

Day 1. Arrival in Kathmandu.
Your local guide and driver for the journey will pick you up at the airport and we will drive to Dhulikhel, a town known for having some of the most amazing mountain views around Kathmandu valley.

Day 2. Excursion to Namobuddha and hike to Panauti
Depending on arrival time we take a walk around Dhulikhel and drive to the Buddhist pilgrimage site Namobuddha where a prince is said to have sacrificed himself as food for a hungry tigress and her cubs. We visit the big monastery and start our walk to Panauti crossing orange farms and rice fields. Panauti is an old village with a beautiful temple area. From here we go back to Dhulikhel by own vehicle.

Day 3. Drive to Janakpur
Today’s long journey starts with half an hours spectacular view of Himalaya and continues through clean, green valleys along the Sun Koshi river or the “golden river”. We cross the village Narayansthan where there is a monastery and a beautiful Buddhist painting on a huge rock. We make a small break to visit the lama in the monastery.

We travel on what is probably the best road in Nepals hilly region and finally we reach the lowland Tarai with deciduous forest and fields with grazing buffaloes. Here is our destination for today located: Janakpur. This is the place where the Hindu goddess Sita is said to have been found as newborn by the king Janak and this is also the place where she married the god Rama. This is the story of one of the most famous Hindu eposes called “Ramayana”.

After check in at our hotel we make a walk to see the enormous, cream cake like Janaki temple. The temple pulls many pilgrims from India and Nepal and is considered one of the most important Hindu temples of Nepal. It’s an interesting place to look around with devotees chanting hymns, wandering holy men, or “sadhus”, and pilgrims. From Janaki mandir we continue to the pond Ganga sagar. Every night a prayer ceremony is performed in exact coordination with the same ones performed in Kathmandu and Varanasi. After having watched the ritual and maybe sent out some candles on the pond we drive back to the hotel.

Day 4. Visit to Kuwa and drive to Koshi Tappu Nature Reserve

After breakfast we drive to the small village of Kuwa. It is located a kilometer or so outside of Janakpur, which long time ago was the capital of the kingdom Mithila. In Kuwa lives the ethnic group “mithila” who are famous for its naive art with the same name. Here people live in simple mud houses without water or electricity.

We start with a walk through the village to see the everyday life. Much of the household work is performed outdoor and we see the ample tattooed women and maybe have a talk with the curious children. We reach a woman cooperative producing mithila art which was in the olden days only painted on the walls by the women of the house but which has now developed into decorating various products like textiles, cups, trays and so on. These are both exported and sold within Nepal and provides the mithila women a chance to be self-sustaining. The artists are friendly and love to talk and show their work. There is also a shop where it’s possible to buy the art at reduced prices. From Kuwa we travel back to Janakpur for lunch and start off our journey towards Koshi Tappu nature reserve. Koshi Tappu is a 3.5 hours journey east from Janakpur and the landscape reminds more of India than of Nepal.

Last piece of the road we walk across the village where our tent-resort is located and the district Sunsari is one of the few where Muslims are in majority. Most houses are made by bamboo and elephant grass and we get a quick insight in the lives of the people before checking in at the Koshi Tappu wildlife camp. In the evening the dance group of the village comes to perform a traditional dance show.

The resort is a camp where we stay in comfortable safari tents with high beds and 4 common bathrooms. If someone feels uncomfortable sleeping in tents there are also a few rooms available. For dinner we have grilled fish from the camps own fish farm and after that we light the bon fire.

Day 5. Jungle activities in Koshi Tappu and drive to Ilam
Koshi Tappu is famous for bird watching and the best time to see the birds are in the early morning. Everyone who wants can take a morning walk together with the nature guide to see the great variety of birds living in the reserve.

After breakfast we start a tour of the river flowing next to our camp. Hopefully we meet not only beautiful birds but also river dolphins and crocodiles. We’ll be back for lunch and after food we say goodbye to Koshi Tappu and continue eastwards.

After the town Itahari the architechture again changes and the houses here are made by wood, standing on poles. We turn north back up into the green hill and we will notice a steady decrease of the temperature. We cross tea plantations interspersed with bamboo forests. After a 5 hours journey we reach Ilam, world famous for its tea. Here we have dinner at the hotel and rest.

Day 6. Hike to Maipokhari and back to Ilam
We eat an early breakfast and then leave towards Maipokhari, a wetland area famous for its flora of herbs and plants, in particular medicinal plants. Here is also an exciting fauna of jackals, leopards and tree frogs, but to see them we need to be lucky. As far as possible we go by bus and then start our walk uphill to the lake. The road is extremely bad and the walk is a nice one. When we reach Maipokhari we make a pause at the local restaurant, drink some butter tea and eat sattu, different kinds of flour mixed with sugar.

We make a walk around Maipokhari together with a guide who will tell about the flora and fauna of the area. Here is not only the little lake with goldfishes and white water lilys, but also rhododendron trees, green houses and plantations presenting different families of plants. Mai Pokhari is a pilgrimage site for both Hindus and Buddhists and we visit the small temple.
The way back to Ilam Bazaar is almost only downhill and we do most of it by walk. We make a break at a tea factory and see the whole process of the tea making, from leaf to packaged tea ready to export. Most of the tea being farmed in Ilam is sent across the Nepal-India border to Darjeeling and is exported worldwide as “Darjeeling tea”.

Day 7. Plucking tea and tasting food in Ilam
After breakfast we walk to a nearby tea farm to join the tea pluckers. With them we walk around the tea farm to see the technique and beauty in the green hills. Maybe someone wants to try themselves as well? This is a wonderful morning walk!

After a while we continue down towards Ilam Bazaar to maybe have some momo, filled dumplings, or some other specialty at a local restaurant in town which is not known for its decoration but for its tasty food and its thongba. Thongba is a hot, low alcoholic millet drink often drunk by the high Himalaya population from special wooden barrels with a straw.

After lunch we meet a knowledgeable and energetic local woman. She shows us her production of east Nepals traditional textiles, Jhapa ko dhaka, and tells us more about the handicraft from this side of the country. She will also let us taste the seasonal delicacies which she also sells, such as ginger juice, condensed milk sweets or dried cheese. After this we have free time to stroll around in the bazaar, shop for tea or go o the hotel and read a good book.

Before the sunset we walk up to the view tower of the town and see the sunset. Next to the tower is a hotel where we have dinner before driving back down to our hotel.

Day 8. Drive to Suketar and trek to Bhotegaun

From Ilam we travel north and the road goes like a paved snake through the hills. We have wow-views and photo stops in many places on the 7 hours way to Taplejung, crossing small villages, terrace farms and thanks to the altitude differences a varied landscape and nature. The last couple of hours we get some wonderful views of the eastern Himalayas. We travel to higher altitude and it gets colder. Up here people see many Nepalese and Indian pilgrims but few foreigners. The hospitality is overwhelming!

From Taplejung starts the trek to the basecamp of the third highest mountain in the world, Kanchenjunga, which will guard over us during our trek which starts in the same place.

Taplejung is mainly populated by the ethnic group limbu, who have not only their own language but also their own religion, kirati.

We continue past Taplejung bazaar to Suketar where Nepals northeasternmost airport is located. From here we will fly out after our trek. The airport is an attraction for the villagers gathering there in the morning to see the plane take off.

In Suketar we stay at a little hotel to drop off whatever luggage we don’t want to carry during the trek, meet up with our trekking staff for the coming days and rest a bit at the restaurant. We have a policy of one porter per two guests and a maximum weight of 30 kg per porter. Once we are fresh again we take farewell of the bus and start our trek to todays destination, Bhotegaun. The way is a fantastic, beautiful path passing fields and forest, sometimes on stones and sometimes on soil. We pass houses and farms on the varied way which takes not more than an hour.

In Bhotegaun there are no hotels but we stay with a family who have some spare rooms. This is the home village of our porters and they heartily welcome us to this traditional Sherpa village by serving traditional Sherpa food and performing Sherpa dance at the home of out host! The village is not developed for tourism but the locals very much wish to participate in your journey and the hospitality weighs up for the living standard which is lower than in the other places of the tour. We still have own beds and during the entire trek we carry our own warm sleeping bags with inner linen with us.

Day 9. Trek to Kaphlepati
We start the day by going to the small Buddhist monastery of the village to see the morning ritual performed by the lama. After the monastery we go back to our host, have breakfast and start off our 7 hours walk to Kaphlepati. The path starts with a 2 hours uphill till Deurali where we make a tea break. From here a great view is starting. In the north we see Makalu and Kanchenjunga and to our south we have small mountain villages and green valley.
From Deurali we walk on a dirt road where we could meet one or two four wheel-drive vehicle. After 1.5 hours we will reach the village Sevaro where we have lunch. From here we have around 4 hours left to Kaphlepati where we stay at a simple teahouse. This is the end of the dirt road and from here we will meet no more vehicles until back down again.

Day 10. Trek to Thulophedi
Today we continue walking to Thulophedi (3140 m.), an uphill walk taking 3-4 hours. At the teahouse in Thulophedi we stay for two nights. It is simple but there is always electricity and how water for bucket shower whenever we wish.

In Thulophedi there is a big market where mainly religious paraphernalia is being sold and a café. The afternoon we spend independently.

Day 11. Trek to Phatibhara and back to Thulophedi
Today we start walking before dawn. We bring a packed breakfast which we enjoy with a view on the way. Todays walk will take around 8 hours, to there it is uphill and back to the hotel it’s down and almost all the way we walk through rhododendron forest. On the very top of the hill is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Nepal, namely the abode of the wish fulfilling goddess Phatibhara (3795m). The path is stone paved in a Nepali way and every 20 minutes we meet a small resting place. There are also some toilets placed out along the way.

Once reaching the top of the hard uphill we continue on somewhat flat ground to the temple from where we have a 360 degrees view with Makalu and Kanchenjunga just in front of us. Here in the temple area we have our light lunch which was cooked and carried up by our teahouse. Up here there are no restaurants.

Once we had enough of fantastic views and religious activities we drink some tea with biscuits and start moving downhill again to Thulophedi where they cook us a big dinner to balance the light lunch.

Day 12. Trek to Suketar
Today we walk back the same way we came, crossing Kaphlepati, Sevaro and Deurali, but instead of going to Bhotegaun we walk straight on to Suketar. Most of the way is downhill and we reach Suketar in the afternoon. In the evening we make a small party together with the trekking staff to say goodbye.

Day 13. Flight to Kathmandu

Today we wake up early to get ready for the flight back to Kathmandu. The airport wants us to report at 7 but that doesn’t mean that we leave at that time. The flight simply leaves just a bit after it arrives from Kathmandu, which can be anytime. If that is late we spend an easy morning in Suketar seeing the monasteries, stupas or why not the school?

Once we reach Kathmandu we check in at our nice hotel in the tourism area of Thamel. We take a walk and eat a continental lunch, something some might have missed during our time in the countryside. The afternoon is free for own adventures but your local guide is always available to give advises on transport, sights or anything else.

In the afternoon we go together to the Buddha Amideva Park, a beautiful park with three huge golden statues of Sakyamuni, Chenresig and Padmasambhava. From here we walk for 20 minutes up on the Swayambu hill where we find one of the UNESCO world heritage sites of the valley, an old Buddhist stupa. Here we spend some time watching the view over the crowded city and then travel back to Thamel where we have dinner at a Tibetian restaurant cooking the best gyakok, a mix of ingredients steamed direct on the table in a charcoal pot.

Day 14. Visit Patans old city

This morning is free for own excursions. In the afternoon we make a walk in the south city of Kathmandu valley; Patan. We see the palace, temples, narrow passages and backyards. In the palace we can have a cup of coffee and enjoy the pristine garden and see the newly beautifully renovated courtyard Sunderchowk. Here small golden and stone figurines decorate the sunken water tap which used to be used for ritual baths and royal meditation. We continue to the temple Mahabuddha which is covered by thousands of small terracotta figurines and to the golden temple, one of the earliest monasteries in the valley.

From Patan we drive to a restaurant housed in an old Rana palace which has been remade into an exclusive mall. The Rana family ruled Nepal during a hundred years but was dethroned some 60 years ago. They lived a really luxurious life at the common Nepalese peoples expense and the restaurants interior consists of their old original belongings, paintings and photos and breaths maharaja. Here we have a farewell dinner while being entertained with dances from all over Nepal.

Dag 15. Transfer to airport and travel home.