India or Nepal? I asked myself. Did I want to drift along the holy Ganges in Varanasi in india or discover the water’s source in the high Himalaya. Did I want to eat thalis – a great feast of a lunch, served on clattering trays of food bursting with little dishes – in Dehli? Or munch my way through mounds of momos, the delicious steamed of fried dumplings of Tibet, commonly found in Nepal? Did I want to marvel at the pure beauty of the Taj Mahal. Or clamber up the atmospheric monkey temple in Kathmandu? Did I want to relax in an ashram spiritual retreat or go on a trek through the Annapurnas. The answer was obvious really. I wanted to do all of it.
Luckily for me, it’s actually surprisingly easy to combine India holidays with a Nepal trekking holiday. My trip was to be a great journey. Starting in Dehli, I would wind my way south to Agra, then ease my way north stopping at Varanasi before pushing on up through the Himalayan foothills and making the high pass to Nepal.
I had been on India holidays before and love the country’s endless vitality. India is addictive. Each area of the big subcontinent is so different, from the tropical beaches and temples of Kerala and the hippy vibe of Goa in the South to the dry, proud, colourful cities of Rajasthan and the old tea plantations and hill stations of the north. But the people share a history and a warmth that is incredibly uniting. Every few years I feel the urge to explore another bit of this big, open hearted country. trekking in india
But it was my first time in the Indian Himalaya and very first time on a Nepal trekking holiday. I was nervous but shouldn’t have been. The mountains are spectacular. But not only that, they’re incredibly life affirming. There’s a stillness, a peace and a spirituality unlike any other quiet place on earth.
Trekking can be tough though too. I tackled the Annapurna circuit, which as the name suggests, circumnavigates the great Annapurna range in Nepal. It’s a long trek and can take several weeks to complete, walking up high staircases cut into the mountain and rising to incredible altitude with some of the most spectacular views you’ll find anywhere.
The pace of life was different here to anywhere I’d been in India. The land locked country is much poorer than it’s neighbour to the South and this is reflected in the food, which is simpler – and the people, who are some of the friendliest you’ll ever meet.