What to expect in a trekking lodge while Trekking in Nepal?
A typical trekkers’ lodge in the hills has a central dining room with wooden tables and plank seats or, in some lodges, chairs. The kitchen either at the one end of the dining room or in a separate, adjacent room. In either case, smoke from the wood fire or the roar of kerosene stove often permeates the eating area. The kitchen doubles as the lodge owners’ family room, so meals for the elders and kids of the house are prepared – and often served – alongside your. Despite the proximity of the family, there’s not much opportunity for conversation or cultural interaction because of all the rushing around preparing food or hotel guests and the family.
If you opt for dormitory facilities, you’ll usually get a narrow wooden cot and share the room with other trekkers and, in some places, local porters. The porters may entertain you with their drinking, card playing or radios. If the hotel has private rooms, the rooms will usually be the minimum size to accommodate to beds. The wall and door will be wood, on in more rustic lodges, bamboo mats or even curtains. Some places provide a cotton quilt and hard pillow, but don’t count on finding these everywhere. There may be a table, and you can always ask the lodge owner for a candle, but that’s usually the extent of the amenities. Some up-market facilities feature double beds, private toilets and hangers for clothing, but these are not common.
Beda are wooden bench-like structures with either a cotton or foam mattress, usually covered with a sheep that in the better establishment will be freshly laundered. The common toilet is usually in a shed outside; in most places it will be of the Asian squatting variety and will usually have tin for collecting for collection of used toiled paper, which the lodge keeper will burn rather than risk clogging up the loo. There will also be a bucket of water or a tap (Faucet) should you choose to clean up in the local manner- using your left hand. Most hotels keep their toilets surprisingly clean.
Trekkers seem to thrive on hot showers, so almost all lodges offer this facility. This is usually provided in a small shed with rustic plumbing which allow the one bucket of warm water you have been allocated to dribble over you. You should avoid those shower facilities that use wood firs to heat the water since this is a flagrant waste of a scarce resource. There are a growing number of solar-heated shower in the hills, and some lodges have a piping system that suns through the kitchen stove, automatically heating water at the same time food is cooked. Try to schedule your showers around these ‘green’ facilities. Americans should note that the door marked ‘bathroom’ leads to the shower; if nature is calling, shoose the door marked ‘toilet’.
Remember that all the trekking lodges are ‘mom and pop’ operations, with the owners trying their best to make your comfortable. Some lodge owners have had a bit of training from ACAP or the hotel training centre in Kathmandu, but most are operating from instinct and trying to manage with limited supplies and in somewhat primitive conditions. The reason so many lodges have copycat facilities and menus is because everyone imitates the most successful operation they have seen. Try to be gentle, helpful and understanding as you deal with hotel keepers. Your assistance and advice can help them improve their facilities and service, and thereby earn more money t support their families.
Although some hotels in the hills can conjure up fantastic meals, the standard diet is dal bhat or, at higher elevation, potatoes. Dal bhat twice a day for a month presents a boring prospect to the western palate, through its nutritious and healthy. On major trek routes, restaurants vary in standard from primitive to luxurious, and beer, Coke and other soft drinks are available at high prices. The menus are often attractive and extensive, but too often the menu represents the innkeeper’s fantasy of what they would like to serve, not what’s available. In bhattis and small hotels the choice almost always comes down to rice, dal, potatoes, pancakes and instant noodles. If meat is on the menu, it will be usually be chicken. Goat, mutton or buffalo meat is sometime available, but never beef. In accordance with Hindu tradition, the cow is sacred in Nepal.
On the major trek routes the menus are extensive and some hotels cooks can turn out some surprisingly good western-style meals. Apple pie appears in many menus, and most hotels can produce something resembling a pizza, but they are hindered by a limited supply of ingredients and spices, and recipes are passed along by word mouth, often losing something in the translation. Don’t get your hopes too high in you order one of the exotic dishes; moussaka, for example (often listed on a menu under Mexican food), could turn out to be anything.
Don’t drink tap water or stream water anywhere. Instead, stick to soft drinks, bottled water, beer, or water you have purified your-self. It can be difficult to get boiled water on a trek. Ask an innkeepers if the water is boiled and they will assure you that it is, even if it is just been taken from the river. This response illustrates several unusual facets of Nepali culture and personality. Most hill people do not understand germs. They accept good-naturedly the desire of westerners that their drinking water be boiled, but few people understand why. They often believe that westerners like only hot water. Another consideration is that Nepalese like to please others and dislike answering any question negatively. So you get ‘yes’ answer to almost every question, particularly ‘Is this water boiled? In addition, hotels do not like to prepare boiled water because it uses fuel and takes up space on the stove – and they can’t charge for the service.
There are two easy solutions which ensure that you have same drinking water: a properly made cup of tea will be made with boiled water (though tea made with tea bags – as it sometimes is these days – may not); and treating water with iodine solves the problem in a way that does not consume scarce fuel. If you decide to sample chhang and rakshi, remember that chhang is made from water straight from the river, not boiled water.
Throughout Nepal a cup of tea is served with a large dollop of milk presweetened with sugar. If you want to avoid this, order ‘black tea’. A cup of tea in the trekking lodge is usually served in a glass. It takes a bit of practice to drink the hot tea without burking your finger. When the glass is made of stainless steel, you’ll probably have to break out your handkerchief in order to hold it.
If you want to avoid caffeine, try the herbal teas that are made in Nepal. Most hotels in the hills don’t supply them, but you can buy them most shops in Thamel, including Pilgrims book house. Another good caffeine –free drink is hot lemon, which is available everywhere.
In inns along the main trekking routes you can behave just as you would in any small hotel anywhere. In remote regions where the tea shops cater mainly to locals, you should take special care to follow the customs of the local. Staying out of the kitchen goes a long way towards this. Nepalis traditionally eats rice with their right hand and always wash their hands before and after eating. There is usually a water tap outside, or you may ask for a container of water that you can pour over your hands – outside the hotel. Many small bhattis will serve you a meal without providing eating utensils, but most can find a spoon if you ask.
Staying in a Nepali Home:
If you are in a particularly remote region where there are no tea houses, you can often arrange food and accommodation in private homes. You could also end up in a home if your guide has friends in a particular village, if someone is just opening a new lodge or in an emergency when you cannot make it to the next hotel. Thought it may appear that you are a guest, the householder always except that you will pay for your food and lodging. Prices are flexible in such situations, but usually the owner quote a fair price in the morning when you depart. They will, however, be shy and you will have to ask how much.
In a private home, you will probably have to wait until everyone else decides to go to before you can roll out your sleeping bag. Be sure to find out where the toilet facilities are, if they exist. Don’t dispose of garbage of any kind in the cooking fire. If there is a religious statue or altar, arrange your bed so your feet do not point in that direction when you sleep.
Beware of low doorways when you enter a house. It is said that a low doorway teaches you humility, but more often it can result in a nasty bang on the head.
The major services we are providing are: