Sometimes reading a book in a hammock just doesn't cut it. More and more people are looking to add meaning to their travel and some emotional depth to their holidays. International charity, First Steps Himalaya, understand this and have created a range of unique adventure holidays, where people can make a real contribution while spending time in a memorable destination.
First Steps Himalaya (FSH) runs a range of great adventure holidays to support its work in rural Nepal with children in disadvantaged communities, including early childhood and school support projects in 18 rural villages. Since the first project began, just over five years ago, hundreds of children have benefited from improved teaching methods.
Founding Director of First Steps Himalaya, Durga Aran, plans and coordinates each adventure personally. Durga’s amazing capacity to make everything run smoothly combined with his knowledge, passion and infectious smile make this tour unique and unforgettable. His ability to cope with almost anything comes from his tough upbringing in rural Nepal. He faced numerous challenges as a child and young man which has only strengthened his desire to lead an organisation which would give young Nepali people a chance at a childhood and education that he missed out on.
Begin your charitable adventure in Nepal's capital, Kathmandu where you can visit the ancient Buddhist stupa at Bouddhanath. Admire the beautiful prayer flags, and watch as Tibetan refugees turn prayer wheels whilst surrounded by clouds of burning incense and sounds of the mantra ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’.
Breakfast is served at a rooftop café looking down on the colourful cultural feast that sits below. Then, take your time to shop for prayer flags, Tibetan thanka paintings, singing bowls, prayer wheels or meditation music CDs. In the evening, there is one of several group meals in a Kathmandu restaurant, renowned for its excellent cuisine.
Then travel to an outdoor adventure resort close to the Tibetan border. No one would expect such a welcoming retreat to sit on the other side of a suspension bridge strung across a 160 metre deep gorge. People come here to bungy jump off the bridge or join the activities on a Family Adventure weekend.
If adventure's not your thing, escape to the tranquil side of the resort to completely unwind. Stay in a luxury tented camp set in lush gardens with huge butterflies and tropical plants. At night, the sound of cicadas humming and the rushing water of the Bhote Khosi river below will lull you to sleep.
After a restful sleep, embark on a three night jungle safari in Chitwan National Park. Enjoy an early morning canoe ride with knowledgeable guides then experience being cooled down by young elephants as they playfully spray trunkfuls of water over you.
To really get the blood flowing, join a Great Adventure Trek. The treks are tailor-made to suit each group and can be anything from a five night trek in the stunning Annapurna range to longer high altitude treks for more experienced walkers. Great Adventures take great pride in offering great quality service throughout your trek. The English speaking guides really look after you and ensure your experience is one to remember. Each day, the trek offers new challenges and stunning views of rice fields, rhododendron forests and panoramic mountain vistas. The treks support sustainable tourism by staying in village lodges ensuring economic benefit to local people. These lodges are hand-picked and offer good food with traditional Himalayan hospitality giving you a taste of true Nepali culture. All you have to carry is your camera and day pack.
Following the treks, relax at a luxurious spa resort in Pokhara set on a picturesque lake with the backdrop of some of the world’s highest mountains. Pokhara is the adventure sports capital of Nepal, offering breathtaking views and a relaxing holiday atmosphere. There is something for everyone, paragliding and rafting for the adventurous, boating, cycling and day hikes or more leisurely relaxing at one of the numerous lakeside cafes. Browse for trinkets, have a massage or take a dip in the pool in the resort’s stunning grounds.
Walk across rice terraces to attractive traditionally built, stone and mud lodges offering welcoming homestay accommodation. A wooden staircase leads to the simple earth floored bedrooms, your home for the next few days. There is a western toilet and shower room outside. First Steps Himalaya has recently invested in a hot water system here, which is a real luxury in this area.
Food is hygienically prepared and there are large platefuls of traditional Nepali food, dal bhat tarkari (rice, mild vegetable curry and lentils).Whilst the women of the house conduct Nepali cooking lessons over the open fire in their kitchens, their husbands hover over the dining table ensuring everyone is happy and well fed. They find great delight in telling stories about their culture and pride accents their every word.
Sunrise is the perfect time to observe village life around you. The villagers tend to their goats and buffalo, collect water and prepare for the day. After an al fresco breakfast, visit the First Steps Himalaya project schools. Paint brushes are handed out to the travellers and within a couple of hours the group have transformed what was a neglected learning space into a colourful classroom. Trained school and pre-school teachers on the trips are invited to conduct training workshops for local staff. Other guests can help to create outdoor play spaces, teach English and make resources for classrooms.
Waking up to watch the sun rise over the mountains, meditating, talking to the locals and helping to make a real difference is hard to leave behind. Often guests at each house boast that their hosts were the best! The genuine warmth and hospitality offered by these villagers is touching and many guests remain in contact with their host family from even once they've returned home. Everyone goes away with a piece of the village in their heart. Pack tissues, as it's not unusual to shed a tear when saying your final “Namaste” and departing Kathmandu for home.
Make your next holiday count and escape to somewhere new, while supporting the education of Nepali children. Whether you choose to embark on a family adventure, yoga retreat or challenging trek, you can still make a difference.
If you're interested in holidaying with First Steps Himalaya, contact experienced travel consultant,
Ailsa Wilson, at Yee & Turner Travel Associates by phoning 1800 053 356.