Pick-up games of soccer with beautifully scenic backdrops.

Contouring around large terraced rice fields.

Stopping at local shops where snacks, meals, and fresh veggies or fruits can be purchased.

Stepping aside for yaks carrying goods.

Porters carrying unbelievably large loads with walking sticks that conveniently double as a place to support the cargo weight at standing breaks.

We had a guide for a week in the beginning where it is required to pass checkpoints, and it was a great way to learn the customs and routines, but for the most-part, it isn’t necessary for travelers wanting a more independent experience. There is a Great Himalaya Trail Low Route Guidebook written by Linda Bezemer that can be found online as a free download. The low route is also described as the “cultural route” because it passes through the tiny villages in the lesser traveled parts of Nepal. To me, it feels like the real Nepal, versus the touristy one. I really enjoyed seeing how the families live and how the villages work as a whole to function.

We tented from time to time, but there are almost always guesthouses to stay at in villages, and they have more technology than we expected. Most had solar power that allowed for electricity and sometimes even a television at night that would get signal from a small satellite dish. Many people had smartphones that may not have been used in the village, but could play movies and music that may have been loaded in a larger town. Youth would even ask us to take selfies with them as we walked in villages. One night, in what we thought was a remote village with few resources, we were kept awake for hours with techno music blasting loud enough for the whole village to hear and partying into the night. Each day and village brought new and unique experiences that deepened the immersion and authenticity of the experience.

Although there is a guidebook for this area, it is not nearly as well traveled, so locals still see non-native people as a novelty. Locals are welcoming, and many know some English, or are accustomed to the routines of hosting in established guesthouses without being able to speak the same language. Some people may be apprehensive about visiting a third-world country where they don’t know the language, but it’s amazing how much can be communicated when neither know the other’s language. Enough people travel through that there is a routine. Yes, some may prefer to have a guide as a translator and may feel safer with a guide, but it is all about personal preference.

Most of our experiences were positive, but there was a combination of things that eventually had us make the decision to personally abandon our plans to hike the full length of Nepal and stop after the Everest Region. The experiences are different for everyone, but our trio always had at least one of us sick, seemingly with a strong parasite of some kind and requiring strong antibiotics. That took its toll mentally and physically over the month of hiking when combined with the physical exertion of high elevation hiking. The stomach issues took us down a peg, but that was to be expected.

The final decision to leave was an additional concern with being unable to find trustworthy guides in areas where we felt like we needed them. As thru-hikers, we wanted to do as much as we could independently and hire where needed along the way. That was easier said than done, and in the end, just added frustration and unease to the trip. That was a lack in preparation on our end, and I would encourage anyone going to be careful with who they choose as guides, be sure it’s someone who is truly qualified, and has your best interest at heart. We learned that as Americans, we were often seen as opportunities for making money, so we were sometimes told what we wanted to hear and promised things that couldn’t be produced. That is just something to be aware of while traveling, but can be prevented by hiring a trusted guide for the entire trip, which really isn’t too costly.

In the end, I encourage people with the time and interest, to explore options outside the common treks of Nepal. It’s a special adventure that can only be experienced off the beaten path.