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.