Followers of my blog may remember that my last documented holiday was a trip to Nepal in January 2012. I’m now eagerly counting down to my next Nepal trip starting 16th March, but there are other reasons for last night being a sleepless one. This time, I’m not alone. I have two pampered little boys from sheltered Singapore in tow. Shocked? No, I have no plans to march them into Everest Base Camp any time soon. In fact, I can even call this a sissy trip, with minimal walking/trekking and VIP treatment.
The classic Annapurna circuit (above) can be divided into two halves, separated between Muktinath and Manang by the Thorung La – a formidable mountain pass at an altitude of 5416m. Traditionally, trekkers would complete a circuit in about 18 days. Thorung La was the dividing line between the western and eastern sides. With rapid development in Nepal in recent years, the part of the circuit from Birethanti to Muktinath is now motorable. The road on the eastern part of the trail is still under construction as far as I know, but thanks to road transport, the circuit can now be done in half the time.
I chose the Annapurna region because the road is a quick and relatively inexpensive escape in case of “emergencies”. Our trip can be called “Annapurna On Wheels” and the level of comfort I’ll be experiencing on this trip will be unprecedented. Nepal today is very different from the Nepal I first saw in 1994. The lodges are a lot more comfortable these days and the toilets a lot less revolting. For the boys who grew up in sanitary Singapore, however, it’s still going to be quite a shock. While a part of me is hoping that the boys would enjoy such trips and follow me on future trips, another part of me is hoping that they would get a taste of life in the Himalayas and leave me alone to really rough it out on my future trips.
Can they appreciate all this? Evolutionary biologists have hypothesised that since humans evolved in a natural environment, they would have an innate affinity for scenic beauty. In other words, the ability to appreciate the beauty of the Alps or the Himalayas is wired into our genes. Before children are exposed to the wonders of urban living, they actually prefer to be surrounded by nature. After adults have grown tired of urban living, they may also seek natural beauty. But while it’s easy to get people from all walks of life to agree with me that my pictures of Nepal are beautiful, it would be a lot harder to share the exhilaration on location. I’ve spent years trying to convert couch potatoes into adventurers without much success.
I see a cultural bias in this evolutionary biologists’ theory. While it’s very common to find doctors, bankers and other professionals from the US, UK or Australia scrambling up a steep trail to catch a Himalayan sunrise, it won’t be easy to spot an Asian CEO doing the same. Why are equally pampered if not more pampered Westerners better able to adjust to challenging living conditions and cultural differences? Is it something about their genes? Or perhaps Asia has not experienced any hippy movement yet. Their wealthy have become disillusioned with their own values. Our wealthy are still singing praises for their ways.