March 2, 2022
When we talk about “Slow Travel” at Be Your Best we don’t just mean leaving lots of time to enjoy a destination, and we don’t just mean having time in the itinerary to do a gentle walk. Sometimes “Slow Travel” is about taking the time to pause, instead of pushing onwards because that’s what the schedule says.
Building flexibility into a tour is not easy, and is the opposite of what large travel companies aim for. They make the best money when everybody follows the same path, the same schedule and share the same experience. But when we travel, we want to leave room for everyone to have their own experience too. Instead of a one size fits all approach, we think the best way to travel is by making room in the schedule for people to do their own thing.
A pause in the afternoon, for example, while staying in an ancient village on the edge of the Mustang Kingdom. The village of Kagbeni has been standing for over a thousand years, so really there’s no rush to see it all in only a few hours. Take your time. There’s a coffee shop we love that overlooks the Kali Gandaki River. About ten years ago a salesman from Ily Coffee came through and sold his entire quota in this town, making it the most caffeinated square mile in Nepal! Some of the Tibetan families bake apple cakes and you can enjoy a fresh latte and a slice of something sweet while the snow-melt from the Annapurnas trickles past.
On the Slow Walking Nepal trip we take the time to pause in Kagbeni for four nights. We make short trips to see other villages during the times, and each night return to the same guesthouse. We’ve been using this accommodation since 2010. The family who run it are really lovely people.
One of our slow walks out of Kagbeni crosses over the Kali Gandaki and heads a short way upstream. The gradient is pretty gentle for most of the trail, but nonetheless we encourage people to take time to pause. There’s one section that dips low towards the moraine, and it’s easy to walk out across the glacially smoothed rocks and fine sand. Standing next to the river we get views of Kagbeni behind us, a modest cluster of wood and stucco looking down from the cliff edge. We pause to admire this ancient outpost, and the snow-capped peaks of Nilgiri that rise high above in the background.
This particular trail has an easy part and a hard part. It’s the most challenging section of the tour in fact, which is one reason we save it for the last half of the tour. The wide trail stops in a tiny village with barely a dozen homes, then turns into a narrow switchback that ascends steeply towards a very special temple.
Not every one of our guests will tackle this trail. Some will prefer to pause in town and wait for lunch instead. We have extra guides with us, so if one couple decide they’ve enjoyed the gentle walk and want to return to Kagbeni, we can send them back with a guide to follow.
This temple trail looks daunting for sure, but we take it slowly. We do a few turns of the trail, then take a seat and rest. It’s not a race. Some of us start getting tight calves and need to pause to stretch them out. Sometimes it’s the lungs that struggle to draw in enough oxygen. It’s not like we do this every day, so we take it slow and take time to pause whenever we feel like it. The temple isn’t going anywhere, and we have all the time in the world.
When we think of “mobility” we often think about “how far” we can walk, but we forget to factor in “how fast”. The faster you go the more likely that plantar fasciitis will kick back at you, or the quicker your lung capacity will drag you to a halt. By slowing down your walking, and taking time to pause along the way, many of us find we can maximise our mobility and our comfort. That’s why we design the Be Your Best itineraries to allow you to go slow, and take a break when needed.
That’s also why we have extra guides, so we can be flexible. If a few people are feeling especially eager they can race on ahead. We’ll send another guide ahead with them to open up the gates and talk to the llama in charge.
The rest of us take rests as needed, and slowly slowly we work our way to the top. That final few steps is something special for many of our guests. They maybe didn’t realise themselves that they could do it. They likely debated turning around several times before now. By taking time to pause when they felt like it, they turned a steep ascent into a series of small wins.
And their reward is one of the most stunning views anywhere in the Annapurnas. And then we pause some more. A breeze rolls through the willows and a giant chorten. The temple itself is humbling, as are the views. Time stands still for us up there, for as long as we want it to.
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