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The expedition-style trekking routine
Luxury! Porters carry the supplies and the kitchen sink (!), sherpas put up the tents, and the kitchen crew serve 3 course meals. In fact if heading off the beaten track or even in the popular regions at peak season, this service isn't luxury - there is little alternative. It is a great way to trek and a good chance to get to know some of the local crew.
Food and routine
BYO marshmallows, caviar and champagne, we provide the rest. A Nepali cook accompanies us so we eat traditional dal bhaat occasionally - boiled rice and lentils with a mild veg/meat curry but mostly we have nutritious and substantial three course meals. We carry far too many tins, and use local produce where possible. The food is good, often superb, depending on the cook, but is cooked in a fairly basic manner, fried or boiled, as befitting cooking out in the wilderness. While the food isn't as good as you might expect at a good cheap restaurant at home, it certainly does the job and beats most gourmet dehy food.
Before breakfast expect bed tea to get you out of bed, and in the low country a bowl of water to have a quick wash, then you pack your kitbag, which is whisked away by a porter, and the tents are packed by the sherpas. Then it is breakfast time. We start with porridge, muesli, or occasionally rice pudding, then comes eggs (boiled, scrambled, fried) and a bread: toast, tibetan bread (a deep-fried chapatti), chapatti or pancake. To drink we have a choice of coffee, tea , chocolate and hot water for filling water bottles with drinking water for the day.
Walking and lunch
Generally we walk at a generally relaxed pace with plenty of time for photos and those important altitude breathers. Remember that the porters have 30kg loads and although they cope with them easily enough, it means that we don't walk very long distances - we have time to enjoy more than just exercise. The kitchen crew race off ahead, or at least keep up with us and around 11-12 stop and set up for lunch, which is mostly a 3 course meal. We begin with a drink, usually hot lemon or black tea and biscuits, ready as we stop, then relax until lunch proper is ready - one reason for not racing ahead while walking. This is usually some salad or boiled/stir-fried vegetables with potatoes, rice or bread and often some tinned meat or fish. There is plenty of food and more than enough for seconds, and even thirds. There is often a desert of fresh or tinned fruit. The crew also cook their own lunch, usually dal bhaat.
Arriving at camp
After the afternoon walk we arrive at camp usually between 3-5pm. The sherpas put up the tents, including the kitchen tent and the dining tent (although sometimes we use a lodge dining room instead), a hot drink and biscuits miraculously appear, and you have time to relax before dinner. Dinner is a 3 course affair with a light soup first (gotta get enough fluids) then a main course of vegetables with carbohydrate: potatoes (a sherpa favourite), noodles, rice, bread or similar, and often a meat dish, sometimes even fresh, when available. Desert is custard or fresh or tinned fruit, sometimes a cake if we can find a good excuse, followed by a choice of hot chocolate, tea, coffee and hot water (good for hot water bottles when cold!) We normally have a kero lantern or candles for light.
While you are welcome to read or play cards, chat etc, most people don't last too long before hitting the sack. The crew generally last longer than we do. The kitchen crew sleep in the kitchen tent, the porters under a rock, in a lodge or in the dining tent, the sherpas in the dining tent, and the sirdar usually has a tent of his own.
The tents we provide are spacious for two people and waterproof. Mostly we use dome tents from the North Face, Mountain Hardwear, Macpac etc, but sometimes we use the Nepali-made tents, which, with their cotton inners are warmer and don't generally frost up. We provide a sponge foam mattress and usually a closed cell foam mat too. You may want to bring your own Thermarest or similar.
All of the cooking for us and the main crew (sirdar, sherpas, kitchen staff) is done on large kerosene stoves, always.
Porters cook for themselves and when dead wood is plentiful prefer to use this; they are pyromaniacs who prefer to burn in hell than get cold and miserable. In the high country we reduce their numbers to the minimum and mostly we provide a kerosene stove for them, although often they can't be stopped from building hand-warming and small cooking fires. Wood is so natural to them; getting them to cook on anything other than wood is like saying to you use candles to light your house to save electricity.
We carry a toilet tent, sometimes two, with us. the sherpas dig a deep hole, and to 'flush' kick some dirt down. Occasionally when staying in villages we use the local lodge toilet.
For washing, in the warmer areas you are served a bowl of hot water in the morning, otherwise you can ask the sherpas any time at camp. For washing clothes they can also prepare some warm water, or indeed wash clothes for you.
We employ the best staff. The staff on our trips are paid more than the normal miserable wages - we expect more from them too. We truly care about them and work very closely with them (Jamie speaks Nepali). We also care about our porters and although we are not yet endorsed by the International Porter Protection Group (IPPG) we strictly follow their guidelines.