Tell us a bit about you and your father. Was this your first father-daughter trip?
My father and I live in Los Angeles, California. I was born and raised in the United States, while my father immigrated from South Korea in 1973. When my dad eased into semi-retirement, he started exploring local trails in his spare time. I quickly joined in, and since then we've shared many great hiking experiences: Half Dome in Yosemite, Mount Whitney (the highest peak in the contiguous US) in the John Muir Wilderness, and countless others.
While hiking in the local mountains last year, my dad had an accident that landed him in the hospital. Thankfully, he recovered quickly and was soon back on the trails. But that incident was a wake-up call to us all, that good health is nothing to take for granted. This year my dad hit a milestone by turning 70 years old, so we decided to take on the challenge of visiting the mother of all mountain ranges, the Himalayas.
What types of travel are you most excited about?
I get really excited about outdoor and adventure travel. It allows me to do something different from my usual job (I'm a nurse practitioner) and pushes me physically and mentally. But there is definitely a time and a place for other types of travel - believe me, right after the Nepal trip, I was ready for an island beach vacation!
How did you first become interested in Nepal, and specifically the Manaslu Circuit. as your destination of choice?
The appeal for Nepal was primarily it's access to the Himalayas, perfect for epic mountain trekking, and the fact that its an English-speaking country. Since it was our first time in Nepal, I initially looked into the most well-known treks of Annapurna and Everest Base Camp. However, it became clear that both would be very busy in the month of October.
The Manaslu Circuit kept popping up as a great alternative - less famous, but equal to more popular routes in culture, majestic views, and physical challenge. Kimkim's site made it easy to get more information and eventually book the trip by connecting directly with a local agent. Quick shoutout to Amanda, who was always so prompt and detailed in responding to me. It was like having a local friend helping me prepare!
The Manaslu Circuit is known to be quite challenging. How did you prepare ahead of time?
This was the first time my dad had traveled outside the US for an extended time, and the first time we've done any overnight trekking, so it took months to prep our gear and get in shape. I took a backpacking class from a local outdoor shop and picked up some useful tips on how and what to pack. We packed and unpacked our gear about a dozen times to figure out what we really needed, and even then, I still brought a number of things that I probably could have left at home. In terms of training, we did a few peak-bagging hikes at 10-11,000 feet to help with acclimatization. But mostly, it was just staying physically active by going to the gym regularly and doing cardio.
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What part of your trek stands out as a favorite? Do you and your father have any memorable moments you'd like to share?
I really enjoyed our time in Sama Goan, where we spent one of our acclimatization days. It's a village rich in Tibetan culture and the extra time there allowed us to slow down and experience local life by meandering through yak pastures, drinking Chang (barley beer) at a villager's home, and watching the kids play for hours with milk crates. We also took a side hike up to Birenda Lake which is a beautiful glacial lake, and set up our own cairns amidst the multitude of others.
Larkya La Pass was also an exciting experience. The memory of sitting in the long dining hall at Dharamsala, elbow to elbow with other trekkers at 3 o'clock in the morning and feeling the anticipation of an amazing (but tough) day ahead while we ate our breakfasts is something I will never forget.
Were there any challenges along the way that you didn't anticipate?
As a first timer in Nepal, trekking the Manaslu Circuit came with a number of challenges. The hikes were long, but the real challenge was getting used to the trekking culture - staying in rooms with bare accommodations, trekking on minimal amounts of sleep, food (same choices at each tea house, and sometimes waiting 2 hours for meals), squat toilets. My dad ended up getting bronchitis midway through the trek, which made these minor inconveniences even harder on him physically. But in the end, all of the difficulties have become better stories to share.
Do you have advice for travelers interested in doing the Manaslu Circuit?
I would recommend that those who are considering trekking Manaslu should go soon. Like many treks in Nepal, the trails are being replaced with wider roads to allow cars, further changing the experience for the trekker. I'm told that soon Manaslu may be reduced to a 5-6 day trek.
Where are you planning to go on your next adventure?
Next destination will be laying on a beach in Hawaii!
Esther's trip was planned through kimkim by Amanda Delecca, our local travel specialist based in Kathmandu, Nepal. A big thank you to Esther for providing all of the photos accompanying this article!