Long gone are those times when human beings actually had to fight against all the odds to mark their existence and eat anything they could possibly find to let the generations flourish. We have passed the stone age and hunting era way back when ‘Survival Of The Fittest’ didn’t much sound like a myth. We no longer have to fear to get eaten by the wild, wear bark of the trees or even live in the caves. Civilizations developed, humanity started to make sense and look at us now, we rule the world. Tormenting the animals for food, clothes and any other way of life is no longer a compulsion. And with time, a lot of people are actually choosing a compassionate lifestyle, by shifting towards Veganism.
However, numerous vegans are still wondering if traveling or trekking is easily possible for them or not. This bewilderment pulls them down to killing their screaming desire to travel. Let me answer a question for you, YES… You can be a vegan and travel in Nepal.
But let us first know, what is veganism and who are vegans?
Veganism is not a religion but a lifestyle where people abstain from all kinds of animal products. Vegans, obviously, are the people who practice veganism. I see a lot of people confusing vegans for vegeterians. Vegeterians do not eat meat, poultry or fish. But in addition to these, vegans do not even consume eggs, honey, dairy and all the other animal products like fur, wool, leather, silk, soaps, cosmetics or any other things derived from animals or animal products. Mostly, animal lovers are the ones who turn Vegans, as they would not want to be a part of the torture enforced to the animals and their unceasing suffering.
An Insight Into Nepal
A little sandwiched nation between China and India, that will awestruck you with the variations in culture, landscapes, geography, elevation ranging from 70-8848 meters, rich flora fauna, religious sites, extremely hospitable people, the handsome Himalayan range, beautiful lakes, amazing food and what not! A Perfect trekkers destination!
This nation, due to the various religious reasons, is very familiar with the concept of vegeterianism. The influence of Hinduism causes many to go meatless their entire life or even a few days a month or week (like Ekadasi). The national animal being cow, the slaughtering of them is also considered a great crime. Apart from the obvious, what most people may not know is that, as we march towards the higher altitudes, the religious Buddhism beliefs forbid the slaughtering of animals and they strictly do not cut animals in the territory. This can be noticed during the Everest Trekking Route, Annapurna circuit trekking, Upper Mustang trekking and many more. The meat there has to be transported a long way on khachhars, porter's back or even vehicles (if roads available), so don't expect the meaty delicacy up there. Take a long relieving breath, the best trekking routes follow this tradition.
Now, The Tips Before You Trek.
1. Do some research
Before you step into any foreign land, it is strongly advisable to do some research, and by research I mean genuine research. Contact people who have already been to the place, look for blogs, learn the vegans traveling experiences. Don't be naive.
2. Do your homework
This will be a life saver. Do not forget to learn the native useful words that you will probably need to explain yourself, for not everyone in the remote places may understand you elsewise. Learn to say words like: 'vegeterian' – 'sakahari' , 'I don’t eat’ – ‘Ma Khadina’', 'meat'- 'masu', and the name of the local dishes in native language.
3. Talk to people
In Nepal, you need to talk people if you want to clearly explain what you need. A lot of dishes in Nepal are found both vegeterian and non vegeterian so specify it clearly. Also, don't forget to ask if the dishes include any dairy products as a lot of dishes may include a pinch a ghee/ butter.
4. Backpack with a snack pack
Always carry a pack of snacks or any food especially during a trek. And don't ask why. That's your emergency kit.
5. Have a friend
Be friends with people on your trek who can help translate things for you. It shouldn’t be so hard to find unless you go places on off trekking seasons. Also, trekking with a companion won’t hurt.
6. Look for natural food stores
A healthy tip as I would call it, always give priority to the raw natural food. You can find several fruits available in different seasons. Try to find such healthy fruits (if in season) and hover on it. That's very healthy and most importanty, Vegan.
7. Other products
There may be toiletries like soap, shampoos, warm winter clothes, etc that you might have a doubt about. Make sure you carry these on your own. It’s simple. You carry things on trek.
Scene In The City
No matter where you plan to travel/ trek in Nepal, it’s eminent that you have to hit Kathmandu, or you might as well strike Pokhara after that. The point is, Kathmandu, as well as Pokhara are the huge trade hubs with massive availabilty of goods, clothes and all sorts of products. Regarding food, these places are completely safe for vegans. You can find several vegeterian/vegan restaurants. Also, the other restaurants have dishes that you can feed on. It may also not be so difficult to find atleast one non animal tested products, clothes, cosmetics, soaps, shampoos, eateries for the trek like dry fruits, sattu (healthy plain flour from various grains eaten by mixing with water), oreos, dairy free biscuits, noodles, etc. Just be cautious and have an open eye.
Trekking Styles In Nepal
Basically there are two types of trekking styles in Nepal. One is Tea House treks and Camping treks, the other. Camping trek, as the name suggests, is the trek where you need to carry everything by yourself, from tent to food to toiletries, etc. If you are planning to explore extreme off beaten paths, camping treks are for you. However, if you are planning to hit up the popular trekking destinations, the routes are touristy and you will easily find tea houses to accomodate for the night, also feeding you warm and proper with great hospitality.
What You Can Eat During The Trek
1. Dal Bhat:
The staple diet and the ultimate food for soul of all the Nepalese is Dal Bhat. A typical Thakali khana set mostly serves Bhat(cooked rice), dal(boiled lentils), curry(cooked vegetables) and achar(pickles). Some places may not serve you with achar. But wherever you go, trust me, This is the best, most accessible, tasty and highly energising main course that will fill you all day long. No wonder they say 'Dal Bhat power, 24 hour'.
2. Dhindo and Gundruk :
Dhido and gundruk, is another famous Nepali dish which is also a staple diet of many mountaineous people where rice is hard to grow. Dhindo is simply a thick porridge which can be of millet flour, cornmeal or buckwheat flour cooked with salt and water. Gundruk (fermented leafy green vegetables) is a side dish which is served with dhido. These are the flavours of the gorkha land.
3. Tibetean Bread:
Tibetean Bread is simply a flat bread which is made by preparing a smooth dough of flour, baking powder, salt and water; Then cooked on a frying pan by adding little oil. Some even deep fry it in oil. It is mostly served as breakfast with jam or local pickle.
4. Phaapar ko roti:
Phaapar ko roti is a Buckwheat bread and a common dish in the mountain region. The light pink buckwheat fields are a sight to look at. This is another healthy food to keep you tummy full for proper hours. It is served with pickles or vegetable curry.
5. Tsampa :
Tsampa, the famous tibetean/Himalayan dish, is the roasted barley flour which can be eaten with water or butter tea or even beer sometimes. If you are a vegan, do request not to serve it with butter tea and you're good to go. Tsampa porridge is also prepared in a lot of places.
6. Vegetable Soup :
Another easy, accessible and healthy dish to eat would be vegetable soup. Perfect to counter the cold as well. The trekking routes easily serve you with soups.
7. Vegetable Thukpa/ Thenduk :
Thukpa, is a noodle soup which originated in Tibet. However, it is a popular dish in Nepal as well. Thenduk means hand pulled noodle soup. Vegeterian thukpa/ thenduk is cooked by mixing several spices, chilli powder, masala, vegetables, etc in the noodles
8. Vegetable Momos :
The popular trekking trails offer several varieties of dishes. Momos, the almost national food of Nepal, are basically dumplings stuffed with vegetables. Make sure you ask for vegetable momos as the stuffings may contain meat. Momos are served with achaar, which are an absolute delight for the belly.
Nepal is a tea loving country. There is not a single place which will not serve you with tea. The early morning starts with tea. So anytime and anywhere, tea is your best companion. You can also find coffee, chhang, apple brandy, local alchohol, beer, etc in the trails. Tongba is another fun thing to try. Along the Annapurna trail, Mustang Coffee (Coffee mixed with alcohol) is very famous.
10. Raw fruits :
Although the mountain region is known for very limited cultivation, if you are in proper season, you get to eat the local organic fruits available like apples in the spring season. Besides, several dried and flavoured fruits can also be found in some trails. Gulp in the seasonal fruits.
So these the dishes in the higher altitude trekking routes. The food options keep increasing with the declining elevation. Also, the city areas have wide variety of options with fancy restaurants as well. Happy Trekking!