Throughout this pandemic, which is now dragging on well into it’s second year, I’ve tried to play it relatively safe. Well, as safe as one can while traveling. I stayed in Adelaide, Australia for five months as I watched to see the patterns of lockdowns around the world and where might be the safest place to visit. I traveled to only a few locations, avoiding situations like transits, big cities, constantly moving to new countries, and even areas with strict governments. Up until now, my plans had been going perfectly but finally, my good run of luck has come to the end. I’m locked down.
After six months on the island of Madeira in Portugal and then a further 2.5 months in Tanzania, I thought I had it all figured out. Pick countries with fewer restrictions and only go to rural areas for hiking. My next stop was 2-3 months in Nepal, where I had secured a trekking visa that gained me entry into Nepal. I arrived with no problems and thought I was in for a great period of trekking with hardly any tourists on the usually popular trekking circuits of the Himalayas.
Three days into my first trek, the Manaslu Circuit, Kathmandu had a full lockdown and even Nepal was pretty well locked down as a massive covid outbreak due to neighboring India had occurred. From a few hundred cases a day to 8,000 cases a day within a week or so and the country was in chaos. Luckily we were able to finish our trek but as soon as we got back to Kathmandu (after passing through 10 police Covid checkpoints, we were stuck.
The airport was fully closed for a month at least if not more. The rules were you cannot leave the hotel at all unless you were going to the pharmacy or grocery store nearby. Luckily, the owners at Hotel Mulberry allowed me to stay as long as I needed in their luxury hotel with a pool, rooftop, and gym. There were just three staff and no cleaners. For the first few days, it was just me in the nine-story hotel. A couple of small groups dripped in after a week or so but it was mainly just five or less in the hotel the whole time.
The plan was to leave Nepal as the lockdown looked like it would extend for more than a month and I didn’t fancy being stuck in the hotel for that long. Luckily, there were a few charter flights being organized. However, they were chaos. With 3,000+ tourists stuck in Nepal who all thought they deserved to be on the first flights out, there was lots of bribery, corruption, and bullshit going on behind the scenes. Tourists were told to put their names on lists but then a certain embassy would have priority for an entire flight rather than working through the list. In the end, tourists got sick of the list and lined up at the offices to book in person with the frazzled booking agencies. It was a debacle but somehow I managed to get on the third flight out thanks to my local contacts. If you can’t beat ’em, join them.
Being stuck in this fancy hotel was actually okay. Firstly, I had lots to create on my computer after coming back from two weeks without my computer. I put together the huge Manaslu Circuit Trek blog guide, a 15-minute long video of the trek, a drone highlights reel video of the trek, edited a couple hundred photos and got busy on social media. After that, I still had about a week to tackle some existing blog posts and other work that needed attending to.
Each day I would hit the hotel gym, sit about by the pool for a bit if it was sunny and enjoy a coffee or two. It was basically the best possible situation to find myself in during a lockdown and I’m very lucky. it’s also not lost on me that I am with such privilege to be able to throw down a couple thousand on a charter flight and just get out rather than the millions of people enduring the pandemic here in Nepal and other places around the globe.
I feel as though I’m traveling pretty responsibly and am often out in nature. I hardly interact with anyone and lead a very ‘lonely’, socially distanced life during this pandemic. Solo travel protects you from many situations of large groups, indoor gatherings and chances to catch or pass a virus.
So, I’m currently still in Kathmandu but am apparently flying out on the 22nd of May. I’ll believe it when I see it! I haven’t touched my camera since the Manaslu Circuit Trek but here are a few beautiful mountain peaks from the trek I’ve just edited over the last few days.