TRAVEL: THE PLACE THAT CHANGED ME - PETER GORDON

The chef of Sugar Club and TV fame recalls the calming atmosphere of Nepal

I would love to say that the place that changed me is New Zealand, as it's where I'm from and every time I go back I fall in love with it all over again. But I think the place that has had the biggest impact on me has to be Nepal.

In 1986 I spent one year backpacking in Central and South-East Asia: Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Burma, then on to Bangladesh, Nepal and India. I arrived in Nepal on my birthday and the weather was so cold that I immediately went out and bought myself a birthday jumper.

There were people wandering around in sweaters and little woolly two- pieces. Having just spent several months in tropical climates, I welcomed the change. Kathmandu was full of lovely stone buildings which I hadn't seen for months - the architecture in all the previous places had been predominately of wood.

I remember this fantastic bakery where they made wonderful rustic bread and cottage cheese. Neither of these had been easy to come by on my travels so far. There were lots of aid workers stationed in the area and I think some of the Danish people had taken it upon themselves to show the locals how to make cheese.

From there I travelled to Pokhara where the big thing for backpackers was to go trekking in the Himalayas and the Annapurnas. I thought, oh no, I haven't come all this way to go on a bush walk. I can do that at home. But I ended up doing a 28-day trek through the Annapurnas and it was the most wonderful month.

I spent days walking alone, carrying my tent and gas bottle. I had more or less absolute solitude. Occasionally I would see a couple of people and walk with them for a few hours, then they would disappear and I might catch up with them a few days later. So there was no sense of isolation, just a peaceful solitude.

I'd stop off and make coffee in my billy-can. The only disconcerting thing was that I would occasionally see porters carrying huge crates off Coca-Cola up mountains to leave for tourists, only to have to come back four days later to get the empties. It seemed strange to me that, surrounded by such scenery and such an unbelievable atmosphere, tourists couldn't do without their usual fixes.

I'm not what you might call a spiritual person but I found the scenery and the solitude moving. Having come from the busy working life of a chef in Australia to the bustle of big Asian cities, and then to travel alone in Nepal without really speaking to another person for days at a time was strange and wonderful.

Walking through the forests in the high country, the last of the rhododendrons were in bloom. Many of the Nepalese men wore brightly coloured hats and their donkeys had pink and blue feathers and bells on their heads. You could hear them approaching through the woods. Someone told me that Tolkien had once visited Nepal and when I thought about it, I did feel as if I was wandering through Hobbit land.

When I came down the other side into a town called Mustang I found apple orchards and hot pools. The town was peopled by Tibetan refugees who sold wonderful Tibetan dal, tea and momos (dumplings).

Overall I had certainly enjoyed better food in Malaysia and as a chef this was the place that perhaps shaped me the most. But as far as the way I look at life goes, it was Nepal that had the most profound effect. I vowed that I would return every four or five months but, terrible to admit, I haven't been back since. However, it is good to know that the place is out there and that such a sense of calm is attainable.

`Peter Gordon's Pacific Food' is at 1.30pm on Mondays from 10 January on Carlton Food Network, available on cable TV and ONdigital

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Bid Writer

    £25000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in Manchester, Lon...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £20,000 Uncapped

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Guru Careers: Membership Administrator

    £23K: Guru Careers: We're seeking an experienced Membership Administrator, to ...

    Day In a Page

    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific
    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    Dame Colette Bowe - interview
    When do the creative juices dry up?

    When do the creative juices dry up?

    David Lodge thinks he knows
    The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

    Fashion's Cher moment

    Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
    Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

    Health fears over school cancer jab

    Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
    Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

    Weather warning

    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
    LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

    High hopes for LSD

    Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
    German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

    Saving Private Brandt

    A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral