Devoted to Promote tourism in Nepal
So close, yet so far! Helambu region just north of Kathmandu is home of the Hyolmo Sherpa community that very few Nepalis have traveled to. Every year, me and my family, try to trek to one of the remotest regions of Nepal to enjoy and learn more about our nation with its bountiful diversity. This time, we chose the beautiful Helambu region.
We took a taxi (cab) to Sundarijal through Chabahil- Boudha and started our first exhausting uphill stairs climb just besides Sundarijal hydro (built in 1934 AD). We must say we took a flight of steps to reach the top of the Shivapuri hill (we term 2000 meter mountains actually hills in Nepal) passing through Mulkharka. As we descended on to the other side towards Chisapani, rain started pouring. The rain changed into hailstorm by the time we reached our hotel at Chisapani (locally known as Chisopani); we considered ourselves lucky to have avoided that. At night, we had Dal-bhat for dinner and mingled with few travelers returning from Gosaikunda-Langtang region to get information on the route and places of notice beyond.
Starting day with tea and Tibetan bread (basically a distinct deep-fried wheat flour) for breakfast, we headed down to Pati Bhanjyang. We passed by many demolished houses by the earthquake and made our way through Thaakune Bhanjyang after which we started another tough climb towards Chipling. At Chipling, we had lunch at hotel where a religious rite was going on. The local Tamang community was in merry with “Chhang” (local wine) enjoying the festivities with local horns and drums beating while others were chanting Buddhist sacred texts.
At around midday, we headed up towards Gol Bhanjyang. And it started raining again. It was like heavy clouds were following us, walking with us. The rain was a respite since after such a long dry season. As the sky was cleared after the rain, we chanced upon the magnificent Himalayas for a brief glance. Delicious Thenthuk in our dinner kept us warm in the cold rainy night.
Third day, we started our walk on a cloudy day again. We climbed up to a ridge above Kutumsang. In about 2 hours we reached Kutumsang, a small Sherpa village bordering the districts of Nuwakot and Sindhupalchowk. Hotels there were demolished in the earthquake but reconstruction was going on. I am sure the charm of being in Kutumsang will return soon. As we made our way past the army checkpoint, we walked up to Sano Ghopte and we could feel the altitude wearing us down as we neared Mangen Goth at 3285.
At Mangen Goth, we stayed at Greenview Hotel, a newly reconstructed one after it suffered damage from the earthquake. It was cold up there yet the views of rhododendrons of various colors from pink to red to white enthralled us. “Dal Bbhat Power, 24 hour power.” was obvious for dinner.
We started our morning through the majestic rhododendron filled forests as we climbed the ridge to view the Gosainkunda and Langtang ranges. We were dazzled by the superb display of rhododendrons across every step of our journey to Tharepati. With clouds below us and mists rising around us constantly, we felt ‘lucky’ to be in a serene walk ‘on’ the clouds. With pristine, quietness punctured only by birds making their music, the walk was for me more of a meditation. This misty walk was filled with pink to red to white rhododendron flowers all along. Even the fallen leaves on our paths had turned bright yellow from the rains in the earlier days. At an elevation higher than 3000 meters, we could feel the need to breathe faster. We slowly made it out to Tharepati (3660m), the highest point of our Helambu trek. Breathing at Tharepati meant only 65% of the oxygen was available than at sea level.
We enjoyed the view across Tharepati to Gosaikunda range. Even a strolling yak enthralled us. After a 2 hour break, we descended upon a steep ravine for 3 hours to reach the first of the famed villages of Helambu. There we stayed with a local homestay as all the hotels were destroyed by the earthquake a year ago. We listened with wonder how the village had come together after the earthquake to rebuild their lives.
In the morning we took a nice tour around the spiritual relics of the Melamchi Gaun. The wheat fields were about to be harvested and potato and garlic grew bountiful in the gardens in front of each houses there. We inquired in a local ‘boarding’ school where students from all over Nepal apparently came to study. It was inspiring to see them studying and staying at tents while their school was to be rebuilt. We wished the teachers all the best and then descended upon the famed “Melamchi” river which millions in Kathmandu valley (58 kms) away are still counting upon to get their water supply after 20 long years. We reached the river in about 2 and half hours as some of us were not so well so we all took time going down. At the river we bathed, and enjoyed the cold Himalayan waters from the strong summer sun.
After lunch, we started climbing up to Tarke Ghyang, one of the biggest villages in Helambu. Our climb was dotted with “mane”, small Buddhist stupas along the way welcoming us every few hundred meters of climb or so. At one point I was startled by a passing deer in the forest.
We reached Tarke Ghyang after seven hours to find a tightly packed village, hard hit by earthquake. The Helambu villages was much warmer compared to the nights at Gol Bhanjyang and Manen goth Our host for the night was a wonderful Sherpa family who had 4 daughters and two sons. It seems every family in these villages had someone working somewhere out of Nepal. Our host-family also had two daughters working outside Nepal. I long for the day when all these bright young people can come back and lead their families, their culture and their societies.
We set out to Shermanthang another big Hyolmo Sherpa village at around 9:30 am. It was a pleasant walk with no uphill and downhill which had plagued us in the earlier days along forests dotted with “stupas” and Buddhist scriptures sculpted on stones. We had lunch at Ghyangul village located halfway through (about 2 hours from Tarke gyang). The owner had lost three members of his family at the earthquake yet was quietly busy rebuilding a nice small lodge.
We reached Shermanthang around two in the afternoon where we stayed at another homestay. Phurpa Sherpa and his family were a lively bunch and it was nice to see grandparents, parents and children all together! Among the Helambu villages, Sherman Thang most probably has great panoramic views of the Himalayas and its worth spending the mornings and evenings viewing the mountains as the sun rises and sets.
Our last day began with a superb display of the mountains in the north. A reward for seven day long hard walk ! The Himalayas just opened up to give a fine farewell as we walked down at around 7:30 in the morning on a long walk down to meet the modern world with the modern amenities. After an hour or two, it becomes a race to the bottom to meet the place through which you can go back to Kathmandu. After six long hours of hard walk we reached Melamchi pul bazaar where two rivers, Melamchi and Indrawati converged. From Melamchi, we got back to the same old routine, back to our daily life, back to Kathmandu. In Kathmandu, our eyes were dazed at so many bright lights on the streets in the night. Because our eyes were habituated with the darkness with lights only up in the sky for the week.
In essence, our Helambu trekking trip was a visual delight of colors of nature not just the Himalayas that travelers usually seek. During late spring, forests come alive with rhododendrons of various colors. White mists regularly rose upon the colorful forests to literally take our breath away. In addition, the warm hospitality and humbleness of local “hyolmo” Sherpa community despite suffering through the terrible earthquake, made our hearts warmer and minds calmer. For me the long walk across a trail with Buddhist relics sprawled, for many hours a day, became more of a spiritual healing. And all along, I couldn’t help contemplate.
(An entrepreneur by profession, Ujwal Thapa along with his family, every year, treks to one of the remotest parts of Nepal to understand the country better. Also a chairperson of Bibeksheel Nepali Party, Thapa’s Nepal travel diaries can be read on www.whynepal.com )
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