In December 2010, following a 4½ year hiatus from Himalayan trips, we were back in Nepal for 2 months. By a stroke of serendipity (and diligent googling), we engaged Dhawa Gyanjen Lama to take us into the recently opened area of Tsum, to the northeast of 8000-meter Mt. Manaslu. It was a much-needed dose of simplicity, openhearted living and walking and gawking in the big mountains.
With a couple of porters and our enthusiastic guide Dhawa Gyalgen Lama, a local Tsumba and partner in the trekking agency, we spent a month on the trail in this “hidden valley” where animals are not killed and where, it is said, obstacles “spiritual and otherwise“ have been removed. There are 26 Buddhist monasteries, including the cave where the Buddhist saint Milarepa meditated in the 11th century. We made it up to the top of the 5093 meter-high pass that marks the border of Tibet. The route is well travelled by the locals who are allowed to go with their pack animals as far as Kyirong (a 3 hour walk from the pass) to buy ubiquitous Chinese goods.
We had a wonderful experience. We encountered no other foreigners. This was December after all, and getting rather cold at night, and the 170 trekkers who came to Tsum in 2010 were long gone. There are still no teahouses or lodges. The best part of our experience was sleeping in peoples’ houses. It’s a concept that Stephen Bezruchka has been preaching ever since he wrote Nepal’s first trekking guide book in 1972. This way, you interact with the locals who in turn benefit directly. Usually, the money stays with a Kathmandu or foreign outfitter that pays a minimal camping fee but basically, contributes little else but garbage to the community. As the Tsumba welcome the introduction of tourism, they are wary of its negative impacts to culture, environment and way of life.
In addition to stills, we shot HD video footage for a future Himalayan cutural/environmental documentary.
The second part of our excellent adventure in January was spent in Khumbu in the company of Sonam Tashi, his mom Nim Phutti, Ang Nima, and other Kunde friends. Sonam is now 21, and nearing completion of a hotel management program in KTM. Sonam’s resemblance to his father Lhakpa Tshering brought back many fond memories.
Hit this link for Khumbu photos. In between treks, we were graciously hosted by Frances Klatzel in KTM. Frances and other friends operate CORE International, an NGO whose beneficiaries include some of the most disadvantaged people in Nepal.