The Himalayan chain rose in the last 30 – 40 million years, as the continental plate of India pushed in under Asia. It stretches for 2800km in a west-northwest to east-southeast direction forming a crescent arc from Afghanistan in the west to Burma (Myanmar) in the east. Beginning near Mount Kailash, the Indus River flows west and turns south around Nanga Parbat (8125m) Pakistan. The Yarlung Tsangpo River rises to the east of Mt Kailash and flows eastwards to Namche Barwa before turning south (and becomes the Brahmaputra River). These rivers roughly embrace the Himalayan chain: which contains all 14 of the earth’s 8000m peaks. One third of this range lies along Nepal’s northern border and includes 8 of the giants.
Explorers, trekkers and “borderholics” have long gazed wistfully at the remote mountain valleys that border Tibet. These regions have been “off limits” for many decades as they offer easy access to the high trade passes into the land that wished to remain closed to the countries to the south. Occasional visitors returned with stories of a Shangri La steeped in the unknown Tibetan culture.
The fabulous and varied scenery of high altitude deserts and mysterious hidden valleys in the dry western Upper Dolpo and Upper Mustang regions contrasts to the deep jungle gorges of Manaslu and the forested valleys below Kangchenjunga’s massive bulk.
Altitude and climate has played its part in determining the mix of peoples who inhabit these regions: broadly speaking, Hindus in the lower valleys and Buddhist cultures higher up with overlaps developing with time. Trekking in the wilderness areas is as much a cultural experience as a physical and visual one.
In October 1991 Nepal’s Home Ministry finally announced the opening of the restricted areas. The first to open were Inner Dolpo and Nupri – the region north of Manaslu. In 1993: Upper Mustang and then the western Humla region (allowing cross border treks to Tibet’s Mt. Kailash). The mysterious Nar Phu valley (and a former settlement of Khampa Tibetan armed rebels) was opened in 2002.
Our wilderness treks follow ancient caravan and animal trails, and offer the ultimate opportunity of exploring cultures that have been largely untouched by ‘modern civilization’. The Kangchenjunga, Makalu, Ganesh Himal and Rolwaling Valley trails are particularly stimulating both in their variety of landscape, fauna and flora, as well as the rich local cultural heritage. Consider these treks as special, if rougher, alternatives to the crowded Annapurna, Langtang and parts of the Everest trails.
Manaslu trek of Manaslu region “Mountain of the Spirit,” rises above the foothills of the Gorkha District west of Kathmandu. Its villagers are Gurungs, a Tibeto-Burman people who practice Buddhism; with influences of Hinduism in the lower hills. In the Upper Tsum Valley Trek
Kangchenjunga Base Camp Trek is geographically and culturally superb. Fly from Kathmandu to Biratnager in the lowlands and up to Suketar. The trail drops, through terraced farmlands and forests to the village of Mitlung on the Tamor River and then follows the river to the picturesque cluster-village of Chiruwa.
Highlights of Tsum vvalley include the village of Chhekampar with its stone houses and slate roofs, Milarepa’s cave, Mu Gompa and Rachen Gompa to the south has nuns of the Ngak-pa sect. Gumba Lungdang is another important nunnery where trekkers are welcomed at the evening puja. Their 360o views are amongst the best on the trek.