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The Great Himalayan Trail

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

In the early days, Nepalis were bemused by large, tall westerners who came to Nepal just to walk from one village to another, up and down mountains, making treacherous river crossings—for no good reason.

Nepali villagers have to walk all the time: They walk to school and back, they walk the livestock to pasture, they walk carrying produce to market, they walk to get married and they walk to migrate for work in the city or to the plains. They walk because there is no other way to get from one place to another.

It was only later in the 1970s as the trekking industry caught on that we looked around us and realised just how stupendously beautiful this land of our birth was. Till then, what for the foreign trekker was breath-taking scenery was for Nepalis in the hinterland hardship, misery and isolation. We also learnt that trekking meant business, and the tourism industry created jobs for porters and an income source for owners of tea shops, lodges and transport companies.

But Nepal is going through accelerated change. There are now roads snaking up and down mountains and along rivers where trekkers used to trudge just a few years ago. The inaccessibility that protected Nepal’s trekking routes and the very isolation that gave them their unique charm is being steadily eroded by the march of modernity. You can’t stop this because if you ask Nepali villagers what they want the most, nearly everyone will say “a road.”

Happily, there are high passes, pristine valleys and remote villages in the Himalaya where we can still go to experience the “Old Nepal”: Nyingma Gyansen La between Mugu and Dolpo where you feel like there is no further you can go on this Earth, or peering down at the layers and layers of mountains from Tashi Labtsa Pass and contemplating infinity.

But trekking in Nepal has never been just about the scenery, it also about the people and how one travels along the traditional caravan routes, the rural trading trails, or the herders taking mountain goats to goths in the monsoon. It is along these trails that Nepalis and tourists visiting Nepal have formed a bond that goes back decades.

Traversing Nepal on foot along the Great Himalayan Trail is the last great adventure left in the world today. And it’s not just for mountaineers, any fit person with basic climbing skills can do it. You can walk it in segments, it’s not necessary to do the whole 160 days at one go. Robin Boustead’s book, “The Great Himalaya Trail: A Pictorial Guide,” will convince you that it is worth it.

But even here, among the remote wind-swept mountains, you can see the local effects of global climate change. The Himalaya is called the Third Pole, it is a sensitive thermometer that shows us these changes before they are visible elsewhere. The swelling Tso Rolpa lake in Rolwaling and the sight of receding glaciers from Tilman Pass remind us of the need to replace our carbon footprints with the oldest form of locomotion: Walking.

Walking the Great Himalaya Trail can give one a great sense of personal fulfillment for having accomplished such a physically arduous journey, but it will also give us the satisfaction for having helped Nepal’s most neglected and remote regions by generating employment and helping the local economy sustain itself. Beyond all that, the journey itself becomes a metaphor for a global harmony, the sense of one-ness of the people who inhabit this beautiful planet.

Excerpted from preface to The Great Himalayan Trail: A Pictorial Guide by Robin Bousted

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3 Responses to “The Great Himalayan Trail”

  1. DanielGajaraj on Says:

    The best depiction of Nepal- the picture showing Khagendra Thapa Magar walking wi a bunch of beauties.
    He should be our Mascot for all the time.
    A small man from a small country. ( apology to Romolu when assuming the charge of the UN general Assemby as he said so to himself.)
    We should know our place and be humble;then only we will be able to set our house in order.

    Small is beautiful.

  2. DanielGajaraj on Says:

    This is a great picture to project Nepal and its present situation. Smal lones attempt to advance towards modernity.
    let it herald the future to go ahead with our present glory If it still exists).
    Tet it be one of our poster for the VisitNepal Year 2011.

  3. DanielGajaraj on Says:

    This Khagendra’s is a great picture to project Nepal and its present situation. Small ones attempt to advance towards modernity.
    let it herald the future to go ahead with our present glory If it still exists).
    Tet it be one of our poster for the Visit Nepal Year 2011.

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