While I have many travel fantasies, nothing matches up to trekking through the Dolpo along with the Yak Caravans. Dolpo is a region in the farthest regions in North West of Nepal. Located amidst the brutal mountainous ranges of Dhaulagiri, Dolpo is a region which has been isolated from the whole world. The scarce nature of the land along with the pristine beauty makes for some truly stunning photographs. The Dolpa, inhabitants of this stark landscape used to take an arduous journey every year. They loaded up their yaks with grain from their farming lands and trek upwards to the Tibetian plateau in the North.
First Stop: Upper Dolpa
The Upper Dolpa is one of the most inhospitable regions on planet Earth. Snow usually shuts out most of the mountain passes for a better part of the winter and it is usually only the summer months that they remain open. The trek from lower Dolpa to the higher reaches is dotted with juniper bush and silver birch. The trunks of these birch trees are used as bridges to pass some of the treacherous reaches. There are also a plethora of animals that you might discover along the way, snow leopards and Himalayan blue sheep.
Second Stop: With the Yak Caravan
Initially, this arduous journey was undertaken to exchange grains for salt. The Dolpa region was devoid of salt whereas the cold plateaus of Tibet were full of them. So post the farming season every year, they used to dress up their massive yaks and trek across the Himalayas to trade it for salt. Slowly, the need for salt has been replaced by fortified salt from India. But some of the locals still prefer the sea salt from Tibet in their salt butter tea. With modernization, the number of families making the journey has reduced considerably. The increasing amount of political tensions between Nepal and China also means that the borders aren’t opened up so easily.
The Dolpo Pa have adjusted to the dwindling salt trade by adapting to a new business model. This has been due to the discovery of the Chinese Caterpillar fungus, Yarchagumba. It grows in the wild and has been used extensively in Chinese medicine. Due to it’s aphrodisiac properties, it is used as a natural Viagra. The Dolpo Pa collect these from the higher reaches of the Tibetan plateau before selling them for goods to the Dropka nomads and Shingpa farmers. With the number of trips dwindling each year, I hope the Himalayan Travel Mart allows me the opportunity to experience this beautiful and serene journey before it stops.
The Dolpo Pa collect these from the higher reaches of the Tibetan plateau before selling them for goods to the Dropka nomads and Shingpa farmers. With the number of trips dwindling each year, I hope the Himalayan Travel Mart allows me the opportunity to experience this beautiful and serene journey before it stops.
Third Stop: Phoksundo Tal
Starting from the lower reaches of Dolpa, the trail along the trek is dotted with wooden totem poles outside the houses. It is meant to protect against evil spirits. Just farther ahead from where the homes end, the blue waters of Phoksundo Tal will impress you beyond recognition. The majestic serenity of the place takes you far far away from the daily trudge of city life. The trek into Upper Dolpo is through the Donung La pass. The Shey Gompa has small crystals of white calcite stuck into the narrow crevices between the rocks.
Last Stop: Panyjang valley
We will be leaving behind the largest village in upper Dolpo, Saldang before moving through the wilderness of the Panyjang valley and Mo La. The big bulked yaks look magnificent against the stark backdrop. Chortens and mani stones dot the way, their religious beliefs firmly entrenched in them. The medieval village of Charkha Bhot will be our next stop as we explore the vestiges of the Bon religion. The Junbeng La is one of the highest passes on the trail before we cross over into Mustang, our destination.
I would really like to experience the serenity of the majestic stark landscape in all it’s pristine beauty. This article is part of a series that we are doing under the aegis of Himalayan Travel Mart which is going to be held from 23rd May.
Image Credits: Wonderful Nepal