After completing the Langtang trail we decided to hike the the Tamang Heritage Trail. This rarely visited trail takes you to Tamang vilages that have seem to have changed little over time. We anticipated a relatively easy strol between villages but in fact the trail is rather strenous with up to 1000 mt ascending and descending each day.
Here, after some descent but before some more and much ascent Yael is waiting here in LingLing for a soup cooked fresh from a pumpkin picked in the garden. From here we descended to the road to China which connects Siabru Besi to the border of Tibet. This is currently not more than a muddy dirtroad but it is all there is. We crossed the road and the river on a huge suspension bridge and starte our long climb to Thuman.
An elaborate huge mani wall decorated with prayer flags introduced us into Thuman. Everything else in this village looked much less extravagant. In fact it looked very much like a medieval village right out of movies like “The return of Martin Guerre”. The wooden two floor houses had a dark upper room with a tiny window.
However more than the filth and the smoke and the narrow muddy paths between the houses we were struck by the sad eyes of the people. Thuman is probably not worse off than hundreds of other Nepaly villages. It has no road but is only a couple of hours and a very steep slope away from one. It has electricity (not while we were there). It is even on an official trekking route so that it can generate a bit of income from tourism. Yet it looks like a dire and hopeless place.
As soon as people have some work they already look much happier – like this carpenter
And this woman who is spinning wool
In view of the very primitive village we were pleseantly surprised to find a decent place to stay (with a hot bucket showers). We had dinner with another couple of trekkers from the US while Pramod our porter guide was treated to a feast of chicken.
The village has an impressive ancient gompa with a huge tree in front of it which already saw from Lingling.
Inside the gompa are very old prayer books and a big bell is hanging in front of it.
The next morning we started our steep climb to Naghtali passing kids on their way to school.
On our way we met this ancient looking shepherd who approached us for medicine agains head ache. We gave him some and explained him via our guide how to use it. We were often approached by locals who requested some medicine or medical help and once Yael helped to treat a boy with sever burns. Access to medical help is very difficult in these isolated villages.
The guy had plenty of cows which was surprising. The locals hardly use milk and even for their milk tea the use powdered one. They are also not allowed to kill the cows for their beef. It thus seems that cows are mainly used for manure. Indeed the fields around were rich with very tall cannabis bushes.
We climbed for several hours until we reached the forest. These trees were saved, so far, from deforestation as the are a long distance from any village. Closer to the village most trees have been cut down leading to severe erosion.
The forest was shrouded in clouds and we felt like hobbits wandering on a quest. Eventually we left the damp forest behind us and entered a big pasture. After some more climbing we arrived in Naghtali, a cluster of simple restaurants with a great view.
We ordered lunch and enjoyed a well deserved rest while this lady prepared our Dal Bhat. The little girl is blowing into the oven while her mother is preparing rice in a pressure cooker. These cookers are very popular as they conserve precious fire wood and yak droppings. Moreover as water boiling temperature drops to less than 90C at 3000 mt (10000 ft) cooking would take much longer at ambient pressure.
After lunch we descended on a lovely trail, first with sweeping views and subsequently through a blooming forest to Tatopani. Tatopani means hot water in Nepali and there are many places that are boasting this name. The hot springs were absolutely lovely and locals from all over the area come here to enjoy the brown iron rich steaming water. In addition to the pleasure of hot water we thus enjoyed joyous company, mainly of mothers and toddlers. While the Tamang women are usually fully covered here they surprisingly bathed topless.
Unlike the other villages, Tatopani is very colourful.
The first day and a half in Tatopani we had a power outage. When electricity returned all of a sudden during the second night millions of butterflies of a myriad of different species started to swarm around our balcony.
After much hot bathing we sadly bid farewell to Tatopani and descended to Chilime. Chilime is on the “road” and has a large hydroelectric plant. We checked into a lodge and I went up to Gatlang one of the largest Tamang villages in the area.
The village is surrounded by rice terraces which have an almost fluorescent green color. The other major crop is corn and everyone was busy picking it. I met several girls who finished school for today and rushed down to help picking.
A major holiday is approaching and many young men cleaned the mani walls and stupas and decorated them with new flags
The village is indeed bigger than any we have seen so far. It is also hardly influenced by tourism and has only a couple of home-stays. I one of these I had some boiled potatoes for lunch.
The last day of our journey before boarding the bus from Chilime. This bus just started running again after the monsoon and needed some extra effort to negotiate the first few switchbacks.
After almost two weeks of cloudy weather we saw today for the first time the white peaks for which we originally came here.
The most frightening part of our journey was still to come – crossing the landslides after Dhunche. But miraculously we did survive to tell our story.