An enthralling journey filled with remote trekking, high mountain passes and yak caravans in the remote lower Dolpo region.
Dolpo Trek takes you into one of the isolated remote area and restricted region of Nepal which lies in the mid-western region between Dhaulagiri range and the Tibetan Plateau. Stunning massif views of Kanjirowa mountains and beautiful glaciers, rich in Tibetan Buddhism culture that characterized by semi-arid topography with deep canyons. This trekking trail is adventurous in off-the beaten path with amazing landscapes and beautiful sceneries. Dolpo trek was opened in 1989 for foreign visitors for the purpose of trekking tour. Once, the entire district was closed for trekkers when the southern part of Dolpo was opened to organized trekking groups. Due to inaccessible and its isolation, this mystical valley where long forbidden to foreigners. Trek to this region offers a variety of landscapes, traverse through beautiful villages with “Bon po”and Buddhism culture and great people. Majority of people are still practicing ‘Bon Po’ religion and their language are closer to Tibet. This region is also known as “Ba Yul” or the hidden valley. This trek also take us across the old trans Himalayan trade route and offers a Nepal’s crown jewels Shey Phoksundo National Park with the spectacularly beautiful Phoksundo lake, a serene body of water ringed by abrupt mountains and forests that home to some of the Himalayan rare animal species including snow leopard.
Dolpo trek route goes through various traverses of fast flowing rivers, roaring waterfalls, deep river gorges, monasteries, prayer flags, stupas, chortens, mani-walls etc. Lodges and guest houses are still not available so you must arrange for all camping accommodation through registered trekking company. Among many beautiful places in Nepal, Shey Phoksundo Lake (deepest lake) is one of the most beautiful and exotic tourist destination located in Dolpo. Beside this, we will also visit Shey-Gompa (crystal mountain monastery). Expedition into Upper Dolpo is a challenging as the tourism infrastructure is almost non-existent and the organized tour is essential.
We can access into this trip via two different ways. One is flying from Kathmandu- Nepalgunj to a small airstrip Jhuphal another is flying to Pokhara and Jomsom. Trip from Jomsom is more challenging as we have to pass through higher altitudes then from Jhuphal. On this trek, we continue our trip to Upper Dolpo through Lower Dolpo. In Lower Dolpo, we get some opportunities to observe some of the Nepal’s rare animals. Shey Phoksundo National Park is the largest National Park in Nepal. Majority of people in Dolpo rely on agriculture, they grow potatos, wheat, millet, buckwheat, Tibetan barley and their native crops like chino and kagumo. They also involve in animal husbandry as traditional economic activity that signifies the financial status of the family based on the number of animals they own. Yaks, sheeps and goats are the major animals they own. They take all the animals to the highlands for grazing during the summer and bring back to lowlands during the winter.
Phoksumdo ( Phug gsum mdo ) “the hollow where three rivers meet” refers to the turquoise-colored lake, surrounded by cliffs on three of its sides, whose water flows into the valley through a 150 m high waterfall.
The inhabitants of Phoksumdo belong to a small community, speaking Tibetan and of Bon religion; the two main villages being Tsho (t sho yul ) and Pugmo ( spung mo ). These two communities form the administrative unit called the Phoksumdo Village Development Committee (VDC).
Tsho or Tsho Yul, the “village of the lake” is the local name of the village called Ringmo or Reng on Nepalese maps.
The two villages also form a cultural unit called Reng spung mo whose inhabitants only marry each other, practicing a strict endogamy which notably excludes the inhabitants of Tibetan culture from the villages of the upper Dolpo. This restriction is surprising because, historically, it is possible to trace the origin of some clans of Reng spung mo to scions of Tibetan clans of Dolpo. Likewise the böns gompas of Pugmo, Tsho but also Dho / Tarap and Tsharka are secondary creations of the monastery of Samling, itself a secondary foundation of the Bön monastery of Lubra in Mustang.
Despite the fact that, according to legend, a Bon sage: Drenpa Namkha pacified the region of Pugmo and a Buddhist saint Padmasmabhava did the same in Tsho, the inhabitants of the two villages now follow the rites of the Bon faith.
The belief in gods of the territory ( yul lha) is common and the existing relations between these gods help to unite the two communities.
This unity is reflected in marriage practices but also in the joint participation in festivals intended to honor the yul lha , in pilgrimages (Lama Chumik and Jagdul), in the existence of a specific dialect (Phoksumdo-ke) differing largely dialects spoken in the villages of upper Dolpo, further north.
Initially this area was populated successively by members of several Tibetan clans from Tibet, Mustang and western Nepal. These different migrations gradually united to form a religious, economic entity differentiating itself from the neighboring populations.
According to oral tradition, the valley where Pugmo is located was visited for the first time by the sage Bönpo Drenpa Namkha . Riding a ray of sunshine, he applied himself to defeating the local gods, demons and spirits ( yul sa, sadak, gzhi bdak etc.) inhabiting the mountains, valleys, rivers and forests of the region by transforming them into protectors of the Bönpo doctrine.
This text by Etienne Principaud “enlightens” us on the complexity of a striking element of the sacred landscape of the Tibetan cultural sphere, the walls of Mani (which can therefore be walls of Matri )
The coexistence between Bonpos and Buddhists in Dolpo is reflected in the sacred landscape of the villages.
The chörtens and matri walls built by the bönpos must thus be bypassed on the right, while the mani walls belonging to the Buddhist religion must be bypassed on the left .
Beware of errors of meaning when crossing the villages!
If one wants to look carefully at the mantras engraved on the stones of the walls, it is possible to define their belonging.
The most important mantra of the Buddhist religion is the famous “Om mani pèmé hung”
This is the six syllable mantra of the boddhisatva of compassion Avalokitesvara (Chenrezi) .
It is easily recognizable.
Its translation roughly means “homage to the jewel of the lotus” and more precisely “the jewel in the lotus” .
Each of its six syllables called bija, symbolizes one of the domains or kingdoms of existence, from the paradises of the devas to the hell. It is therefore to the entire universe that the practitioner sends his compassion.
The most famous mantra of the Bon religion is ” om ma tri mu ye sa le dhu “
Om represents Tonpa Shenrab, the founder of Bön.
In Bonpo representations, the syllable Om is five colors corresponding to the five wisdoms and the five elements.
Ma represents Sherab Chamma, the loving mother, female counterpart of Tonpa Shenrab. Ma also symbolizes clarity and wisdom and Om symbolizes emptiness and method.
From the union of the two emanates the following six seed syllables symbolizing the Buddhas of the six realms of existence. Together also defined under the name of the six teachers of the discipline Dulwa Shen Drug represented in the center of the “wheels of life” bönpos.
Dolpo is a difficult region to access, unless you have several extra weeks to travel on foot from Darbang to Dunai via Dhorpatan and the Jangla Pass. And despite the progress of the Nepalese road network which is progressing slowly towards Dunai and towards Dho.
But the road (in reality, a more or less rough track depending on the season!) Will only make the organization of the logistics a little easier for the Nepalese team.
For us, the duration of the journey but especially the discomfort of the bus trip, causes too much fatigue for a start to a stay at altitude. Which is incompatible with good acclimatization.
And I’m not even talking about the anguish when the bus wheel passes 10 cm from a precipice, on an unstable shoulder.
The use of domestic air flights remains the most relevant solution ( not to say compulsory ).
Obviously there are meteorological hazards because these are small mountain airfields requiring visual flight, and for that we have planned extra days, “of safety”.
The itinerary below is intended as a guideline only, although every effort will be made to adhere to it, changes may be forced upon it by weather conditions, transport failure or other unforeseen events. You should be prepared to be flexible where necessary.
The outward journey is for the moment quite simple. We have to link two flights, Kathmandu / Nepalganj at the end of the afternoon with a night at the Sidhartha Hotel or Travaller’s village. then the next day at dawn Nepalganj / Juphal, always so random.
Baggage handling for this last mountain flight is no easy task either, even though the opening of the road to Dunai made it easier for the Nepalese team to travel.
Sunday 19 sep 2020
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