Day 4: To Laina Odar
(O/nt Altitude 3,370m/6hrs approx.) The path climbs gradually. Along the way are views of some of the villages that dot the region, like Sarakot, situated high on a cliff. These are the last villages encountered until reaching Dho Tarap. Mani walls (a wall made of loose stones with Buddhist mantra inscriptions) and chortens mark the route and in accordance with Buddhist custom, one should pass these shrines keeping them on the right. Snow-capped Kang Tokal is still visible in the distance. The landscape is impressive and sometimes a vivid green. Sharp rocks are dotted with juniper and pine, home to large group of grey monkeys.
The trail now climbs high above the Thuli Bheri River, leading to a large suspension bridge (120 meter long). Crossing to the other side of the river, one reaches Laisicap (2,772 m), where there is a ‘tent-hotel’, comprising of big Tibetan tents, set up to serve food and drinks to weary travellers.
After Laisicap it’s a long and strenuous climb of about 3 hours through forests to reach an altitude of 3,370m and the overnight tent-hotel on the river bank at Laina Odar.
Day 5: To Nawarpani
(O/nt Altitude 3,475 m/4hrs approx.) Beyond Laina Odar, a 45-minute climb leads to a small pass. Afterwards, it’s a fairly easy walk with short up-hill ascents through fragrant, fresh pine forest. Our overnight stop is another tent-hotel in Nawarpani.
Day 6: To Sisaul
(O/nt Altitude 3,750m/3½hrs approx.) The landscape quickly becomes more moon-like and barren with vegetation indeed sparse. The trail is through the river valley with high rock faces towering above on both sides. In this terrain the ‘blue sheep’ live in herds, high on the slopes. And if one is extremely lucky, there could be a sighting of a snow leopard.
It’s a fairly easy, gradual up-hill walk and on occasion the path is carved out of the rock face, creating a kind of three-sided tunnel. After a further half-hour climb to a small pass topped by a chorten, it’s approximately 30 minutes to Sisaul and our riverside camp.
Day 7: To Dho Tarap
(O/nt Altitude 4,080m/4hrs approx.) Another climb to a small pass. Shortly afterwards, the valley suddenly widens and the landscape changes completely. It’s very dry and small bushes have taken over where before there were trees. Gradually these bushes thin too, even though the trail follows the river. On the horizon one can make out a small collection of houses nestled between the mountains; this is Dho Tarap. Closer to the village are many mani walls and small chortens, an indication of the importance of Buddhism and how deeply it is interwoven into the lives of the locals.
The people of Dho are direct descendents of Tibetans, and indeed their features and dress vividly reflect this. The womenfolk are often adorned with shell bracelets and some have beautiful silver and turquoise headgear. They wear dark dresses with colourful aprons made from yak wool. Most men wear their hair long, often with a red ribbon entwined in the style of the Tibetan Khampas. Their typical dress is a long coat, with one sleeve often worn off the shoulder and hanging loose. These people are shy but extremely welcoming and a “Tashi delek” – the equivalent of the Nepali “Namaste” – is always reciprocated with a warm, open smile.
Dho Tarap is a traditional agricultural village, set amongst well-worked fields. Yaks are used to plough the land, and barley, buckwheat and potatoes are among the few crops that can be cultivated in such a harsh region. Nowadays however, small greenhouses enable the people to grow some leaf vegetables to supplement their diet. And besides, the people have traditionally relied almost entirely on their yaks for nourishment – yak milk, cheese, meat being staples - plus the trade in yak wool.
Houses are made of stones found in the river valley and are in typical Tibetan-style, with small windows and a flat roof.
Close to Dho are two monasteries well worth visiting: Ribo Bhumpa Gompa, high on the hill behind Dho, and Shipchaur Gompa, which is in the village of Shipchok, a 30 minute walk away.