DOLPO CIRCUIT TREK –

14 Days. Max. Altitude 5,318m
Basic Tea-House Trekking and camping (4-6 nights) with guides and porters.
Flights: Kathmandu-Nepalgunj-Juphal-Nepalgunj-Kathmandu
Pre-trek Briefing: HE Office (Kathmandu Guest House) 5pm on day prior to Day 1

DAY TO DAY PLAN –

Day 1: Fly to Nepalgunj (55mins)

(O/nt Altitude 158m)
To reach Dolpo, one first flies to Nepalgunj, an important business and transportation hub in the southern mid-western region of Nepal. The border with India is a mere 8 kms away, and culturally and climatically the area more resembles India than up-land Nepal. The town’s bazaar is full of horse carts and colourful people, and there’s a real sense of movement of both goods and people to and from India. Here too one finds Bageshowri temple, one of Nepal’s most important Hindu sites.

Day 2: Flight Nepalgunj-Juphal (35mins) (2,475 m), trek to Dunai

(O/nt Altitude 2,140m/3hrs approx.)
It’s a spectacular flight over sheer, snow-capped mountain ridges to Juphal airport, a gravel airstrip hewn out of the dramatic surroundings. It’s a different world; crisp cold Himalayan air now fills the lungs – far removed from the hot, steamy plains left behind.

Commence walking through fields of wheat and vegetables to the Thuli Bheri River. The trail follows the river and comes to a beautiful gate chorten (stupa), which marks the entrance to the VDC (Village Development Committee) of Dunai. Inside the chorten are beautiful Buddhist paintings of mandalas and important Buddhist deities. Dunai, a village of approximately 2,500 people, is also the headquarters of Dolpa District. Its hilltop monastery merits a visit.

Day 3: To Lingdo

(O/nt Altitude 2,391m/5hrs approx.)
The route soon enters a landscape reminiscent of the European Alps. Rocky slopes are dotted with pine trees, and on the horizon is the snow-capped peak of Kang Tokal (6,294 m). The way forward is undulating, mostly following the Thuli Bheri River, with small clusters of habitation here and there. The region is inhabited by Tarali Buddhists, a Magar group with strong Tibetan links. After the small settlement of Byasgar, the landscape quickly becomes dryer and more rock-strewn. The path is sometimes carved out of the rock face, and at times very narrow. At the small village of Lingdo there is a guesthouse and campsite plus a check post were permits will be checked.

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.

Day 8: To Numala Base Camp

(O/nt Altitude 4,440m/3½hrs approx.)
As it is only a short walk to Numala Base Camp, so the morning can be spent on further exploring Dho and its surroundings.

The trail out of Dho is via another impressive gate chorten. After approximately an hour, one arrives at the Crystal Mountain School that is sponsored by a French NGO. The school is educating the children of Dho and the surrounding area and teachers are usually more than pleased to welcome visitors.

From the school it’s approximately 90 minutes walk to Tokyu (4,209 m), said to be the highest permanent settlement in the world. The village is crowned by a gompa which has a beautiful statue of Maitreya, the Future Buddha. Another gradual climb of around 90 minutes over grassy land leads to Numala Base Camp. Located in the middle of nowhere, but close to the river, it has a small house suitable for use as a kitchen.

Day 9: To Danigar

(O/nt Altitude 4,631m/6hrs approx.) via Numa La (Pass) (5,318m)
A challenging day lies ahead and it’s a good idea to start at first light (between 5 and 6 am), to arrive early at the pass. Also, the morning is generally best, weather-wise, which should make the crossing of the pass easier and safer, and mornings tend to offer clearer views of the mountain ranges from the pass.

It’s a long, strenuous 3 hour climb to Numa La. The altitude makes for slow going, but it’s well worth it if views are clear. A long line of snow-capped mountain peaks are visible: Dhaulagiri at 8,167 m is most prominent, the Annapurna and Manaslu Ranges, Shey Shikar (6,139 m), Kanjirowa (6,883 m) and many more stretch to the far horizon. In spring there can be snow on the pass, which makes for a more technical and difficult crossing and care must be taken.

From the pass there is a steep descent before the path levels out. Further along the trail again climbs slowly but steadily for approximately an hour. At the same time the river (Panklanga Khola) drops away so one is soon high above the river valley floor. Finally the way opens out into a meadow, which is the campsite for today - Danigar. To the south, the beautiful snow-capped Norbung Kang (6,085 m) towers high above the campsite. On the other side of the river are high pastures which are often scattered with grazing yaks.

Day 10: To Yak Kharka

(3,982m/6hrs approx.) via Baga La (5,190m)
Another high pass means another tough, but rewarding day. Again, an early start is called for. Crossing again to the other side of the Panklanga Khola, the trail zigzags its way upwards. Approximately two hours into our day, high camp is reached; this is close to the top of the pass. Weather permitting, the views from here are excellent, with Norbung Kang and the entire Baga La range opposite. Soon after high camp, climbing gradually, is the top Baga La (5,190 m).

After the pass there is at first a steep descent. This section can be icy which makes for slow going and care must be deployed. The vegetation starts to change again, with the return of bushes then trees. The path down is past waterfalls and, having now reached flatter ground, the walking becomes easier. Yak Kharka is an ideal place in which to camp and in the spring the meadow is full of flowers. If it’s clear, there are also great views from here of Kanjirowa Himal (6,612m).

Day 11: To Ringmo/Phoksundo Lake

(O/nt Altitude 3,733m/2½hrs approx.)
After the last two demanding days, it’s a short hike today.

The path starts to climb and the river (Maduwa Khola) is soon far below. Beautifully carved out of rock, the trail leads to a small pass and then winds its way into pine forest. Bird song has returned with the forest. Reaching an open meadow, the trail comes to a small bridge, after which it’s only a few minutes to Ringmo.

Ringmo is home to people of the Bonpo religion. Strolling around the village, one often sees women weaving and their local handicrafts – belt, bags, shawls, blankets etc - are often for sale. The village is situated on the shores of the holy Phoksundo Lake, a crystal clear body of water which seems devoid of aquatic life. Steep cliffs and snow-capped peaks surround the lake. By the lakeshore is a picturesque campsite.

Here it’s possible to walk a part of the ‘Demons’ Trail’, which was featured in the film, Himalaya (Caravan) by Eric Valli. This movie beautifully portrayed the Dolpa people bringing their yaks over difficult passes with salt from Tibet to trade for grains grown in the lowlands. The Demons Trail is spectacular, clinging high above the shoreline. Sections are extremely narrow and prone to landslides.

On the opposite shoreline is a Monastery with a statue of Thönpa Chenrab, the founder of the Bonpo religion who reportedly lived thousands of years ago.

Phoksundo Lake is part of the Shey Phoksundo National Park (established in 1984), Nepal’s largest National Park with an area of 3,555 km². Its aim is to conserve the Trans-Himalayan ecosystem and Tibetan-type flora and fauna. In 1998, an area of 1,349 km² surrounding the park was declared a buffer zone; this area is jointly managed by park rangers and local communities.

From the school it’s approximately 90 minutes walk to Tokyu (4,209 m), said to be the highest permanent settlement in the world. The village is crowned by a gompa which has a beautiful statue of Maitreya, the Future Buddha. Another gradual climb of around 90 minutes over grassy land leads to Numala Base Camp. Located in the middle of nowhere, but close to the river, it has a small house suitable for use as a kitchen.

Day 12: To Chhepka

(2,838m/7hrs approx.) via Rechi (2,940m)
The trek to Rechi is almost entirely through beautiful pine forest, with birch and other broad leaved trees included in the mix. Leaving Ringmo, the path is rather flat at first, but then climbs steeply. Soon the river appears far below you. From on high there’s a last glimpse of Phoksundo Lake. Soon after a ridge top is Nepal’s highest waterfall with its spectacular drop of 167 meters - the Suligad Waterfall (also called Phoksundo Waterfall). And then the long descent starts.

Approximately one hour further on is an Amchi Hospital. An amchi is a doctor/lama who is educated in traditional Tibetan medicine, a practice dating back thousands of years and using techniques such as pulse and urine analysis. Treatments combine the use of herbs and minerals, together with physical therapies such as a Tibetan form of acupuncture. Most local people prefer to visit an amchi rather than a conventional doctor when they are ill. Any monetary donation is warmly welcomed.

It’s another 1½ hours to the village of Rechi. The trail flattens slightly so walking is easier. The river flows rapidly past and is a beautiful emerald green in places. On the other bank the rocky slope is steep and dotted with pines. Local people with their mules and jhopas (a cross between yak/cow) loaded with items to trade frequent the trail. Rechi consists of just a couple of houses and a primary school.

The way to Chhepka follows the river course. The descent is marked by an increase in temperature and also by a change in vegetation. Bamboo and large walnut trees grow here and our overnight village of Chhepka is set amongst fields of barley.

Day 13: To Juphal

(2,475m/6hrs approx.)
Today’s trek is mostly downhill with some short climbs interspersed. The first section is again through forest, with the sound of the river ever present. After the village of Shyanta the trail opens out into a dry landscape, dominated by Kang Tokal (6,294m).

After the villages of Raktang (2,421m) and Kageni (2,413m) is the check post for the Shey Phoksundo National Park (SPNP), where permits are again checked. A 99m long suspension bridge spans the river and on the opposite bank one takes the western trail to Juphal.

It’s still another 2½–3 hours to Juphal through fields of barley and wheat, with walnut, peach and apricot trees. The final climb to our night’s camp is steep. With a small bazaar, it’s a pleasant place in which to spend our final night in the region.

Day 14 Fly Juphal-Nepalgunj-Kathmandu

An early morning flight to Nepalgunj to await the connecting return flight to Kathmandu.
Trek ends.

Dolpo Trek

Dolpo trekknig

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