So you think you know about trekking in Nepal? Well, let me tell you about a fabled land, a land hidden deep within the Himalayas. A magical, secluded land situated in the highest, most Northern district of Nepal... Let me tell you about Humla.
Many have spoken of true sanctuaries, of places where men and women balance the simplest of pleasures with the harshest of conditions. Within Humla one can find such a place. A place so remote it can only be reached upon foot.
Within this district lies Limi Valley, one of Nepal’s most spectacular and unspoilt trek regions; a region which currently receives little in the way of tourism.
Sheltered by the mighty Himalayas, life in Limi continues in a timeless manner, unaffected by modern influences; a place many still consider to be the mythical Shangri-La. Here, the original Tibetan culture and costume still exist unaffected by the Cultural Revolution of Central Tibet.
After an exhilarating flight I landed in Simikot, the regional headquarters of Humla. Like stepping into a dream the scenery was exquisite. The surroundings like a fairy tale were awash with vibrant colours, the houses dressed with fabrics; textures so alluring that my hands wanted to reach out and touch.
The atmosphere, colour and authentic aromas enlivened my senses as I began walking the ancient salt route to Hilsa, where Nepal borders Tibet. Never did my eyes feel the fatigue of gazing upon similar scenery for the scale of things here was grand. Rich green terraces lined the valley; overhead eagles effortlessly soared whilst yak basked in the cool, sedentary turquoise waters.
At Simikot I was joined by two NGO’s (non-government officials) as they delivered en route essential items to the more remote, isolated villages. Here, due to extreme sun exposure and harsh weather conditions the skin of some of the people was burnt black, dry and torn.
As I walked, a woman lifted up her baby; the child’s blackened skin was literally disintegrating. Like a flaky birch, it effortlessly fell away revealing at the seams the scarlet, raw flesh beneath.
In West Nepal, a curious paradox exists. Humla is poverty stricken, possibly one of Nepal’s poorest regions yet amidst all hardship the people were glowing. Like a beacon their auras shone with a full spectrum of colour; the colour of hope, acceptance, of compassion.
In a sub-climate, unaffected by the monsoon rains of Nepal; I looked across deep green gorges, saw snow-capped peaks and balanced both scenes above the gurgling turquoise waters of the Karnali River. The sense of remoteness was astonishing.
With a customary, palms together greeting of ‘Namaste’ I met with women of Rajasthani descent, their clothes adorned with mirrors and silver coins, and Bhotias, decorated with turquoise, coral and amber necklaces.
As I made my way to Kermi the realisation of walking the ancient salt route suddenly hit home. Here I passed numerous sheep caravans, where each carried 12kilos of salt. I inhaled deeply as I passed the weathered silk traders, breathing in the pungent aroma of hookah as its smoky wisps filled the air.
Unlike anywhere I have previously trekked, the scenery was glorious; an isolated piece of paradise where heavenly waterfalls spouted from the sky above.
From this serene enclosure, Eden’s garden, it wasn’t long before I was scaling the valley sides once more. Small villages could be seen scattered sporadically at the top of the mighty gorge.
A little girl ran out from her rustic mud home, her face beamed with excitement. In a Nepali dialect she rejoiced, “White lady don’t cry, look beautiful mountains”. My heart mirrored her joy, her innocence; how wonderful, to encounter a child who didn’t instantly put out her hand in anticipation of sweets and pencils.
My journey into the Hidden Himalayas was an absolute joy, an adventure that took me through culture and time. Here I witnessed some of the finest natural heritage that Nepal has to offer.
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