M. Scott McQuown
Nepal - Land of Dolpo
Since the usurpation of Tibet by the Chinese, the Land of Dolpo, all but unknown to Westerners even today, was said to be the last enclave of pure Tibetan culture left on Earth…. Its people are of pure Tibetan stock, with a way of life that cannot differ much from that of the Ch’ang Tartars out of Central Asia who are thought to have been the original Tibetans, and their speech echoes the tongue of nomads who may have arrived two thousand years ago.
~ Peter Matthiessen, The Snow Leopard
This one had been on my bucket list for quite a while. It was a 25-day trek through one of the most remote regions in the Nepalese Himalayas and one of the highest inhabited places on earth. My 200-mile route traversed through the restricted Land of Dolpo, which is said to contain the “last enclave of pure Tibetan culture left on Earth”. The route is described in Peter Matthiessen’s award-winning book The Snow Leopard. It is also featured in Eric Valli's Oscar-nominated movie Caravan (also known as Himalaya) that chronicles the Dolpo people’s ancient barter system, in which they transport their barley on Yak caravans to trade for salt with the people of the north.
Dolpo has been bypassed by development and until recently by tourism. Although a few scientists had explored the region, the entire district was closed to foreigners until 1989, when the southern part of Dolpo was opened to organized trekking groups. The topography deters access from the south, not only because the mountains passes are closed half the year by snow, but also because the route is very difficult and can only be made on foot (or hoof). I had to cross several passes higher than 16,000 ft to get there. The northern boundary is political one -- the sensitive border with China (Tibet). Trekking in the area is restricted and one must apply for a permit and pay a hefty fee to gain access. However, I am grateful for these obstacles... since I prefer the trail less traveled anyway.
© 2010 M. Scott McQuown