Ardent trekkers Samuel Palsmeier from USA and Fabrizio Nicoletti from Italy met online and decided to trek together to Nepal. They took the difficult trail to the remote kingdom of Upper Mustang and Upper Dolpo. It took them more than a month to complete their trek. After their return the two trekkers shared their extraordinary trekking experience with Explore Himalaya, the organizer of their trek.
EH; How was your trek?
Sam: I was very, very satisfied. Everything from the start to finish was arranged professionally. We had very few hiccups along the way on the trip. Trek itself was wonderful and the areas we visited were quite special. The scenery was just fabulous. All the staff as usual, was helpful, warm and genuinely hospitable. We had a great trek!
Fabrizio: Overall my opinion about the trek is very positive. The trekking agency is professional one . Basically it delivered all the services exactly as expected.
EH:Any special reason for choosing this particular trek?
Sam: Basically two trek in Nepal that I always want to do were treks to Dolpo and Mustang. When I first saw the movie “Caravan” I was very impressed with Dolpo’s dramatic landscape and wished to visit it someday. Mustang seemed interesting because of its unique Tibetan culture.
Fabrizio: The only special reason is that these are two very remote areas. It is my second time to Nepal. I like to trek on some unspoiled and not very crowded area. That is why I chose Dolpo and Mustang trek.
EH:Do you have any special memories that you want to share?
Sam: In term of the treks themselves, in Dolpo trek there are 3-4days which are very special. During this time you get to encounter such scenic and wonderful places like Phoksundo. Dho, where Bon religion is practiced is very interesting. You definitely see some different architecture over there. Mustang is much more Tibetan. I would say one of the special day was the second last day of our trek when we went through Dhakmar. The red cliffs and the sun in the afternoon in Dhakmar is just spectacular.
Fabrizio: Every day in a trek is new day, the day you can face new challenges, you can experience new things and learn new things. I would say those two treks, Mustang but also Dolpo are not just about landscapes. The local culture is equally very interesting. So, if you go for both trek or just one trek try to keep your attention high on cultural side because culturally there are lots of beautiful things apart from the mountains.
EH:How was the service of the support staff?
Sam: For Dolpa, our guide was Pemba and Babu was our local guide for Mustang. Both of these gentlemen are very friendly very positive, they were always looking after us. The services of the guide are great.
Fabrizio: As for the Dolpo trek, the staffs were very friendly. I am very satisfied about the service they provided. My opinion is very positive. In Mustang trek, I had no complains at all about the guide.
EH:Which was the most difficult part of the trek?
Sam: I mean those were certain, probably because we already were trekking for two weeks, over just few passes. This time the passes were free of snow. So there was no technical challenges, you always felt safe and it was just the matter of setting the pace of to get up down and up and down. And the places are quite spectacular. And the fact that not a lot of people were living in that area made it special too. I know every day is a challenge. There is no such thing as easy days in Himalaya. Even in short days, you would need to go lots of ups and downs but it’s a physical achievement.
Fabrizio: If we talk about Dolpa, I guess, we talk we take about that because for Mustang, I would not rate Mustang as a difficult trek as long as you have someone who can walk for 6-7hours trek. Dolpo is different trek, challenging one, sometimes at some point it can be very strenuous. So I would not say Dolpa is for everybody unless they have a good trekking experience and trekking background. Thre are 6-7 passes over 5000 metres and besides you always sleep in a tent and you are in a remote area. If that’s exactly what you are looking for, that is fine .But that is fine as long as everything is good and if you are in problem, you are in a remote area. Again, it is not like climbing the mountain or peaks of 6000 m. At the end it is just a trek, a difficult one but just a trek.
Eh;What would be your comment or advice to those who would like to do this trek?
Sam: The biggest things to understand is there are two very distinctly different places. Dolpo is definitely more for somebody looking for the physical up and down. Mustang now is easy, you can either trek or take a jeep. It is more developed. If you are looking for the cultural experience, Mustang is the place to go and if you are looking for the physically challenging, Dolpo is great. It would be great if you combine both treks for some physical challenge and cultural insights.
Fabrizio: Obviously, trekking in those two areas is not an easy task, not only for the money involved which is really not affordable for everybody also for the physical effort, for the physical exercise involved in this trek. I would say, both treks are outstanding. Dolpo is more about, is more a big trek, is more about crossing some high passes. If you do not feel that you can really end with the long trekking in remote area, I would say Mustang is easy option. The lodges are along the way. The trek is much easier than Dolpo. If you want to pick one of them, I think Mustang is easier. On the other hand, Dolpo is more challenging and it depends on what you are looking for.
Monastery at Upper Dolpo
Monks at a ceremony in Mustang
(Pics courtesy: Fabrizio Nicoletti)
Trek to Dolpo & Mustang
SNV, a non-profit international development organisation with headquarters in the Netherlands is supporting Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoTCA), Nepal Tourism Board (NTB), the Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN), and other stakeholders to implement the Great Himalaya Trail Development Programme (GHTDP) in Dolpo, Gorkha, Humla, Solukhumbu and Taplejung. The programme is expected to accelerate tourism development in these areas by providing vocational training to local communities and offering support for local businesses to stimulate job creation and income generating as well as infrastructure development and improved health services for local people through tourism sector.
The Great Himalaya Trail Development Programme (GHTDP) was launched in the Solukhumbu district on 29th May, 2011 on the occasion of International Sagarmatha (Everest) Day and Solukhumbu Tourism Festival 2011.
To boost tourism in Nepalgunj, local hoteliers have announced five to fifteen percent discount on accommodation and food for tourists. Nepalgunj serves as an important transit point for pilgrimages to Kailash Mansarover in Tibet and to treks leading to Dolpo, Rara Lake, Shey Phoksundo Lake, Khaptad National Park etc.There are around 400 hotels and 100 restaurants operating in Nepalgunj.
Thus wrote Mark Twain, noted American humorist and author, exhorting all and sundry to set off for the unknown, fearless and uninhibited.
A group of six spirited female adventurers (most of them in their 40s) from Canada and France seemed to have taken his advice to heart and sought to climb Mera Peak , Nepal’s highest trekking peak in November, at the onset of chilly winter season. Explore Himalaya had the opportunity to organize the expedition for the group. After the completion of their expedition, the ladies dropped in at our office and the group leader Lou Lamontagne, spoke at length about their trip to Mera Peak and the changes she found in Nepal since her last visit in 2005.
(Expedition members (wearing scarves) with Explore Himalaya’s staff)
Though only one member (Hélène Mineau) could reach the summit, Lou said that they were all happy with the expedition.
To quote Lou – “We would have liked to do the summit but for us not doing the summit is not a disaster. We enjoyed all the aspects of the expedition.. that’s the most important thing.”
Read about their trip in Lou’s own words :
“We were six people – five Canadians (Marie Légaré, Carole CôTÉ, Hélène Mineau, Isabelle Gagnon & Lou Lamontagne) and one French (Severine Tralli). We are a group of friends and we have done a lot of mountaineering and kayaking and outdoor stuff in the past and so we knew each other. I proposed them a trip to Nepal and they said OK. So we went on internet and tried to find a good company. Actually we found your website. We have some friends in Pokhara called 3 Sisters Adventure. They are into trekking also, but they didn’t do Solu Khumbu trekking, just the Annapurna. So we checked with them. We asked if you were a good company and they said you had a good reputation and we could trust you and we went ahead.
Our trek was excellent. It met all our expectations and we are very happy with the way we were received at the airport. We are also very happy with the expedition itself, the way the staff took care of us. We really appreciated all the small little attention, you know, like bed tea and wash water. They (Explore Himalaya’s staff) just generally made sure that our safety and security was on the agenda.
In 2005 I did the Around the Annapurna Trek (21 days), and that was wonderful also. This expedition was much, much harder. Only one member from our group summitted. I had a bad bronchitis problem in Khare just before High Camp. I knew that I couldn’t summit because I was coughing very bad and I had a fever. The other five members went up to High Camp. But four of them got sick with altitude sickness and just one summitted. But that’s okay we would have liked to do the summit but for us not doing the summit is not a disaster. We enjoyed all the aspects of the expedition. So that’s the most important thing.
When I was here in 2005, it was in the middle of People’s War. We witnessed a great military presence everywhere and the Maoists used to stop us and ask for money. We could feel the political upheaval. It was pretty serious at that time and the King was almost out of a job. But now that the Civil War is over, I find more trekkers on the trail and the hotels, tea- houses and lodges doing good business. Things are back to normal.
I would like to come back and visit Dolpo region. This trip was wonderful and we were happy with everything. This was truly a wonderful trip and I am sure we will meet again.”
(Photos Courtesy : Marie Légaré & Isabelle Gagnon)