In Search of Mount Everest and Snow Leopard

I have been brought up in a very protective environment as it is a common issue for many of the Nepali girls.  I am abstained from socializing much with friends, I always need to be home in time every day, and yes, if I asked permission for an outing or a trip with my friends, the answer would undoubtedly be 'NO'. In such conditions, travelling to remote part of the country alone, or even with friends for a research was inconceivable until I got fund to conduct my thesis back in 2008.

The Top of Da World : Mount Everest (Our Pride)
 I along with other three friends of mine had to go to four different mountainous regions of Nepal to conduct our study. Ritu and I had to go through great deal of hardships convincing our parents that it was a huge opportunity for our academic career and that they had to let us go.  For their assurance and for our own safety, we (Ritu and I) two decided to accompany each other in our field trips.  So we had to go to Sagarmatha (Mount Everest) National Park, Solukhumbu first and then to Langtang National Park, Rasuwa.
And the best thing : Mountains; Smiling and welcoming every passerby
On the day we left, our respective parents had to come to see off at the airport. Quite a dramatic moment it was. They still wanted us to complete whatever research we had to do, in Kathmandu. Phulchwoki was utmost if we wanted to do it out of Kathmandu. And when our moms started crying, I just wondered if I was soldier going for a war.  After the elaborated instructions what we had to eat, when we had to sleep, when to call home and blah blah blah, we left for Sagarmatha(Mount Everrest) National Park. Enjoying the majestic views of mountain during our flight, we safely landed Lukla. The airport was surrounded by mighty Himalayas and I felt like if the heaven exists there in real, it must be something like that. We began our journey from there, little nervous and little intimidated but excited enough to be a part of trekkers through that glorious part of Nepal.
The famous Namche bazaar. We stayed on the top of the hill on the opposite side seen in this picture.

The never ending foot trails.
After walking whole day, our porter took us to a hotel at Monjo. Our feet and body aching like hell, the unhomely environment and the freezing cold, we hardly could get any sleep. However, the next morning, waking up to face the views of Himalayas just in front of our face was indescribably thrilling. It gave a kind of inspiration to keep moving on. The fascinating thing about the trip was that we just had to keep walking on on a yet unknown land of my own country. The trails seemed never ending. On our way, we talked to the herders taking their Dzokpas and Yaks to the pasture, the tourist who knew details of those trails more than we did, looking at the porters who carried goods three or four times their own weight and realizing how difficult their life must have been. We stayed at the National Park headquarter at Namche. The cottage we stayed at was on the top of the hill. We felt like quitting our meals every time as we had to climb down for almost forty-five minutes to reach the hotel to have our lunch and dinner. The food was one of the worst parts during the whole trip. Green veggies, half cooked potatoes, dal and rice everywhere, every time. Owing to the Buddhist values, animals are not slaughtered there but meat is available all the time. They get it readymade from Kathmandu n keep it in fridge and serve the same for several months. 
The Himalayan Range seen from Lukla

Phortse, a small valley at a day long distance from Namche, was our first destination but we almost lost our way. As there are not much settlements on the way one cannot figure out where he/she has reached. We somehow reached there late evening. Due to the time constraints, we began our work on the same night. With the help of a local guide, we went house to house carrying out the survey. Not to our surprise, the people did not seem to like us much mainly because we were there to find out the existing conflict between the Snow Leopard and Human beings.  Snow Leopards are known to kill the livestock of the herders causing them huge loss and thus the resentment. The herders have been bearing the loss largely on their own. In recent times, retaliatory killings and poaching of the Snow leopard has been on rise decreasing the number of the endangered species remarkably. Most of them frowned displeasures at us when we asked if the Snow Leopard should be protected. We had tough time interviewing people.

The local way of preserving the potatoes. They bury it underground. When I showed this picture to them the man in the red jacket couldn’t recognize himself. He asked me which one was him.
Our next destination Thame was at extreme opposite direction from Phortse. So after a few days stay at Phortse, we returned back to Namche and proceeded to Thame again. The experience was almost similar to Phortse except for the fact that it was much more colder there, so cold that we could hardly speak while talking to people. During the whole survey, only data of around 80% household could be collected as some of them refused to answer while others had left for lower regions for different purposes, mostly to spend winter. The people, who are extremely well off, go to foreign like US to spend their winter. Those who just well off go to India. People having little less money than that come to Kathmandu and the ones who are poor just stay there to get frozen.

One of the locals. The houses there are mostly two storeyed. On the ground floor they keep their livestock. And on the second one roomed storey the whole family lives. Tourism is the main occupation there. Those who are not in tourism business are mostly poverty stricken.
I specially remember nights at Sagarmatha National Park. At nights, when we view the sky, the stars look peculiar. We can see almost ten times more stars twinkling brightly than we do from Kathmandu, perhaps because of the high altitude. And the cold nights used to add so much discomfort to sleep. After wearing piles of clothes, getting inside the sleeping bags, putting couple of blankets on, we still shivered like a kid.

Domestic stock grazing freely.
While being under the continuous pressure of completing the survey during the stipulated time, difference in language appeared to be a huge barrier. Patience and dedication towards the task was the only attributes we could rely upon. That visit taught us to be generous to people, to smile even when they clearly show that they do not like to talk to us. Apart from that, we acquired the knack of planning and managing our actions to complete the task in effective and efficient manner. After being cut off with the urban area and facilities we had been living in, we realized how difficult it is to live in such a remote region of the country.

After completing the survey, we returned to Namche. Next day, we dragged ourselves from Namche to Lukla in a single day. On the middle of the way, we realized our porter was missing. In that tension, we couldn’t have lunch and relied on snickers and a packet of kaju we had taken from home for the whole day. Later we came to know even the porter was looking for us. He brought our belongings safely to the hotel. The porters there are very honest. In fact people residing on these regions are very honest and simple. There’s no fear of being cheated at all.
The Writer
Arriving Kathmandu, we were greatly hugged by our parents. It seemed like they were happy that we returned back alive. The Trip was gratefully awesome, as we Nepali people don't generally love to visit our own country. The Trip was hard, full of worries, yet it was extremely satisfying for a Nepali citizen like me who should wait for a special occasion to move my feet out of this ditch of Kathmandu. It proved, we have lots of hidden treasures, many beautiful things, many great places that are unadvertised or neglected just because they fall a bit farther from the capital.
In that period, I lived with nature, my own soil and its dearest smell around, If I can I would try to repeat my Trip to Solukhumbu, Namche and THE GREAT MOUNT EVEREST itself. :)

All Photos: Writer herself
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  1. Nice pics, you remind me that unforgettable year, i spent at Namche bazaar

  2. nicely recited..
    "We can see almost ten times more stars twinkling brightly than we do from Kathmandu"

  3. Well depicted! As I was reading, felt like I was a part of this expedition. Simple yet sophisticated!

  4. "We can see almost ten times more stars twinkling brightly than we do from Kathmandu, perhaps because of the high altitude." No, it's not due to high altitude. As far i know, it is because of clean dust free environment. Same view can be observed from Terai as well. :)