We had never visited Nepal before. To start with the Dolpo was, everyone assured us in slightly surprised tones, starting with the very remote and the very best. Of course, our problem now is, where next?
Our 23 day trek was organised by Explore Dolpo, a trekking company specialising in the remote Dolpo, started up and run by locals. This was one of the main reasons we chose to go with Explore Dolpo. We wanted our money to go back into the region and help support communities there. To trek in the Upper Dolpa, trekking permits from the Nepal Government are required, costing $500 each. We had expected that the fee would be reinvested into the Upper Dolpo area and in its sustainable future. Sadly, we saw very little evidence of government investment in the Dolpo, where education, health and infrastructure maintenance (paths, bridges, waste management) are all in urgent need of resources. This was another reason we were glad to have invested our money in Explore Dolpo.
I have to say, the itinerary planning and preparation were excellent, with a very friendly welcome and support during our stay in Kathmandu. Our airport transfers and internal flights were well organised and even when the outgoing and return flights to and from Dolpo were cancelled at the last minute, our guide and Explore Dolpo staff in Kathmandu and Nepalganj ensured travel and especially our return to Kathmandu was both easy and straightforward. It could easily have been very difficult and stressful.
The trek staff team, apart from our guide , who had spent 7 years working in the Dolpo area, were all from the Dolpo region. They were all, without exception, very knowledgeable, thoughtful and constantly cheerful throughout our trek. The entire team made our trek an absolute pleasure, looked after us very courteously and gave us an experience we will not forget.
We owed much of the fun and comfort of the trek to our guide, Pemba Bhota, who was excellent and worked extremely hard to organise everything. Having worked in the Dolpo region, he knew the route very well, knew people along the route and enabled us to visit local places of interest to us that we would not have been able to visit otherwise. This meant we talked to lamas at the gompas we passed and traditional amchi healers in local clinics. Even with the unexpected heavy snowfall that recently caused such problems in the Annapurna range, and which made conditions in Dolpo more difficult, Pemba was very calm, managed to raise some smiles and ensured we all reached the next camp site safely. We would definitely request his guidance again and would recommend him highly.
Everyone said the Dolpa would change us. And it did. Renewing our perspective on life, ecology and landscape, it opened our eyes to the ways that people and landscape mould each other. We were inspired by the people we met and the way they wrest a livelihood in the most challenging of environments. Their inspirational lives and the Dolpo landscape and wildlife will live on in our memories for years to come.