|Our treks||Expeditions||Contact us||About us||Old photos & Diaries|
Limi and Kailash Magic
a trek for previous trekkers and their friends
Limi, in Nepal's west and close to the Tibet border, has long tempted trekkers with its inaccessibility. We head out there and combine with Kailash, in Tibet, for the ultimate cleansing trek.
The religious and cultural influences on this region are rich, wide and varied and captured in Thomas Kelly and Carol Dunham’s evocative book "The Hidden Himalayas". For some well-traveled and trekked people (myself included) Humla and the Limi Valley is simply the most beautiful place they have every visited. ...
Starting in the Humla district capital of Simikot we quickly left behind any modern conveniences and we were soon immersed in the pleasant rhythm of trekking through ever-changing landscapes. From the impossibly-steep terraced farmland that clings to the hillsides bordering the Humla Karnali River we headed into pleasant forests alongside thundering creeks swollen with winter melt and through valleys flanked by sheer rock walls reminiscent of Yosemite. We clambered over the Nayu La and into the Limi Valley proper where we lingered in villages watching families working together in the fields with their yaks reminding us all of the more important things in life."
- Wanda Vivequin, who provided inspiration for this trek - thanks!
Join the Himalayan roses, Raewyn, Pik and Organic Ornella. Good-natured and easy company previous trekkers are welcome to join them. The top banner photo is not Kailash (I know you are wondering), but to the left, below me, is.
Note that the Nepalgunj-Simikot flight is a fine weather flight and occasionally delayed, we have time built in to allow for some delays.
From the end of the kora, looking south to Gurla Mandhata and Manasoravar - Jamie
In the far west of Tibet, in the province of Ngari and the land of the ‘drokpas’ or nomads of the high plateaus, sits the legendary Mount Kailash, or Kang Rimpoche (‘precious snow-peak’, as known by the Tibetans). Kailash is the most sacred mountain in Asia, venerated by Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, and followers of the ancient Bon religion. Tibetan and Hindu pilgrims have been making the 53km kora, or circuit, of Kailash for centuries. This circumambulation, clockwise for Buddhists and Hindus, and anti-clockwise followers of the ancient Bon religion, is said to erase the sins of a lifetime. To complete the Kailash pilgrimage one should bath in the sacred Lake Manasarovar, stunningly set on the Tibetan plateau bordered by the majestic Gurla Mandata. Mount Kailash itself is 6714m high, and with its four sheer walls, distinctive snow-capped peak, and valleys peppered with brightly-clad Tibetan pilgrims, is an awe-inspiring sight. From it flow four great rivers of Asia: the Karnali, the Indus, the Sutlej and the Brahmaputra, all of which drain the vast Tibetan Plateau.
The Limi text is courtesy of Wanda, the Tibet text courtesy Kim Bannister and Explore Himalaya.
Day 1- Arrive Kathmandu 1400m
You’ll be met at the airport, details by email. Look out for a sign with your name on it. We take you to the ?Kathmandu Guest House and get you checked into your room.
You'll have the afternoon to explore Thamel, the main tourist area of Kathmandu. Thamel is a myriad of banners, signs, music shops, bakeries, internet cafes, restaurants, bars, hotels, shops of all imaginable varieties and eccentrically clad backpackers. Over dinner we check your insurance details and equipment, collect your passport so that we can complete the Chinese visa formalities and get to know each other over a beer at the New Orleans Cafe.
2 - Kathmandu
All of you have seen the main sights of Kathmandu so we explore somewhere special with a guide.
3 – Fly to Nepalgunj
An afternoon flight brings us to Nepalgunj, the largest city in western Nepal and a jumping-off point for many flights and buses into western Nepal, set in the steamy Terai near the border of India. We stay the night at an air-conditioned hotel, and head out back in time to explore this town seemingly right out of the 1940's.
4 – Fly to Simikot 2910m
We take an early morning flight 218km north to Simikot, the district headquarters of Humla, situated up on a ridge overlooking the Humla Karnali River.
5 - Dharapuri
*Today we leave the relative “civilization” of Simikot and strike out on the trail heading for Dharapuri. It may take a little bit of time to sort out the loads onto yaks and horses but that is part of the fun. It’s a stiff climb out of Simikot to the top of the hill that takes down to Masigaon and onto Dharapuri. This is where hiking poles, good knees and patience pay off. We stop for lunch somewhere halfway along this trail to Dharapuri and pitch our tents at a campsite next to some nice water holes. The landscape reveals just how precious arable land is in Humla with every square centimeter used for cultivation.
6 - Kermi
*Today we share the trail that snakes along side the Karnali river with herds of goats that carry tiny backpacks, and ponies and yaks on their way to the border with Tibet to trade. Goats used to be the only beasts of burden until the widening of the trail which they now have to share with traders, yaks, ponies, donkeys and tourists on their way to Kailash.
We reach Kermi early in the day and this gives us enough time for a walk up to the hot springs where we might be lucky enough to meet up with Simikot locals having their first hot bath after the long cold winter. It’s a bit of a grind to get up to the hotsprings but well worth it!
We camp in a designated camp area perhaps with one of the women who has taken several brother as her husbands as polyandry is still practiced in this part of the country. This is done for practical reasons to reduce the division of landholdings that often happens when marriages take place and land has to be divided between sons.
7 - Salle Khola camp
*We leave the main trail today and follow the Sale Khola (river) into a valley that surely must be one of the most beautiful in Nepal. At first we walk through pine forest and then alongside the river to strike camp around lunchtime next to the river at a place I (Wanda) have called the field of dreams. This gives us plenty of time to wash clothes and ourselves and relax in the spring sunshine.
8 - Nyula base camp
*We can sleep in a little bit today because it is not too far to our next campsite. We walk underneath a giant rock face through meadows of flowers and lush greenery before crossing another river and through Rhododendron forests before hitting the arid high altitude rock strewn valley that marks the approach to the Nyula. This pass forms an important portal for the goat traders of Humla who bring giant herds of these animal into Nepal to sell, especially around Dasain, the major Hindu festival
Our campsite is located near some stone herders huts just below the pass. We might be feeling the altitude a little tonight although it should not be too bad as we have been careful with our acclimatization schedule.
9 - Taglang Tso camp?
*We start early for the slow ascent of the Nyalu Pass which is just under 5000 metres. It is not a difficult pass but we leave too late it can make for tough going for the animals carrying the loads, especially if there is still snow on the slopes. From the pass we can take a gentle slope that heads right and if clear we might be able to see Mt Kailash or the formidable mass of Gurla Mandhata. It’s a beautiful spot albeit a little windy and there is still a ways to go to the camp spot so we don’t linger too long.
A packed lunch means the kitchen can make their own time to the camp spot and if all goes to plan there should be hot tea when we arrive. In 2007 snow leopard sightings by our yak drivers meant we camped a little further than where we had planned. We rest well tonight after a longish day.
10 - Taglang Tso camp
We have a rest day, anyone up for exploring?
11 - Jang hot springs camp
*Along the way today we catch glimpses of a narrow snaking path into Tibet through the Lapche La which is still regularly used for bringing goats into Nepal. We camp near some small hot springs frequented by locals from Jang. We spend two nights here next to the river so a good chance to clean clothes and relax.
12 - Jang hot springs camp
*Time to relax, sleep in and eat a leisurely breakfast and then head into Jang for a good look around this friendly village. Families that winter over in Kathmandu have returned to plough and plant their fields and spend time with elderly relatives who have wintered over isolated in their villages. Jang is one of three villages in the Limi Valley and you are free to spend as much time as you want exploring this stunning village today.
13 - Halji
*Halji is our next stop and we camp on a green spot below the village below a grove of trees. We should arrive before a late lunch leaving the afternoon to wander around the village to visit this important monastery which contains Buddhist statues and scriptures secreted across the border during China's cultural revolution.
14 - Til
*It is a short trek today although there is a bit of a climb to our campsite at Til, an exquisite and tidy village located about 40 minutes walk above the Humla Karnali River. Our early afternoon arrival gives us enough time to explore the gompa located about 20 minutes walk from the village and to enjoy the hospitality of these friendly people. The next few days will take us through uninhabited landscapes so it’s a good chance to make the most of the last of our time in the Limi Valley
15 - Til
This is another village rest day, and is a buffer for flight delays. We could also use this for exploration around day 10 and day 11...
16 - Manipene
*We skirt along skinny trails clinging to hillsides, the river carving a narrow canyon far below us. We have lunch where we camped in May 2007, an improbably series of ledges perched on a hillside strewn with animal dung but with stupendous views in all directions. This trail is not for the faint hearted. We camp at Manepene….named after the carvings on a stone that dominate this site.
17 - Taklakot
We trek to the border and cross to stay at Taklakot.
18 - Darchen/Tarboche
We see Manasoravar and Chiu Gompa en route to Darchen, the start of the Kailash Kora, where the paperwork is checked.
Chiu Gompa is on the shores of Manasorovar, and we visit this picturesque gompa perched on a craggy hill-top with an imposing view of Kailash in back, and a famous Guru Rimpoche cave inside. Lake Manasorovar is separated from the smaller sister lake, Rakshas Tal, by a narrow strip of land, and the two lakes are linked by a small channel, an auspicious spot for Tibetans. Once at Manasorovar, the hearty have time to take a dip in the lake to wash away the more physical signs of our Kailash Kora.
19 - trek to Dira-puk
From Tarboche, we follow the Lha Chu river through a serene and beautiful meadow-lined valley, hopping over small streams, the west face of Mount Kailash’s towering above us. The river enters a narrow canyon with high, steep cliffs and spectacular waterfalls. Midway along the trek the secret entranceway to the Inner Kora is visible to the right. One must complete 13 koras to enter. Instead we continue up the valley and the north face of Kailash comes into view just as we reach the 13th century monastery at Dira-puk. We camp opposite the river from the gompa, below the massive north face of Kailash. A sunset walk up to the ridge overlooking the north face is a must!
21 - rest day?
22 - trek over the Drolma La to Meadow Camp
We now leave the Lha Chu Valley and enter the Drolma Chu Valley, heading up towards a 5,630 meter pass, the Drolma La. Although the altitude makes the trekking arduous, we will be continuously intrigued by the masses of pilgrims performing their acts of devotion along the way. Those extremely devout pilgrims prostrate themselves the entire way around Kailash, kneeling down and extending their bodies and hands in front of them in prayer (and marking the beginning of the next prostration). The trail is lined with sacred sites: butter, coin & flag-covered rocks, rocks with footprints of saints, rocks to climb over, under or through, hillsides of discarded clothes as offerings and other significant sites. It's a tough climb to the prayer-flag festooned summit, but it’s all worth if from the top as juniper incense burns and thousands of colorful prayer flags send prayers out into the surrounding valleys. Peace throughout the world!
Pilgrims, as well as our group, stop for lunch before the decent to the east valley. We pass above the the Lake of Compassion, Thukpe Dzingbu, one of the highest lakes in the world. We will camp in the valley below the pass near the eastern face of Mount Kailash.
22 - Trek to Darchen then drive to Manasoravar camp or Horchu
Another couple of hours brings us to Zutul-puk Gompa, 4790m, where there are several meditation caves and another cave containing an image of Milarepa. A monk with a Polaroid takes photos of the Tibetan pilgrims in all their finery for 5 RMB! Afterwards, it’s an easy walk along some impressive gorges and around many mani stones and mani walls back to the Bharka Plains and dusty Darchen where our jeeps await us. The kora is finished - we’ve erased our sins, endured cold nights and mornings, crossed one of the highest passes in the world, met countless fellow pilgrims, sent prayers of peace out to the world. Congratulations!
We start driving and lets see where we stay, either near the eastern end of Manasoravar, or Horchu or similar, basically shortening the normally long drive to Paryang tomorrow.
23 - Drive to Paryang 4750m
Today is a stunning drive to the wonderful sand dunes camp site at Paryang. The kids will be out at the camp site to welcome us, as will the village dogs. Along the way, we cross the Mayum La and make several river crossings. The scenery along this section is some of the most beautiful of the entire journey, and a distant storm drifting in back of Tibetans, horses and sheep is a surreal sight.
24 - Drive to Saga 4600m
We continue driving today along a 255km stretch of road to Saga, passing through the small, dusty town of Zhongba en route and back over the passes, La Gyalo! We camp in a lovely spot just before the large village of Saga, where cold beers are available!
25 - Drive to Nyalam
Leaving Saga, we cross the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra River) by ferry and continue our journey for 115km across the vast open plains. There are stunning Himalayan views, particularly of Shishapangma, accompanying us as we head towards the surreal turquoise lake, Peiku Tso. The next few hours are as spectacular as they come, as we rejoin the Friendship Highway, pass through Tingri and are rewarded with magnificent views of the surrounding peaks of Shishapangma, Cho Oyu, Menlungtse and Gauri Shankar. We spectacularly cross the Himalaya over the Lamlung La (5125m), and descend through a patchwork of silvery Tibetan villages to the charming village of Nyalam.
26 - cross the border, drive to Kathmandu
From Nyalam, the road drops severely for about two hours of white-knuckled driving into a deep mossy gorge with cascading waterfalls before reaching the border town of Zhangmu. This outpost is a bit rough but certainly not lacking in character, with Tibetans offering to change any additional Chinese RMB into Nepali rupees and 'discos' lining the cliff-hugging streets.
From Zhangmu, it's a short drive to the Friendship Bridge which spans the Bhote Kosi River and marks the Chinese - Nepalese border. We say goodbye to our Tibetan guide and driver and walk to Nepalese Immigration Control in Kodari where we will be met by our Nepalese staff. After passing thru Immigration we drive about four hours, through scenic middle-hills Nepali landscapes, to Kathmandu. Perhaps we have the afternoon free to do some sightseeing and shopping if we arrive early enough. And a hot shower!
27 - Kathmandu
Relax and recover! And this is also a spare day for all those unpredictables.
Day 28 - Depart
Farewell, we take you to the airport for your flight home. We hope you had a fantastic trip, the journey of a lifetime!