Helambu: The hidden land of Nepal
11th Oct, 2020 | Tourism Mail Crew
Helambu, you may have heard this name many times but have you been to Helambu? If you haven’t, I am going to share my travel story so that it might be helpful as a guidelines if you are travelling to Helambu.
Helambu trek can be done through various routes via Kathmandu-Sundarijal-Thadepati trail, Kathmandu Timbu trail and many other unknown trails are also there. Here is our new route to Helambu up to Aama Yangri Peak. I and my two brothers, friends and sisters from Naagi village (Panch Pokhari Thangpal Municipalty) decided to trek to Aama Yangri Peak on February 2020. Two of my brothers and I started our trek from Aama Hyolmo bus park from Narayantar Kathmandu on 25th of February. The bus left around 8 am in the morning and passed through Sankhu, Jarsing Pauwa and entered the Sindhupalchowk district. We reached Melamchi Bazar (870 m) at around noon, had our lunch, rested for a while, climbed the bus again and left the Melamchi Bazar. The bus headed forward through Tripini, Thangpaldhap, Raithane, Manekharka and reached Naagi village (1800m) at the evening at around 5 pm. My friends were waiting for us at one of my friend’s house. They welcomed us and had some gossiping with them, had dinner and slept.
The next morning we woke up, had breakfast and did some strolling around the village. There was some rite at Naagi Tashi Chhowling Gumba that day and we were invited, so we went to attend there. We had our lunch at the Gumba and ride towards Naagi Tham Danda. After 15 minutes of ride, we reached Naagi Tham Danda located at an altitude of 2480m. The overlooking view from there was just really amazing. There was Hatti danda, also known as Chyochyo Ghang (3200m) on the east side, the hill in the elephant shaped and Langtang Himalayan Range on the north side, Aama Yangri Peak on the west side and on the south side was the eagle eye view of Gunsa and Raithane villages and the Indrawati river flowing. One thing to share is that you can also trek towards Panch Pokhari from this point. We spent about 1 hour there taking some photos and videos and then rode back to the gumba at Naagi village. We spent the remaining day at nearby stupa having some conversations with friends and some local people. At the evening we had our breakfast at the gumba and returned to the friend’s house.
We all gathered there and made preparations for the trek towards Aama Yangri Peak, the next day. Some of us were preparing some foodstuffs, some were just helping them, and four of us were busy singing and making videos. We all were from Hyolmo ethnic caste so we were singing our own songs playing tungna and ukulele. After a while all of others also joined us. It was fun and enjoyment that night. At around 9 pm we had our dinner and slept.
The very next day on 27th February, we woke up at around 7 am in the morning and got ready. All of my friends and their sisters were also already ready to hit the road. After taking breakfast, 13 of us start our trek and left Naagi village. First few hours of our trek was descending from the beginning. After descending through some farmland, alder forest, villages we reached the suspension bridge down at the Haadi river. After crossing that bridge we rested for a while took a water break. Then we ascended for about 2 hours and reached Dursa Ghang at around 11 am and had our lunch over there.
Then we again began to climb up and reached Khaser village at around 1 pm and after about 1 and half hours of further ascending we reached Yangrima School.Our ascending was only up to there that day. Then after the trail was gentle; it was easy to walk on the road. So our enjoyment started again; singing along with walking playing ukulele. After walking about 30 minutes, we reached Sermathang village (2592 m) and had some breakfast over there. Then we headed forward again singing and walking and reached Ganghyul village (2483 m) at around 4:30 pm and rested there. We moved on and reached Tarkegyang (2549 m) at around 6 pm. We stayed at Hotel Yangri Peak that day. We got refreshed and went to dinner room. Our musical program started again. This time it was more enjoyment because some other group also joined us. We sang not only our own hyolmo songs this time but also did some nepali hit numbers too. One of the songs from Helambu region was “Helambu mathi Sermathang Tyo pari paryo Naagi gaun…Jhyapai maya laidim ki morilai satya mari jham…Yangrima ko chhiso hawa melamchi ko chhiso pani….. Chhadi jauta kasari jau Hyolmo gaun ko nani…” We sang mash up hyolmo and nepali songs. We took dinner at around 10 pm and went to sleep that night.
On 27th of February the next morning was the trek towards the Aama Yangri Peak. We all woke up at around 6 am, took breakfast and got ready. It was the winter time and there was snowfall. So it was challenging trek that day. We ascended about 2 hours and reached Jhyomothang (3200 m) at 8:30 am. We took a break over there, drank some water and did sightseeing. Only some of us had carried water. So after the water break at Jhyomothang we had not even a single drop of water in our bottles.
The trail after Jhyomothang was steep and covered with the snow. It was difficult and challenging to find the trail. At the same time we were very thirsty and had no water. We even melt the snow and drank on the way. After 2 hours of difficult and challenging ascends without water, we reached the stop where there was some water on the roof plastic cover of an old shed. It was the water stored after the snow being melted. We all drank that water even knowing it was impure and undrinkable because we had no other options. We quenched our thirsts drinking that water and felt relief anyway. After resting there for a while we climbed up for about 30 minutes and reached the Aama Yangri peak located at an elevation of 3770 m at around 11 am. We prayed and offered praying flags on the peak as it is the deity; the protector of Helambu region. Then we took some photos, videos and did some overlooking view. The 360 degree view from the peak was just wow; I got no words to describe that view. The view was enthralling, marvelous, stunning, mesmerizing and wonderful which made us forgot all our pains and hardest climb.
We all were busy in our stuffs taking photos and videos. One of my friend shouted feeling happy and excited. Suddenly the weather changed at a glance. The peak was completely covered by the black clouds but other places were not covered on the peak. It was spooky to see that things. May be the deity had got angry and my friend even cut his finger while he was trying to land drone in his hand. Something really bad could happen that day. Fortunately it did not happen we were lucky ones.
We all were hungry and ate some noodles. We had only few noodles so it was not enough for 13 of us. Anyway we shared it and ate it. Then we started to descend from the peak at around 2 pm. The descending was difficult too. I got my half body stuck in the snow in one place and others slipped multiple times while descending. When we reached Jhyomothang, some of my friends moved downward in fast pace. They were in a great appetite and want to fill their empty stomach as soon as possible. Remaining of us also descend faster and reached the hotel at Tarkegyang at around 4:30 pm. On the way back we had lots of fun even it was difficult. We played snow throwing upon each other all the way back up to Tarkegyang. We had our lunch at the evening time that day. Then we went towards Chiri Monastery walking about 20 minutes from Tarkegyang. Chiri Monastery is almost 1000 years old monastery; the primitive old and historic Buddhist Monastery in all over Helambu region is the Dzo-dril or Chudi Monastery or Chiri Chuklakhang founded by Hyolmopa Terton Ngagchhang Shakya Zangpo, one of great Buddhist masters who practiced in Helambu. We visited the monastery and drank the water from the water tape which is believed that the water was brought by the rat digging holes up to Chiri village while constructing the Chiri Monastery. Then we went to friends’ aunt house had some salt tea along with some conversations for a while.
Then we returned to the hotel again. That night was also musical again. This time it was more fun to sing some newari hits with some newar brothers from Thimi, Bhaktapur. Some of the newari hits were Rajamati kumati, Sirsaya hegu, Wochhu galli, Wa maya wawa, Likka waya and so on. We did the mash up of newari, hyolmo, nepali and hindi songs that night. It was amazing experience to sing the different songs from different communities. It is what we called unity in diversity, sharing culture with each other. We had our dinner at around 10 pm and went to bed. We all were exhausted so we went to deep sleep that night.
On 29th of February, we ate our breakfast on the morning and got separated from the hotel at around 7:30 am. My friends and their sisters returned towards their Naagi village. My two brothers and I took another way to Kathmandu. We three descended from Tarkegyang and reached Dujum village and then Nakote village. We caught the bus at Nakote village at 9 am and returned to Kathmandu.
To sum up, it was the wonderful, unforgettable, musical and adventurous trek of 5 days that we accomplished. We travelled some parts of Panch Pokhari Thangpal Municipality and Helambu Rural Municipality. I would like to suggest some important points if you are travelling to Aama Yangri Peak. Make sure to carry enough water and foods because there are not any hotels and water resources available from Tarkegyang to the peak. Wear proper trekking gears if you are travelling in winter season. Never ever try to shout and do unusual stuffs in the peak if you don’t want any disaster to happen. The trail to the peak from Tarkegyang is the nearest and fastest. Presently, the road has been constructed up to Jhyomothang, the base camp of Aama Yangri peak. When the road is good, especially during autumn and pre winter, you can ride on your vehicles up to Jhyomothang and ascending about 1 and half hours on foot you can reach the peak if you want to. If you do that, you can reach the peak early in the morning and enjoy the stunning sunrise.
The main highlights of Helambu trek are excellent views of mountains that including the Langtang Range, Dorje Lakpa, Gauri Shankar, Dom Blanc, Ganesh Himal, Manaslu and even Everest, Hyolmo culture, interesting Nepal villages in route, Brahmins, Tamangs and Sherpas tribes of Nepal, Thanka painting, Buddhist monasteries, religious monuments, sacred heritages and pilgrimage sites, Guru Rinpoche and Buddhist saint Melarepa meditated caves, beautiful flora and fauna, verdant vegetation, terrace farming,etc. Helambu circuit trekking also known as “Hyolmo heritage” is an easy, naturally and geographically fascinating trekking tour that visitors can experience the mountains of Majestic Himalayan scenery, great opportunity to experience green landscapes and unique Hyolmo culture.
The Helambu region is a relatively low altitude trek and one of the most convenient of the short treks, close to Kathmandu, only about 80 km far from the valley and it is less crowded. The Hyolmo people, the “Helambu Sherpas” are an indigenous group of people that natively reside in the Helambu and Melamchi valleys of Sindhupalchowk, highlands of Nuwakot and Rasuwa of northeastern Nepal. The language, culture and dress of the Helambu Sherpas are very different from other Sherpas of Khumbu area and Rolwaling, both in language and costumes. The Hyolmo people speak the Hyolmo language which has high similarity to Tibetan. In the Hyolmo Community traditionally the men wear Tshuba (alike Tibetan male dress) and ladies wear Tshuba and Burserki. The people of Hyolmo celebrate Sonam Losar, the great new-year festival. Apart from this, they also celebrate other religious festivals sush as Nhara, Tsechu, Buddha Jayanti and Mani Bum. The Hyolmo people work mainly in agriculture growing potatoes and other crops. Hyolmo people are also known for their yak herding and for making yak cheese. The houses at Helambu region are richly decorated and equipped with cultural dishes, costumes and pots. They welcomed every guest with the choice from two types of milk tea; salted one and sugary. It’s a dishonor to say no to the tea offer.
The name of Hyolmo is widely used by Buddhas and Bodhisattvas from centuries ago and is still in use by great Tibetan masters and great practitioners. The word “Hyolmo” is mentioned in many religious monuscripts of Tibetan Buddhism and is considered as a holy region which in Tibetan or Hyolmo is called “Bhe-yhul Hyolmo” or Hidden valley. Tibetan Buddhism in Nepal can be divided into Shakya, Gelug, Nyingma, Kagyu and Bon. Padmasambhava, also known as guru Rinpoche, introduced the people of Tibet to the practice of Tantric Buddhism. He is regarded as the founder of the Nyingma tradition. The Nyingma tradition is the oldest of the Tibetan Buddhism. Guru Rinpoche is the great guru who translated the Buddhist scriptures from Sanskrit into Tibetan, in the 8th century. Most of the Hyolmo people follow the Nyingma tradition. Helambu is the sacred and hidden land visited and blazed by Guru Rinpoche; the great guru to flourish Buddhism in Asia. He had filled the mountains and valleys with religious treasures. There are many caves of Guru Rinpoche and many great yogis from Tibet meditated and got enlighten here.
Jetsun Melarepa, considered as one of Tibet’s most famous yogis and poets of 11th century, spent many years of his life meditating in various caves of Helambu region. Melarepa has written this place in his hundred thousand of his songs. Melarepa cave is a very popular destination for all and especially for followers of Kagyu tradition.
So Helambu is historically, religiously, culturally and naturally a beautiful place to visit. With fresh air, greenery and mountain views, Helambu offers a totally different experience of Nepal after only a one day drive from Kathmandu. Staying in Helambu is like passing through to another space and time, the lovely natural scenery, unique Hyolmo culture and lifestyles, and religious meditation sites takes you far away from the busy and stressful world. A sense of peace and serenity comes deeply inside your heart when wandering around Helambu. If you are longing to find a place to relax, then Helambu will be your best choice.
Text/Photo: Lhakpa Gyalbu Hyolmo