Sarah and I arrived back in the States 2 weeks ago after an amazing trek on the Manaslu Circuit. Now that we're readjusting to life back home, just wanted to provide some feedback ....
Tsering was extremely helpful in Kathmandu taking care of all the preparations before our trek. She was very organized and made us feel very confident that we were in good hands. It was a great relief when, upon our arrival in Kathmandu and feeling
very overwhelmed and a little anxious about our trek, she had everything taken care of from taking care of permits to coordinating a jeep at the last minute to working out our reimbursement at the end of the trek for arriving back a day early. We owe her a huge amount of thanks for her hard work.
Our guide, Pasang, and porter, Dutman, were both amazing. Pasang always was looking out for us and had a great attitude no matter what: always smiling, always laughing, always friendly, and always understanding of our concerns. In addition, since he is originally from a traditional village himself (though in a different region), he always bonded with all the local villagers so that we always felt like we got to know the locals better than was the case in most other tourist groups. Though there are younger guides out there, his wisdom was immediately apparent to us and we couldn't have asked for a better guide. He taught us a lot about traditional Nepali village life, from the foods people eat to the way they make their houses to the local animals and plants to what can be found in each village. He also was always willing to take us to the local Gompa (which we did a lot!) and track down the lama so we could go inside. Of course, it would have been even better if he was from the Manaslu area himself, but he still knew an amazing amount about the Gurong and Tibetan peoples in the areas through which we traveled. Dutman was truly incredible in that, even with a pack almost his size on his back, he never once complained or did anything but smile when we told him we wanted to go a little further. In retrospect, we couldn't have imagined we would be so happy with our guide and porter. So much thanks to both you and Tsering for providing us with such great company for our trek.
The Manaslu circuit, after a long jeep ride to Arughat, seemed to just keep getting better everyday, not just for the amazing scenery but the traditional village life, which become more and
more interesting as we moved away from the roads. My only complaint would be that there were more tourists than I expected and therefore there was more "development" being pursued in many of these villages because of tourists (Pasang commented on how much had changed, i.e., how many new lodges were being built, even in the last year). For the first week or so of our trek, we mostly stayed in small teahouses/homestays, and I really enjoyed this. However, after that, there started to be no option but to stay in large tourist lodges which I particularly disliked since I felt like we were completely removed from village life. It was almost as if the village, especially in places like Sama, had a tourist section and a local villager section and the two did not interact.
In these tourist lodges, we mostly only saw other tourists and felt like we were in a separate world from the local villagers. However, my primary concern isn't that it degraded my own personal experience (though it did) but that this is causing damage to the traditional way of life in these villages, from the waste created by all the processed food and drink the tourists consume to the inevitable roads that eventually seem to follow (arriving on the Annapurna circuit for the last few days was particularly discouraging since there are now roads almost the entire way to Chame and all the villages on this path had been completely transformed from traditional villages into ones that have lost many of their traditional ways and primarily exist to cater to tourists). It was extremely disheartening to find out, when we ran into a villager near Tal who was originally from Samdo and who told us that the Chinese are going to build a road to Samdo. This will be a huge loss not just for that region, but to the world. So my only regret is that I feel like, by staying in tourist lodges, we were in someway contributing to this destruction made under the name of "development". So my only
major complaint is that, in the Tibetian region, I wish there was a way we could have stayed in very small teahouses/homestays that weren't so isolated from the villagers. I would have preferred to have met more villages and learned more about how they live rather than just trying to create a "mini-Western world" in one lodge. After all, we didn't come to Nepal to eat Western food and talk to other Westerners!
So other than witnessing the corruption of traditional values that seems to be occurring on the Manaslu Circuit Trek and which has already occurred on the Annapurna Circuit Trek, especially the building of large tourist lodges and of course the terrible roads that are being blasted into the sides of mountains, we had an outstanding trip. We already have been reminiscing about how great our trip was, how amazing Nepal is, and how special the villages are in the Himalayas, whether Gurung, Tibetian, Sherpa, or otherwise. We miss it already. We were also very happy to support Tsum Valley Homestay as your goals -- protecting the culture and environment of the Tibetian regions in Tsum Valley and the Manaslu region -- align with our. We hope to return someday soon, and we just want to say thanks again and keep up the great work! I hope you have success in organizing the villagers to prevent any roads being built into such an amazing place in this ever-shrinking world.
Namaste, and hopefully we will actually get to meet someday! Please give our best to Tsering, Pasang, and Dutman.
- Jonathan and Sarah