One of the best parts about visiting the “must-sees” in Nepal, are the things places, and people you can stumble upon on your way. A little way off the trail that heads to Makalu Basecamp is the small and charming Chepuwa, a village that hugs the border of Tibet and is home to some of the most stunning scenery in Nepal.
Getting to this trail requires a flight in a small airplane from Kathmandu to Tumlingtar. Pack a deck of cards or something else to entertain yourself with though, because odds are you’ll end up spending a couple of extra unplanned hours in the terminal waiting for your plane to arrive. On time just is not the Nepali way.
After a long wait and a short flight, California native Cooper May and seven of his friends (including two locals to guide them) jammed themselves into a 5-seater Bolero Jeep and endured the long, newly-constructed road to Ghola, from where they would walk the rest of the way to Chepuwa to visit a friend’s hometown.
“What we did in a day in the jeep would take three days walking. But personally, I would rather walk,” says May. It’s a bumpy road, to say the least. Hikers were even seen along the way protesting the construction and criticizing it for obstructing Nepal’s natural beauty. However, it does offer a much more efficient means of transportation for locals of this area, who take their goods from village to village via the road.
The climb can be grueling for those not used to Nepal’s conditions. The many checkpoints along the trail give trackable indicators of distance and are a good way to set achievable goals. Walk up stairs for 30 minutes, then take a breather while you get your permit check. Wash, rinse, repeat.
After 30 miles and 12,000 feet of elevation gain, the quiet little Tibetan Chepuwa village was found. Walking up and out of the jungle, the group crested on top of a hill and saw the valley where Chepuwa village rested. May describes entering Chepuwa as like walking into a scene from The Lord of the Rings. Rivers that wrap around it and waterfalls that pour into it paint an unreal shade of green onto the millet paddies that roll along the hills and lead into the small valley.
While not often visited by tourists, the very nature of the village provides many places to buy a meal or a place to sleep. What trekkers in Nepal consider a once-in-a-lifetime experience, many Nepalis consider an everyday commute. So many in the village open their houses for hungry travelers to take a rest, and enjoy the quiet oasis that their home provides.
The guest houses in Chepuwa have no names and the restaurants no ratings, but visiting this village means seeing Nepal in a way that not many are able to. While many villages have been dressed up to cater to tourists, Chepuwa offers an authentic look into what Tibetan/Nepali life is like. You may need to make a friend who is from there in order to find it, but if the opportunity presents itself, it is definitely one that should be taken.
Article by Taylor May.
Top image by Steve Hicks/Flickr.