Ever since Tenzing Norgay Sherpa became the first man, along with Sir Edmund Hillary, to conquer the world’s highest peak, the Sherpas have enjoyed a status as hardy mountaineers, and trusted guides for any expedition on its way to climb the lofty Himalayan peaks. Many Sherpas have etched their names in the record books for many daring feats of skill and courage in the field of climbing. Not only that, they have also garnered an enviable reputation for their hospitality, trustworthiness, and simplicity.
Trekking through the Sherpas’ heartland, that is, Helambu, allows you to experience the lifestyle and culture of these simple folk with sinews of steel. A Helambu trek can be usually completed in a matter of a week and involves staying over in home stays. Actually, it’s perfect for those looking for a less-than-strenuous trek, one that doesn’t go up to high altitudes, and one where the focus is more on days of leisurely hikes through a landscape that is beautiful and refreshing. Of all Nepal treks, the Helambu trek is the one that is most easily accessible from the capital, Kathmandu. It’s a most pleasant walk through a number of Tamang and Sherpa villages, the familiar terraced paddy fields, verdant valleys, and dense forests of oak and rhododendron. And, all the while, you’ll be mesmerized by the sight of the magnificent Himalayan peaks on the horizon.
The route goes from Sundarijal to Chisopani, Kutumsng, Tharepati, Tarkeghyang, Sermanthang, and Melamchi Pul. To begin with, you take a one-and-a-half hour drive to Sundarijal from Kathmandu, where there’s a big reservoir that supplies water to the valley. It’s the place from where your Helambu trek begins. You start hiking for some time before the trail begins to go uphill, passing a lovely waterfall on the way, and then through some rich forests full of oak and pine trees, as well as deep red rhododendrons flowers. You’ll also be walking through small villages of the Tamangs, one of the larger communities in Nepal. By and by, you’ll reach Borlang Bhanjyang, a pass at a height of 2,348 meters above sea level, and then arrive at Chisopani (2,194 m). The day’s trek is for about five hours.
The next day’s hike, which is for about six hours, doesn’t involve much of uphill trekking. As you reach Gul Bhanjyang, another Tamang village, you’ll revel at the sight of the lovely green terraced paddy fields set on the hillsides. Here onwards, you’ll come across a couple of villages inhabited mostly by people of the Brahmin and Chettri communities. You’ll be hiking along some ridges, from where the views are excellent, before reaching the day’s destination, Kutumsang (2,470 m).
The third day’s goal is to trek for some six hours to reach Tharepati (3,510 m), and it’s a more challenging hike than the previous two days’, as it involves hiking long some high pastures where the solitude is pretty striking, since not many villagers are to be found here. You may come across a few woodcutters or shepherds, but on the whole, you’ll enjoy the isolated wilderness. You’ll also be walking through forests on your way to the pastures. Before reaching Tharepati, you’ll come to a chorten located on a hilltop from where you get good views of Jugal Himal and Rowaling Himal.
Day four takes you to Tarkeghyang (2,740 m), and it begins with walking down a ravine, which is quite a steep descent, to arrive at a suspension bridge, and then hiking onwards to Malemchigaon, one of the bigger villages inhabited by Sherpas. It’s a neat village where orchards and fields surround houses with prayer flags fluttering up front. The Sherpa community here has some differences with the Sherpas of Solu Khumbu in the Himalayan region, mostly in the manner of how women dress (red cotton dresses in lieu of Tibetan type dresses). There are also dissimilarities in dialect spoken in the two places. Soon, you’ll reach Melamhi Khola, and from here, you start climbing again to reach Helambu’s biggest Sherpa village, that is, Tarkeghyang, where the houses are made of stone and look quite impressive. This village also has a beautiful gompa with a mammoth prayer wheel made of brass.
The next two days is quite easy walking, the trail being, more or less, a pretty level one. It’s also a pleasant outing, walking as you’ll be through lovely Sherpa villages, burbling clear mountain streams, and cascading waterfalls. You’ll come across many chortens on the trail, and walking along a ridge, as well, before arriving at Sermathang (2,590 m). After this, you begin descending slowly to reach Melamchi Pul (870 m) and then Melamchi Bazaar, from where you drive back to Kathmandu (1,300 m).
If you can afford the time, and you have the inclination to experience the real Nepal at close quarters, then you shouldn’t hesitate to go on this seven-day trek to Helambu. Most trekking agencies have it on their itineraries, and unlike the longer and more challenging Nepal treks, this one should be a cakewalk, one that’s suitable for one and all.