Claire Burkert and Thomas Kelly, an American, have had memorable experiences when arriving in mysterious Himalayan villages in Covid-19.
Mysterious villages in the Himalayas
In May 2020, Burkert – activist and Kelly – photojournalist, had a journey to explore the Himalayas. The first day of the trip to the Himalayas, when a peak of the Shringi Himal, 7,165 m high, appeared white in the late sunlight, when two tourists entered the Prok village.
To get here, they crossed a wide open green field and tall trees. The village is a combination of monasteries and stone houses. A man walking barefoot, happily welcoming guests into the house. His name is Dorje Prok, over 40 years old.
According to this man, Prok means precious. Dorje is of royal lineage, practicing healing for villagers. His daughter, Jhangchuk, went to school in the capital, Kathmandu, and became a public health researcher and rancher in the forest.
The stone house welcomes two guests who used to be the palace of the king of Nubri valley. Indoors, the kitchen shelves are filled with copper plates and cooking utensils, and a television set.
On the sunny morning of the next day, Dorje showed off his scar, the result of a bear attack. The village was once devastated by the earthquake, but the people still survive. He said people believe that Padmasambhava, who brought Buddhism to Tibet in the 8th century, concealed many valleys across the Himalayas and created blizzards or fog to protect them. Peaceful valleys are only discovered once the world is faced with destruction, hatred, and lawlessness. The conversation helps Claire and Thomas understand more about life in Prok. It seems that the people here overcame all difficulties thanks to their faith.
Then, both tourists followed Jhangchuck to visit a village monastery, while Dorje sat at home and began to pray.
On the way, they met a principal from a school in Kathmandu. He was on his way to visit his grandfather in the village in the middle of the forest above. In that remote village, the elders meditate. The principal considered it the safest place possible to avoid a pandemic.
Himalayan villages are also now gradually changing to adapt to life. They began to build houses with lightweight, light-colored materials so that rescue helicopters could be easily identified from above. Rana Village is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of people in the new era.
The two tourists then embarked on their famous Manaslu palace trekking before a new road was built that changed the landscape and affected the old trail. Supporting them are an experienced guide and two porters.
On the third day, they passed through Namrung village. Both seem to enter a new world, the entrances are marked with the Buddha’s eyes radiating in four directions. To the valley of Nubri, before their eyes are the famous mountains Himalchuli 7,893m high and Manaslu 8,156m high. Later, they reached the large settlement of Samagaon, and received word that the Larke Pass was closed during the peak tourist season. Claire and Thomas began exploring Samagaon when the other tourists decided to pack their luggage home.
The two continue to a forest above the village. Through the thick fog, they found men and women monks hurried inside an old town, listening to chants, drums and whispering prayers. They are performing a ritual for people who have died 49 days earlier.
On the fourth day, when returning to this place, the two tourists were invited to tea with butter and tsampa (a cake made from barley flour that is very popular among the Tibetan community). They continue to watch people perform the ceremony to help the deceased to the afterlife.
The ceremony ended, and the two guests bid farewell to their trekking friends. These men then boarded a helicopter parked in the Samagaon field. In the afternoon, the group of Claire and Thomas walked past a long prayer wall on a snowy road, to a hotel hidden behind the mountains. It is run by twin brothers, Pemba. When meeting with guests, the hotel owner expressed his concern about the pandemic coming to this area.
At this time, two tourists received news that the US Embassy and the Tourism Authority of Nepal cooperated to rescue tourists trapped in the Himalayas. However, Claire and Thomas do not want to be “rescued” at this time. They do not want to say goodbye to the vibrant Prok village with azaleas, majestic mountains and rivers. Therefore, they continue to “trapped” this place to explore the mysterious villages in the legendary Himalaya.
Arriving in Jagat village, two people checked their weight, blood pressure and temperature in Jagat’s Pandemic Awareness program. Their two companions stopped at a small cafe on the edge of a cliff. The owner lamented that there were no tourists buying her snacks and drinks. She sat with her two young children, her eyes shining with worry: “What will I feed them if the epidemic keeps going? And what if my child has nCoV, when the hospitals are far away? ”
The last day, Claire and Thomas walked through the ruins of a new road that led down to Machha Khola. A strong conviction occurred in Claire as she witnessed with her own eyes the suffering of the pandemic of people in the villages hidden behind these mountains.
To get to these villages: Take the trekking Manaslu palace. The majestic scenery, intimate encounters with locals and their ancient cultures, and a trek across the 5,100m-high Himalayas will be an unforgettable experience. Travelers are advised to sign up for weekly group departures during the trekking season: spring and autumn, as well as private trips any day between February and June and September through November.
The first part of the trail is a trail that follows Gandaki Road, a deep, long canyon with many suspension bridges. Walk from the lower rainforest to the foothills of the Himalayas to a higher, colder and more challenging intersection of the Larkya La Pass, one of the longest passes in Nepal, located at an altitude 5,106 m above sea level, between Dharmashala in India and Lake Bhimtang in Nepal, is said to be the highest point on the trekking Manaslu arc.