After a week of trekking through just a small, relatively low-elevation section of the Himalaya, we can all agree that these mountains are impressive! Even though many of our group have backpacked in other of the world’s great mountain ranges, we found these to be both breath-takingly steep and tall. (See more about the group that guided us through the Rupin-Supin trek at www.harkidun.org)
But at the same time, what struck many of us most was the extent to which these are Peopled Mountains. For all of the trek we were moving through landscapes that were working places, whether it was ripening fields of wheat on small terraces, high pastures for mixed flocks of sheep and goats, or brown oak forests with abundant trees that had been trimmed for firewood and fresh fodder for livestock. They were full of wildlife (one night the sheep dogs guarding a nearby flock barked frequently to ward off prowling leopards) and natural beauty, but also were clearly home for the residents in these valleys. This made for a sharp contrast to the “unsettled” trekking landscapes of the western U.S.
Another important realization for all of us was the ability to visualize the resource “footprint” of the villages that we passed – you could clearly see how and why residents there used the landscape around them. This challenged our understanding of our own ecological footprints, which are much larger but also so much more dispersed that we easily lose sight of the connections. This will be a long-term goal for each of us after this trip – to better situate our lives closer to home wherever possible.
In the meanwhile, we have a great set of memories from this trip:
– playing tag and frisbee with village children in the common pasture above their village
– seeing the impressive heights of the inner Himalayan mountains for the first time from the highest point on our trip (~3500m)
– hurrying to camp on our third night as a rain and hail storm swept across the mountain for the last hour or so of our hike
– sheep and goats passing through our campsite, trying a few nibbles on our tents as they went,
And many others!
Now with just a few days left in the course, students are busy preparing their final presentations here at the Hanifl Centre, before we head back down to the plains for the last two days of the trip.