Chapter 10 of ‘A Nomad in Nepal and the Lands Next Door’: The Dalai Lama’s current home address

Dharamshala and environs, including the suburb of McLeod Ganj where many Tibetans live, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Main Temple. Map data ©2018 Google.

MY travel to Dharamshala had its share of twists and turns. The wrong bus from Jammu had landed me in Manali and a seven-hour taxi ride later, I finally reached my destination.

Dharamshala lies just south of Kashmir in the present-day Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, of which it is the winter capital (Shimla is the summer capital). Dharamshala is internationally famous as the long-term base of the Dalai Lama, who has been exiled from Tibet since 1959.

It was November and the tourist season was over, but the town was still crowded. I had read up about the history…

Chapter 9 of ‘A Nomad in Nepal and the Lands Next Door’: A beautiful but divided land, at the western end of the Himalayas

Map detail of northern India and environs, featuring Kashmir and the location of Dharamshala, the subject of the next chapter

Chapter 8 of ‘A Nomad in Nepal and the Lands Next Door’: Snowfall, avalanches, a threatened tribe and people who speak four languages

Map of Northern Pakistan, Kashmir and the Hindu Kush which runs between Kashmir and Afghanistan. North at top.

Chapter 7 of ‘A Nomad in Nepal and the Lands Next Door’: Loved Gangtok Town, no other Westerners!

The strategic location of Sikkim. The state, contested in the past by both India and China, lies in close proximity to the narrow neck of Indian territory called the Siliguri Corridor, only 22 kilometres wide at its narrowest, which if interdicted would entirely cut off eight eastern states of India including Sikkim. The pointy bit of Tibet to the east of Sikkim is the Chumbi Valley, which some Indians have gone so far as to call “a dagger drawn at India’s heart.”

Chapter 6 of ‘A Nomad in Nepal and the Lands Next Door’: My toughest trek, made tougher by thinking about angry Sherpas who are paid the least and die first on the mountains, in earthquake and avalanche

My Three Passes Route. This time around, I started from Phaplu, where there is also a local airport in addition to the one at Lukla, though in fact we drove to Phaplu from Kathmandu. North at top.

I WENT to Nepal for the second time in November 2015. My plan was to trek in the Khumjung region and climb Lobuche (6,120 m) and Imja Tse/Island Peak (6,189 m). There had been a massive earthquake in April that had left almost 9,000 dead and hundreds of thousands homeless. I didn’t witness the full effects of the earthquake, since I got there seven months after the quake. I did, however, see the beautiful statues, temples and historical sites that had been destroyed by the quake. Tourism had been badly hit. …

Chapter 5 of ‘A Nomad in Nepal and the Lands Next Door’: So many other Everests around every corner!

Map of the trek around Manaslu and Annapurna. North at top.

AFTER Everest, I headed for the area of Manaslu and Annapurna, west of Kathmandu. My itinerary was hectic. It would take me from Gorkha to Namrung, Sama to Dharmasala, then the Larkya La (Larke Pass: La means pass in Tibetan and Sherpa), Bimthang and on to Pisang and the Lower Mustang district. After that would tackle the Thorong La Pass and finished up with Ghorepani, Annapurna and Poon Hill, in a locality known as Ghore Pani, or Ghorepani.

It was to be twenty-five days of straight trekking, including two very high passes in the form of the Larkya La or…

Chapter 4 of ‘A Nomad in Nepal and the Lands Next Door’: Learning to share the track with yaks — and dzos, mules, porters, guides, mountaineers, trekkers and horses!

Everest Base Camp trek map. North at top.

ON our way to from Lukla to Phakding, we shared the path with yaks carrying 60 kg loads, mules with lovely decorations and lots of puppies and dogs. The landscape was dotted with teahouses where you could get a bed for the night. You could also buy fried rice for $2 and lots of honey tea with ginger. The view of the peaks was amazing, and there were magnolia trees and rhododendrons in bloom, all laden with the blossoms of spring.

Chapter 3 of ‘A Nomad in Nepal and the Lands Next Door’: Soon you’ll be able to drive there, but it won’t be as much fun!

THAT evening, we met the team and the guides for the trek. There were twenty of us in the group with five lead guides from the trek company, Karma Sherpa and Gyalzen Sherpa, and their assistants, Pemba Sherpa, Jeta Tamang Sherpa and Dawa Sherpa. There were also ten Sherpa porters whose name I didn’t know.

The group comprised Aussies and Kiwis and there was a good mixture of ages, with both young and old people. This meant we would bond well and help each other out if someone was sick.

The trek company checked the bags we were carrying. We…

Chapter 1 of ‘A Nomad in Nepal and the Lands Next Door’: Where East met West, and India collides with the North

THIS book is about my journey across landscapes renowned not only for their beauty but also for their cultures and religions. I went to Nepal because I was encouraged by friends to go on a group trek, and I found myself in love with learning. That is, with learning about the interrelations between nature and the peoples who had come to depend on their local environments, whether historically or in modern times.

The discoveries of diversity within the natural environment, cultural heritage and religions that I made during my trip around the Himalayan region were surprising and inspiring.

I learnt…

My new book ‘A Nomad in Nepal and the Lands Next Door’ has now been published. This is the introduction.

Nepal, some of its landmarks, and surrounding lands in the Indian subcontinent. North at top.

TEN years ago, I really knew nothing about Nepal, its neighbouring lands, and the great Himalayan mountain range they share.

I knew that Sir Edmund Hillary and the ever-smiling Sherpa, Tenzing Norgay, had been the first to conquer the mountain we call Everest. And that was about the sum of my knowledge.

Most of what I know now is what I have learnt from going to these lands in the years since.

When I was in a hiking club, sometime around 2010, I sat through a presentation on the Himalayas. I sat in front of a screen where photo after…

Mary Jane Walker

A Maverick Traveller: Kiwi adventurer, author of twelve books of travel stories, a blog, and a website (

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