Tsum Valley Trek Article
A side-trek from the Manaslu Trek or a wonderful journey in its own right, the Tsum Valley trek has a lot to offer curious traveller. It was only opened to tourism three years ago, and now a growing number of tourists are visiting, around 500 or so last year.
Visitor Sue Dengate enthused, “Tsum Valley was FANTASTIC. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting it to be very different from where we’d already been but as soon as we made that right turn off the main track it suddenly seemed we were entering a hidden valley full of untouched forest so beautiful we called it the Garden of Eden.”
It’s unusual in Nepal as the culture here, of the Tsumba, is so well defined – perhaps it is all down to their geographic and historical seclusion. The Tsumba know who they are and work together to protect their culture.
Recently I interviewed Lopsang Lama from Tsum and was fascinated to hear of the valley’s history of non-violence. It’s not only not eating meat, but for instance: no honey hunting; no making fires in the jungle to clear land for agriculture in case living beings would be harmed; and even Tibetan shepherds trying to bring their goats and sheep through the valley for slaughter elsewhere for the Dashain festival get turned back.
“We have no big mountains like Manaslu,” although Ganesh Himal which guards over Tsum is a towering 7,429 m, “but we do have our unique culture, it’s very special.” Read more from Lopsang here.
As a consequence, wildlife remains abundant compared to other areas of Nepal, says Deana Zabaldo, and ex-Peace Corps volunteer, “You can hike all the way to the Tibetan border for staggering mountain views, easily spotting herds of Himalayan blue sheep and wild mountain goats along the way.”
She notes that, with numbers of outside visitors rising, “This is a critical time to implement socially and environmentally responsible tourism.” You as a visitor will also responsible and she gives a few ideas how to help:
- We organized campsite cleanups, paying $1/porter for people collecting litter. They filled large bags quickly!
- We wanted to see our money going into local hands, so we employed at least 50% local porters. For all of them, it was their first time working with a tourist group. They were excited about the income, and we were able to learn more about their lives and culture.
- When we checked in to the conservation area, we asked MCAP staff to facilitate the hiring of local porters and placement of appropriate garbage facilities.
- Instead of offering candy and handouts to children on the trail, we offered them “tickles”, chasing after them, playing with them, and trying to find a positive way to interact without encouraging begging.
- To delve into the religion and culture, we invited a lama to accompany us as a dharma teacher on our trek. He gave us explanations of Buddhist beliefs and heritage, guided morning meditations, arranged a special blessing ceremony, and opened doors to the homes of family and friends.
- We made regular donations at each monastery we visited to help with preservation, restoration, and daily care.
- We included at least one trek staff member who was from Tsum and had local connections to people along the way. He arranged local porters and also had our whole group to his house for tea.
Read the whole of this highly recommended short article about Deana’s Tsum Trek in entirety here.