June 2, 2021

Imagine walking up lands wild and seemingly uncharted, stretching far into the oblivion. Imagine a dusk that rolls in glowing shades of pink and blue. Imagine rugged mountains, nothing giant but still sizeable, under stars a million strong.

After close to eleven hours of walking with not a soul crossing path, we decided to camp here—in plain view of Dolpo’s barren lands, snowcapped peaks and shining stars. Mountain-kissed gusts showed no remorse to our exhausted bodies and minds, or for that matter, our tent that almost took off into thin air on several occasions. As much as we yearned for the majestic sight to last forever, we didn’t. At almost 5,000m altitude, right at the base of Langmuse pass—inevitable climb for next day—the chill was seeping into our bones.

Unfortunately or not, dinner was to be made and had. We scrambled to fetch water by a stream near our tent. Shivering convulsively we would barely make it back to the campsite only to realise the water in the pans had frozen solid—in less than a couple of minutes. It was either hypothermic ice for dinner or three-day-stale khichadi which yet had to be thawed by burning dry yak droppings we collected in pitch darkness. An unhearty meal later, smelling like smoked cow poop, I ransacked my backpack to retrieve all the clothes I could find, for the chill was far from gone. Three layers of socks, among others, later I dozed off the frigid night.

At the crack of dawn next day, we walked over Langmuse and another pass, crossing surreal landscapes to finally reach Dho Tarap village, the first civilization we saw in two days. On topsy-turvy trails with gorgeous views and scary drops to the river below, we continued on to Dunai, and then back to Juphal, concluding a circuit on Upper Dolpo.

The turquoise glacial lake of Phoksundo, surrounded by mysterious and arid cliffs, without a shadow of doubt is Dolpo’s gem. Beyond the idylls of a lake, however, lies Dolpo in its true brilliance, exuding nothing but the wild, a sense of solitude and an exotic civilization—an experience which cannot be taught by textbooks, and must be witnessed to be believed, and touched to fathom.