Upper Dolpo update
I’ve just come back from a trek through Upper Mustang and Upper Dolpo; over the next week or so I’ll post a trip report, but thought I’d post some general info as well.
- Cell phone coverage: zilch. No matter what type of SIM card people had, there was no service until we reached Juphal. Even the local horsemen who accompanied us had no reception.
- Roads: I’d heard there was a new road going in between Shimen and Tinje, and also Dunai to Dho Tarap, so it was best to visit Dolpo asap. The reality is, the « road » between Shimen and Tinje is a walking trail that it is possible to negotiate on a motorbike; it is really only a « road » from Tinje to the Tibetan border. There is a road from Juphal to Suligad and on to Dunai; we saw precisiely two jeeps between Suligad and Juphal. The horsemen told us that the road from Dunai to Dho Tarap was okay for about 6 months after it was built, then deteriorated to such an extend that people have gone back to using horses on this stretch. We didn’t trek that section, so I can’t verify this… perhaps someone who has been through this section can comment??
- The northern part of Upper Dolpo was hit quite hard by the monsoon this year (2018). The people in Chharka told us they got a month of solid rain. As a result, numerous bridges have been washed out and in several places the trail has been destroyed by landslides or eroded by floods. In places, our crew had to forge new trails; in others, they stuck us to the cliff face while we did a spot of rock climbing while negotiating washouts. In other sections, you simply have to wade through fairly chilly rivers.
- Apparently Jumla airport is closed for renovations at present. One member of our group split off at Saldang, and trekked to Bhijer and Rara lake. He arrived at Jumla airport for his flight to find the airport was closed!
- Juphal airstrip has been blacktopped. Lukla airport has nothing on Juphal in the fun and games department – it has to be seen to be believed. Like Lukla, it is an extremely short uphill/ downhill runway… basically the nose of the plane is just lifting off as you run out of airstrip. Possibly not a destination for nervous flyers.
- Upper Dolpo is a tough trek– high altitude, numerous high passes, cold, numerous river crossings, poor trail maintenance, windy, dusty… but it is incredibly stunning, and the people are amazingly friendly. If you are debating whether it is worth the cost, I would say absolutely. However, don’t feel you have to rush off and do it before it is spoiled by roads – it will be a long time before roads have much of an impact in this region (compared to Upper Mustang, which is now criss-crossed by roads).