Twentieth birthdays are milestones for many. It was no different for Sunil Tamang, the day he set off on his grand traverse of the Nepal Himalaya.
Starting off from the tri-junction of the borders of Nepal, China and India behind Kangchenjunga in January this year, Tamang took 128 days to walk right across Nepal to Rara Lake in Mugu. Sunil called it ‘Trek For Change-2011’ and says he did it to know himself and his country better.
“I knew Nepal was beautiful, I knew Nepalis were friendly and helpful, but after the trip I realised Nepal is even more beautiful than I thought it was and the people are even more helpful and generous,” says Sunil, who says he is even more impressed now about Nepal’s natural and human diversity.
Sunil was bitten by the wander bug when he was eight. He ran away from his family home in Syabru to the Gosaikunda festival just to see for himself what it would be like. His love for mountains, trekking and the urge to explore nature was further fuelled by numerous adventure stories of his father who worked as a trekking guide. As a child he was also fascinated by trekkers on the Langtang trail near his home.
One American trekker was so impressed with Sunil she paid for him to go to a private school in Kathmandu. During vacations he accompanied his father on treks to Everest, Annapurna and Langtang, and by the time he graduated from high school Sunil had already made up his mind to do a Himalayan traverse.
“People said I was too young and weren’t willing to help me with money,” he recalls. While at St Xavier’s college last year, he climbed the 6,169m Island Peak in the Khumbu to acclimiatise for his trek. In January, with just Rs 28,000 in his pocket he set off.”During my trek I saw the hardships that villagers in the mountains face, the poverty and food shortages, which are being made worse by the effects of climate change,” says Sunil, who has decided that he is going to take Environmental Science in college and work towards the conservation of Nepal’s biodiversity.
Most of Sunil’s childhood friends from Syabru have migrated to the city or gone abroad to work or study. But Sunil says his trek has made him older and wiser, and even more attached to his homeland. “If only more young people travelled around the country they’d truly value being a Nepali,” he told Nepali Times.
Sunil is off to The Netherlands, Belgium and Austria on a lecture tour in which he will try to get young Europeans to visit Nepal. He is hopeful that his adventures will inspire both Nepalis and foreigners to relish the joys of trekking, conserve Nepal’s nature and help people in remote valleys with income from tourism.