northern hospitality himalaya style

TUMLING, Nepal This tiny village is nestled in the Himalayas, on the border of India and Nepal. Literally.

TUMLING, Nepal

This tiny village is nestled in the Himalayas, on the border of India and Nepal. Literally.

Stand on one side of the road and you’re in Nepal. Walk across and you’re in India.

It’s on a popular trekking route, on the way to another village called Sundukphu, which offers views of Everest and of Kanchanjangha, the third-highest mountain in the world.

I’m sitting in the warm and cozy kitchen of Shikhar Lodge, chatting with the owner Nila, or Nila-di as she is affectionately called. Around us, her sister, sister-in-law, and numerous nieces and nephews move around the clay oven, cooking, cleaning, chatting.

Shikhar, Nila explains, means top of the hill. Tumling isn’t quite the top of the hill, but its close.

It’s at an altitude of 2,935 metres. It’s connected to other villages by a rocky, narrow jeep track.

Nila’s lived here all her life. Thirteen years ago, she opened the lodge with her brother and sister. Back then, she tells me, there were no jeeps to ride and everyone trekked.

People had to go from Mane Bhanjyang, the town before Tumling, all the way to the next town, Jaubari, in one day.

“It was very difficult for some of them,” Nila tells me. “They used to ask us to stay here. Then, we only had one small room.”

As the route became more popular, more and more trekkers were coming through.

Visitors suggested that Nila and her family open a lodge, and they did.

They started small, with only five rooms, Nila remembers.

“But, slowly, it grew.”

Now they have room for 64 people.

“In peak season, we’re full,” Nila says, “when people have holidays, Christmas, New Years, Diwali, Durga Puja.”

This is her favourite time of year, the spring season.

Winters are cold, Nila tells me, with temperatures down to minus 10 and 12.

“This year, we had minus 15.”

The trekkers come from late September until the first week of June.

Then, the monsoon comes and there is near-constant rain and droves of insects.

As well as running the lodge, Nila teaches Nepali in a nearby school.

She has 40 students, aged five to 12. Compared to most of her students, she is quite well off.

The only real industry in the area is tourism.

In the summer, people grow a few vegetables and keep cows, then sell the milk and butter in near by villages.

In the winters, they work for Nila or on road construction.

It’s a very hard life, she tells me.

But hard life or not, I am overwhelmed by the friendliness of the people I meet. Everyone, from road workers to border guards, greets with me a smile.

It may not be that far north, but I can feel the same ‘northern hospitality’ that Yukoners are so proud of.

And though I’m on the far side of the globe, I feel like I’m at home.

Whitehorse writer Emily Tredger is currently living and working in India.

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