November 10, 2016
Achyut Tiwari tells of the trials and tribulations of doing field work in Nepal. The field work was conducted two years ago for his PhD project on climate responses in treeline dynamics and growth climate in central Himalaya and Hengduan mountain, China. Tiwari is originally from Nepal, and is affiliated with Xishungbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Our first attempt to find the treeline was thwarted because the treeline was hard to make out on the steep terrain. My two friends, Raju and Krishna, and I were quite pissed off at returning from 4,200 meters above sea level (ASL) to Annapurna Base Camp in central Nepal. On the other hand, our porter was delighted to get both up down pay. But we had another study site to try in our exploration on the Trans-Himalayan Mustang region, so we rushed on to Lete (Kalopani Mustang).
Though a little exhausted from the first try, we were invigorated by the magnificent scenery of Mustang. After a lot of consultation with the local people, we decided to go up to the natural treeline of 4,000 meters directly above Lete. We purchased the rice, beans, potatoes, cabbage, tomatoes, and dry foods as we had to cook them for our meals during field work. We also confirmed with a porter to take us up the mountain. Our plan was to spend out field nights at a Vedi Goth (the Nepali term for a temporary shepherd’s tent).
The Angry Porter
The second big blow to our expedition struck when our porter made his appearance the next day. He was roaring drunk and threatened us, saying he was his own master and did as he liked. All this was due to a carnival at the local town of Lete, where he had enjoyed a breakfast drink, and then decided – without consulting us – that the trip would be postponed. He assured us, however, that he would take us into the mountains on the next day.
That was a tough day for us and we did not enjoy it. We went to sleep that night covering our faces with our blankets. This is a Nepali expression for what you do when you are depressed: With nothing exciting happening and no work or places to visit, you sleep the whole day. We just had to hope we would reach our study area the next day.
Alas, the new day arrived but the porter did not. He had big quarrel with the sheep owner for not taking us to the shepherd’s shelter the day before. So it was with the help of two little boys that we finally began our nose-tipping steep walk up the mountain.
Coming in Part Two: 300 sheep, 4 frightful dogs, 1 week of treeline work in an incredible landscape.
Part Three can be found here.