November 11, 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.
We were finally on our way up to Vedi Goth, the shepherd tent that would serve as our base camp in the mountains above Lete, in Central Nepal. Along the way we were met by the shepherds, who cleared the bushes for our passing up the mountain. It was horrible to turn towards the left and look down the dizzyingly steep side of the mountain. We barely managed to reach the temporary shepherds tent before it was completely dark.
The shepherds, Chandra and Sagar, welcomed us in the tent, which was surrounded by more than 300 sheep and four huge dogs. That evening the boys cooked well, as it was our first meal out there and we had brought a lot of supplies.
But I was uneasy. I have a dog phobia because I was terribly attacked by a dog when I was a kid. Chandra’s and Sagar’s warnings about the dogs made me even more terrified. Later we saw that the dogs mainly worked at night, when they guarded all the sheep. That also meant the dogs were more aggressive at night, and coming out from the shelter in the dark without the shepherds was too risky.
As a result, we were horribly afraid to drink too much water, because we’d then need to leave the tent to pee. We’d have to wake the weary shepherds, which we did not want to do. It was the first time in my life I had to refrain from drinking water to avoid fearsome dogs.
Our field work continued for more than a week. Our routine was to have brunch in the morning. It was usually hot chile bean soup, rice and potato with curry. Then we hiked a steep three-and-a-half hours up to the treeline where we performed exhaustive tree coring and recording of ecological data in the area. We took some dry food with us, since we did not get back to the tent before dusk.
The whole day of headache and weariness drained away as we descended to the shelter, walking above the thick natural carpet of grasses, singing and enjoying the changing color of Mt. Dhaulagiri – the 8th highest peak of the world at 8,167 meters – and the amazing view of Annapurna Himal range.
Coming in Part Three: Landslides and the burden of apples for Dashain.
Part One can be found here.