Discovering Dolpa by Daniel Allen
Recently, Beijing-based photojournalist Daniel Allen came to Nepal to research and photograph the Great Himalaya Trail for a number of magazine commissions. Together Nepal Tourism Board and TAAN sent him to Dolpa. He really enjoyed the experience, and we asked him to sum up why he came, how he found it and to tell us about which, of the thousands of photographs he took, was his favourite of the bunch. Here’s what Daniel says:
I first heard about the Great Himalaya Trail when I interviewed Katja Staartjes for Holland Herald, the in-flight magazine of KLM. She was about to trek in the far west of the GHT and made the whole trekking experience in Nepal sound absolutely amazing. This piqued my interest, and the more I read, the more I wanted to promote the trail, explore the reasons behind its development, and indulge my passion for travel and photography.
Dolpa is a fascinating region on many levels, and there’s certainly no shortage of subject matter for anyone interested in photography. Visitors to the region will witness some truly dramatic landscapes, a culture that is strange, colourful and exciting, a diverse flora and fauna, and people who welcome you to their land with a ready smile and bashful curiosity. Looking back, it really was an amazing experience.
The people I encountered were certainly what impressed me most about the section of the GHT that I trekked. Dolpa is clearly not an easy place to live – this is a tough environment. Yet everyone was cheerful and kind, patiently looking out for the Western guy who could have been a little fitter and who stopped every five minutes to take a snap. My guide, especially, was as generous and considerate as they come.
My favorite photo is the one below. It might not be the most challenging shot I’ve ever taken technically, but I can’t think of many that I’ve toiled longer or harder to obtain. It shows one of my porters at the top of the Numa La Pass at around 5300 meters, after I’d just spent about an hour climbing the last 300 meters to the top. I was so exhausted that I had half a mind to leave my camera in its bag, but just about found the energy to focus and shoot. Needless to say my wiry porter took it all in his stride with a grin and a hearty slap on my sweat-soaked back.
I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending a visit to Dolpa to anybody interested in trekking the world’s most remote, unspoiled locations. With its incredibly beautiful scenery and fascinating culture, not to mention the hospitality of the local Nepali and Tibetan people, it really is a place where you can take a step back from the travails of everyday life and enjoy experiences that (in my humble opinion) only the fortunate few get to enjoy. At times it may provide a physical challenge, but this section of the GHT is worth the effort ten times over.
The idea behind the GHT – namely alleviating poverty in remote areas of Nepal – is both admirable and achievable. Every single day that I walked the Dolpa section of the trail I was moved by both the humility and the sheer hard work of the local people I encountered. If sustainable tourism can help raise the standard of living in Dolpa and other areas traversed by the GHT, then I’m proud to think that my articles may, in some small way, help the trail achieve its worthy goals.
Daniel’s photographs from the Dolpa trek
Daniel has put a (large) selection of his Dolpa pictures online. With many people-shots they really give an idea how how daily life is for the people in Dolpa. And we really like this one!
You can find the rest here: