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Trek to Build a Micro Hydro Project, Halji, Limi Valley

by Tony Robinson

It ended and began in Simikot. The end to which I refer was the long journey from London which terminated in a shudder of brakes as the old 12 seater Dornier ground to a halt inches from the end of what in Humla passes for a runway. It began the following morning when fresh from meeting fellow trekkers the night before, we climbed the short pass out of Simikot and then down 2,000 feet into the Karnali valley. We were exhilarated to be on our way to Halji in the Limi valley to help with the Nepal Trust’s latest project, to light the village with micro hydroelectric power, funded by Rotary.

The group en-route to the Limi Valley, at the Nara La Pass.
Tony Robinson and Mike Lakey inspect the micro hydro plant.

The deep blue green of the Karnali River, Nepal’s longest, was to be our constant companion over four days twisting, turning and climbing steadily, providing a comparatively easy route towards the 15,000 foot Nara La pass which would take us to the edge of Tibet. Underused muscles creaked and groaned into action and lungs sucked in the thin air as we gradually and safely acclimatised to activity at 12,000 feet.

The Nara La pass tested us severely, but we all made it to Hilsa on the border of Tibet. What a godforsaken place! Here we met the Maoists whose only interest in us was to extract $100 for right of passage.

Two more days, another pass and we reached the beautiful village of Til in the Limi valley. Thence to Halji with its impressive Buddhist temple, partly restored by the Nepal Trust. Around it medieval buildings clustered together for protection, animals occupying the ground floor, above them a hayloft and finally the family at the top. Cooking and heat are provided by a rudimentary cast iron stove, which fills the house with smoke. Possessions are limited to a basic kitchen dresser and two wide benches, which doubled as beds. The people of Limi were the highlight of the trek. Happy and smiling, welcoming and entertaining, they are living proof that happiness is not dependent upon possessions.

The micro hydro project was progressing well but would not be finished until the spring. A covering of snow on our tents reminded us of the onset of winter and we reluctantly said our goodbyes. The four day trek back was much more strenuous and the 16,500 foot Nyalu pass with two feet of snow in drifts was a real test. What an experience, challenging but rewarding. I would recommend it to anybody who is reasonably fit and has a sense of adventure.