Trekking in Chepang Territory

Including Nepali, the national language, the country has 92 other languages. The census reported that Nepali was the mother tongue of 48.61% of the population, Maithili of 12.3%, Bhojpuri of 7.53%, and Tharu of 5.86 percent. Similarly, Tamang was spoken by 5.19%, Newari by 3.63%, Magar by 3.39%, Awadhi by 2.47%, Bantawa by 1.63%, Gurung by 1.49%, Limbu by 1.47% and Bajika by 1.05%. Of the balance 80 languages, each was spoken by less than 1% of the population. Chepang (Chyo-bang) falls in this category.

Numbering some 52,000, the Chepangs live in the steep hillsides of the Mahabharata range in central Nepal, that is, south of Dhading, west of Makawanpur, and east of Chitwan. Since ages, they have subsisted on wild yams and tubers, fish, deer, bats, and birds. Agriculture is also an important occupation for them although the topography does not make their task easy. Originally followers of animism, the Chepangs have not remained untouched by the influence of other religions so that many of them are now either Hindus or Buddhists or Christians. In fact, Christianity, in particular, has been spreading quite fast among the Chepangs. It would not be an understatement to say that it is quite an experience to live among them for a day or two. The way things are going, that is, the march of modernization, this opportunity could soon be lost forever.  So, what say we pay a visit to the heartland of the Chepangs?

You start your trek in Hugdi, a small village some 80 km west-south of Kathmandu. Now, you might want to know, what’s the best way to reach this place? Well, there are two ways: one is by bus from the capital, a distance of just four to five hours. The other way is more interesting: you drive to Charaudi (about 45 min) where you take a raft that will give you the ride of your life over some terrific rapids, especially the one that comes after Majimtar and which has a 3-4 rating, meaning, it’s a tricky one.  Up ahead, you’ll also come across another exciting rapid that has been named “surprise”. Having had enough for the day, you camp overnight at Kuringhat Camp, and the nest day, continue rafting, encountering the Mugling and Simaltal rapids on the way. You then get your feet on solid ground at Simaltal, hop on a four-wheeler, and drive to Hungdi, an hour away, situated between Mugling and Krishna Bhir in Dhading District.

From Hungdi, you start walking, and reach Hattibang (1,415 m) after some five hours, where you spend a night at one of the homestays or a guest house and get to experience Chepang lifestyle and culture firsthand. The scenery is, of course, awesome. The next day, you hike to Jyandala (1,610 m), a walk of about six hours. On the way, you come across small Chepang villages like Jautesh, Changa, and Dinglang.  Spend the night in Jyandala and absorb more of the Chepang lifestyle.

The next day also involves a five to six hour walk, this time to to Upperdangadhi (1, 278 m) where you’ll find the remnants of an ancient fort. On the way, you will come across Siraichuli (1.945 m), the highest point of the trek. It offers a magnificent view of majestic Himalayan peaks like the Annapurna range, Gorkha Himal, Gaurishankar, Langtang, Manaslu, Rolwaling, Peak 29, and Dhaulagiri. You’ll also get a lovely view of the Chitwan National Park down below. And, if you are into bird watching, this is it. The area you will be walking through, especially Chisapanitar, is very popular for this sport, with more than 255 bird species having been espied here. Look forward to being awakened by the sweet sound of birds chirping the next morning.

The final day, you walk downhill for five to six hours to reach Shaktikhor (355 m) where there’s a museum dedicated to the Chepangs. Make it a point also to visit the Sinti waterfall and Sinti cave. The Chitwan National Park is only an hour’s drive away, so go ahead and foray into rhino and tiger territory and enjoy the pleasures of this famous park, which include elephant rides through dense jungle and dug-out canoe rides over alligator infested waters. Having done that, and hopefully sighted a rhino or two, if not a Royal Bengal Tiger, enjoy too your final night in Chepang territory back in Shaktikhor where there probably will be some sort of cultural program arranged in your honor. The next morning, you drive back to Kathmandu (6-7 h).

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