Monday, June 2, 2008

Nepal: The Himalayan Kingdom

The Himalayan kingdom of Nepal is located between India in the south and Tibetan Autonomous Region of China in the north. At latitudes 26 to 30 degrees north and longitudes 80 to 88 degrees east, Nepal is topographically divided into three regions: the Himalaya in the north, the foot hills consisting of the Mahabharat range and the Churia range, and the Terai to the south. The highest point is Mount Everest (8848m) in the north and the lowest point (70 meters above sea level) is at Kechana Kalan of Jhapa District.

Altitude increases as you travel south to north. In the high Himalayan regions of the north, the temperatures sometimes reach below -40 degrees Celsius. In the Terai, temperatures rise to 40 degrees Celsius in the summer. June through September brings the monsoon season, when trails may turn into rivers and waterfalls.

The Himalayan ranges make up the northern border of the country and represents about 16% of the total land area of Nepal. Eight out of ten most famous peaks are found here all rising above 8,000 meters. They are Mt. Everest, Kanchenjunga, Makalu, Dhaulagiri, Annapurna, Manaslu, Cho Oyu, and Lhotse Shar. Sparse vegetation of various species is found up to 4,500 m. Some of Nepal's most beautiful mountains, animals and plants are also found here. Most people in this region raise live-stocks such as Yaks, Naks, sheep and goat as the main economic source. The high mountain region is the source of potato, radish and vegetable farming and of Nepal's famous Yak cheese. Many people work as guides and porters on the trails and much of the remaining regional economy is based on trade with Tibet/China.

The hill region represents about 65% of the total land area of the country. Elevations range from about 500 to 3,000 meters above sea level. Nepal's capital city, Kathmandu is located here at an elevation of 4,400 ft. At some locations during summer the temperature reaches an average of 32 degrees Celsius. Winter temperatures sometimes reach -1 degree Celsius. The eastern hills receive higher annual rainfall than the western hills. This is because of monsoon clouds influenced by jet streams on the Tibetan Plateau and the Bay of Bengal. The western hills are more arid and depend on glacier melt from the Himalayan peaks. The fauna here includes the barking deer, ghorals, Himalayan black bear, fox, jackal, spotted leopard, and flying squirrel and over four hundred different bird species. However, these are not the only wild animals seen here. There are many other species yet to mention. The hilly region is popular for over four hundred different species of birds. The majority of the hill people are farmers, but the growing tourism industry provides much needed income.In fact, from this region many have made tourism business their main employment.

The Terai covers about 17% of the total land area of Nepal. The average elevation of these flatlands is approximately 100 to 300 meters above sea level. Sub-tropical forest areas and marshes cover much of the area and are home to Nepal's most famous lowland wildlife: the Royal Bengal tiger, one horned rhinoceros and the ghavial crocodile.

The Terai is the main source of hardwood lumber for metropolitan areas. Being mostly flat lowland, it's easily developed for farming in addition to its abundance in forest resources. The eradication of the Malaria in the 1960's escalated the migration of people to the Terai in search of better farmland. Currently, about 48% of Nepal's total population occupies this region. But not everyone living in the Terai has migrated from elsewhere. The malaria immune Tharus are the original inhabitants. The region enjoys easy access to major roads within Nepal and is a commercial link to the metropolitan hubs of neighboring India. Hence, the Terai is experiencing fast growing industrial developments in towns like Bhairawa, Butwal, Birgunj, Janakpur and Biratnagar.

The ancient cultural landscapes are as diverse as the spectacular landscapes you will encounter. In Kathmandu Valley alone, there are seven 'World Heritage Sites' designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Religion, art, music, dance, social and socio-religious festivals are perhaps the most exquisite expressions of Nepal. The ancient cultural landscapes-Shrines, pagodas, intricate wood carvings, bronze and stone images all embody the national character. The natural beauty of the majestic Himalayas, rich cultural heritage and the diversity of sights, sound and other adventure opportunities, makes Nepal one of the most motivating and fascinating travel destinations in the world!

No comments: