Damar is a Sherpa village at about 3000 metres altitude. According to various historical sources the Sherpas migrated from Tibet about 450 years ago. They speak a “Sino-Tibetan” language and their literature and philosophy have their foundation in old Tibetan religious books.
Looking for rich grazing for their livestock the Sherpas originally settled the Solu Khumbu region in the north of Nepal. They spread southwards along the eastern hill districts and Damar is situated in that area. Settlement of Damar began around 1900 and the present houses in the village have been built at various times since then.
Damar is situated in what we call the ‘Middle Hills” of Nepal, between the much lower, heavily populated south and the high mountains of the Himalayas. In the middle hills there is none of the wealth derived from the tourists and trekkers who come each year in their thousands to the spectacular area around Mt Everest.
The houses mainly are two-storied, have stone exteriors, internal framing of wood and wooden windows without glazing. Initially a young family may live in houses constructed of bamboo mats or wood until they can afford to build one in stone. Roofs are wooden slats weighted down with rocks: the gaps between the slats allow smoke to escape from their internal fires as there are no chimneys. The smoke, soot and tar residue in the houses is a notable feature and, along with the polluted water, are the main contributors to child mortality and respiratory and gastric illness common in Sherpa people.
The hills around the village are steep and their only level areas are the terraces formed over many years where the villagers grow their subsistence crops such as corn, wheat, potatoes, cabbages, garlic and onions. The livestock are goats, cattle and yaks that graze clearinsg in the surrounding oak, conifer and rhododendron forest. Some people live a nomadic life moving their shelters and animals from pasture to pasture as they have done for generations.
We have chosen this village as it is the home village of Ngima Sherpa who became George Hunters friend after he guided him and other members of the Geraldine Tramping Club around the Annapurna Circuit in 2001. George is a retired chartered accountant living in Geraldine. He has devoted much time to improving conditions for these under privileged people. To get to Damar requires a long, rough road trip to Jiri or a short plane trip from Kathmandu both then followed by a 3 day trek on foot across the hills.
New Zealanders and the Sherpa people have a long history of working together beginning with Sir Edmund Hilary and his team building schools, hospitals and bridges beginning in the 1960’s
Initial attempts to provide help were thwarted for several years due to the civil war and the unstable political situation.
In 2008 the villagers asked for solar lighting for their houses to reduce their reliance on the indoor open fires used for cooking, lighting and warmth. We raised funds throughout the local community. The overwhelming generosity of groups and individuals in South Canterbury made it possible for these projects to proceed.
Trekking in Nepal
If you wish to trek with Ngima in Nepal please contact any of the trustees for contact details.