Until three years ago, Lakpa Chhiring Sherpa used to welcome customers at his hotel at Chauki Bazaar in Tehrathum, a hilly district in eastern Nepal and made a decent living to sustain his family of eight.
However, the fifty-seven year-old Sherpa had to adopt a new profession after visitors dried up with the expansion of road connectivity.
Lakpa has been making Doko, Dalo and Bhakari, traditional bamboo baskets, to earn a living for the past three years. But, his income is nowhere near what he used to make from the hotel as the bamboo-products lack a market.
“We don’t have visitors these days,” said Sherpa, who was busy making bamboo stripes when the Post met him earlier this week.
After getting married around four decades ago, Sherpa moved with his family to the area from Lelep in Taplejung, the district in the northeastern corner of the country, and established a hotel.
Often reminiscing about bygone days, Sherpa remembers Chauki Bazaar in all its glory.
The bazaar used to welcome hundreds of travellers. Most of them used to be pedestrians and porters moving goods from Dharan in Sunsari district to northern parts of Tehrathum, Taplejung and Sankhuwasabha districts, medicinal herbs, and other local products from those districts to lower areas.
Sherpa’s hotel used to provide lodging and food to those individuals.
“My home used to run short of space to accommodate those people at night,” remembers Sherpa.
Work had just begun to open a track for the Dharan-Basantapur road.
“As the construction of the Madan Bhandari Highway continues, it has led many porters and Chauri (yak)-herders to change their occupation to adapt to the changes brought by the road connectivity,” said Buddi Man Limbu, the Chairman of Chainpur Municipality Ward number 1.
Then people started competing with each other to transport goods on the Tute Deurali-Dobhan route through Gupha Bazaar in Sankhuwasabha using mules and Chauris. More than 200 people made a fortune through this trade, said Sherpa.
The Chauri and mule herders became his new customers. But, it all changed with the access to road connectivity.
“The walking trail is almost lost,” said Udaya Kumar Lole, a hotel entrepreneur at Chauki Bazaar. “We barely see pedestrian travellers, porters and Chauri-herders these days.”
Lole too has been thinking about changing his occupation. “My home is by the side of the road, but vehicles rarely stop by. I don’t get many customers,” said Lole.
“People have quit their traditional occupations due to the road connectivity,” said Narayan Karki, the chairman of Madi Municipality Ward number 1.
The Chauri herders replaced the porters to transport the goods in the northern parts of the region through this route. “Since these animals could carry more goods than porters, many people became attracted to this profession,” said Phujung Bhote, a trader at Gupha Bazaar. “But, they were displaced from this profession after the roadways came into operation.”
Chhiring Lama, who is currently involved in politics and the construction business, used to be a Chauri-herder for transporting goods.
Until a decade ago, Lama used to transport goods using at least 30 Chauris and mules from Basantapur to rural parts of Taplejung district.
Similarly, Gyawu Sherpa, who had more than 50 Chauris and mules at Gupha Pokhari to run his transporting business, bought a land rover by selling those animals.
“You have to adapt according to the surroundings,” said Sherpa. “The road made hundreds of people like me sell their Chauris and mules and do something different to make a living.”
Similarly, Dhurv Khadka of Panch Pokhari had bought a dozen Chauris at the rate of Rs60,000 to Rs130,000 to carry the goods. But he has sold those animals, migrated to Ghurmise and established a hotel.
While some have gotten into goat farming, most of the people from Panch Pokhari have started making traditional bamboo-made items such as Nanglo, Mandro, Thunse besides Doko, Dalo and Bhakari to make ends meet.