Tatopani is a trade route between Nepal and China which is currently not operational. The route took a halt after the massive earthquake of April, 2015. While the route will open again soon, the roads are still very dangerous. We visited the area close to the border for a short tour and the devastation were still quite evident. But the hospitality of the people was amazing and we got to spend the night with great food.
We travelled just before the rainy season started and even then the roads were pretty rugged. So we do not recommend visiting in this rainy season. Some sketches of road were muddy and were hard to maneuver. We went on a small van and there was a lot of pushing involved to get through the hilly road and mud. But it was an amazing experience for me.
An overwhelming experience restrained by effects of earthquake but with genuine hospitality
The hills along the road still bear the marks of the earthquake. It almost seemed like the landslides created teak in these mountains. Many houses in close proximity of these phenomenon were destroyed to rubble.
As you get close to Tatopani, you see houses affected by the earthquake and subsequent landslides. There were just to many to describe.
Along the way, we had hills on the right,a narrow path for driving, and houses along the edges on the left side of the road. Many houses abandoned as they were facing the hills on the right. It seemed like landslide was a regular occurrence with houses filled with mud and rocks from the hills. Some houses that weren’t empty were also abandoned in fear for safety.
However, we also saw many ongoing construction projects along the way to build roads and tunnel to restore the trade route from Tatopani checkpoint.
The following tunnel was being built inside a mountain. The entrance of the tunnel was enormous. It was probably being built to prevent using old roads by the side of the hills which are regularly destroyed/disturbed by landslides.
A dam was being built across the river and below is a temporary tunnel built to channel the water through the hill.
As you pass Tatopani bazaar to head for the border bridge you will encounter a tall waterfall on the right of the river. This lies on the Chinese land and you obviously will not be allowed to go there.
As with most of the buildings in the area, the Tatopani customs office was also seemed severely affected by the earthquake.
While the Nepali building foundations were built on the ground, across the border the Chinese customs buildings seemed fortified from the ground up. While there were landslides along the Chinese side of the border, many workers were working to contain the damage.
Few steps from the customs office, there’s a bridge which is a formal transit from Nepal to China.
As we walked back from the bridge we went to the popular Tatopani temple for hot spring bath and to look for the place to rest for the day. The host spring bath is just below the temple. You have to pay Rs. 10 for entrance for every individual. Separate sections are assigned for male and female for privacy and you can stay as long as you like. At least we could as there weren’t many people there that day.
There aren’t many eye catching location until you reach close to Tatopani. As you reach close to the destination, you will see small waterfalls along the way.
As we returned, our eyes caught villages in most extreme places you can imagine. Some were seemingly impossible to reach but yet had a cluster of houses.
We had a good time at Tatopani, despite the damage we saw caused from the earthquake. It was a reminder of how things are in Nepal. It takes a long time for anything to really recover here. The pictures you see are 2 years after the earthquake but it seemed like a recent event there.
We hope safe roads are built so that transactions restart at Tatopani customs office which will re-ignite the economy in the area. And we hope to visit again soon.