TRIP OVERVIEW GEOGRAPHY OF NEPAL
Nepal is a small landlocked country,800km long and 200km wide.longitudinally,the terrain changes from glaciers on the Tibetan border to the flat jungles of the Terai,barely 150m above sea level.The country does not ascend gradually from the plains.Rather ,it rises in severl chains of hills in that lie in an east-west direction finally terminating in the highest hills in the Himalaya,bey ond which is the 5000m high plateau of Tibet.Despite the s fow height of the Himalaya,the peaks do not form a continental divide.Although most rivers southward from the glaciers of the Nepal Himalaya to join the Ganges in India,several rivers do flow Tibet through deep gorges in the main Himalayalan range.These rivers have scarred the country with great gorges in both north south and east -west directions and created a continual series fo hills,some of which are incredibly steep.
The primary difference between eastern and western Nepal is that the influence of the monsoon is less in the west.In the east the climate is damp and ideal for tea growing.In the far west the climate is quite dry,even during the monsoon season.
Another influence on the east-west division is the large rivers that flow south in deep canyons.Theses rivers often limit east-west travel as they wash away bridges during the monsoon.For this reason the major trade routes re from south to north,from Indian border towns to hill villages in Nepal and then across high mountain passes to Tibet.
Geographers divide Nepal into four main physiographic regions, or natural zones: the Terai,the Middle Hills ,the Himalaya and the trans-Himalaya.
The southernmost region of the country, the Tarai is an extension of the Gangetic plains of India.Until 1950s it was a malarial jungle inhabited primarily by rhinoceroses,tigers,leopards,wild boars and deer.Now,with malaria controlled, farming and industrial communities cover the Terai.
The region suppotrs about 47% of Nepal’s population and encompasses the majority of the country’s cultivable land. The Terai includes the big cities of Nepalgunj,Birganj,Janakpur,Bhairawa and Biratnagar,but most of the region is dotted with small villages clusters of 40 or 50 houses in the centre of a large serea of cultivated fiels.
Just north of the Terai is the first major east-west chain of hills, the Siwalik or Churia Hills,and then comes the Mahabharat Range. In some parts of Nepal only farmers live in these hills,but in other parts they are the sites of large and well developed villages such as Ilam, Dhankuta and Surkhet.
The Middle Hills:
A band only 60km wide the Middle Hills are home to about 45% of the population.This is the home of the aneient ethnic groups of Nepal. The large towns of Kathmandu,patan,Bhaktapur,Pokhara,Gorkha and Jumla are in the Middle Hills Kathmandu lies in the largest valley of the kingdom and according to legend the valley was once a huge lake .Other than the Kathmandu and pokhara valleys ,the Middle Hills region is all step hillsides. Farms blanket the hills in an endless series of terraces planted with wheat, rice and vegetables.
Making up only a small portion of the kingdom, the Himalaya and its foothills run along Nepal’s northern border. Less than 8% of the population lives in this inhospitable region. Most of the villages sit between 3000m and 4000m,although there are summer settlements as high as 5000m.Beacause of the short growing season, crops are few and usually small, consisting mostly of potatoes, barley and a few vegetables. The primary means of support are trading and the herding of sheep, cattle and yaks. The part of this region known as Solukhumbu is the home of the Sherpas.
The Trans -Himalaya:
In the west part of the Himalayan region are on the norht side of the main range.This is the trans-Himalaya, a high desert region like the Tibetan plateau. This area includes the valleys of Mustang,Manag,Dolpa and Limi,as well as the Tibetan marginal’s the fourth range of mountains sweeping from central to north-western Nepal,averageing below 6000m in height.
The trans Himalaya is in the rain shadow of the main Himalayan range and receives siginficantly less precipitation than the southern slopes.Unroded crags,spires and formations like crumbling fortresses are typical of this stark landscape.