Traveling merchants from Tibet (Chinese Autonomous Region) follow the same well-worn caravan routes across the natural mountain border into Nepal that have been used for centuries. They originate from the arid Tibetan plateau on the leeward side of the Himalayas and bring in salt, rugs, and other distinctive crafts to trade in the markets in Kathmandu and Namche. However, to reflect more modern markets and the prevalence of western tourists in Nepal the Tibetans bring in inexpensive manufactured goods from China, such as clothing and jewelry. The paths over the mountains open up in the early summer once enough snow has melted away, and in the autumn after the monsoons the roads dry up for their yaks to pass. These Tibetans are practically an undocumented ethnic group of Nepal and they can easily enter the country. However, the travel across the mountain passes is arduous and lengthy, taking them a week in each direction to reach their markets.
The Sherpa people are related to the Tibetans, but the difference in ways
and appearance is apparent. The travelers from Tibet do dress and act differently,
and their dialect is far removed from current Sherpa language. The Tibetan
men grow their black hair very long, but roll it up and tuck it in a red cloth
on their heads. They wear coral and turquoise colored jewelry, and they adorn
their yaks with the same red accents. The Sherpa people respect the Tibetans
for their origins in the Buddhist holy lands to the north of Nepal. Many Sherpas
aspire to making pilgrimages to Mt. Kailash and to visit Lahse in Tibet. The
border with Tibet glances right over the summit of Mt. Everest and Pumo Ri,
so many hikers get close for a look into the northern region. The northern
approach to Mt. Everest is through Tibet, but it much more challenging. The
international community encourages China to relax its tight hold on the Tibetan
region and to open up the Tibetan culture to more of the outside world.