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Mountain man . . . Lhakpa Sherpa is spending three months in New Zealand at the invitation of the Forgotten Sherpas of Nepal Trust, for which he is the "man on the ground" in Nepal. PHOTO: SUPPLIED/ MARG STOCKER

by Greta Yeoman

Seeing the ocean and milking cows by machine are just a couple of the “firsts” Lhakpa Sherpa, of Nepal, has experienced during his three months in New Zealand.

Mr Sherpa is the “man on the ground” for the Forgotten Sherpas of Nepal Trust, which was started by the Geraldine Tramping Club in 2010, trustee Marg Stocker said.

The trust had brought him to New Zealand for three months and he would return to Nepal on March 1.

Along with several speaking events to groups around South Canterbury, Mr Sherpa had explored the South Island – including the West Coast, Kaikoura, Mt Dobson, Aoraki/Mt Cook, several high-country stations, the Catlins and Fiordland.

Sharing stories . . . Lhakpa Sherpa has spoken at a variety of groups around Timaru during his time in New Zealand. PHOTO: SUPPLIED / MARG STOCKER

While New Zealand’s mountains are much smaller than Nepal’s – which include Mt Everest – Mr Sherpa described them as “very nice”.

He did, however, go on to call them “baby mountains”.

Mr Sherpa has tramped in the Dingleburn, near Wanaka, as well as tramping into the natural hot pools at Welcome Flat on the West Coast.

The trip to New Zealand is the first time he has been out of Nepal.

Other firsts during his visit have included milking cows by machine, rather than by hand, watching fields being ploughed by tractors instead of ox and seeing the ocean.

“First time I see the sea I thought it was a big river,” he said, with a laugh.

Mr Sherpa has been connected to the trust since it began in 2010 and was involved with setting up a mobile health service in 2013.

The service supports rural villages whose residents would otherwise have to travel two or three hours to access basic healthcare, Mrs Stocker said.

Plenty of travelling . . . Lhakpa Sherpa visited a variety of places around the South Island including the glaciers on the West Coast. PHOTO: SUPPLIED / MARG STOCKER

Mr Sherpa said the main issues for Sherpa were gastric issues, as well as winter sicknesses and risks for parents and babies during birth.

Many of the gastric issues were caused by consuming the popular “Sherpa tea” – made from tea, sugar, salt, milk and butter – along with large quantities of milk and chilli, he said.

“[It is] quite damaging for the gastric [system].”

Other projects supported by the trust included replacing open, smoky fires with stoves and chimneys, installing clean-water systems and putting in solar lights.

“[It is] a lot easier with local partners,” Mrs Stocker said of Mr Sherpa’s work for the trust.

Mr Sherpa has five children, one of whom is a police officer and another who is an assistant to a nurse in one of the health clinics.

His son is only one of 10 Sherpa in the 70,000-strong Nepalese police force.

The country’s Sherpa population – who are traditionally known for being climbing guides in the Himalayas – made up only .78% of Nepal’s more than 38million residents, he said.

“Sherpa is a caste [but] also a job.”

I see the sea . . . Lhakpa Sherpa’s visit to New Zealand included seeing the ocean for the first time. PHOTO: SUPPLIED / MARG STOCKER

There are more than 100 different castes in Nepal and more than 60 different languages were spoken, Mr Sherpa said.

Forgotten Sherpas of Nepal Trust trustee Jill Worrall, of Timaru, will be leading another group to the villages that the trust supports later this year.

The 21-day trip, which is also a fundraiser for the trust, would allow those involved with the trust to check on how things were going first-hand, Mrs Stocker said.

For more information on the Forgotten Sherpas of Nepal Trust, visit www.forgottensherpas.org.