In Buddhism, Pemako is a synonym for 'hidden lotus-land', the place where real happiness lies in concealment. It is believed to be the earthly representation of Dorje Pagmo, a Tibetan goddess, and each mountain and river is looked on as a part of her body. It hovers in the dreams of Buddhists as a sacred place blessed by Padmasambhava, as well as an earthly paradise with an inexhaustible supply of food. Beginning in the early eighteenth century, large numbers of Menbas left the Menyu area (part of Tibet, to the south of the so-called McMahon Line) and settled in Pemako after a long journey. The latest migration, which took place in 1906, resulted from religious fervor. Over a thousand Tibetans trekked from the Chamdo Region to the fertile 'lotus-land'.
Mt. Namcha Barwa blocks cold air from the north while warm monsoons from the Indian Ocean fertilize this land with yearly moisture. It is the lowest part of Tibet, with the most humid climate and the best-preserved ecosystems. Over 3,700 kinds of plants are widely distributed and numerous animal species such as snow leopards, Bengal tigers and gibbons make their home here. Jungles, snow peaks, waterfalls and rattan bridges are its features, not to mention the spectacular Great Canyon left by the roaring Yarlung Tsangpo River. An amazing natural park, it is also the place where the local Menpas and Luopas have been living a simple life for over a hundred years, unaware of the changes taking place in the outside world. Revealed to the world by the discovery of the hidden waterfalls of the Yarlung Tsangpo River, the picturesque and mystic Pemako has been drawing more and more outsiders for exploration. However, the way to this paradise is, unfortunately, not suitable for modern vehicles. The meeting of the Great Canyon and the mountains brings not only a humid subtropical climate but frequent landslides and mudslides which make roads, a basic connection to the outside world, an unrealized dream of the locals. Pemako is the only county in China which cannot be reached by highway. Porters who make their living by conveying goods in and out are the only means of transportation, and are only available during the few months of summer. In 1994 the first automobile arrived at Pemako via a highway built from Pome County but never found its way back owing to unexpected road collapses. Treks to the mysterious lotus-land are hard and dangerous with cliffs, rains, swamps and even leeches. In fact, they are only available during August to October when the snow melts and are only for those who are fully prepared, both physically and mentally. A trek to Pemako is risky and yet irresistibly appealing as a wilderness experience that leaves life-long memories.
Travel Time: It is best to visit between August and October when the snow melts. Avoid treks from October to June.
Route: Presently the most acceptable trekking route is Pai Village-Mt. Duoxionglha-Beibeng Village-Pemako and takes approximately four to five days. The way out of Pemako is to climb over Mt. Galonglha via 113K, 100K, 80K (villages named after distances) and finally arrive at Pome County. The route can also be followed in reverse.
Transportation: Board direct coaches from Lhasa to Pai at the Lhasa West Suburb Coach Station prior to 8:30 am. Buses from Bayi to Pai can be found near the Post Hotel in Bayi Town. Porters who are very familiar with the route and experienced in coping with unexpected accidents en route are of great help. They can be found at Pai or at the transfer stations en route. Prices vary according to the weight of the packages.
Dining and Lodging: A few transfer stations and guest houses en route provide basic lodging facilities. However, it is highly recommended to carry your own sleeping bag and camping equipment. Prior to the trek, stock up on ship biscuits, chocolates, water and instant noodles, etc. Guest houses and restaurants at Pemako charge high prices.
Essentials: Bring a map, lighter, raincoat, waterproof suits, sunglasses, cigarettes (for leeches), compass, knife, flashlight, camping equipment, sleeping bag, water, ship biscuits, spare underwear and socks, puttees, sun block, medicines, and insecticides.
Telecommunications: Long-distance call and telegraph services are available in the post office at Pemako. There is no mobile phone service en route to Pemako or at Pemako.
1. Do not even consider a trek unless you are prepared for the difficulties and setbacks. Do not hike alone. Your companions can help you at many crucial moments.
2. To get rid of leeches burn them off with cigarettes or pat the nearby skin. Do not try to pull them out of the skin. This may cause them to break and cause inflammation. Puttees can help in prevention.
3. Wear sunglasses to avoid snow blindness while climbing the snow-capped mountains.