PICS: KRISHNA SINJALI
It takes a day's bus ride from Birtamod to Taplejung's district headquarter, and then a three-day trek to reach Olangchungola but the newly built airport 10 km east of Fungling will shave off an entire day. The road from Fungling to Tapethok and further up is under construction.
Other than the road and abandoned VDC buildings and a primary school, there is little here to suggest presence of the Nepali state. The once vibrant trading route is deserted. A nine member border police force is posted here, two days walk from the Reiyu post on the Tibet border which is often closed.
The primary school, which has 22 students opens for only four months because it is too cold for the teachers rest of the time. The locals have repeatedly asked the local administration to stock the health post with medicine and a doctor all year round. But nothing has materialised.
The 250 population of Olangchungola is scattered across seven VDCs and is made up mostly of farmers and traders. Half the population has left. Tibet is closer than the nearest market town in Nepal, and Chinese goods are cheaper than commodities in Nepal. But last September's earthquake damaged the Tamur trail, and Tibet is not accessible. Repairs are nowhere in sight. The Kangchenjunga Conservation Area Project volunteer Tashi Sherpa says the route to Olangchungola is so bad it is swept away every monsoon.
Neglected by the state and left with no choice, the 25 families still remaining in Olangchungola are also considering leaving the area for good. A local health assistant Pasang Kipa Sherpa told us they have requested the district administration to relocate the village to a safer place. She adds: "The area is too harsh for survival and there is no help from anywhere."