Nepal is located in South Asia right between India and China, in the heart of the Himalayas, just as a soft tongue between two huge dental arches, as Nepalese people say. With 8 peaks of more than 8.000 metres in height, Nepal is a true paradise for those who like climbing and trekking, although these spectacular mountains are not the only thing that Nepal has to offer. Indeed, and as we’ll see in this article, Nepal embodies one of the world’s oldest traditions in cannabis cultivation and hashish manufacture.
It is commonly said that cannabis originated on the foothills of the Himalayas. However, and according to the latest findings of archeologists and researchers, it is not likely that Nepal was its birthplace, but one of the first areas where it arrived and where it was cultivated by natives. Despite its long tradition of growing ganja, Nepal is renowned all over the world for the quality of its hashish. Not by accident has Nepal been supplying the Indian market over centuries!
Discovering Nepal, the Hippy Hashish Trail
Nepal had always been surrounded by mystery. Very few westerners had been lucky enough to visit the Kingdom before 1950, when Nepal issued the first permits for climbing mountains and opened its borders to tourism. Soon after the first eight-thousanders had been climbed during the first decade of opening, a new type of westerner arrived in Nepal during the 1960’s. This time, they were less concerned about climbing and more interested in the people and culture of the country, also on cannabis and charas. They were the first pilgrim backpackers of the so-called Hippie Hashish Trail.
Cannabis had been used in Nepal for centuries by sadhus (devotees of Shiva) and other peoples without a problem, being tolerated and found not only in most villages of the country, but also wild. Without a doubt, when the first westerners arrived, the best thing you could smoke in Nepal were some awesome round hashish pieces called Temple Balls. But they were not made like most of the hashish from other producing countries crossed by the Trail, but with what might be the first extraction method ever used, hand-rubbing fresh plants. Apart from that, Nepali seeds are also used for food, with amazing recipies like “Bhang ko achaar”, a true delight!
Charas, hand-rubbed hashish
Indeed, and in contrast to many other hashish producing countries like Morocco, Lebanon, Afganistan or Pakistan, hashish in Nepal is not made by dry sieving the plants to collect the resin glands. Rather, Nepalese charas is produced by hand-rubbing fresh plants, which might have been recently harvested or not. A possible explanation for this is the fact that very low humidity is needed to sieve dried plants, conditions found in the aforementioned countries but definitely not in Nepal.
They thoroughly wash their hands, let them dry in the sun, and then start rubbing the fresh colas until a thick layer of resin glands covers their palms. They then collect the resin and start again, this time collecting a second-grade resin. After they finish rubbing the plants, they shape the resin with their hands (friction and heat really help) as round pieces, commonly called Temple Balls. After leaving them to stand for some days, they’re ready to be enjoyed!
Cannabis in Nepal today
Since the onset of the Hippy Hashish Trail, many things have changed in Nepal. With the arrival of tourists coming from the West after visiting other producing cannabis countries, you could soon find all types of strains growing in the foothills of Nepal’s mountain ranges, even hybrids. The explanation is simple: these new, foreign strains were faster and produced more resin than traditional crops, and were so preferred by Nepalese farmers and producers. Today, you can find different phenotypes growing all over the country, from the super narrow-leafed plants of the Chitwan area to more hybrid-looking plants as you gain altitude.
With regard to hashish, and especially in Katmandu, it is really hard to find good quality resin unless you have good contacts. Forget about the tales you might have heard about “Freak Street” or places like the Eden Hashish Centre. Since the ban of 16thof July 1973 – mainly caused by sustained pressure from the USA and the UN – cannabis is illegal in Nepal, although there still is some tolerance in certain areas or in religious contexts. Hash is Katmandu is often adulterated and of very poor quality, while it improves as you get away from the city and visit producing villages.
During our trekking through the Annapurna area during 2014, we could see cultivated plants in almost every single village we visited, although we were also told that they were periodically raided by policemen. Wild cannabis could be found almost everywhere, especially in the valleys, where it grew as a “roadside plant” for kilometres. By far, the best piece of hashish we tried was purchased in Pokhara: it simply had everything you’d expect from some good Nepalese charas! Spicy, earthy, fresh. Mainly a cerebral high. Mainly spicy, the type of flavour that you instantly associate with Asian strains. Ever wondered what Nepal means? Please read below : )