Gyalbu Tamang (above) grew up accompanying his father, Pasang Norbu, to the alpine meadows in Langtang’s Naya Kanga, Yala and Langsisha to graze yaks. His father was one of the pioneers who worked in the Langtang Cheese Production Centre that the Swiss helped set up in the 1950s.
When Gyalbu turned 18, he got a job at the centre, and he had to get up at 4AM every morning to weigh the milk, collect firewood, get the fire going, and carry the cheese from higher up the mountains to the plant in Kyanjin. All this was familiar work for him, since he had helped his father as a boy. Swiss cheese experts Sepp Dubach and Werner Schulthess were convinced that cheese had a future in Nepal even though in the 1950s Nepalis did not really eat cheese, despite the fact that churpi was always popular.
The Swiss were convinced that the best way to preserve the surplus yak milk production in places like Langtang was to convert it into cheese so it could be transported to market. They felt that yak cheese from Nepal would be as good as, if not better than, Emmentaler cheese back home. They trained Pasang Norbu in Swiss cheese-making, and he in turn passed it on to his son, Gyalbu.
Pasang Norbu retired from the cheese factory, but not from the business of making cheese. Dairy farming was in his blood. So with his pension, he bought ten yaks and carried on doing what he did before, and selling the surplus milk to the cheese factory. In summer, father and son took the yaks up to graze on the slopes below Naya Kanga. It was the herbs in the grass that gave the milk, and the cheese, its unique flavour.
On 25 April 2015, Pasang Norbu was grazing his yaks when the avalanche came down and swept him and his yaks away. Last week in Kyanjin, Gyalbu Tamang said: “My father taught me everything I know. I am just carrying on his work.”
Read Also: The Story of Langtang Cheese, Gyalbu Tamang