Some unplanned trips are very adventurous and memorable. One fine Saturday morning of February 2020, me and other five of my friends spontaneously decided to travel to Ghalegaun for an experience of staying in a homestay. The motive was to explore the Gurung village and the dweller’s lifestyle. Dhaka – my senior sir, his wife Nirmala mam, their son and daughter who are pursuing MBBS from a Chinese university and my colleague Suresh sir along with me packed our stuff and headed to Ghalegaun from Nayagaun, Pokhara. It was late morning and we left behind us the hustle and bustle of Pokhara towards the tranquillity of Ghalegaun.
We were headed towards Besisahar in a jeep. As I had already been to Sundarbazzar, Lamjung some 20 years ago, I could feel a nostalgic rush of the adventurous road leading to Besisahar after we crossed the town of Dumre. With lots of imagination in our minds, we chatted a lot about our own ideas of how the village would look like. After almost three hours of drive, we reached Besisahar. There a local vendor told us that we need to drive off-road till Ghalegaun which would again take another three hours of rough gravel ride. Since it was already late afternoon and we didn’t know much about the condition of the road, we decided to move on without stopping for a lunch break in Besisahar. Our jeep started climbing the hill like a mighty soldier. Not just one, it crossed almost a dozen such hills before reaching the pristine Gurung village which seemed to be located in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by spectacular view of mountains. Majority of our way included jungle on both sides of the road. Though road widening projects were on going in the later section of road, some of the parts were still too narrow for our jeep to cross through. In fact, I felt like the driving was scary yet adventurous.
In few places, we felt like we were almost lost as the road diverged to three more directions. The villagers and passer-bys were very nice to give us correct information about the road leading to Ghale Gaun. When we were confused and could not see anyone along the road, we used to call the coordinator of the homestay to inquire about the proper direction of road. During the drive, we observed some amazing views of village life. Right before approaching the village, the marvellously high snow-capped mountains, mostly the view of Annapurna range was seen. The mountains were yellow and luminescent as they reflected the dusky rays of sunset. We stopped the jeep in so many spots in awe of the beauty of the scenery, we couldn’t stop ourselves from taking lots of pictures. Needless to say, we all were spellbound by the mountains.
By late evening, we reached Ghalegaun. The local people warmly welcomed us in homestay office. This kind of guest welcoming rituals were like traditions for these homestays. We were placed in house number 11. Gambhirman dai, the owner of the house guided us through the stone paved stairs up to his house. He showed us the rooms which were more traditionally built. Since it was getting dark, we agreed to roam around the village next morning. To protect ourselves from cold wind coming from the mountains, we asked Gambhirman dai to arrange some wood for fire and a local chicken before dinner. Then, we sang many songs in a fine tuning of ukulele in the warmth of fire for almost an hour. The taste of local chicken was another unforgettable memory that still makes my mouth watery. After that, we moved to the village hall to entertain ourselves with local folklores, songs and dance. Age old cultural dances like Jyaure, Serka, Dohori, Ghatu, Sorathi, Jankri etc. were performed accompanied by different traditional musical instruments. The dancers and artists were adorned in traditional dress and jewellery. That day, two of the above mentioned dance performances were done. It made us immensely happy in the sense that such traditions and culture were being enjoyed and preserved by the new generation. Then we came back to have dinner which can be called an experience encorporating the local taste and flavours. Gambhirman, his wife and mother were very humble and we were very grateful that the dinner was very tasty.
The very next morning, we woke up early and after having a cup of tea, went up a hill to a viewpoint to look at the mountains. I could notice the nice village houses but missed their stone roof as the roofs were replaced by tin roof these days. I felt like the houses were losing their authentic beauty by replacing stones with tin. This village is situated at an altitude of 2070m from sea level and is only 205 km northwest of Kathmandu and 125km northeast of Pokhara. It has more than 100 inhabitants and majority of them belong to the ethnic group “Gurung” or Ghale. Ghale Gaun homestay is promoting its unique taste of village tourism and practicing sustainable community-based hospitality.
Upon reaching the hill station which was 10 minute walk away, the view was so spectacular that we stayed there for until late morning. The breath taking view of majestic mountains such as Machhapucchre – 6,693m, Annapurna I – 8,091m, Annapurna II – 7,939m, Annapurna IV – 7,525m, Himalchuli 6,747m and with more of 6,000 m smaller peaks had all our heart. After that, we came back to our home stay for breakfast.
After breakfast, we went to nearby village museum where every other materials were kept very preciously with detail information on them. All items displayed culture and customs of the Ghale community. The museum was actually a small house filled with cultural treasures collected from their ancestors. Traditional customs are still followed when taking part in major rituals of life like births, deaths, marriages and in other important cultural rituals. The Gurungs have a unique ethnic culture and Ghalegaun reflects an untouched ethnic lifestyle. On our way back to homestay, we passed through organic tea garden planted and managed by the same village.
We came back to our homestay and had traditional Nepali Dal – Bhat for lunch. After that, we prepared ourselves to return back to our mundane city lives. While returning, the mother and wife of Gambhirman bid farewell to us by offering garland and lots of good wishes for our journey back home. With the peaceful image of the village engraved forever in our hearts and the warm hospitality of the Ghale community, we returned with lots gratitude towards the villagers for this weekend get-away turned out to be one of our most culturally grounding lifetime experiences.