Ghalegaun, in the foothills of Lamjung Himal in north-central Nepal, is as pretty a Nepali mountain village as you’ll find anywhere.
Snuggled in the midst of green hills and enclosed by Himalayan peaks, Ghalegaun is the quintessential Nepali mountain village. Having become a popular tourist spot in recent years, it is home to the indigenous Gurungs. After a recent trip, with bouts of adventure and excitement along the way, I came back all praises for this picturesque village.
Although a popular trail for those who enjoy trekking, my family and I headed to Ghalegaun in a four-wheel Bolero, one of the only vehicles able to survive the jolting path up to the destination. As soon as we stepped out and took in the scenic beauty, gasps emanated from our mouths, as we caught sight of snow-capped mountains and the endless greenery. We were enthralled by Ghalegaun.
After introductions with the tourism coordinator, it was arranged for the four of us to live in the house of a middle-aged Gurung woman. One of the main factors that drives tourists to go to Ghalegaun is the hospitable homestay program that further enriches their experience. We met up with the woman and her family, all very warm and affable people, who greeted us with garlands and tika, and heartily beckoned us into the house we would live in, which was separate from theirs despite being in the same compound. We were greeted by their chickens and goats too, who, as a matter of fact, also managed to keep us awake at night. Well equipped with a toilet, proper lighting, and enough privacy, we were pleasantly content with the setup of the house.
At twilight, we took a stroll around the village, manoeuvring through cobblestoned pathways, and dodging the many domestic animals. We ended up chatting with many of the friendly villagers, who were more than keen to inform us of the history of the village. It is an exquisite and quaint village, with traditional houses huddled close together, and paths running across each other’s compounds, all of it depicting the perfect image of a well-knit community. After attending a cultural program, where we watched the youth of the village, in traditional attire, dance to authentic Gurung music, sing, and play exquisite instruments, we headed back to our host’s house for dinner. From sitting on the floor with only the cooking fire as the light source to eating dhindo and local kukhura ko masu in chares ko thaal, and aimless banter all around, dinner was truly an unforgettable experience.
The next morning, as the kukhuri-kaan! of the chickens woke us up, we rushed outside for the main purpose of our visit, which was to observe the sun rise, and to see the panoramic view of the Himalayas, clear of all clouds and pollution, at dawn. With tea sloshing about in our steel cups, we trudged up the hill to the tower, where the view was supposed to be the best, as yawns escaped our mouths. When we reached the tower, with only a sliver of light visible in the sky, it was only 5:30 a.m. With cameras poised in our hands, and eyes dancing with excitement, we waited for the sun to rise. And, in the blink of an eye, the sky was bathed in sunlight, and the mountain peaks, glistening and radiant, stood there, majestic and proud. The view that we saw then was literally a dream come true. As we were the first people to arrive, we really enjoyed the tranquillity and the beauty that the place had to offer. At that moment, with the tea forgotten in my hand, my heart swelled with pride, and a huge grin stretched across my lips. I could just stand there, staring at the greenery and the mountains forever.
At that point, all the other tourists had started gathering on the tower, and shouts of delight and excitement could be heard. Everyone stared in awe, as clouds parted way to give a clear view of a truly beautiful morning sky. Birds danced from one tree to another, while the valley that lay forgotten below, Ghalegaun, came into our vision. Although not the main point of attraction, Besisahar town, which stretched out in front of us, with hills and rivers crossing paths in between, was also quite a sight to see.
After taking forever to leave the tower, where hundreds of pictures had been taken, we went back to the house for a hearty breakfast consisting of kodo ko sel, rajma ko tarkari, and some more tea. Our next mission was to further explore the little town, and become acquainted with the Gurung culture that ran so deeply within the village. With our host as our guide, we hiked up the hills, where we encountered donkeys and horses, and discovered several forgotten temples, an old dhunge dhara that was used as a shrine to pay homage to nine different gods, and more importantly, a museum. The museum had many remnants of the ancient Gurung culture, lik e their traditional wear, pictures of the early mud houses, and tools that they used for agriculture, among other things. Another factor that set Ghalegaun apart was its tea garden. Located slightly away from the central village, the tea garden was vast and aromatic, where varieties of tea leaves were cultivated and exported.
By the time we returned to the house, it was dusk, and we were thoroughly exhausted. As we set about packing our bags to leave the next day, I went to take a shower, only to discover that there was no light inside the toilet, and there was no hot water available at night, either. Although just standing there in total darkness with only my phone as company, and with my teeth chattering as coldness seeped into my skin, was not at all fun at that time, it definitely became a great story to tell later on.
When the next morning rolled around, and our jeep came to pick us up, we were left feeling bittersweet. Our lovely host and her family bid us farewell with hugs and garlands. As we departed from the village, ready to head back home, I realized just how much of a remarkable experience Ghalegaun had been, and how the trip would forever remain etched in my memory.
After such a great trip, I definitely feel the need to tell everyone about Ghalegaun. I couldn’t recommend it more. If you haven’t already, definitely squeeze out a couple of days from your calendar for this trip; it cannot be missed. Here are a couple of tips for those who are keen to go there in the future.
The cold can get unbearable at times, especially at night and early morning, so be sure to pack an extra jacket, or a couple of sweaters. Don’t expect very high-quality treatment as you would from a hotel, as the village is run by the homestay program, which is authentic, and a totally different experience on its own. So, expecting Western food for lunch is a definite No-No. Although you are a tourist, be mindful of the rules and regulations of the village. You can’t be waking your hosts up at odd hours. You won’t always get hot water, so if you’re someone like me, be prepared to miss out on the showers for a couple of days. The domestic animals may keep you awake at night, so you might want to arrange this with your host family. Last, but not the least, despite the village being absolutely beautiful, the road trip up to it is very difficult and unsteady, and although this adds to the adventure of the entire trip, it is not always pleasant. However, these shortcomings are very trivial in terms of the experience you will gather.
In all seriousness, a trip to Ghalegaun is a must for all travel enthusiasts. The village has so much to offer in terms of beauty, serenity, and adventure, that it truly would be an injustice for a person to miss out on such a wonderful opportunity to explore their own country.