Dearest Readers and blog followers, Nepal has been keeping me so busy that I cannot even manage to post one blog per month. However, I do have a lot of good reasons for not being able to share my awesome experience with you all, because I am traveling around this beautiful country and learning about the country and the culture as much as possible.
Well around November my work-team and couple other buddies had this awesome opportunity to travel to rural Nepal and go on the Gurung Heritage Trail in the Lamjung district. Lamjung is pretty close-by Pokhara, one of the most tourist friendly cities in Nepal. Kathmandu during this time of the year is crawling with people from all around the world, late fall until early spring is the best time to be here in the Himalayan Kingdom with clear skies promising the best view of the pristine ranges, but being in Lamjung was an experience out of this world.
Eleven of us gathered together to head out to Besi Sahar from Kathmandu, the starting point of our journey. With not so sweet 4 hours ride to Dumre (Duum-Rey) we finally got off the highway which was a junction to either head towards Pokhara, Bandipur or Besi-Sahar. After around two hours from Dumre, we reached Besi Sahar around 3pm, where the real journey started. The trip to Ghale Gaun was a two hour straight uphill drive. Since it was cold and slowly getting darker, we popped open couple cans of beer to make the drive feel faster.
Besi Sahar – Ghale Gaun
The gods in Nepal have a unique way of granting the best holidays to you. After around an hour and half of drive, we got stuck in a roadblock where a crew of Gurung filmmakers were waiting to fix one of their pickup trucks. As we waited, their dance crew entertained us with finely synced dance moves under the moonlight. We though the journey wouldn’t get any better, but we were mistaken. After waiting for around two hours, we were able to finally resume our drive to Ghale Gaun and as we approached higher altitude, we saw snow capped mountain ranges sneaking upon us . Upon arriving at Ghale Gaun, we immediately got a hold of the home-stay program representative and went to our respective houses. The home-stay parents had cooked us a dinner with rice, lentils and a special gravy of dried goat meat. The next morning we got a good view of the mountain ranges. We we very excited to see what the trek had to offer and the very best was yet to come.
Ghale Gaun – Bhujung – Pasgaon
This was the actual start of the trekking aspect of the Gurung Heritage Trek. After the sunrise, we got some breakfast and started our two hour hike to Bhujung. This part of the trek was fairly easy as we just walked along the hills without any steep ascent or descent. However, there were couple spots which were dangerous because of recent landslides. The resting places were made in such a way that travelers got to view the scenic beauty from a 360 degree. With such an elevation, we could see remote villages/settlements on hilltops and mountain tops. As we approached Bhujung, we walked on pathways made of big slabs of rocks, which were laid as a guide so that people would not get lost. We just followed the stone paths as it led us from one point to the other. Around 5 kms to Bhujung, we had to descend a significant distant, that when our team started to notice the impact of stones on the knee joints. Nothing was serious at this point, we reached Bhujung with ease and prepared to have our lunch there.
Before planning the trek and getting started with the trek, our team used to go hike around Kathmandu to get in shape and get used to walking long distances. For around 6 or 7 consecutive Saturdays we had covered a total of around 100 KM+ as we did a circulation around Kathmandu. However, this did not prepare us for the worst that had yet to come, when the nature was testing us city kids.
Our group consisted of 11 individuals from varying age groups. Abhinav and I were the fittest amongst the group because we played a lot of futsal and worked out our lower body. After our lunch, we had to trek from Bhujung to Pasgaon which was supposed to be around 5 hours of a trek. Our team left around 1 PM from Bhujung. Bhujung and Pasgaon were on two totally different hills. So we had to descend from one hill cross the canyon and ascend the other hill. I was given the nick name Captain Ankit as Abhinav and I were leading the group. After an hour of descend, some of our team members were struggling because the sudden descend put a lot of jolt and stress on their knees. Abhinav, Aleynah and I separated from the group so that we could reach Pasgaon and take care of our sleeping arrangements before it got too dark. The canyon/gorge separating two different hills was absolutely breathtaking as the river separated the two humongous hills. After a half-an hour of walking on a flat surface, we came across the “Stairway to Heaven” because the next phase of ascent was literally never ending. Luckily we had Aleynah to entertain us all the way to the top of the hill talking about running marathons and other crazy stuffs. The ascent was very cardio intensive and with my backpack of around 10 kgs, it was not fun at all. Although the beautiful view did make up for all the hustle, we just wanted to get done with the climb up. Around 5 PM we reached the top of the hill where we could see Pasgaon and had another half an hour before it got dark. The rest of the group were somewhere in the middle climbing up. There was a football fields (english football or american soccer) on top of the hill with awesome view of the mountain ranges, Abhinav and I were wondering what would it be like to kick the ball around on top of a hill with such a view. We entered the village and met friendly people who took the initiative to help us figure out the home-stay program for the night. The rest of the group arrived pretty late at night, but they made it in one-peice.
Our home-stay parents were 60 and 59 years old. They had three children, two son and a daughter. All of them were in England as permanent residents. Since we were at Pasgaon immediately after the biggest holiday in Nepal (Dashain), our presence made them feel warmer because we kind of brought a little change in their regular routine and we helped them miss their children a little less. With lots of good food and love, all of us got a good night sleep at Pasgaon. Couple of our team-members had taken a beating from mother nature, the stony steps were not friendly to their knees and were injured. With big goals, we planned to leave Pasgaon for Pakhurikot early in the morning, which would take another 6-8 hours of trekking up and down.
Pasgaon to Bagaincha
You know how a plan almost all the time never works out. Well, we left Pasgaon around 9 AM to get a head start and as usual Abhinav and I were leading the pack. The beginning of the hike was a steep descend, so the knee problems were not going anywhere. By the time we reached the gorge and a village nearby called Bagaincha, the rest of the team were struggling to descend as the knee problems worsened. Abhinav and I talked to the locals in the village and shared interesting stories. As the rest of the team showed up around 3 pm, we decided we would stay in the small village of Bagaincha itself. None of us were prepared for all the fun that was to follow that night. Gurung culture is very open, direct and not too shy. The beautiful ladies flirted with every gentleman from our group. Bagaincha stood beside a beautiful river and there was something very special about the sound of a flowing river, it was peaceful. With mere 30 people in the village we instantly got to know everyone in the village. It was still bright outside, and apparently there was plenty of local alcohol in the village; so we became good guests and got two jerry cans of Kodo (Local alcohol made of Millet). All 11 of us, sitting on top of stones in the river started drinking Kodo and shared our stories. We didn’t know when the alcohol hit and all of a sudden all of us we were all laughing. As it darker, the night grew even more interesting. The villagers setup a bon-fire a special dance performance for us later in the night. We started singing Nepali songs and witnessed local Gurung performance. Later in the night, couple of us had to sleep on the kitchen floor in our sleeping bags because we overcrowded the village. The warm Kodo helped rejuvenate our body and we were ready for another long hike.
Bagaincha – Pakhurikot
The stony steps of Gurung Heritage Trek was really helpful to find the way in the crazy hills but they were definitely not helpful to those of us who had a weak lower body. This time around we stuck together as a team and hiked all the way to Pakhurikot. Pakhirukot had the most spectacular view out of all places during this trip. We went to the highest point in Pakhurikot to witness the sunset and moon-rise at the same time. As amazing as it sounds, during full moon, the sun-set and full moon-rise takes place simultaneously so as the sun was setting on one side of the hill, we could see the moon-rise on the other, which was truly phenomenal. The local community had organized a little cultural event for us. With another jerry-can of kodo, we started singing and dancing to the tunes of the madal. Pretty drunk and feeling awesome, we decided to crash a local dance party in Pakhurikot. New to the Gurung Culture, apparently wedding reception is an event where local party dance in front of the whole village and donate items to the newly wed. With kodo strong in our blood, we joined the spectators and donated Rs 1500 to the newly wed for having us there. Couple of us decided to show them how its done in the City, so we played a city song and dance to the tunes in front of the locals. It was a lot of fun taking swigs with the locals and socializing with them. The Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) was really friendly to new people and just the best host we could ever imagine. We stumbled back to our home stay house and went to bed.
The Trek was nearly over as we headed to Pokhara to catch a bus back to Kathmandu. Our hike from Pakhurikot made us realize that our superb performance in front of the locals the night before had actually made us celebrities and all the village was talking about how awesome our dance moves were.
From Pakhurikot we reserved a private bus to Pokhara and from Pokhara we took a bus to Kathmandu. The trip was fantastic in every sense; from great adventure to a huge sense of accomplishment. I had made it a goal and an objective to travel around Nepal as much as possible and to find out more about my country as much as possible. Gurung Heritage Trek showed us that there were good and hospitable people in the villages. Sadly, with the number of village youth migrating to cities and getting recruited to the british army, the young population is leaving the villages taking the future of GHT along with them. Maybe this blog and other promotions can increase tourism in that area so that this piece of pristine Nepali culture is still available for our future generation and others to witness.