I spent almost 20 hours at Ghalegoan, Lamjung – a popular tourism destination for community based rural tourism and left wondering why exactly the village is so popular during the return trip on a jeep through rocky risky road (that took almost three hours to reach Besisahar – the district headquarters).
To say, the village is nestled on the lap of mountains including Lamjung, Annapurna II, Macchapuchhre and Manasalu, the village is at 2,070m (well, Nagarkot which is at one-hour easy drive from my home is at 2,175m), but the scenery I was offered was, well, not breathtaking.
For me, it looked almost foolish to travel/trek/ride that far for the views of the mountains that are offered better at many other easy destinations.
The homestay facility is something to look for. The food/night at a Ghale home was worth experiencing but I like it, I am not fond of homestay. However, my first experience of homestay at Goljung, Rasuwa felt much better (even the mountains).
The traditional-ness of the village is somewhat intact (despite the fact that the traditional Gurung house photo on the brochure is the only one of such type in the entire village).
And, the thing I was expecting but did not get was the briefing. Despite being a member of 30-member team to visit the village, the local tourism committee did not brief us on anything. We were left with hours with nothing to do other than roam around the village.
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Despite believing that the village is overhyped tourism destination, I loved the day there. I loved the way those elders smiled and talked to us; the way they tried to keep the traditional alive and going when the village lacked youths.
At the home where I stayed were only an elderly man and his daughter. Ditto with almost all other homes – the youths are abroad to earn. A disturbing trend, as the entire village seemed to the aged with the inhabitants.
But I loved how the elderly people, and a few youths who were either on holiday or had not left the village, participated in the late night cultural show on our request. The cultural show lacked the enthusiasm of youth and the colorfulness, but their commitment to give a glimpse of their culture was a laud worthy effort.
And, if I offered two little girls (aged 11 and 12) who danced the traditional Ghatu dance, a very slow dance with difficult moves and steps, some money, it was to honor their commitment than skills; smiles than steps and for preservation than observation.
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The Ba (father) at my home was not very willing for photographs.
“I don’t know how many took my photo,” he said. “When my son went to Kathmandu, he saw my photo in a shop and wanted to bring a print back home. But they said it costs Rs. 1,600 – my photo and my son could not buy.”
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Ghalegoan interestingly has a proper-size football ground with goalposts. Some of us wanted to play with the locals who were practicing. We played, well after probably five years for me, and we were trailing by 1-0 at half-time (because we had a local goalkeeper and last defense) when the rain started.
“We need to walk an hour to reach home and it will get dark soon and with rainfall, it will be very hard to walk down to home,” the adult with whom we had talked for the match said.
We gave them the bet and watched them leave. When walking with difficulty of tired leg for five minutes to my home, I thought that the locals had to walk 55 more minutes to reach their home.
Yes, through all those terraces that looked beautiful from the Lek (the top side of the hill).
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Ghalegoan is of course beautiful (not as good as it’s hyped); worth a day or two if you want to understand the village life and want some leg-tiring-treks; the society offers uniqueness. The rustic-and-tired looking village welcomed us whole-heartedly, bade good-bye with soft heart and left us with some numb and exciting feelings.
And, Ghalegaon is a glimpse of rural Nepal!