RUBY VALLEY : A hidden haven in the Himalayas

Dhading, Gorkha, Rasuwaa and Nuwakot districts are at the geographical center of Nepal and lie at the heart of the nation’s history. It is from these hills that Gorkha hills men, led by Prithvi Narayan Shah, set out to unite Nepal in the late 1700s. Since then, Gorkha soldiers have received international fame for their bravery and skill as warriors.

Although close to both Kathmandu and Pokhara, the Ganesh Himal Region, which is also known as Ruby Valley, has remained a well-kept secret to all but Nepal’s most avid trekkers. The unexplored area is concealed between the popular destinations in the Langtang National Park and the Manaslu Conservation Area.

Wildflowers flourish, and waterfalls embellish the lush hill scenery in the land blessed with wide-ranging geographical, cultural and biological diversity. Sensational viewpoints feature the sublime Himalaya to the north. Most prominent is the Ganesh Himal Range, a family of peaks among the most attractive of the entire Himalaya. The Ganesh massif is named in honor of Hindu deity Ganesh, the elder son of Shiva and Parvati. Selected viewpoints in the area offer the breathtaking Himalayan panoramas!

Most rewarding are the attractions including magnificent Ganga-Jamuna — a twin waterfall, Kalo-Seto lakes and Ganesh Kunda lake, Tripurasundari temple and the hospitable people that inhabit the region. The area is populated mainly by Tamang Gurung and Ghale to the north, and Brahmin, Chhetri, Dalit, Newar and Chepang at the lower elevations.

Ruby Valley is home to at least six separate trekking itineraries which are awaiting travelers promising them unforgettable adventures. The area is easily accessed by the Prithivi Highway, which connects Kathmandu with Pokhara, as well as Pasang Lhamu Highway which links Nepal with Tibet through the Rasuwagadhi entry point. Another adventurous option is to hike from the Tamang Heritage Trail of Rasuwa.

Explore and experience this route with dramatic scenes of natural beauty, village scenery and cultural charm.

Given below is a brief itinerary of a seven-day teahouse trekking trail in the Ruby Valley.

Day 1: Kathmandu – Shyabru Besi (1503m) — 8-9 hrs drive

It takes 8-9 hours drive to reach Shyabru Besi by public vehicle or a private four wheel drive from Kathmandu. Shyabru Besi is the gateway to the Langtang Valley. This small Tamang town is located on the confluence of the Bhote Kosi and Langtang Rivers. The scenic drive to the place passes through Trisuli Bazaar, Ramche Gaon and Dhunche Bazaar. Narrow and curvy road with amazing landscape along the way makes a good and adventurous start of the journey.

Day 2: Shyabru Besi – Chawatar – Gatlang (2337m) — 5-6 hrs trek

A dirt curvy uphill track from Shyabru Besi takes us to Bahun Danda Pass. From here, the trail descends to Gatlang. There is an optional route to Gatlang via Chawatar. Gatlang is a Tamang village with unique customs and craftsmanship in a magnificent setting. The village also lies in the Tamang Heritage Trail. Just above the village lies Parvati Kunda — a sacred pond. A temple by the side of the pond attracts thousands of pilgrims from far and wide during the Janai Purnima Festival.

Day 3: Gatlang – Parvati Kund ,Yuri Kharka – Somdang (3271m) — 6-7 hrs trek

The trail on the third day climbs through pine and rhododendron forests before reaching Yuri Kharka. The place is also an ideal stop for lunch before continuing to Khurphu Bhanjyang. From here, the trail descends to the Somdang River which is also the border between Rasuwa and Dhading districts.

A few hours climb from here, passing through a scenic valley and watching Chukarma Waterfall (200 meters) takes us to a huge mining compound which is no longer in operation. The non-operational mining site gives visitors a chance to explore the site and even explore a 1.4-kilometer tunnel bored into the mountain to extract zinc, copper, tin, crystal and even highly-prized rubies.

Day 4: Somdang – Pangsang Pass (3842 m) – Tipling (2078m) — 6-7 hrs trek

Pangsang Kharka is a viewpoint that lies southwest of Somdang village. The place offers a broad panorama of the surrounding terrain. To the north are the soaring peaks of Manaslu and the Ganesh Himal Range. The large field is graced with a giant entry gateway and is a also an ideal location for camping and enjoying breathtaking scenery. The whole Ganesh Himal region is blessed with abundant herbal plants. Previously, herbs were taken to Tibet along an ancient trade route and exchanged for salt, livestock, wool and turquoise.

The trail then descends to Tipling, a large village that hosts two Buddhist gombas and both a Protestant and Catholic church. Along the ridgetop to the east is a gomba and cremation ground for both Buddhists and Christians lined with colorful flags. Tamangs are the dominant population here. Visitors can even experience beautiful and rich Tamang culture show in Tipling. Locals showcase Jhankri or shaman dance and ghode or horse dance. These dance forms are said to have been borrowed from the Tibetan culture long ago. Jhankri (shaman) activity is robust in this territory with the worship of natural forces and indigenous local deities interwoven with Hindu and Buddhist practices. Mane dance, Mendo Maya, Paru dance and Ghode (horse) dance as well as Lama (monk) dance are quite popular.

Day 5: Tipling – Shertung/Chalish – Borang Village (1700m) — 5- 6 hrs Trek

The fifth day of the trek descends to cross the Adha Khola on a box bridge before climbing to the sister villages of Shertung and Chalish, overlooking the fertile river valley and abundant fields.

Shertung is inhabited mainly by Tamang. The name Shertung means ‘place of gold’. According to a legend, two brothers in search of gold were led here by a dream and thus the settlement was born. Similarly, Chalish is a mixed settlement inhabited primarily by Gurung, Ghale and Kami. The hospitable people of this area have unique customs and craftsmanship and traditional dances, including a hospitable welcome dance, Ghatu Dance. Here, the folk music form, Dohori, is also popular with call and response between male and female participants, a type of courtship ritual, complemented by folk music.

Some dances depend on the time of year and take place during festivals including the Maruni Dance during Dashai and Tihar, Hai Nelo Dance of Tihar, and the Ghatu (Ghasiri Dance) that occurs during Chandi Purnima in the Nepali month of Chaitra.

Gurung men here, traditionally wear bhangra — a woven, embroidered cotton cloth tied at the ends that serves as a pouch for carrying goods. Sri Tinkanya Devi Mandir lies above Chalish. Local women tie bits of cloth or leave a bangle representing a wish to be fulfilled near a small pool of water surrounded by Barmase or periwinkle flowers.

These villages can also be an ideal lunch spot. From here, the trek continues to Boring. From Shertung village, Borang can be reached via Ayui village whereas from Chalish it can be reached passing through Gobre gaon.

Borang village is also a Tamang community village and culture here is similar to that of Tipling and Shertung village.

Day 6: Borang – Percho to Dundure Khola (1050m/3465Ft) — 5-6 hrs

It takes a walk of two and half hours to reach Lishne Khola River. The trail descends to the khola and continues to Darkha Gaon passing through Percho on the way. Percho can be an ideal spot for lunch. The suspension bridge crossing above Ankhu Khola offers the view of the rivulet and Percho village as well as Ri village on the other side of the river before reaching Dundure Khola. The place houses some local tea houses and is the ideal place for night halt.

Day 7: Dundure Khola–Dhading Besi – Kathmandu 1310m /4323ft. — 7-8 hrs drive

From Dundure Khola, a five-hour drive through the rough hilly terrain and curvy road takes us to Dhading Besi — the district headquarters of Dhading. The drive, crossing through Ankhu Khola as well as Kimdang phedi village, Katunje and Jyamrung village, gives us an opportunity to observe fabulous landscape of the surrounding valley.

From Dhading besi, a three-hours drive on the Prithivi Highway will takes back to Kathmandu.

(Text & Picture Courtesy: Kul Bahadur Gurung)

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