“A diary – a visit to Ruby Valley”
A white snow-capped mountain range standing tall above the northern landscape of Kathmandu fascinates and welcomes every visitor once they land at Kathmandu, but how many of them visit this hospitable mountain Ganesh Himal, named after the famous Hindu God of fortune and its valley known as Ruby Valley?
On 15th August, 2015, as a part of a field visit, I had the opportunity to venture on a trek to Ruby Valley Ganesh Himal with a team from TAAN, who are working on trail improvement in the region with support from Samarth – Nepal Market Development Programme ( NMDP) funded by UK aid.
Driving from Kathmandu along the green fields of Trishuli, we reached Betrawati Bazaar, where the entrance gate read: “Welcome to the historic town of Betrawati.” In 1788, a series of disputes between Nepal and Tibet resulted in a historic battle with Qianlong forces at Nuwakot which ultimately ended with a famous friendly treaty at Betravati on 2nd October, 1792. It is indeed a historic town.
We arrived at Dhunche at 11:30 and went for a last minute shopping in town and heard a
pleasant and familiar Sabdo song (Sherpa step dance song). I remembered seeing people of Langtang village dance to this tune years ago; it’s only in fleeting memories now. Langtang valley was the most affected region by earthquake; but those living seemed to have moved on now.
At Goljung and Ghatlang, the houses with wooden roof (Panglep) looked fine from the distance but the houses were damaged upon close observation. There were men and women in traditional dresses looking at the newcomers from a distance. Our friends were already planning their souvenirs: “Can you arrange a local rug for me….and a local knife….. and a wooden chopping board?”
Our jeep soared above Ghatlang over a narrow ancient village trail. An old man wearing a local woolen coat with a load in his back ran to the side and climbed above the wall to give room for the jeep. Such is the fate of the rural people; roads are built blindly with disregard to the consequences. In the past few years, such unplanned road construction has claimed many exciting trekking trails, most notably in the Annapurna region and now in many parts of the country. There is an urgent need and opportunity to curb this situation.
While we were driving through the beautiful upper valley of Ghatlang, a kid about 5 or 6 years greeted us: “Namaste, Namaste!” We thought: “What a lovely boy” But when we got closer, the kid whirled a stick that nearly caught the front glass of our jeep; he laughed jumping up and down. “Finally, there’s someone to challenge the beast.”
We reached Somdang that day and the next morning, headed towards Paldor Peak base camp located at 4450 m. Paldor Peak 5,896m, is categorized as a trekking peak and is one of the closest s peaks from Kathmandu. The peak is accessible only with a technical climb, and offers a great view of surrounding Ganesh Himal ranges but the walk through the hills and pastures on the way and detours around the base camp, including Ganga Jamuna, is a pleasant experience in itself.
Some of the possible trekking extensions in the valley include Ganesh Himal view point Dogra Danda, Kalo Seto Kunda (15-17 days total) and or continuing to Manaslu region. The valley was named Ruby valley from the ruby mines available here. The place also holds Nepal’s first ‘zinc’ factory which now is an antique on the way to Paldor base camp.
The earthquake has badly hit the region with most of the houses destroyed and most people live in tents. But the hospitality continues even in tents. We arrived in Chalisgaon, Sertong where the village mothers group threw a ‘Rodhi’ party – a traditional song and dance night which sometimes goes on for days to decide a winner. Ours was going to be a one-way traffic though.
As the evening approached, people came out from their huts and tents, set up a tent for the party and after local delicacies and sips of locally brewed beverage, the melody of flute cleared the air and the valley filled with spellbinding tune of Rodhi songs.
Chalyo hawa Sararaaaaaaa……
A Rough translation
(The pass of deurali,
And the shade of Barpipal tree
A cool breeze flows gently… )
Haaaaa……Chalyo Hawa Sarara…….
The songs continued, everyone danced to the tune with much merriment. All inhibitions and tensions was released into the open sky…There was only joy below and the open sky above, with the tall mountains of Ruby valley as a witness. The participants also responded with commitments to support the mothers group in their effort to rebuild the community building.
It has not been long since the disaster has hit the valley, but people here have managed to survive together as a community, helping each other and maintaining the positive spirit and now they have risen strong and vibrant again.
One lady said the day before: ‘Guests who come to our village never want to leave. Such is the nature of our village.”’
I too remembered, a friend remind mine who told me, “be watchful on the trek, you can find Ruby on those trails.’ I picked some special looking rock on the way but left it there realizing that a traveler is supposed to own nothing from the landscape.
But then, the element that can keep people smiling through the disaster such as the 7.9 magnitude earthquake and the element that captivates any visitor who passes by- as the lady said – must be something valuable. This element of positive spirit and friendship, I realized was the real Ruby of this valley – a gem, anyone can own and share.
The next morning, we were to leave. We had flowers on our ears; memories in our mind; new friends were made and we were certainly departing with our piece of Ruby.