It ain’t easy getting to Ghale Gaun. But believe me when I say that the cliché “it’s about the journey, not the destination” is absolutely true in this case. Although the destination isn’t bad either, the trip towards it is quite the experience. It’s a horrible trip, but so, so awesome.
We started off in Kathmandu. It’s easier to start this trip from Pokhara, but we just wanted a weekend getaway from Kathmandu and head into the mountains. So we chose to go to Ghale Gaun, a village where a friend of a friend of mine grew up. He’d been living in Texas for the past years, but luck had it that he was back in Nepal for a while to visit friends and family. He invited us to come and join him.
Our first bus brought us via a long and winding road to a small town called Besishahar. Especially when you leave the Kathmandu-Pokhara highway the scenery just starts to get breathtaking. Through small villages, in between of the mountains, goats passing the roads and women coming from the fields dressed in their sari’s. Because Besishahar is the starting point for many Annapurna treks the town houses enough guesthouses and hotels. We decided to stay in the most fancy one. We were on a holiday. Our garden and swimming pool had breathtaking mountain views all around.
The following morning it was still uncertain if the jeep we were planning to take was actually going. It depends on the amount of people, and, mainly, the weather. The reason for that became clear to me very quickly. Eventually the jeep was stuffed with ten people while it was designed for six – even the driver was sharing his seat with someone else. I noticed, while most cars and motorised vehicles only have protection from one or two Gods, this particular jeep had five. Three statues on the dashboard, two hanging down from the rearview mirror.
I had already been warned about the horrible conditions of the road, several times. I figured, how bad can it be? I’ve been in Asia for a while now, I can handle a bad road, especially for such a short ride. Well, I completely overestimated my experience with horrible roads. This was something different. This shouldn’t even be called a road. Most of the time we drove on a mere ten centimetres distance of the mountainside while we were shaking and bumping in every imaginable direction. I’m not a scaredy cat, at all, but this made me gasp for air for a bit. When I found out that our driver had ben driving this road for the past five years I felt a bit more comfortable.
You can do the road on foot if you like, which will take you around five hours. The jeep is actually not much faster, or more comfortable for that matter. It takes two to three hours. I went by jeep because of my two companions, but I would advise anyone to do it by foot. The views are breathtaking, it’s an easy trek and perfectly doable for people who haven’t got experience in trekking. It’s also easily doable without a guide, you only need to ask in Besishahar to get to the right road, but to get to Ghale Gaun you just have to follow that way.
We reached Ghale Gaun with bruises all over our bodies, literally. Luckily we were received by the village elders with local snacks and locally brewed warm beer, which doesn’t even come close to beer but was quite tasty. Don’t dare to say no, because you won’t get away with that! It was obvious that the villagers felt honoured by our visit. It didn’t take long before the village elder and some other prominent villagers invited us for a tour through the town.
A tour through Ghale Gaun is absolutely worth it. On clear days the Annapurna skyline is absolutely breathtaking. Since I was there at the beginning of raining season we only got to see the skyline for a couple of seconds, but still. You will also get a very good idea of Nepali village life. Cows, goats and chicken share the streets – and houses – with the people. Old ladies sit in front of their houses, spinning cloth or preparing vegetables for the market, while the younger folks bring supplies to their doorsteps. The school, which was donated by a British family, is surprisingly still standing after the 2015 earthquake. They brought us to the watch tower, from which you have views over nine districts of Nepal. There’s even a small museum, showing ancient farming tools and other utilities. A new museum is being build as we speak.
In the evening the whole village gathered at the main square. They had prepared a traditional dance for us, with music, drinks, snacks and offerings. The village elder held a speech in which he expressed his gratitude for our visit. His wife gave us rice tikka’s.
Ghale Gaun is desperate for more visitors. They are struggling to survive and solely live off the land and what little money tourists bring in, which isn’t much. The Nepali government promised for several years now that they will build a proper road to Ghale Gaun from Besishahar. The villagers hope the road will finally arrive in the next five years and it will give a boost to tourism. Although I think the village will lose it’s charm when that happens, I know it will be what the villagers need.
Take care: if you want to visit Ghale Gaun you will need an entry permit for the Annapurna Conservation Area. It will cost 2000 Nepali rupees. You can buy it at the tourism office in Kathmandu or Pokhara. You can also buy it in Ghale Gaun itself, but it will be a bit more expensive. Naturally, you will have to pay in cash.