The Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) trek is a very popular trek; most trekkers put it right up there with the best in the world. However, this time around, let’s take the route northwest of the main ABC trek trail, and visit a lovely little village called Ghalegaun (2,016 m). This short trek is also very popular, especially for those pressed for time, since you can do it in a matter of just three to four days.
It all begins by driving down from Kathmandu to a bustling town called Besisahar; should take around six to seven hours. From there, the trail goes alongside the Marsyangdi River to Khudi (2,493 m), and then meanders along the Khudi River, before climbing steeply for four to five hours. Once you are at the top, you’ll get to see awesome sunsets and sunrises over the lofty Annapurna and Manaslu ranges. That aside, you’ll be coming across lovely waterfalls on the way, and walking across swinging suspension bridges, besides hiking through some very charming villages that are made all the more picturesque by the surrounding terraced paddy fields, bamboo groves, and rhododendron forests.
It will take you some seven hours to reach Ghalegaun from Khudi, but what a seven hours it’s going to be! Stunning views of ice-capped Himalayan peaks will certainly mesmerize you. And, these are really tall peaks, such as, Annapurna I (8,091m), Annapurna II (7,939 m), Annapurna IV (7,525 m), Bouddha Himal (6,974 m), Himalchuli (6,747 m), and Machhapuchchhre (6,693 m). Just so you know, Annapurna I is the 10th highest peak in the world.
Ghalegaun, snuggled in the midst of green hills and surrounded by majestic Himalayan peaks, is home to the Gurungs, who have earned name and fame for their martial prowess. They are one of the major ethnicities that go to make the fearsome Gurkhas. However, away from the battlefield, they are some of the most hospitable, polite, jocular, and friendly people you’ll find anywhere. This, you’ll see for yourself when you are in Ghalegaun, more so, because you’ll be most probably staying in a homestay, meaning that you’ll be living with a local family in their home, and sharing meals and experiences.
The homestay arrangements have been fine tuned in Ghalegaun, whereby, even if you are living with a family, you are assured of complete privacy and most modern amenities. A walk through the village in the evening takes you along cobblestoned paths between traditionally made houses huddled close together. You’ll get plenty of people to talk to you, and dodging lots of chickens on the way. A night’s stay is often rewarded with a cultural program, where you’ll be treated to traditional songs and dances performed with youthful vigor.
Back in your home, a nice dinner awaits you: customary dishes like dhindo (a porridge-like food made from a mixture of maize and wheat) and kukhura ko masu (chicken curry) with vegetable, spinach, pickle, and so on. You’ll also find the setting to be quite agreeable: sitting on the floor with the glow of the cooking fire providing light, and pleasant light-hearted conversation all around. You go to bed quite early. You don’t want to miss out on one of the primary highlights of your trek, that is, watching the fabulous sunrise over the lofty peaks, and to view these peaks in the early morning light when the view is the cleanest. So, at the crack of dawn, you’ll be up on the tower on the nearby hill with a hot mug of tea in your hand. Don’t blink now, because sunrise is an event that occurs without warning, and you’ll find the dark sky suffused with sunlight in an instant.
Savor the moment; savor the feeling of tranquility that falls upon your senses as you watch the breaking of a new dawn. Soon enough, everything—the mountains, the valley, the rivers, Ghalegaun village—present themselves to your sight, all at their pristine best. It’s a fantastic experience. You’ll also see far-off Besisahar, from where you started your trek, so clear is the air, and thus, the view. After you have captured memories for a lifetime in your camera, you walk back to your home, where there’s some serious breakfast waiting for you. Again, delight in traditional Gurung fare like kodo ko sel (round shaped bread made of barley) and rajma ko tarkari (bean curry), along with plenty of steaming hot tea.
Having fortified yourself, you are ready to make a more thorough exploration of Ghalegaun, where you’ll discover ancient shrines and even a dhunge dhara (stone spout). On the hills around, you’ll come across grazing donkeys and horses. You’ll be delighted, no doubt, to know that the village also has a museum, where you can see traditional wear of the Gurungs, ancient and not so ancient tools used in agriculture, photographs of mud houses that once served as their homes, and so on. You will also be surprised to see a large sized tea garden that’s situated some distance away from the village.
After your pleasant sojourn in this lovely village, you might want to extend your trek, to Ghanapokhara, which is a one-hour walk, and Bhujung (two-and-a-half-hours). The trail then goes uphill for some three hours to Khumre Danda (2,000 m), before descending to the Mandi River, and then to Pakhrikot (6 hours). From there, you walk to Thusmsikot and take a ride to Pokhara.