Nepal’s Ruby Valley, an underexplored gem
KATHMANDU — After walking for three days, I finally reached the village of Tipling. My birthplace, Ruby Valley’s Chalish village, was now only an hour’s walk. Even though I was physically exhausted, my heart was brimming with joy and excitement.
This was my first trip back home in more than four years. Unlike my previous trips, I had both professional and personal reasons for making this journey this time.
As a travel entrepreneur, I wanted to explore the valley’s potential as a trekking destination. For a tourism-reliant country like Nepal to continue attracting visitors, it is pertinent that it continues to come up with new destinations and experiences for visitors. And as someone very familiar with Ruby Valley and who shares immense pride in calling it home, I have never had any doubt about my picturesque birthplace’s tourism potential.
My journey to Ruby Valley began from the town of Syabrubesi, which is a seven-hour bus ride from Kathmandu. The town is popularly known as the gateway to the famous Langtang region. After stopping for a night in Syabrubesi, I trekked to Gatlang, a sleepy, traditional Tamang village.
Within an hour into the trek, Syabrubesi faded into the background, and the hustle and bustle of the town disappeared. I found myself on a snaking trekking trail with fantastic views of Ganesh Himal. After I crossed a tributary of the Budhi Gandaki river, the trail meandered into a forest, which signalled Gatlang was nearby.
It took me six hours to finally reach Gatlang. What immediately caught my attention were the houses. They were all connected with each other, perhaps for better insulation. This made sense because winters in the village get notoriously cold. The roofs of all the houses were built using wooden planks, and these planks were held together by rocks.
I decided to stay in a homestay for the night. My host told me, “Our ancestors (Tamangs) actually came to Nepal from Tibet to get involved in the horse trade.” That dinner, when the host family served a delicious local meal, I couldn’t help but wonder if the meal traces its origin to Tibet. At dinner, the host informed me that Parvati Kunda, a lake, was a must-visit site near the village, and he recommended that I visit it.
So, the following morning, I left Gatlang and headed to Parvati Kunda, which is named after the goddess Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva. This lake, situated at 2,550 meters above sea level, drains into the Parvati river. The freshwater lake also serves as a source of drinking water for the locals.
I learned from the locals that the small temple near the lake hosts a huge religious gathering (mela) on Shrawan Purnima (Raksha Bandhan). Another attraction near the lake is the ruins of a palace that once belonged to a Ghale King.
From Gatlang, I headed to Somdang, another Tamang village. Not so long ago, the people in the village mined the land for ruby. Even though mining ceased a few years ago, mining activities have left an indelible mark on the area’s landscape, and it is this very mining practice that gave Ruby Valley its name.
When I reached Somdang, it was already evening, and I decided to spend the night at a homestay in the village.
I woke up early the following morning and bid adieu to Somdang. After trekking for four hours, I reached Pangsang La, a 3,850-metre pass. The pass, which commands breathtaking views of rolling hills and mountains such as Manaslu, Ganesh Himal, and Dorje Lakpa, is one of the biggest attractions for trekkers heading to the Ruby Valley. Since there weren’t any people on the pass, I had a great time soaking in the place’s tranquillity and mesmerising views. By crossing the Pangsang La Pass, I effectively entered the Ruby Valley.
After descending for about three hours from this pass, I reached Laptung. Since it was still early, I decided to head further and make Tipling my stop for the fourth night.
The following morning I left Tipling, and as the village of Chalish came into view, I got a glimpse of how ethnically diverse Ruby Valley is. The upper parts of the village were populated by Gurungs, Tamangs, and Magars, while Brahmans, Kshetris, and Dalits primarily inhabited the lower parts. Many Gurungs in the Ruby Valley are recruited in the British Gurkha Army. My grandfather was also a Gurkha soldier.
Being in my village after all these years brought back many fond memories. Every year, on Lhosar (Gurung’s new year’s day), we have a huge Gurung gathering in our village. But we also celebrate Dashain and Tihar with great fervour, complete with traditional Gurung dances such as Maruni and Sorathi dances. I am especially fond of the Maruni dance, where young boys disguise themselves as girls and dance to the tune of traditional music. I also miss the Ghankri (shaman) dance, which I used to observe in the neighboring Tamang villages.
This trek made me realise that Ruby Valley has still kept its old-world charm intact. The villagers still rely on animals to plough the not-so-fertile fields. People live side by side with their livestock, and the majority of the houses still retain their traditional elements. Since tourism is gaining a foothold in the region, most villages have homestays.
This trek further reaffirmed my faith in Ruby Valley’s tourism potential. Ruby Valley should be on your list for those looking for a relatively unexplored yet easily accessible trekking destination in Nepal. The trekking trail boasts pristine wilderness, glorious mountain views, ethnic villages, and hospitable people. If you make Syabrubesi your starting point for the trek, the entire trek can be completed within a week for as little as Rs 25,000.