Ghandhruk Nepal, a trip off the beaten track, for you and you and you – all ye, who want to get away from it all!
Have you guys ever been somewhere for a holiday, that does not appear as a “go-to” destination: over hyped and sold silly by the travel agents? A place that does not offer the usual comforts that we have all got so used to, or profess to have accommodations with the same multi-cuisine restaurant and swimming pool and trained staff who are so mechanical in efficiency that they can easily be mistaken for the aid workers who were pushing the Covid vaccinations? Don’t you want to?
Well, I do have this fetish for clean bathrooms, but save that, I can kind of pile on anywhere and truth be told, prefer destinations that are off the beaten track. For one, mostly at least, such localities are devoid of the callous tourists who take some kind of an obscene pleasure is dressing up to look like neon eyesores apart for acting like, ah… tourists on the prowl. Secondly, the local people, when not calloused into indifference by tourists and the economic acid that they douse the local culture with, are much more friendly in the so-called virgin tracts. And finally, devoid of the cliched tourism trails with the made-up narratives and the usual souvenir churning, such places are generally much fresher – clean, green, sustainable and what not.
Staying with the locals – not some faux sanitised home-stay, has its charm. The food is yummy. The hospitality genuinely warm and the sampling of the local culture a definite plus. Add to it the possibility of touching base with the village raconteur and I guess, one cannot ask for more. Especially if you manage to get to a spot where the network coverage is as bad as it gets. I know and I am sure that you have by now understood that I am a kind of a crackpot. Why, even my wife does not ascribe to my worldview and to be fair to her, I don’t understand her why either. When she ostensibly wants to get away from it all, she still craves to washup on an island of solitude with wi-fi and a shopping mall?
The mountains are a perennial favourite for me and the best trips that I have had have been the ones without a set itinerary – only signposts and no destination. I normally alight at the nearest airport, hire a car and off we go, soaking in whatever comes on the way, the people, the terrain, the culture, the stories. There is no rush to reach anywhere, for the idea is to savour the myriad nuances of the journey unfettered by the compulsions of either time or space.
My favourite photo essayist Sandipa Malakar also has a similar travel view. A roving lens – a solivagant who is always accompanied by her faithful camera as they wonder, far from the beaten tracks, freezing moments in time. Sandipa is critically acclaimed for her ability to capture that perfect moment and blessed with the rare ability that helps her elevate her work to an art form. Her photo journeys are so rich in their composition and so nuanced in their portrayal that they seldom require words to communicate the narrative. Here she takes us on to a flight of fancy to Ghandruk in the neighbouring Nepal which is a few kilometres from the tourist infested Pokhra. Sparsely populated, primarily by people of the Gurung community, Ghandruk is pristine in its unsullied beauty and can be easily accessed by private taxis as well as the public bus service. Accommodations in Ghandruk are fairly decent considering the fact that it falls on the trail to the Annapurna range and is often considered as the basecamp. The peaks of Mt Annapurna, Mt Machapuchare, Gangapurna and Mt Hiunchuli can be seen from Ghandruk, and it is also the gateway to the Poon hill.
Sandipa is far away from Ghandruk though. She is now in Europe doing a course in photography in a prestigious university.
All photographs Curtsey Sandipa malakar.