Ruby Valley; a call for your help

Two weeks ago today, I was sitting in a cafe in Kathmandu, sipping my americano and checking weather reports for our trekking groups in the mountains. When I felt the earth begin to move, I had absolutely no idea just how significant this earthquake was going to be. I slapped the lid down on my laptop and crawled under the table, holding on to the metal cross bars, praying. It went on for a long time, the shaking and tilting of the concrete below me, my knees bruising from the impact of the ground. I could hear people screaming and running; bricks falling.

So much has happened in the past two weeks. I could tell you my story, but that is not important now. Perhaps there will be time for that later; maybe next year. For now, there are more important messages to be shared. People are suffering and there is much to be done.

Just a few weeks ago, Roland and I did a trek through the beautiful Ganesh Himal Ruby Valley. We camped a few times, but mostly slept at home-stays along the way. We were shown incredible hospitality. Villagers were friendly and had easy smiles. We were given locally made buffalo curd, gifts of boiled eggs and garlands of rhododendron flowers. The whole village of Neber, man, women and child, spontaneously got together to dance for us. Their village is so remote that they seldom see trekkers, let alone have visitors over to stay. We were welcomed warmly and left with promises to return.

Fond farewells in Neber village

Fond farewells in Neber village. Our assistant guide on the left, Milan Gurung, is from the village of Khading. Across the other side of the valley is the remote village of Hindung.

Milan's mother grinding dal in Khading village.

Milan’s mother grinding dal in Khading village.

Milan's nephew peeking into the room where Roland and I slept that night.

Milan’s nephew peeking into the room where Roland and I slept that night.

After the earthquake, we searched for information from the villages where we had trekked: Khading, Lapchet, Dunchet, Rachyet, Timladauda, Tirigaon, Neber and Chalice. We had taken photo’s across the valleys of the distant villages of Hindung and Lapagaon. No news was to be found. These villages are so remote, that they are not even mentioned on Google maps. Due to the far distance from the nearest road-head and the fact that the sky-phone system was damaged, it took time for information to filter through. We knew things were bad in this northern area of Dhading District. But what to do? Ke garne?

Children in a village above Lapchet

Children in a village above Lapchet

In Lapchet village

In Lapchet village

Between Khading an Lapchet, on the other side of the valley from Lapagaon

Between Khading and Lapchet, on the other side of the valley from Lapagaon

Looking down on Lapchet village

Looking down to Lapchet village before the earthquake

A few days ago, by serendipity perhaps, we came across a local newsprint (The Daily Namaste!) lying around in our guesthouse, its front page declaring “Ruby Valley Homeless”. As I read the article, I cried: “The scenery is still there, but the wonderful little villages that dotted the mountainsides now lie in ruins”. As I read on, a spark of hope filtered through. There was a phone number for Kul Bahadur Gurung, president of the Ganesh Himal Tourism Development Committee (GHTDC). Needless to say, we called him.

Roland relaxing at our home-stay in Rachyat

Roland relaxing at our home-stay in Rachyat

A baby peeking out of the door somewhere between Chalice and the jeep track.

A baby peeking out of the door somewhere between Chalice and the jeep track.

One of the most encouraging things about this earthquake, is to see how the local Nepali community has pulled together to do everything they can to help places far and wide. Kul Gurung is among them. We discovered that we had actually slept in his home-stay in his home village of Chalice a few weeks ago. Seeing photo’s of it now leaves me cold. Had the earthquake hit during the night we were there, I might not be here to tell this story today. But Kul is not only trying to help his own village. He is concerned about the whole Ruby Valley, the 5 VDC’s of Shertung, Lapa, Tipling, Ri and Jharlang. Kul has been intimately involved in the development of the whole region through his position as Chairperson of GHTDC. We were impressed to learn too, that the new bridge that we had crossed on our way into the northern Dhading district, was Kul’s initiative through TAAN (Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal).

A little boy sitting on a rooftop watching us walk by

A little boy sitting on a rooftop watching us walk by

A lady surprised to see us trekking in the area, shyly greets us with a Namaste

A lady surprised to see us trekking in the area, shyly greets us with a Namaste!

Today, Kul is out in the field, taking rice, salt, oil, some lentils and tarps out to villages near Nuwakot. He is keen to get help to Ruby Valley as soon as possible too, but this is a monumentally difficult task in the current circumstances, considering that there are no roads leading to the villages and the nearest jeep track is also badly damaged. Supplies are usually carried in by mule and by porter. But now the nearest road head is even further away. He is already making plans though, but needs financial support.

A mule dropping off rice in Chalise village.

This photo was taken before the earthquake outside our homestay in Chalice village.  The mule train was dropping off rice in Chalice.

A typical house, before the earthquake

A typical house, before the earthquake

Since meeting with Kul in Kathmandu over the past couple of days, Roland and I have decided to support the GHTDC as much as we can as they strive to bring immediate relief to the villages of the Ruby Valley in the form of food and shelter, and in the longer term dedicate themselves to the redevelopment of the whole community. Already, methods of rebuilding village homes is being discussed. Right now, they need monetary support. Not tomorrow, but today. As monsoon looms, homeless villagers are yet to receive shelter. Food is scarce and hopes are low.

Roland and I slept a night in this building in Chalise village before the earthquake. Photo credit: Kul Gurung

Roland and I slept a night in this building in Chalise village before the earthquake. Photo credit: Kul Gurung

Photo credit: Kul Gurung

Photo credit: Kul Gurung

To donate to GHTDC’s earthquake relief initiative, please contact Kul Gurung here: http://www.rubyvalleytreks.org/contact-us.html#&panel1-9

Roland and I also hope to run a camping trek in the Ganesh Himal in Spring next year, in order to bring much needed revenue into this area. We will stay in close contact with the GHTDC team through the coming months and hope to assist where possible with rebuilding the Ruby Valley.

About nomadhelen

Mountaineer, medic, musician and muser. All a bit random!
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3 Responses to Ruby Valley; a call for your help

  1. Diana says:

    Great post, takes a lot to see such big file as your article, make the photos smaller files and more people will see it. I know of another village local whom is doing a big job for his village , bringing in much needed supplies for the whole village of lapchet. Theres a cafe in ( ciro? Opposite british embassy) katmandu already bringing truckloads into this area to where people can walk to get supples. Locals helping themselves with the help of there personal international friends. Love to know more on your trek next year and anything else you know is happening in the valley. Post it all on facebook and i will share 🙂

  2. Hi, this is Rizu Tuladhar from Curilo Cafe, opposite British embassy.

    We were able to send 122 tarpoulins, 2500 kgs of rice, 320 kgs of lentle (dal), 160 packets of salt, 160 packets of oil, 160 pcs of soap, 80 pcs of tooth paste, water purifier enough for 40,000 ltrs of water and 160 emergency foil blankets.

    This took us more than 20 days to get the stuffs reach the destiny as there was lots of hinderances; be it governmental or politics among the interested groups operating there and so on. The accessibility to the villages there is very very tough. https://www.facebook.com/curiloktm/posts/873302506073732?ref=notif&notif_t=like

    Our target villages were Lapa 7, consisting 4 villages.

    A friend called Chuen Man is trying to send Zinc plated tin roofs enough for 3 villages. ( as one of the villages is migrating/ re settling to the lower area as this village is in the big risk of land slide ).

    We, Curilo are trying our best to assist everyone who is trying to help this region.
    We would like to thank Mr. Kul Bahadur Gurung for his team’s endless efforts to help this region.

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