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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Ghara, Magical Ghara

Women of Gara

I led a private group on a trek through the Forbidden Kingdom of Mustang, in 1998. As always, we spent a night in Ghara, my favorite village. Ghara is small, fewer than 40 families, and sits literally at the end of the trail in a side canyon, but it feels more like the end of the world. The evening turned magical when the family that owned our campground joined us for dinner. After dinner they called several of their friends and an impromptu Nepali dance party began. There were several beautiful young women among the dancers, but the campground owner’s niece, Situ, was arrestingly beautiful and a graceful dancer as well. My group, all male, was mesmerized.

While planning to lead my next group to Mustang, 11 years later in 2009, I decided to bring Situ a photo of her that I had taken. In the final hours leading up to departure, the photo was left behind, much to my dismay. I assumed that Situ would be married by now, living in her husband’s village, and without a photo, I didn’t think there was much chance of getting to meet her again. After getting my group set up in camp on arrival in Ghara, I went off in search of Situ, whose name I didn’t even know by then. How do you find someone without a name or a photo? I wasn’t expecting success in my mission.

The first people I came across were a brother and sister in their teens, who would have been very young back in 1998. I told them I was looking for a rather tall and very beautiful young woman. To my amazement, they seemed to know immediately about whom I was inquiring, but their faces also showed some hesitation. Just then, to their great relief, a young man from the adjoining compound rose up and peered over the tall wall that encloses every courtyard in Mustang. The relieved teenagers pointed to their neighbor and said, “He’s who you want to speak with.”

Pasang had overheard our conversation and asked me, his eyes on the verge of misting, “How can I help you?”. I repeated my vague description of the beautiful young woman, and how we had spent the night dancing 11 years prior, and he began to cry. He told me, “That was my sister Situ. She married a year after you stayed here with us, and died a year later in childbirth. We used to talk about that night. It was the only time our family ever ate with trekkers, or danced with them.” We embraced and shared tears, two perfect strangers, a perfectly normal experience in Ghara, but possible in fewer and fewer places in today’s modern world.


~ Steve Conlon
Above The Clouds

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Situ of Ghara (1998)

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