By LB THAPA FOR ONTOTHEROAD.COM
One fine morning three professional cyclists of Pokhara Tirtha Awasthy, president of Nepal Voluntary Blood Donors’ Society (NVBDS), Jitendra Shakya, vice president and Divas Gurung, lifetime member decided to paddle to Sirubari, with a message ‘Donate blood to save life’.
‘We mostly prefer to go for long distance cycling’, said Tirtha Awasthy, president of NVBDS and continued. ‘During our cycling spree, we have almost reached every nook and cranny of the country but not Sirubari. Then one day we three friends decided to go to Sirubari with a message “Donate blood to save life’’.
Speaking with this scribe, Jitendra Shakya, vice president of NVBDS, said, ‘I want to appreciate the concerted efforts made by the people of Sirubari. It is their hard work and perseverance that now they are reaping the benefits. Today Sirubari has earned a big name in the country as one of the first model villages.
The concept of village tourism and home stay was first introduced by this village. Here live mostly Gurung and Magar communities among others. Most of the men in this village served in the Indian army and the British army. The local people living here work as a team to welcome the guests to their village. These people have unique style of welcoming the guests to Sirubari’.
Devas Gurung, one of the cyclists from the group, narrated all his experience on mountain bikes from Pokhara to Sirubari. He said, ‘We set off early in the morning from Pokhara and uphill began from Devi’s fall. Regular paddling along the uphill always demands a lot of muscular endurance.
After crossing Kaski border, we entered Syangja district, tired and exhausted. It was right time to have lunch at Naudanda. After taking little rest, we moved on. The entire road from Naudanda to Sirubari is completely off road. As a result, we slowed down the speed lest we are injured, but this gave us opportunity to watch natural beauty of surrounding area.
‘Reaching at Setidobhan was the time to take some rest’, said Devas Gurung and continued. ‘The road was under construction and there was more uphill to follow. We removed our windproof jackets only to beat down soaring temperature of our bodies. Scorching sunlight had only added more agony. I drank more water and finished all my stock of water. When I turned to my friends, they waved their empty bottles. After about 8km of riding, we reached to a freshwater spring. We quenched our thirst to our hearts content.
‘Fresh water energized our tired muscles and we were once again ready to paddle more. Meandering through countless mountains, hills, mounds, rivers and finally we were at the threshold of Sirubari. A big signboard ‘Welcome to Sirubari’ was a pleasant thing to see at the time when we were tired, exhausted and on top very hungry. We had our photos clicked with the welcome signboard.
‘We had heard a lot about Sirubari but we found it was more than that. Walking on flat stone quarries, which spread across the pathways and traditional houses on both sides, was enough to feel about a real Nepal. Over the years, due to mad race of urbanization, many villages have embraced modernity at the cost of rich stock of art, culture and tradition.
‘Only last year we three friends had been to Ghandruk on our mountain bikes and what we saw there was not pleasant indeed. Modernity had already encroached most of the bucolic Ghandruk, and there left awkward, concrete buildings, which stood in the places of traditional Gurung houses. There left only a few traditional houses in Ghandruk so that visitors can stand in front of them and get photos.
‘In Sirubari it is not like in Ghandruk. Here the local people have maintained their village as traditional as it was ever. The Sirubari village has not been corrupted by modernity. It has maintained all richness of culture and traditional for which Gurung community is famous for.
‘We three friends had just entered the village, there was a pleasant surprise waiting for us. Some village women were waiting at the main entrance with flower garlands to welcome us. This was something unexpected, as we had not informed anyone about our arrival in Sirubari. ‘Saikile dai, Saikile dai’ shouted small kids and began inspecting our mountain bikes.
‘You are welcome to Sirubari’ said the women with a broad smile on their faces and put flower garlands around our necks. Traditional Panche Baja swang into action and the narsingha’s high pitch sound made us feeling triumphant. Receiving such heroic welcome had inflated our chests out of proportion. We looked at each other’s faces and asked if someone from us might have informed them about our arrival. However, it was not like that, none of us had informed them…very interesting.
‘We were taken to a family house to stay because Sirubari is famous for Home-stay, not for guesthouses, hotels and restaurants. The first thing we were offered was snacks that included fried maze, hot potatoes and tomato pickle.
Hot tomato pickle was enough to make us forget bodily wear and tear. Thereafter a glass full of ginger tea fully revitalized our bodies. Rooms were clean and so were beds. Solar lights were there to brighten the rooms with nonstop electricity supply. Most impressive were bathrooms and toilets. They were kept extremely neat and clean.
‘After spending some time in the room, we got enough strength to walk around the village. Beside the door, we saw a photograph of late Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and late captain Rudraman Gurung. An elderly woman came out of the house and said captain Rudraman Gurung was the pioneer who for the first time had conceived the idea of developing Sirubari as a model village with the concept of Home-stay.
‘Our talk with Sabitri Gurung, headmaster of Gau Farka Foundation Primary School, active member of Mother’s Group and president of UNDP’s Poverty Elimination Committee, was very interesting indeed.
In fact, her brothers chose to live in Pokhara, but she preferred to stay in the village and making her contribution to the tourism development of her village. Sabitri Gurung had been awarded with “Model Mother’s Group” in 2005. She has already received several awards and letters of appreciations for her contribution to promote village tourism.
‘What impressed us the most was the unity among different communities! Unlike in many places in the country where the communities of lower castes are not included in the mainstream social system, but in Sirubari it is different.
In Sirubari all communities work as a team to promote local tourism. Backward communities have taken the responsibility of managing cultural department. Some backward women have received various vocational training to help them to stand on their own feet.
‘The best part of Sirubari is its late night cultural shows. The guests remain glued to their respective places and watch traditional Gurung dances with awe. Normally such cultural shows are performed until 11 o’clock at night.
‘The next day, we got up early in the morning and walked around the village. We came to know that there were 40 houses and among them only 19 houses have the facility of Home-Stay. Very soon, we found ourselves standing in a small park devoted to late captain Rudraman Gurung. We had already been told about the contribution made by late captain Gurung.
His pioneer effort has put Sirubari in a tall stature. Moreover, a very recently constructed museum is the cynosure of all eyes. All visitors to Sirubari must visit this museum to see many artifacts of historical and cultural importance. Traditional costumes, ornaments, utensils, agricultural tools and hunting kits have been displayed elegantly.
‘At the distance of about two hours from the village lies Sirubari view tower. The visitors can have a clear view of morning sunrise and sun set from the vintage point of this tower. The entire Annapurna Himalayan range can be seen along with some places of Pokhara, Palpa, Baglung, Parbat and Ghandruk.’
‘Sirubari lies on the pick of the mountain that’s why this village is called Sirubari’, said Babar Singh Gurung, president of Sirubari Home-Stay and continued. ‘I still remember those early days when Rudraman Gurung would talk about making Sirubari a popular tourism destination with a new concept of Home-Stay. What he was talking in those days were beyond comprehension of many villagers. During those days, our village was devoid of even basic infrastructures like drinking water, roads, electricity, communication and many others.
‘In the beginning as there was no proper road we had to carry the loads of the guests from Helu, which is about 2 hours from Sirubari. Now there are five different ways to reach the village. A road from Naudanda to Bejang and Sirubari is under construction. Once this road is blacktopped, a 45km distance can be completed in one and half hours.
‘There is almost no off season in Sirubari. Visitors from home and abroad visit Sirubari round the year. Once the guests arrive in the village, all of them are equally distributed among the houses. Normally different houses do have their own menus. Priorities are given to serve the visitors whatever we grow in our own land. We bring things from the nearby town when due to overflow of the tourists make our stock run over.
‘We have Gao Farka Foundation Primary School where studies about 200 students from standard one to eight. There is a well functioning health post in the village that is quite capable to treat people with normal health related problems’, informed Babar Singh Gurung, president of Sirubari Home-Stay.
The concept of Home Stay, which was first conceived by late captain Rudraman Gurung in 1997, has already spread over 150 villages across the country. Following the footsteps of Sirubari, many villages are planning to introduce Home-Stay in their villages as well. Such efforts will not only promote village tourism but also lift up the living standard of the ordinary villagers for sure.
Sirubari is without doubt doing a great job by promoting village tourism with a new concept of Home-Stay. However, Nepal Tourism Board (NTB), government and the villagers lack proper communication and coordination. Unfortunately, there are some corrupt officials in the bureaucratic system, who do not assist villagers unless a hefty commission goes into their pockets from the development budget. This sounds unrealistic but it is true.
Truth has it that many village based tourism entrepreneurs show strong sense of dissatisfaction with the government. The villagers are least hopeful of getting any concrete help from the government. They have learnt the fact that it is better to make their villages by themselves rather than waiting for any assistance from the government.
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