Rolwaling, the Sacred Valley
A new must-read book! Ruedi Baumgartner has published an important new work on Rolwaling: thoughtful, comprehensive, and highly readable.
According to local lore, Rolwaling is a beyul, a "hidden valley" plowed out by the tantric saint Padmasambhava (also known as Guru Rinpoche) 1200 years ago to serve as a sanctuary for dharma in a future time of intolerance -- a clear reference to the Chinese invasion. Rolwaling's special status has meant that Buddhist traditions are taken more seriously than elsewhere. Religious festivals are very frequent, and celebrated with great enthusiasm: not just with tantric rituals, but singing and dancing late into the night. Cultural conservatism has resulted in ecological conservation. Hunting and slaughter have never been acceptable. The forests, on the north-facing slopes especially, are essentially unimpacted.
"Pristine" is the word that comes to mind.
There are other factors that have combined to keep Rolwaling fresh. A particularly formidable pass separates Rolwaling from Khumbu. Also, because it is an east-west valley, Rolwaling was never involved in trade between India and China. It wasn't even discovered until the latter half of the 19th century. With very little land suitable for agriculture, the population has never exceeded the current level of about 300 inhabitants. Even after most of Nepal was open to tourism, Rolwaling was, until 2001, saddled with restrictions that made independent trekking impossible. Gauri Shankar, the great peak to the north, is the most sacred of mountains for the Sherpas, and has only been climbed once.
Rolwaling is Ready
Now, everything is changing. The people are eager to share in the prosperity enjoyed by other communities on the major trekking routes, and for the first time there are lodges ... with menus in English. It will be years before Rolwaling catches up with the heavily touristed destinations like Khumbu and Annapurna, but most of the basic amenities will be in place before you get there. In short, you can come to Rolwaling on your own, without a commercial tour, and experience the authentic Sherpa culture and the minimally impacted landscape that have disappeared everywhere else.
The Bottom Line
If you are thinking of doing some trekking in Nepal, there are many beautiful valleys to choose from. Of course, they're all special. But we think you should come to Rolwaling. Rolwaling is spectacular, exotic, and friendly. It is remote, yet highly accessible. You can take a short, easy trek, or you can turn it into a death-defying adventure: it's up to you. And most important, the people of Rolwaling need you.
Who are we?
This Web site is managed by by Bridges: Project in Rational Tourism Development an independent organization dedicated to the development of low-impact backpacker tourism as a means of bringing economic opportunity to poor mountain communities, while at the same time working to preserve these last best places on Earth. Bridges collaborates with Mountain Legacy, a Nepali non-governmental organization (NGO).