Nepal was once said to be a veritable Shangri-La, so unpolluted was its environment and so fantastic was its natural beauty. Today, the former, no doubt, cannot be so-claimed, but as for the latter, it remains more or less as before—rugged mountain landscapes, rushing mountain rivers, verdant high altitude forests, and, of course, the towering snow-capped Himalayan peaks. Yes, Nepal still is one of the best destinations for tourists seeking thrilling adventure and the experience of a lifetime. Such pleasures are fulfilled via the many high altitude treks along the shadows of the majestic peaks and the exciting adventure sports that the country has to offer.
Among the newer attractions, one can also look forward to visiting the Hidden Valley of Happiness, as Tsum Valley is referred to in ancient Buddhist texts. It has not been long that this enchanted valley has been opened to outsiders, a matter of about only five years. Tsum Valley is a sacred pilgrimage site located in northern Gorkha to the north of Buddha Himal and Himalchuli, west of the Ganesh Himal, and east of the Sringi Himal. Surrounded by the 5,093 m Ngula Dhojyang in the east and the 5,104 m Thapla Pass in the west, the valley sprawls over some 1,663 sq km. To the north lies Humlung Pass while Nyak lies in the south.
The valley has its own distinctive culture, mostly influenced by Tibetan culture, which is natural seeing as to how the original inhabitants were from that region. The valley is considered to have religious significance primarily because Yogi Chyuchin Milarapa, a legendary Buddhist sage, is said to have meditated in one of the caves of the mountains in the area. This sacred cave, known as Piren Phu (Pigeon Cave), is near a village called Burji. According to one tale, the sage, who often disguised himself to beg for food in the village, once became victim to the misbehavior of one of the village women who gave him a meager half-piece of bread. Soon thereafter, this woman’s field became totally barren. Today, too, you’ll see a small plot of land in the village in which nothing grows.
In a monastery nearby, which has statues of Avalokiteshwara, Buddha and Tara, you’ll also be able to see the footprint of Milerapa. Piren Phu has many religious texts as well as ancient scripts on the stones and ceiling which makes this cave worth a visit. Other interesting monasteries are Rachen Gompa (est.1905) in the Shiar Khola valley; Mu Gompa (est. 1895) which is a six-hour hike from Chekkam in the Tsum valley; Dephyudonma Gompa (the oldest gompa of Tsum Valley) in the mountains between central Nepal and Tibet; and Lungdang Gompa (est. early 20th century) which was
established through the determined efforts of a blind man..
The main route to this valley is the one leading into the Manaslu Conservation Area. The trail goes through a steep-sided gorge where sunrise is late and sunset, early. As you climb up to 1, 200 m, you’ll come across some lovely waterfalls and see a lot of monkeys. Some of the more beautiful waterfalls are Chhuypang Chhemo Chu le, Saki Lungba Chhupyang, Samba Tingding Chhupyang, and Syoga Lungba.The houses in the area are slate-roofed and built of mud. Along the way, you’ll reach a place called Jonali, which makes for an excellent site for a night’s camping. The entry to Tsum Valley takes a couple of days to reach, passing through a narrow canyon with sheer sides full of large boulders. You’ll find Buddhist religious symbols painted on the boulders as well as the mantra, Om Mani Padme Hom, in 3-foot Tibetan letters. A new trail has been blasted out among the rocks. Beyond this lies the “Hidden Valley Of Happiness.” The villages of Tsum Valley are at a height of 2,400-3,700 meters above sea level.
If you go around December-January, you’ll be able to witness a very important festival of the valley called Dhachyang (festival of the horses), during which, beautifully decorated horses participate in a race. If you are there in May, you can celebrate Saka Dawa along with the locals, during which, the birth, enlightenment, and demise of Lord Buddha is commemorated. It should be noted here that unlike in many other places, Buddha’s teachings are taken to heart here. In other words, the locals practice what is preached, and nothing vindicates this more than the agreement signed in 1920 between the then Lama Serap Dorje Drukpa Rinpochhe and the local people prohibiting animal sacrifice in Upper Tsum. No wonder wildlife flourishes here and you are likely to see some rare animals as well.