Journey to Heaven on Earth!
Trip to most Pristine lake, “RARA” in west Nepal
Left Kathmandu with all the excitement to be there in Rara Lake (Rara national park) of real west Nepal, even though the traveling through the treacherous, narrow and adventurous road for long time (36 hours), though the journey was supposed to be 28 hours only. The journey, especially through Kalikot area was memorable and at the same time bit spine-chilling due to its very steep hilly terrain with the rivers well below 500-1000m. The construction of road and people living here was just an amazing feat! One overnight at Malma and then to Nagma, where after our early Dal Bhat, we took another bus to our next destination Gothejula in Sinja valley. It was worth spending time here, place where Nepali language originated, a beautiful, fertile valley formed by Hima Khola (river), with people settled on each side. We explored the valley, through the farmland and settlement, looked gorgeous with traditional house of flat mud roof. Visited Pandav cave nearby, according to the legend was used by Pandava brothers when they were in exile. The sacred temple of Kanak Devi on the other end of the valley was also an attraction for the people. At the same time, I enjoyed watching many birds such as commonly seen Chestnut-eared Bunting, Himalayan Vultures, Common Kestrel, Booted Eagle, Common Stonechat, Hill Pigeon, Grey-backed Shrike, Blue Whistling Thrush and many other species.
After lunch at Gothejula, where we had our night stop, we managed to hire a jeep that brought us to Salleri Milli, where to avoid rain we made small stop and had tea. Rara lake – our main destination, still not sure where and how far that was but with a high hope to be soon there, we started walking. We made another stop for tea and continued through a beautiful pasture and pine forest in rain. Finally, when we came out of the forest, Rara Lake comes in our view for first time. Yes, it was there for us, that we were desperately looking for. What a sight and feeling, even though we were only in its southern bank and to get there, we could see the park office, army camp and hotel, still a while in the northern bank where we had to get to find a place to spend night and eat something. It was already late afternoon, due to longer day, we still had some good amount of sunlight and could see the sun too, that was amazing. For the moment, we were already soaked in, being really there and everyone was busy taking pictures and playing with the pristine lake water. The flowers on the ground and couple of Ruddy Shelduck on water really made our time great being almost there as it was welcoming gesture to us to this heavenly place. As it was going to get dark soon, we reluctantly started walking along the lake and arrived hotel Danphe in the dusk and were glad to be there at last. Getting room was so comforting and night spent was great!
Next morning, we woke up early and hurried to the lake for photographing and view. It was spectacular morning, not sunny but dry. View of the lake was just amazing, from this end too and found one Tufted Duck, by itself feeding near the bank of the lake. Morning exploration, followed by breakfast, most of us set out to a hike to Murma hilltop, the main attraction of this trip. It was great hike up through the pine and rhododendron forest. It is in this walk I found my lifer birds such as Kashmir Nuthatch, White-throated Tit, Black and Yellow Grosbeak, species of west Nepal that I was really hoping to see them. Eventually, we arrived the top and the cloud that was over the valley was clearing , perfect timing and lucky us and we could see the Rara in it full glory and view surrounded by consoling green forest and beautiful gentle hills with part of Kanjiroba mountain peaks behind in the east. It was just phenomenal and stunning view that we could not express in words. It is a heaven on earth! What a place we are blessed with in Nepal. It is so beautiful, so soothing and unbelievably mesmerizing!
The top was at an elevation of 3700m with a Nepal telecom tower; hence the NTC was working well to talk around the country. We were so pleased and thankful to nature giving this chance of seeing Rara Lake well. We were blessed! It was meditating, emotional and so spiritual also being there. It was just awesome feeling!
After this incredible hike and kind of lunch, we had with us, we traveled down back to the hotel and had a relaxing time in the afternoon with nice stroll by the lake. I also enjoyed the common bird of this area now. These birds were Speckled Wood Pigeon, Oriental Turtle Dove with White-winged Grosbeak, Slaty Blue Flycatcher and Indian Blue Robin.
Hoping to be back again with more friends and tourist, we bid goodbye (for this time) to Rara, looking into a long and unknown trail. We could not find a porter, so we just managed the carry our luggage ourselves. Early part of trail was pleasant till the pasture before we started climbing through the forest of old fir and oak trees when the rain started making the trail slippery and muddy. After arriving at a Deurali, that was marked like the top with the rocks and some woods, where we had tea and cookies, hoping we have easy way to our destination onwards. We continued and continued in rain through the rhododendrons in bloom this late too. Though it was great to see them. Our energy was giving up and we were now with no water and food. It was also getting chillier due to the rain. Still I suggested to continue and we arrived on dangerously beautiful (as Prakash commented) ridge of Chuchemara Lekh (4000m approximately and highest in of the area) and the strong cold wind with rain was making it even more difficult to continue and when we were almost to top to make descend, as it was almost 5pm and unsure of distance further in this unfavorable weather, we retreated back and continued to Salleri Milli where we spent night in tent, still was great comfort. We realised that the adverse weather, totally new trail, without a local guide were the main reason we found it hard. Later, when the rain stopped by the time we were already down at Salleri Milli, we could see that ridge of the hill, that was just there and little further we would have made it to Bhulbhule. Well, that was meant to be this way today and nobody had no point of regret even myself. We could also see the snow-capped mountain in the evening just before the sunset in the distance.
Next morning after early kind of breakfast, we descended steeply down to Dhotu, passing some impressive old and giant fir trees, sacred site and settlement, in Jhyari by the road. After good breakfast of instant noodle and sattu brought by Angesh, four of our friends stopped there to get the bus for Jumla, our final destination of the trip, And two us, Shyam and I, set out on foot, as that was one of main reason to be here to explore the area on foot.
Leaving the group, we started on the road and continued for another couple of hours before making another couple of hours long climb to the Gurchi Lekh or pass. At the pass, we were greeted by many grazing horses on the gentle and beautiful green slopes on the other side of the pass with rocky hills on each side. The green sloppy pastures with many Himalayan flowers and freely grazing horses was nice sight. After enjoying the area and little rest, we descended to Bhulbhule via an Army checkpoint. At Bhulbhule, we had the best available Khaja lunch-double omelet and tea with our own carried snack that was great. Little after main road, we took another new road via a beautiful creek, where we were entertained by beautiful birds, such as Plumbeous and White-capped Water Redstart, Grey Wagtail and Blue Whistling Thrush before we arrived to small settlements of Chautha village and to did a small climb to the ridge. It was already afternoon and the view around was very beautiful all the way and could see the hills and pass area for tomorrow ahead in the south above the river valley. We also met some locals, while walking and had good conversation and also got some information as we knew the place where we were heading but not sure where it is or was. Further, we continued and every time we asked the locals, the time and distance given was making us very confusing us, especially the distance. Once we really felt that we were totally lost as it was already 7.30pm and we could see no lights around and was very calm around, In some way due to the longer summer day, we could see the trail and we had our torches already out. Once we found a village, even it was all silent, we went close to a house and asked if there was anyone and luckily, there comes a woman, who gave us the direction of just few minute and advising us to stay there. We knew for sure that if we do not reach our intended destination, the next day, which is tomorrow, could be extremely long and difficult. So we continued and eventually dropped down to the river area, that made us feel bit better as we knew that this place – Naurighat is or should be by the river. After getting close only, we could see the light, we found the first house hoping that was the hotel but we were told to continue bit further. And at last after another 20 minute walk we asked a house if there is any accommodation available! We were told,” YES” and that was the most comforting word for us as it was already 9pm in the night, we were very hungry literally tired. Could not see the room well as there was no light but we were happy to know we have a place for the night and had dalbhat and went to sleep right after the meal.
Next morning, it was nice waking up by the river’s and bird’s sound at 5.30am We had some eggs and tea for the breakfast as that was the best available there at this time, also easy way. It was 6.15am, when we set on our walk along the beautiful Bheri river, crossing it on the suspension bridge before the climb. We could also see more part of the village now with more hotels and houses. The trail continues climbing with the beautiful view of river Bheri and rugged hills on the other side. We hiked up through the forest and bed of strawberry and could see local travelers who joined us were happy to pick up and munch them while walking up hill. It was beautiful forest with almost no settlements before this goth and then arrived to a wide and large green valley of Khali, a small settlement, before the Danphe Lekh (locally) or pass, with green hills with gentle slopes with very few trees and many Himalayan flowers now, was also pleasant sight. We had good dal bhat and good rest as the rain was there just when we got there and stopped just after the meals, we had, perfect timing. After a good lunch, we set out to the pass that took us some 45 minute to arrive at the top. The pass was at 3655m and the hills on its side another hundred miter higher, in one of the hill, the construction of tower was going on, weird thing we thought and why would they need to make the unnatural tower if the view is just fantastic from everywhere there. It was great feeling again being up there. Little walk down, after the pass we could see Jumla valley way down with a beautiful large open, green field and pasture on the side. It wonderful view even though the clouds were over the valley and at the same seeing the place, where we are going to be in the afternoon. On the rocky trail with the view of the valley and around, we descended to Chere, via some forest trail below the pass. Chere at 2900m, is a large pasture with just very few houses of cattle herder and there was enough ground for all the grazing livestock – could see cow, buffalos, ships, goats and even horses with dogs taking care of them. One dog really became our friends who also could anything we gave- had some instant noodle and he liked. Descended further down we passed the settlements that sees more houses and a big technical school of Jumla and continued down on the valley looking for the hotel that took us long. Arriving at the hotel was great thing and we also united with our other friends who drove from Dhotu, where we left them to catch a bus. We had some kind of shower, felt great after many days without shower. It was an accomplishment to have done this well, survived the news exploration trip so far. We explored Jumla in the afternoon and had meal in the hotel. It was also good to have united with all other friends. Next morning we boarded on the bus to Kathmandu, on our, another adventurous road trip.
It was just fabulous and most memorable journey! We all agreed!