The life was moving boring as usual, and the four of us friends were unanimous that we needed to do something about it.
And by ‘doing something about it’, we of course meant, we had to head out somewhere.
Someone decided that it was time for us to take on a ‘real’ challenge. A place that would take away every last bit of urban life out of us.
Rara Lake: A Quick Intro
Rara Tal (Rara Lake) of Mugu district in Western Developmental Region is the biggest lake in Nepal. Spread over 9.8 km square of area, and with the length, width and depth of 5 km, 3 km, and 167 meters respectively, the great lake sits at the height of 2990 meter above sea level.
The Lake that was incorporated into National Park in 1975 A.D., is one of Nepal’s most beautiful of places, and any tourist would gladly put it in their must-visit list.
Ironically, though, it is also one of Nepal’s lesser-visited places. Mainly, due to lack of proper roads and transportation(recently some progress has been made with some good pitch on Karnali highway and Talcha Airport).
It is also known as Mahendra Lake after Late King Mahendra, who visited here in 1964 A.D. and was later found richly describing his love for this place.
During 10 years of insurgency period in Nepal, this place saw very little inflow of tourist. But with recent better times, that situation is changing as well.
From Kathmandu, one can reach Rara lake through a bus that goes to Nepalgunj or Surkhet. The journey will take you 12 to 13 hours. Domestic airlines will do this under 45 minutes.
From Nepalgunj, one has to go to Talcha Airport, from where a 4-hour trek will take you to Rara lake.
We were well aware that a better time to visit Rara lake would be somewhere around March-April-May. The weather is clear around that time. Also, rainy season would have been all but over, and the muds of the road would have gone with it (you may even get to walk among wild flowers blooming in its full glory along the way!)
Another suitable time would also be around the month of Mid August- November . So, if possible, its better to schedule your visit around those time of the year.
We, however, were in no mood of waiting that long.
The Wheels on the Bus Go…
We took a bus to Surkhet from Kathmandu on May 29, and after 15 hours of journey, arrived at Surkhet Buspark.
From there, we took another bus to Jumla on the same day at around 4 o’clock. According to the notices, the total journey we had to make by bus was around 254 kilometers!
Buses leave for Jumla at 6 am, 10 am, and 12 am, so we suggest you to schedule your trip accordingly.
Two hour into the journey from Surkhet, the blacktopped roads gave away to graveled road. And we braced ourselves for some bumpy ride ahead, only to sleep ever so soundly (all tired from the long trip of the earlier day) till a place called Kalikot, where we got off for breakfast at around 9 am.
The road further was even more risky – narrower path, more twists and turns, with room for just one vehicle to pass at a time. But this should come as no surprise as this road (Surkhet-Jumla segment of Karnali Highway) is infamous as one of the world’s most dangerous roads.
Our next stop was Naagma, a village located right at the border of Kalikot and Jumla, where we decided to spend the night.
A Sweet Diversion
Next day, just as we were about to start our trek toward Jumla, a few local residents suggested us a different route. Instead of heading Rara lake via Jumla, we could head straight over to Rara from Naagma.
From Naagma, Jumla was about 29 kms whereas Rara lake was about 44 kms. So why take the roundabout route? Displacement theory, anyone?
Getting to Rara through Sinjha Valley (I love the sound of that name, btw, very Game-of-Thrones-esque), was one of the lesser chosen paths. So it didn’t take us much longer to decide that we wanted to try it out.
Sinjha Valley, locals further explained, is believed to be the place where Khas (main) Nepali language originated. It was also been enlisted in the World Heritage Site in January 30, 2008.
So our trek began from Naagma around 9:30 in the morning, and passing through beautiful places like Dhitalni Pul, we ultimately arrived the Shinjha Valley.
In Shinjha Valley, there is a famous place called Pandav Gufa (Pandav Cave).
If you happen to pass by Shinjha, you might also want to check out Narakot, which is a small and delightful market.
But one of the most beautiful experiences for us was breaking our fast by the shore of Tila river in the morning. You must also try the famous Marshi Dhan, which is a special breed of rice, renowned as world’s highest altitude rice plant! Yes, people, that’s a thing.
From there we had a daylong walk, before arriving at Gothijyula at around 7 in the evening. We decided to stay the night over there.
Walk the Walk…
Next morn, we took off from Gothijyula at around 8:30 and walked until Gorusinge. It was an uphill walk of around 3 hours from Gothijyula, and, I must say, well capable of arousing great hunger.
At Gorusinge, we had our lunch in a local’s shed. He wasn’t even selling, but he didn’t refuse our kind request. And we got to enjoy the Marshi Rice there.
After awesome breakfast we rested for a moment where we were lucky enough to witness small sheep fight.
And a few moments of rest later, we continued our trek toward Chuchchemara.
It took us three more hours to get there. Chuchchemara is the highest point (4090 meters altitude) in our entire Rara trek. From there, you could get the first glimpse of the magnificent Rara Lake.
With our destination in sight, we felt rejuvenated as we resumed our journey downhill.
The rest of the journey was two more hours of downhill struggle through the jungle, and 45 minutes of smoother straight path.
Finally, we arrived by the shore of the great Rara lake.
But as the night was upon us, the first thing we had to do was get ourselves some bite to eat, and a bed to rest.
Around Rara Lake, and inside the National Park territory, Danfe Lodge is the only hotel that’s suitable for accommodation. It is a government-owned hotel that can fit around 20 guests comfortably at a time.
But if you’re up for it, staying in a tent should be far more fulfilling experience.(Note: one should submit a written request to authority of Rara National Park office.)
Later, we had a quick chat with the hotel’s cook (Jagat Dai!) over the meal. He told us about the food items being relatively economical in Rara, as all necessary items including alcoholic drinks arrived from the headquarter of Mugu district, Gamgadhi. However, one thing that did cost fortune in Rara lake was the delicious (local) chicken. “Chicken equal to the price of plane ticket” was the running joke around Rara.
There are several places you should not miss around Rara Lake.
The first, of course, is the expanse of grassland right across the lake. You could get across by walking around the shore through woods. There you can take photographs, appreciate the beauty-in-simplicity of nature, or just lie down and stare at the glory of the great lake.
The second is Murma village(45 minutes from Rara Lake) & Murma Top(we missed it, hope you people don’t), which is a 3-hours long walk to the height with a splendid view. Mahadev Mandir is another of such places.
Bathing, washing, or doing any other activity that pollutes the lake is strictly prohibited. You are, though, free to enjoy nature’s wonder and travel the waters in an army-built raft (there is also an army barrack right beside the hotel).
It gets almost impossible to turn away from Rara Lake. Many tourists who are often found extending their pre-planned visits will agree to that. And they’d add that the beauty of the lake is truly enchanting.
There were three major routes to choose from on our return to Kathmandu. The easiest one being catching the plane to Surkhet or Nepalgunj through Talcha Airport, which takes only 4 hours of walk from Rara lake.
At that time, the runway of Talcha Airport hadn’t been black-topped, which forced the airport to close down during rains and snows. However, it has been recently blacktopped, and the situation has improved.
Among the airplanes flying from Talcha, Goma Air, and Kasthamandap Air have one engines, whereas Tara Air has two engines. However, tickets are not easily available since the first priority is given to sick and diseased. Further goes on to show why many tourists are not being able to visit Rara lake as much as they’d like. Anyway, if you’re planning to return via plane, it would be wise to pre-buy your tickets.
Second route is the one we came from (through Chuchchemara-Gothijyula road from Naagma).
Two days of walk from Talcha Airport will also take you to Khalanga, the headquarter of Jumla district. This road is more difficult to walk but will take you through more beautiful places including the stunning Danphe Lake. Comparing to the Chuchchemara-Manma road, this road is a bit shorter, but equally more difficult to walk due to the presence of more uphill and downhill hikes along the way.
However, returning from this route completes one circuit, so it should be more exciting. From Khalanga, you can easily take a bus or plane to Surkhet or Nepalgunj.
Anyone who seeks calmness of body and mind, or wants to be one with their muse — write, draw, or create something — must visit Rara lake.
Even if for once, you must lie down on its beautiful grassland and stare out toward the vast expanse of calm, blue waters.
The trip could be once in a lifetime experience. So, you can make it far better experience considering few things.
- Pack according to weather and try to make your backpack as lighter as it can be including all the things you need(difficult but not impossible).
- Carry food that gives you more energy(chocolate bars,dry meats, can fish, dried fruits & nuts,oatmeal, cheese) and lot of water to drink.
- It is going to be a long walk so prepare(morning walk, jogging) at least 15 days before heading toward destination.
- Happiness is a means of travel not a destination. DO NOT MISS OUT every details that you experience on the way. If you are up to long vacation then there is nothing to hurry about. walk slowly enjoy every moments, capture every moments.
- Finally there is only majestic RARA lake and your pals so you make the very best out of the trip. You can bring many thing for passing time including football, cards, board games,musical instruments and other legal things that you would like to enjoy with.
Translated By:Sarthak Parajulee