After four failed attempts, to visit the isolated district of Mugu and its gem – Rara, I was invited to join a group of 5 friends who had been planning the trip for a long time. With the recent road construction that extends from the Karnali Highway to the entrance of Rara National Park and with the ever changing flight schedules to one of the small and dangerous air strips surrounding the lake, we opted for the road. Being listed as one of the most dangerous roads in the planet, the Karnali Highway, together with the excitement of finally visiting my dream destination, was giving me sleepless nights. The next thing I knew, I was on a direct bus heading to Jumla from Kathmandu.
After 30 hours spent solely on a bus ride, we finally reached Manma – the district headquarters of Kalikot. We spent the night in a local hotel. The next morning, we were planning to reach Talcha, but to our unpleasant surprise we were told that it is next to impossible. That’s why after our tired bus left us in Nagma (Jumla), we decided to go to the Sinja Valley – the place where the Nepali language originated from. Sinja Valley surpassed all of my expectations and looking at it now, it is one of the definite highlights of the trip for me. The Sinja Valley is a long stretch of paddy fields around the Sinja river. Its soil is extremely fertile and thanks to the solid irrigation system, it is used very well. It is not hard to keep yourself amused in the valley. Apart from the few temples in the area, anything you encounter on your way is interesting and unique. This is due to the fact that this portion of Nepal is very different from anywhere else I have visited within the country, from the architecture, culture and religious beliefs to the surrounding landscape. After a portion of delicious red rice and Jumli daal, we had a very good rest for what was to come the next day.
The following morning, we hit the road again quite early. Our destination for the day was Rara. The jeep that we drove in for 4 bumpy hours left us at the entrance of the national park with the promise that we will get our first glimpse of the lake in 20 minutes of walking. 25 minutes into our short hike, Rara was still out of sight, but we did get to see a spectacular (although unwanted) rainfall. Unfortunately for us, the rain made the narrow downhill path to Rara quite slippery and we were bound to walk slowly in order not to fall in the mud. All the pain was worth it though when we suddenly walked out of the forest and found ourselves standing in the middle of an open pasture with Rara lake stretching in the horizon.
The colorful clouds were reflecting themselves on the lake, making it look like a big mirror. When I went closer to the shore, I could see the water’s countless shades of blue and green. It’s easy to spend an unlimited amount of time being hypnotized by the beauty of Rara. The small structure that we could see on the other side of the lake (which happened to be our hotel) and the fact that it was already getting late, got us moving. The 1.5 hour hike to the hotel was a pleasant one, involving walking in a scenic pine forest with occasional magical glimpses of the lake. After having our long awaited dinner at the hotel, the magic continued as the full moon made the water shine with all its glory.
There are many options to choose from if you have a free day on Rara lake. You can choose to circle the whole lake (which usually takes 6-7 hours), walk up to Murma Top for a panoramic view of the lake from the top or just stay on its shore and relax by looking at the landscape change during the day. I opted for the third, although a part of our group trekked to Murma Top and shared some beautiful photographs (that they said did not do justice to the actual view) and stories.
I have visited many lakes so far, but none were like Rara. It is probably a cliché but not far away from the truth either – I have never been closer to heaven than during my time spent in this beautiful and isolated region.
By: Marija Grujovska