AdventureNatureNepal

The Spectacular Rara-Phoksundo Trek

While it’s possible to do so many “commercial treks” in Nepal, with all basic and necessary amenities provided, I enjoyed a fascinating trek that doesn’t require too much preparation, strong physical abilities or a lot of money. I’m talking about the Rara-Phoksundo trek, which is an astonishing stroll through virgin Nepali nature.

Upon my arrival to Rara, I opted to stay in a local guesthouse and quickly began to explore the environment. My lodging was very close to the Murma Top view point (3692 m). After just a 20 minute stroll, I encountered a jaw-dropping view right down to the lake.

Walking clockwise around Rara, you find a local village that has been converted into a resort, a hotel and the Rara Park headquarters, where you should pay your entry fee if you haven’t done it at the Tourist Service Center in Kathmandu. Park officials allow you to pitch a tent free of charge in camping areas, where you can also use the toilets and shower rooms. You can either eat in local guesthouses or buy a food at the hotel.

The Spectacular Rara-Phoksundo Trek

Mugu Valley. Photo: Alex Kotovenko

On the trek to Phoksundo, we usually walked about 20-25 km per day. The daily schedule was usually the same: I woke up at 5 a.m. and my friend an hour later; we hit the road without breakfast, and after 2-3 hours found a local tea shop for a bite. During the heat of the day we took at least two hours for lunch, then in the evening reached a guesthouse to eat dinner and spend the night.

The Spectacular Rara-Phoksundo Trek

Kagmara La. Photo: Alex Kotovenko

There were two especially beautiful view points on the way to Jumla: at Ghurchi Lagna near the Rara Park entrance, and at Khali Lagna, before descending to the town of Jumla. We stayed for a night in this town, where we picked up bags of cheap apples and walnuts to snack on.

From Jumla, our goal was to reach Maure Lagna (3894 m) in two days. It was interesting that the further east from Jumla we travelled, the more we noticed the presence of Buddhist culture, and less of Hindu.

The wide flat-roofed clay dwellings on the terraced green slopes of Mugu changed to single square-shaped houses made of stone and topped with a gable roof. The prayer flags on these roofs fluttered as symbolic sails of the Buddhist faith. Strange carved pillars with the faces of men stood on village crossroads, at the entrance to houses and even on the roofs. In a day of walking, we were slowly submerged in an entirely different culture.

The Spectacular Rara-Phoksundo Trek

Lake Phoksundo. Photo: Alex Kotovenko

After a night on a Maure path we descended to Kaigaon, a big village with a Buddhist temple. This point was a symbolic threshold before the way to Kagmara La, the highest point of our trek (5115 m).

That night we stayed in Kaigaon, and then descended to Pungmo village the next day, where we saw the sandy high-altitude desert change again into lush green slopes. The environment became very different from that of Mugu. Mountains with snowy white hats, covered in glaciers, came into sight. The wind also changed: the smooth breaths of Mugu turned into the humid gusts of Dolpa.

The next day we saw our second lake. Phoksundo is a wide stretch of blue water in between grey rocks. The closer you come to it, the more surreal it seems, like a photoshopped picture! My brain struggled to comprehend the scene, which looked like something from a science fiction environment.

We spent two full days in the Phoksundo camping area, made two short walks along both sides of the lake, but were too exhausted to reach Phoksundo Khola camp (the way to Upper Dolpa).

We spent two days walking back to Juphal Airport, where we had to wait several days for our flight to Nepalgunj. This is because in October, rain clouds travelled over from Lower Dolpo, preventing flights. But finally, a 35 minute flight took us back from the wonderland of the Rara-Phoksundo trek to the ‘real’ world of roads, cars, shops and electricity.

Article by Alex Kotovenko.

Photo: Lukas Steingässer
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1 Comment

  1. Bijaya
    November 11, 2017 at 8:19 pm — Reply

    Just recently I had been to Shey Phokshundo lake from Juphal. It was a wonderful experience. I started from Juphal around 11 AM after landing at the airport and arrived Chhepka around 6 PM where I stayed at a local inn. Next day I started my journey around 6:30 AM and arrived Rigmo village around 4 PM to stay at a hotel. Early next morning I went to the Gumba spent 2 hours walking around the lake and Gumba. Then around 12 Noon, I started to climb up the trail to Phokshundo river camping area which I could not make because of strong wind after walking approx one and a half hour to reach the top of the hill where I had to stop to protect myself from wind, then returned to Rigmo village. After spending two nights in Rigmo village I left walked back early in the morning around 7 AM, arrived Kagani village 6 PM to spend the night. Next day left the village around 7:30 AM to arrive Dunai at 11 AM for lunch. Then had an adventure jeep ride to Juphal to stay the night. Next morning took flight from Juphal to Nepalgunj to Kathmandu.

    I would love to trek in a group to any circuit though.

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