Sunday, 5 December, 2021

A Trip To Rara : Attempt To Explore Pristine Beauty


Purushottam Baskota 

It is natural for every Nepali citizen to be excited when anyone floats an idea of paying a visit to Rara Lake in Mugu district as it allows one to see and experience the breath-taking natural beauty and tough geographical terrain of the region up close.
We formed a group of six members to undertake this lifetime experience of travelling to Rara Lake, one of the best gifts of nature to Nepal, situated at a height of 2,972 metres in Mugu district under Karnali State.
We left Kathmandu for Surkhet on Chaitra 29, 2075 B.S., with a plan to celebrate the Nepali New Year 2076 B.S. there.
After 15 hours’ drive in a private vehicle, we got off from it in Surkhet in the next morning.
We chose to travel by road though there is an air service to reach there. We took this decision to witness the real beauty of Karnali State and face each and every hurdle and experience the real and breath-taking geographical terrain.

Taking breakfast in Surkhet, we then teamed up to trail straight to the hills.
The distance from Surkhet to Rara Lake is 300 kilometres. Passing by the beautiful flora and fauna across the hills, we caught the Karnali Highway from Dhungeshwore.
Normally, Rara is four hours’ drive from the Sinja Valley. Keeping in mind the risks travelling on the Karnali Highway involves, we began our travel very cautiously.
On the way to our final destination, we came across Rakam, Karnali and other beautiful places before we reached Kalikot in the evening by way of the confluence of Tila and Karnali Rivers.
Seeing Manma, district headquarters of Kalikot district, on a slope and long gorge like location, we all became surprised and amazed for a while. We all became so happy for getting a chance to see the district headquarters in such a place, which we had never seen in our lifetime. Then, we started saying, ‘This may be why Kalikot is often called a district of hills everywhere.’
Since we planned to spend the night at Khalanga Bazaar, the district headquarters of Jumla district, we continued our journey towards Jumla.
From Manma Bazaar, we continued our journey passing through Bihani Bazaar, Teshro Bazaar, and Pili Bazaar along the Tila River. Just before reaching Nagma, a newly constructed bridge appeared in front of us which had come into operation and started plying vehicles from that very day. There was a long queue of vehicles as the road was too slippery and inclined. After nearly an hour of waiting, the roadway became clear. If we had been stuck in the middle of the road that night and prevented from reaching Nagma Bazaar, our plan to welcome the Nepali New Year 2076 at the Rara Lake would have gone in vain.
After the traffic jam cleared, we finally became able to reach Nagma that night. We had yet to cover 25 kilometres distance to reach Khalanga Bazaar from Nagma. Though the road up to Khalanga Bazaar was too risky to drive, it seemed to be smooth. Very late at night, we finally reached Khalanga of Jumla that night.
We woke up to the first sunlight of the Nepali New Year 2076 in Khalanga. It was really a new experience for all of us to feel fresh and cold morning breeze here, which we don’t have a chance to experience in Kathmandu.

We also saw the airport of Jumla and visited Chandannath Temple in Khalanga, a very popular shrine of the district. We also managed time to visit the school, government and other offices in Khalanga for an hour. We found Khalanga to be quite modern and urbanised than other places.
Though we could hardly see any apple in Jumla, we managed to buy sliced and dried apple products from there. We guessed that it was not the season for the production of apples; we gave up our dream to see apple hanging from the trees there. However, we planned to have a meal of Marsi rice. We didn't at least want to miss this opportunity. So, we managed to have a meal of Marsi rice.
Because of the lack of time, we could not spend enough time to explore more places there and have an idea of the real weather and lifestyle of the Jumlis.
Taking next morning’s breakfast at Khalanga, we again took to the path which we had used yesterday night and began our journey to Rara enjoying the green and breath-taking scenery. In some places, there were small wooden bridges for people to cross the rivers with icons of the members of the royal family on top, that could be an attraction for the tourists but these bridges were in poor condition due to lack of proper maintenance. After walking for a few kilometres, we took rest at Tatopani Rural Municipality, where we first observed a pond of hot water and then chose to take bath there.
Foreigners visiting the pond said they found the pond amazing which gave them a different experience.
Heading towards the destination, we arrived at the Sinja Valley, the place believed as the place of origin of the Nepali language and ancient capital city of the Khas community and then Nagma, the border between Jumla and Kalikot districts.
Covering around 90 km gravelled road section from Nagma, our wish to reach the Rara Lake ultimately came true. As soon as we reached our destination, I started thinking about the poor condition of road up to Rara from Nagma despite its richness in geography and natural beauty.
Getting a chance to see the Rara Lake in such a geographically and naturally beautiful spot of the country was really amazing and enthralling to all of us. But it seems that the concerned local body has not paid due attention to the development and upgrading of the path up to the lake. It was really a matter of great dismay to all of us that Rara, despite being one of the most potent tourist destinations of the country, still awaits initiatives to be taken to welcome and leave a good impression on every visitor to the place.
Rara, a name synonymous to heal any pain and exhaustion of every traveller, even lacks a proper hotel if anybody wishes to spend a night out there. Although the travellers experience a sigh of relief and feel relaxed seeing the lake, they even cannot get a proper place for taking rest. The charge for horse ride was also not equal and fair.
There is a saying that the view of Rara Lake is so amazing and different from the opposite side of the main spot. But, we were unable to avail of this opportunity. We didn’t have any other souvenir than to recall the mesmerising beauty of the lake to offer to others when we returned from our visit to the lake.
Returning from the final destination, we chose to spend a night at Gamgadhi, the headquarters of Mugu district. The location was just five kilometres away from Rara. On the second day of the Nepali New Year, 2076 Baisakh 2, taking morning breakfast there, we explored the markets of Gamgadhi and returned to Nagma via the same route we had reached there.
From Nagma, we reached Manma of Kalikot by taking a vehicle and covering some distance on foot enjoying both the adventurous road travel and walking.
After visiting the Manma Bazaar, we chose to go to Dailekh as per our pre-scheduled plan. Late at night, we reached Dailekh from Manma. On Baisakh 3, we visited some strategic, religious and historical places like Belaspur Temple, Panchadewal and Kotgadhi at the district headquarters of Dailekh.
For getting inside the Kotgadhi was not easy for every traveller there as the temple’s main door used to remain shut most of the time. Thus, we missed the chance to see and know about the temple from inside.
After exploring Dailekh Bazaar, we planned to head back to Kathmandu via Surkhet. On our way to Surkhet from Dailekh, we passed through Chupra Bazaar, Mathillo Dhungeshwore, Ghodebash, Gothijiula, where we took our morning lunch and then moved towards Guranse.
Rhododendrons could be seen along the road sides which made us really refreshed and observing the panoramic views of nature, we reached the Surkhet Bazaar.
As the last spot of the return trip, in Surkhet, we visited the temple of Deuti Bajai, observed Bulbul Tal and Kankrebihar accordingly. In rush to reach Kathmandu early, our six-member team decided to leave Birendranagar behind taking all those places, especially Rara, in our long-term memory.

Translated from Nepali by
Purushottam Khatri