16-22 May 2014 #707

On heaven’s shore

Yes, you can actually see stars reflected on the mirror surface of Rara Lake
Binita Dahal in MUGU

If there was a list of the ten places in Nepal to see before you die, then this jewel of a lake tucked away in the remote mountains of the northwestern corner of Nepal would be it.

Rara, even the name evokes longing, beauty and isolation. The beauty will probably remain, but Rara is not remote for much longer. A road linking it to the Karnali Highway is nearly complete, and by June the upgraded airfield at Talcha will open. It will theoretically be possible to fly out from Kathmandu in the morning and be on the shores of Rara before lunch.

The old way is to fly to Jumla via Nepalganj and do the three-day walk. This is not a trek in the usual meaning of the term in Nepal: there are no lodges or restaurants. You climb past horse pastures up to Danfe Lekh, aptly named after Nepal’s national bird, the impeyan pheasant. It was dark by the time we reached the pass which was still covered in snow.

Binita Dahal

The night stop at Khali lived up to its name, it was completely empty by the time we got there. We knocked on the door of a house and asked to stay the night. The hospitable owner offered to cook rice, dal and bean curry. His wife Phulmaya offered her blankets even though we were complete strangers. This is the hospitable Nepal before ‘trekking’ arrived.

The second day my two companions decided the trail was too difficult and turned back, sending me a note with a villager on the trail. I had to press on by myself, and followed the old foot trail that now has tractors and Swaraj trucks groaning and lurching on it. My feet were hurting and the dust from the vehicles did not make this a pleasant walk.

But the first sight of the azure blue Rara wiped away all the discomfort. I made my way to the army camp that guards the national park and the nearby guest house which is called (what else?) Danfe. My father, who had flown in ahead via Talcha joined me there.

Binita Dahal

The next morning, watching the dawn sky reflected on the mirror surface of the lake and the sun rising from behind the Dolpo mountains, was a sight that cleansed my soul. Rara is one of those places that make you glad to be alive to be able to witness such beauty. That night I saw that the saying “Rara ma tara talkancha” is actually true: the stars are actually reflected on the lake.

You can spend hours watching the lake change colour with the time of day, exploring the surroundings, the Shiva Temple and the summit of Murma Top at 3700m. By end-May the flowers will be out and the waterbirds migrating back from Siberia will have arrived.

There are sights that your mind never forgets for the rest of your life. My father woke me up at 2am to see the moon rise over the lake. The water radiated an otherwordly light of its own. A sight so sacred it was like seeing the dawn of the creation of the universe.

Read also:

Protecting Rara from the future, KUNDA DIXIT

More rah-rah for Rara, ASHUTOSH TIWARI

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