After Our Everest Base Camp Trek we weren’t planning on doing something similar anytime soon. Tired and a bit broken we went to Pokhora for rest, with only the occasional hike and mountain bike session. We did hear about this magical place called Rara Lake, as Jeffrey had found this online by chance. Yes, it sounded interesting, but another trek? Rather not, so we thought.
Once we arrived in Bardia National Park, we were picked up by Ketchup, one of the guides at our resort. He asked us for our plans after Bardia, and we told him that we weren’t sure yet. Somehow Rara National Park came up. He told us that while we were so close to it, we should definitely go, because it’s Heaven on Earth. Then, after we spent a few days in Bardia, more and more Nepali people told us the same. They made us so curious, thus we decided to go anyway.
Scroll down for photos.
Rara National Park
Located in the north-western Himalayan region of Nepal, Rara National Park includes the biggest lake in Nepal (10.8km2) and is located on approximately 3000 meter high. The oval shaped lake is about 168 meter deep and the blue water is so clear that you can see to the bottom. The landscape in the national park is absolutely beautiful, with snowcapped peaks surrounding the lake, and beautiful pristine forests covering much of the National Park.
If you are looking for real adventure and a totally unique experience, then Rara Lake is the place for you. The adventure is not the place itself, but the journey to get there – and back again. It’s not touched by commercial tourism yet, and the Nepali tourists that do show up usually don’t trek to Lake Rara, but go with the bus or jeep all the way up. This means this trek can be done in almost complete solitude; you’ll only encounter local people.
One of the scariest roads in the world
To start your trek in Jumla, you’ll need to endure a drive on one of the scariest roads in the world. During this ride and the whole trek we were the only foreigners. When trekking you roam through some of the mountain villages where no one speaks English, and people will stare at you as they aren’t used to foreigners. You’ll experience a totally different life from yours, which is truly an eye opener.
The only useful information we found before we embarked on our journey was this TripAdvisor Review. So if you’re planning to go, this blog might prepare you for this life changing journey.
We took our jungle guide Ketchup from Bardia with us on this trek. But more to be our translator, as he had never been to Rara Lake himself. It is possible to go without a guide, although we would recommend taking a guide. It makes it a lot easier to ask for directions, get accommodation plus to communicate with the locals about anything you like.
We spent about 40 – 60 $ USD a day on this trek, which includes transport, food, accommodation, a guide and the park permit (permit is 30$ USD per person). Thus, per person this would be 15 – 20 $ USD a day.
Getting to Jumla to start the trek to Rara Lake
To all the adventurers out there, or better yet, for those who aren’t afraid to die; take a bus ride from Surkhet to Jumla in Nepal on the Karnali Highway. The views are insanely beautiful, but sometimes it feels as if the bus will tip over and fall off the mountain. Later we found out it’s even considered as one of the most dangerous roads in the world by multiple sources.
During this bus ride you’ll witness a fraction of the local life in the mountains. People often live in huts, some do have brick houses – most of the places look quite worn down. They have no heater, they make their own fire to cook and keep themselves warm. Some do have electricity for lights, often provided by solar power. We also noticed that there are a lot of very young children in the mountainside.
The first day we drove about nine hours and it was bumpy, exciting and at times very scary. Some parts of the roads were sealed, some were just dirt and rocks. The road is all twists and turns. On the bright side, along the road we found some great samosa’s for only 10 cents a piece. We love samosa’s.
We didn’t make it to Jumla in one day, so we slept in another village close by on the first night.
The second day traveling to Jumla was a much shorter bus ride, again with some bumpy dirt roads. Sometimes we had to drive over big rocks and sometimes we drove over parts of a river. But we made it to Jumla early in the morning, so we could relax and hike around.
In Jumla we stayed in a pretty good hotel, at least for what you expect in the mountains. It was called Hotel Garden View. Here you pay about 1000 rupees for a room (10$ USD), which is relatively expensive. However, there was (bad) wifi, a hot shower, electricity and even a television on our room. These are all very rare finds in the mountains!
The Trek to Rara Lake
Day 1. From Jumla to Nyawre
Elevation: From 2370 meter to 3550 meter
Duration: 8.5 hours
The first day of walking was tough. We had a climb of 5.5 hours (from 2370 meter to 3550 meter) and some parts were very steep, while some parts gradually went up. On the way we met a lot of local people. There was one big group from Jumla, that were also trekking up, but to another town. We saw the group three times when we took a rest. They gave us food (chapatti and apples) and even suggested to carry my backpack for me – which I kindly declined.
Once we were up the hill, we were very happy to have made it there. From then it would mostly be downhill to our first night stop. However, it wasn’t as easy as we initially thought. The walk was downhill alright, but you definitely feel this in your knees. Eventually it still took us three hours to get to Nyawre. We were all very tired.
The guesthouse we choose was called Roshani, after the owner. It was a very unique experience to spent the night here. We kept warm at a little stove with fire, while Roshani made us black tea that mostly consisted out of sugar. The toilet was located outside, and was only small shed with a squat toilet (of course). The whole guesthouse was located beside a rough, but beautiful river.
Before we had dinner, Jef and I had some rest in our room. Again the bed was not more than a wooden plank with some blankets over it. The walls and roof were also made of wooden planks. There were snippets of newspaper and magazines plastered on the walls to cover up holes and cracks.
During dinner there were two other men that were staying in the guesthouse. They had lost their horses and were looking for them in the neighborhood. When they asked Ketchup where we were from, they didn’t know where The Netherlands or Europe was. Ketchup told us that they probably don’t even know that they are in Asia, that they only know Nepal, India and China.
We also talked a lot about Roshani’s life. She is 25 (like us), is married and has two children. Her husband lives in Jumla with their two children. He is still studying, and their children go to school there too, while she earns the money with the guesthouse. We were particularly interested in her life in the mountains during the winter, as we already found it quite cold in the evening and nighttime. In the winter there is often a big pack of snow. She told us that she usually washes herself once a month or every two weeks. In the winter she just uses boiled water and washes herself in the hut near the river.
Day 2. From Nyawre to Jhyari
Elevation: From 3000 meter to 2800 meter
Duration: 5 hours trekking and 1.5 hours with the bus
The walk from Nyawre to Bhubule was harder than I had hoped. The day before really was a tough walk, so I wanted an easier trail. This day I really hated trekking. Sometimes it’s like going to the gym and working out. My favorite group lesson at my gym back in the Netherlands is one of the hardest ones, but it makes you so happy once you are finished. It’s worth it – it’s a challenge. And this challenge came with a reward: Rara Lake.
It was also very hot and sunny, and we had to endure steep climbs. When we reached Bhubule I was tired, but thrilled we were there. Ketchup actually wanted to go to the next town. Every Nepali person he met told him something different about the length of the walk to Rara the next day. Some said it was only 2 hours, while others claimed it was a full day. However, I didn’t want to walk any further, and neither did Jeffrey. Mainly because we weren’t sure how long it would take to the next town and it was already 2 pm.
We put our bags in the room in our guesthouse in Bhubule, and suddenly we saw a rabbit sitting under one of the beds. I tried to catch it, just to cuddle, but the poor thing was so terrified. Turns out the guesthouse had lots and lots of rabbits next to our room. Another curious thing we found next to our room was a lady making hasj.
After we saw a jeep driving by the guesthouse, we decided to catch the next jeep or bus we found going up to a further town. Luckily, we managed to get a bus for 6 dollars in total to get to Jhyari.
It was a very dangerous, bumpy and dusty bus ride, on a totally unsealed narrow road – worse than the bus ride to Jumla. Some parts were so narrow, that I thought the bus wouldn’t fit. But we made it to Jhyari, alive! When we got out at Jhyari, some of the passengers came out too, for a break at the campfire. One of the Nepali passengers started talking Dutch to us, which was very unexpectedly. He had lived in Belgium for seven years. Trust me, it’s very strange to meet a person that speaks Dutch (with a Belgium accent) after days in an area where no one speaks English.
The guesthouse in Jhyari was actually also quite nice (for what you expect). They got electricity 24 hours a day, which is unique in Nepal. The whole Mogu District gets the electricity from the river. We also had the best Dal Bhat in Nepal here, and even Ketchup agreed with this.
We got a nice room for the three of us. It basically was one big bed (again a wooden plank). It was warm that night. The next morning we were woken up by the Nepali men in the room next to us. They started talking at 4.20 am. The wall is made of some wooden planks with cracks in it (I could basically see them), so it was like someone was talking right next to us.
Day 3. From Jhyari to Rara Lake
Elevation: From 2800 meter to 3000 meter
Duration: 4 hours
After a really good breakfast that consisted out of potato parutha and eggs, we headed to Rara. Both Jeffrey and I had pain in our muscles from the previous days. I didn’t have it this bad during our trek to Mount Everest Base Camp. Maybe the reason we had it more this time, is because we carried our own backpacks plus we had more steep climbs. Sometimes I even had to use my hands to climb up.
Like today, we had one very steep climb, as there was one high pass of approximately 3500 meter to get to Rara. While we were struggling to get up, local children were running up and rolling down the steepest hills with a wooden plank with wheels. Just crazy.
Once we were finally up there, we found a beautiful flat part with lots of trees. Then, we saw Rara Lake. It was really beautiful. I actually got tears in my eyes, but this was probably more because of my aching legs and ass. We took photos for about an hour, and then we had to continue to the other side of the lake to get to our hotel. It was still about an hour walk (it’s really a big lake), but luckily on flat land.
Our first day at Rara Lake
At the hotel we were the only foreigners, the other tourists were all from Nepal – mostly Kathmandu. Fortunately, the hotel had a room for us, even one with an own bathroom including a shower and a western toilet. Don’t expect any luxury though. The toilet didn’t flush, the shower was just a tap with cold water, and at night the room was freezing cold because of the thin walls.
After some relaxing and a short walk amongst a part of the lake, we bumped into the Dutch speaking Nepali guy again at the hotel. He invited us to join him and his friends in the dining room (which is more like a shed). There we had a nice conversation with him and we also met two other men that were shooting a movie at Rara. I asked for the name of the movie and they replied “Hitler”. Both Jeffrey and I chuckled. “Like the German dictator?” I asked. “No, no” – so we must’ve understood. However, we couldn’t make anything else out of it than Hitler, so we dropped the subject.
At night we were sitting at a campfire, as a random funny Nepali man had invited us to sit with him and his friends. He spoke English, but we barely understood what he said. He made lots of jokes, although we didn’t really know what they were about. Often he would start talking with his friends, clearly talking about us; pointing and laughing. He would then pat Jeffrey on the knees as if we knew exactly what they were laughing about.
After a while the producer of the movie came to sit with us as well. His english was perfect, because he had studied one year in the USA. The now drunk Nepali man insisted that we should play in the movie too, that we would make excellent head characters. The producer said that he could do that, most definitely to drop the subject.
Now that the producer was sitting with us, and because his English was so well, we asked about the movie again. He told us that it’s a love story, with a girl who has an evil sister. Since she is so evil, they called the movie Hitler. Yes, like the German Dictator.
Day 4. Rara Lake to Talcha
Elevation: From 3000 meter to 3500 meter (and back).
Duration: 5 hours in total
Even though we were a bit tired from the previous days, we decided to wake up early for the sunrise over the lake. The sun was actually so bright, that it was a bit hard to enjoy it. After sitting on a perfectly located bench for a little while, and after being blinded by the sun, we headed back to our hotel for breakfast.
After waiting way to long for our breakfast, we went for a hike up to have a better view of the lake. We were both a bit done with hiking, even though it was without our heavy backpacks this time. Luckily, we had some great views of the lake and also of the mountains on the other side. Because we were too lazy, we didn’t go all the way to the top (3700 meter) but stopped at about 3500 meter.
We decided not to spent the night at Rara Lake again, because the next day we had to arrange a jeep back to Jumla from the bus stop. The reason we didn’t want to walk back to Jumla was mostly because it would still take us six days to get back to Bardia (where we left a bunch of our stuff). Furthermore, my shoes were starting to show that I had bought them for only 40 $ USD in Kathmandu, as the soles were letting go.
Talcha is a close by village where there is an airport, busstop and here you can also find jeeps. The walk to Talcha was an easy 3 hour walk all along the lake. In Talcha we quickly found a guesthouse. We tried to arrange a jeep back from there, but it was not possible. So the next day we had to go down by bus. We would go until Nagma, and try to fix a jeep from there for the rest of our drive down.
The way back by bus and jeep
So I thought the way up to Jumla is scary, but that road is perfect if you compare it with the highway that continues to Rara Lake. So, if you actually want to die, join a bus ride in Talcha, sit and enjoy the horror show – with amazing views though.
Imagine beautiful mountains, a perfect valley with a rough flowing river. Now imagine you are on one of those beautiful mountains, approximately 3000 meters high in a bus. Every second of the bus ride is bumpy, there is not a second that the road is smooth. The road is narrow, but still it’s a two-way road. Every minute or every few second the bus has to turn, sometimes honks while doing so to warn possible vehicles coming from the opposite direction, sometimes the driver doesn’t even bother. You look next to you, through the window, and you can see the steep cliff down. There is barely any space left. You look at the bus driver, and see he is actually making a phone call while driving.
The bus ride took us about nine hours. First, it was… okay I guess. Yes, of course it was scary, but after the first hour, you kinda get used to it. Then, it turned dark outside and the only thing I could do was visualizing the most horrible bus accident on earth.
Once we arrived in Nagma we were very happy to be able to arrange a jeep to take us further down the next day. It was still a jeep ride of 12 hours, but it felt so safe compared to the bus ride the previous day!
We are very happy to made it back alive. Yes, it was all worth it. But, if you are planning to go to Rara Lake, please don’t use the bus.
The altitudes of some of the above mentioned towns are only an estimation, as we could not find a reliable source for the exact height.
Check out more images from our journey and Rara Lake: Heaven on Earth
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