Road trip Rara National Park

Maghi Tharu festival in Bardia National Park
January 22, 2018

‘Rara’ changes her colours all the time. From blue to green and back to blue!

Rara National Park is situated in the far north-western mountains of Nepal. It is Nepals smallest national park, but it holds the biggest lake in the country named ‘Rara’ at an elevation of 2990 meter. The provincial government has declared the Nepali year 2075 as Karnali Rara Tourism Year.  Reasons enough to give this park a high ranking on our list of ‘things to explore in Far West Nepal’.  A summary of a 6 days / 5 nights trip from Bardia National Park with the Bardia Homestay familymembers Budhi, Sonja and  the children Usha and Sandesh and our driver.

Beforehand
The best time to visit ‘Rara’ is from September to November and from March to June. It is the end of May and the season in Bardia National Park is coming to an end. We decide this is the time to go to Rara, before monsoon starts within a few weeks.  There are various options to reach the park depending on your budget and time.

  • By air from Nepalgunj to Jumla and then a 3-4 days walk or a 1 day jeep ride to the park.
  • By air from Nepalgunj to Talcha airport and then a 3 hours walk.
  • The more adventurous route by road. A two days trip by jeep or motorbike from Bardia.

We want to go as a family ( 2 adults and 2 young children) so the trekking from Jumla will be too strenuous and flying too expensive. Despite the fact that the road trip might be too long and the roads are in a bad condition, we decide to go by jeep. This will also give us the chance to enjoy the scenic landscapes of the districts Surkhet, Dailekh, Kalikot and Jumla.

Day 1 from Bardia to Manma (260 km, 15 hours including lunch stops and delays )
We leave early in the morning and soon the flat landscape of the Terai has been replaced by the hills of the Surkhet district. After the Surkhet valley the serious mountain roads begin.  Gorgeous views are passing by and around noon we arrive in Dungeswar where we meet the Karnali river, bending from the north to the west. Our goal for today is to reach Manma which is only 90 km away from Surkhet.  But with this narrow bad roads (partly paved, sand and gravel) and an average speed of 20-25 km per hour,  it is a long way to go. The doubt starts to creep in.  Are we going to make it to Rara National Park or do we have to decide to visit Surkhet and Dailekh instead? First time for Dhal Bhaat. In Nepal applies the slogan ‘Dhal Bhaat power, 24 hours’. And yes after our meal we feel new energy and courage to move on.

We enjoy driving along the impressive fast flowing Karnali river, the longest river of Nepal with her splendid white beaches. Two hours after our Dhal Bhaat stop we have, unfortunatly and not totally unexpacted, our first flat tires. Luckily we are close to a small garage where they can fix them. It is already dark when the road climbs up out of the valley to the mountain top of Manma (2400 meter). The small lights of the houses shine on the mountain slope. It rains and the small road becomes muddy. We experience some scarry moments when jeeps from the opposite direction pass us with a ravine next to us. But we reach Manma safely!

Day 2 From Manma naar Bulbule (117 km, 9 hours including lunch stops and delays)
We wake up with great views on high mountain peaks (3000- 4000 m) shining in the sunlight.  Our driver went to the garage to fix some parts of the jeep. The locals tell us that the road between Manma and Nagme bazaar is mainly paved. That is good news and it turnes out to be true.  We are impressed by the steep mountain slopes with the remote villages pasted against it and voltures hovering above the valley.

In Chaukohla, a small village with some huts along the road, we enjoy the best and biggest roti we ever eaten.  From there It is not far to Nagme anymore, a major junction in Jumla where the road splits into a road to Jumla and one to Sinja. But unfortunately we run into a truck that got stuck on a sandy part of the road. It takes 45 minutes before we can move on.

After Nagme bazaar we drive along the Hima River that runs through the enchanting Sinja Valley which was once the capital city of 12th to 14th century powerful western Malla or Khasa kingdom. It is here where the present Nepali language originated. Down in the valley near the river we see horses and cows grazing and women in colourful clothes are bended forward to plant the rice. This is a great place for experiencing authentic Nepal.

We move on towards Bulbule (3100 m). On the way we give school children a ride, which means that they are home one hour earlier then usual. Here we sleep in a simple guesthouse with small rooms and hard beds. It is chilly up here, but in the kitchen near the fire stove it is warm and the rum with hot water is tasty. The lady of the house makes roti together with Sandes and tells since  7 years ago there is a road. Although buses and trucks pass through, it is still a 2 hours walk to school for her children.

Day 3 Bulbule to Rara National Park (30 km, 2 hours by jeep)
After a cup of tea we leave to Jhyari village. From there the bulldozer is still busy to make the road accesible to reach Sallery. But we manage to reach this place where we can park our jeep and eat ‘Dhal Bhaat’. From here it is only a 45 minutes walk to reach ‘Rara Lake’. We feel relieved, because it means that our wish will come true.  When we start to walk, 5 ponies are gallopping towards us. Usha and Sandesh are not afraid and within one minute they confiscate two.  What a fun and ideal way for children to reach the lake and for us to enjoy our walk next to them. First a steep climb before we reach an open grasfield. When we descend through the Pine forest we see a glimpse of the lake. And soon we have a splendid view on Rara Lake with the high peaks of the Himalaya covered with snow behind her.

The ponies go back and we walk together for one more hour from the south side of the lake to the left towards the nothern part where 2 lodges,  an army camp and the park headquarters are situated. It is quiet in the forest and birds are singing. ‘Rara’ changes her colours all the time. From blue to green and back to blue.

Domestic visitors are flocking to the region. The two lodges put up tents in their garden to meet their demands. We sleep in a tent on the edge of the garden with a great view on the lake. The mattress is comfortable and with the thick blankets you do not feel cold at all during the night. In the evening their are around 100 Nepali people in the lodge sitting around campfires.  Soon it is quiet, but we can imagine that it can be noisy during some evenings. It is great to sleep so close to the lake but we prefer to sleep the next day at an other spot.

Day 4 from Rara National Park to Murma Village community
We walk on a easily passable path to the west. After the forest we end up at a grassfield,  where we find Rara Murma Homestay. Set up 4 months ago and run by locals from the Murma community. With 15 clean rooms less massive and more personal contact with locals than the lodges situated along the lake. It is also possible here to eat the local food. Our breakfast roti, nettle sup and chutney is very tasty. We walk to Murma villaga (3 km away). Behind the village is Murma top (2,5 hours walk) with an elevation of 3800 meter which offers great views of Rara Lake and surroundings. The summit is too far for us  now and we will visit her an other time. In the evening the temparture drops down.  But the metal wooden stove in the small dining hall keeps us warm.  With the locals we talk about the trekking possibilities around Rara.

Day 5 and 6  Rara Murma Homestay to Manma and back to Bardia Homestay
On day 5 around 6.15 AM the ponies are ready to bring Sandesh en Usha back to our parking spot in Sallery. It is an easy 1,5 hour walk. The lake is peaceful and nature starts to wake up. We say goodbye to Rara National Park and we are sure that this goodbye is not forever. The next evening we arrive safely back home at Bardia Homestay with great memories of this adventurous road trip.

And next
Jumla, the Sinja Valley and Rara National Park offer great treks (from easy, moderate and strenuous grade) for mountain and nature lovers. For people who like to explore the authentic and remote Far West Nepal. We can offer you custom made itineraries (including flight or jeep, loding, guide and porters) with a duration between 5-10 days starting from Nepalgunj airport or Bardia Homestay. Ask us for more information. We are looking forward to share our experience with you!

For more pictures check Bardia Gallery or  our facebook album Rara National Park