Alone in awe: Exploring Rara Lake and beyond as a lone adventurer

Rara Lake

Never before had I felt such a sense of anticipation and excitement about a solo trip as I did for my journey to Rara Lake. Unlike my previous visit to Ghorepani in Pokhara, my parents wholeheartedly supported my decision to go to this pristine lake nestled in the remote Karnali region of Nepal all alone.

They did not have many questions, except for a few regarding lodging facilities and staying in regular communication with them. Gathering my confidence, I took an evening flight from Kathmandu to Nepalgunj.

The following morning, as I boarded a 19-seater plane in Nepalgunj, my restlessness grew. It was not due to the bumpy flight, but rather the anticipation of landing in the dreamland that is Rara Lake. Before anything, I have to thank Devi Krishna Rokaya from Rara Adventure Tours and Travels for helping me plan my solo trip to Rara Lake.

Heaven on earth

File: Rara Lake

For us, who miss the sea in Nepal, Rara is the sea for us— was my second emotion when I caught my first glimpse of Rara Lake. What was my first? Had I waited for my best friend for this trip, I would never have reached Rara.

It is safe to say the place is mystical. I had never laid eyes on such a magical place before. I found myself grateful for summoning the courage to embark on this solo journey to Rara Lake.

I had seen many pictures and videos of the place, but seeing it with my own two eyes, I could not help but wonder if those visuals had done the place justice.

It was more than just a lake; it felt like a vast blue sea, cradled by mountains on one side. Across from it, a picturesque grassland known as Milichaur stretched out, where white and black horses grazed in the peaceful symphony, adorning Rara like celestial beings.

As I stood there looking at Milichaur, Rara and the mountains, I could not help but feel that I was in heaven.

I just hope and pray that this place remains the same for years to come. I do not want to see humans destroy this little peace of heaven.

What has helped that is the limited road access which has meant not many come here and that means the place does not have plastic waste on the banks of the lake. I fear the day for that to happen and hope everyone understands the importance of keeping this place as it is.

As I encountered various lives during my hour-long hike to Rara Lake and Rara Homestay situated at Majhghatta, my thoughts often drifted to the late King Mahendra’s visit to Rara Lake in the 1960s.

According to some locals, there are different accounts of King Mahendra’s visit. Some say he landed directly in Milichaur by helicopter, while others claim he walked from Jumla. Additionally, there are reports of a plane landing in Milichaur too.

The King was so captivated by the beauty of Rara that in 1964, he composed a poem titled ‘Sworga ki Apsara‘ (The Nymph from Heaven), and these verses have been etched onto a rock by the lake’s bank. Then, in 1973, he successfully established a national park to safeguard Nepal’s largest lake and its surroundings along with its flora and fauna.

Due to this, Rara Lake is also recognised as Mahendra Lake, which shows the local’s gratitude towards Kinga Mahendra.

Milichaur, Murma Top and Rara lake

File Photo

In a hypothetical beauty contest featuring all of Nepal’s lakes, Rara Lake would likely be crowned Miss Lake. Winning the title would not be possible without a deep appreciation of what Milichaur adds to the scenic beauty of Rara Lake.

Milichaur is more than a paradise and I consider it the most important part of the region. For a nature lover like me, the ultimate experience would be staying in a paradise like Milichaur (a plan I’m reserving for my next visit). Therefore, any description or promotion of Rara should never omit the mention of Milichaur, as it truly elevates Rara to one of the finest travel destinations.

After witnessing such a treasure in Nepal, a passive advocate in me is pushing me to pen down the admiration I have, for the sake of my friends, relatives, colleagues, social media followers and my best friend (who is now waiting for a company to go to Rara) to motivate them to go and witness this little haven in Nepal.

To get a different perspective of Rara Lake, one must get to Murma Top. While I was staying at Rara Homestay, the chatty homestay manager, Kal Bahadur Rokaya, eagerly shared stories with me and fellow travellers about the enchanting atmosphere and stunning view one can get of Rara and the area from Murma Top. Murma village gained prominence as a location in the popular Nepali movie Prem Geet 2 and stands as the sole village located within the boundaries of Nepal’s smallest national park.

Murma Top sits at an altitude of 3,800 meters and is named after the nearby Murma village. The hike to this hilltop from the lake takes around three-and-a-half hours.

At Murma Top is Rara Eco Resort which is probably the highest hotel located in Karnali Province. The staff expressed surprise upon learning that I embarked on this journey alone, but they were kind and treated me with respect. In my new home, nestled amidst the breathtaking expanse of rolling countryside, I felt a profound sense of security.

Soloing to Rara Lake

In fact, everyone I met on the way was surprised about my solo trip.

My solo travel intrigued them, and for them, it was a fascinating concept. However, for me, immersing myself in every moment of this journey filled me with a sense of completeness and contentment, which was the most captivating aspect of it all.

Every meal consisted of brown rice and simi (green bean), lentils, and surprisingly, they tasted much better in Mugu than when I prepared them at home. As I listened to the ambitious plans of a young boy working as a chef at Rara Eco Resort, who aspired to open his own hotel within the next five years, I could not help but feel inspired by his drive and determination.

Receiving herbal tea as a souvenir was truly heartwarming, especially knowing that the herb is unique to this high-altitude region, particularly in Murma. This special herbal tea is now offering a tea enthusiast like me a glimmer of hope to cut down on my tea (and sugar) consumption, a goal I have been striving for but struggled to achieve. Of course, the awe-inspiring view of Rara from Murma Top was equally captivating and is an absolute must-see if you find yourself in the area.

There is one thing the place needs to get rid of – houseflies. One might joke that either houseflies could be appointed as the brand ambassador of Karnali, or Karnali could be declared the ambassador for houseflies, and both would not be far from the truth. But jokes aside, the locals in Rara have recognised the significance of embracing tourism to unlock its economic potential. They likely also understand the critical role of sanitation and hygiene as the cornerstone for the development of tourism in the region.

The accessibility of roads has been primarily influenced by the park’s location within the national park. Furthermore, the road network has been carefully planned to minimise any adverse impact on the lake and its diverse wildlife. As a result, road access has been intentionally limited, but there have been notable improvements in recent years.

Road access has made the journey to Rara very convenient. Travellers have the option to either take the Karnali highway (a distance of 375 kilometres from the capital, Kathmandu) or opt for a 40-minute flight from Nepalgunj to reach Rara Lake.

It does not matter how you get here. The important thing is you do and, I will time and again, say to everyone that this place should be on your bucket list. It is truly a gem in Nepal’s crown and you have to get there to witness its grandeur.

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Nepali is a public health professional based in Kathmandu.

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