Natural Paradise Jumla Nepal: Southwest of POKHARA lies Baglung –approachable only on foot or by dubious road form the Terai – the gateway to the Royal Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve. Handmade paper, used for packing and bamboo crafts, is its most popular product. It is home of a small group of the Thakalis. More than 20,000 people of Tibetan-Mongoloid stock speaking a Tibetan-Burmese vernacular. Thakalis faith is a mixture of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Bonpo.
Banglung also earns praise, from the important and those n the wane, for the power of the local aphrodisiac, shilajit. Locals travel for the north to exploit deposits of this tar-like substance that oozes from rocks and fetches high prices in India. Tastefully produced crafts include woollen vests, blankets, rugs and other sewn or woven handicrafts.
After Baglung you’re deep into Nepal’s mystical west: closed, barred and still little known. Yet it once nurtured a vast kingdom of the Mallas that reached its height in the fourteenth century. The capital of this ancient kingdom, Jumla, set almost 2,400 m (8,000 ft) above sea level. You can reach there by plane – unless you’re an untiring trekker prepared to walk for weeks. There are few visitors to this region.
Ringed by magnificent peaks, Jumla is truly a natural paradise. There is a quaint rural town with a bazaar. It is lined by the flat-roofed houses of the region and boasting no more than 50 shops, a bank, a police station, and the inevitable tea houses.
The Mallas kept a winter capital at Dullu, in the south of the Mahabharat Lekh range of hills and maintained a territory that stretched from the humid Terai to the Taklahar in western Tibet – connected by trails that even today few tackles. Yet the Mallas left a magnificent legacy Jumla Nepal; sculptured temples, stone pillars and the quiet beauty is well guarded; few disturb its tranquillity and population is sparse. The Karnali –one of 14 Nepali zones has a total population of around 300,000: no more than 12 people to every square kilometre.
There’s an old highway along the Tila Nadi valley where you measure your pace by the distance between the ancient milestones placed here as long ago as the fifteenth century. Two days hard slog bring reward a refreshing dip in the hot springs at Seraduska. Walk east for three days, and you’ll reach Gothichaur, an alpine valley set more than 2,900 m above sea level. In the valley’s pine forests a stone shrine and a water spout are a reminder of the Malla dynasty.
The area offers marvellous views of two little cities provides fabulous views of two little-known peaks, Chyakure Lekh, and Patrasi Himal. Jumla Nepal is also the stepping off point for a long, hard trek to the Shangrila valley of Humla.
Rara Lake Trekking
Best of all, make a four-day trek over high passes like Padmara, Burma, and the 3,456 –m high Ghurchi pass and finally Pina to Lake Rara. It is Nepal’s most enchanting national park. The lake is the kingdom’s largest body of water, covering ten sq km (four square miles) almost 3,000 m (10,000 ft) above sea level.
Snow lingers here as late as May and June, but its crystal-blue waters are a haven to a treasury of hardy avian visitors, particularly mallards, pochards, grebes, teals and other species from the north.
There are apple orchards, and the lake waters are rich with fish. Several villages stand on Rara’s shores, their houses, terraced like the land, backed on to steep hillsides. Wildlife includes hordes of impertinent monkeys who raid farms and grain stories with seeming impunity. Set like a sapphire in its Himalayan brooch, Lake Rara is both a botanical and zoological treasure.
To the west lie more little-known valleys reachable only on foot. Southwards the trade caravan’s even goats and sheep are used as the pack animal. Must travel daunting distances over forbidding terrain before reaching the temperate and fertile lands of the Mahabharat and the tropical fields of Terai.
How to Get There
Permits are needed for travel t these areas. If you obtain one, you next face the obstacle of getting on a flight. Guides can be challenging to find in this part of Nepal, as can be food.