Rara in the rainy season

Tourist guidebooks do not recommend visiting Nepal in the monsoon. Even if visitors come, they are strongly dissuaded from going to western Nepal in the rainy season because the flights are even more irregular than usual.

This year, there were no tourists at Rara Lake in remote Mugu district even during the spring trekking season. So, at the height of the monsoon this week, a few Nepali visitors had the place all to themselves.

At 2,999m, Rara in winter is a snowy wonderland. In spring it is a birder’s paradise. But it is now in the rainy season that the shores of Nepal’s largest lake burst into flowers. Multi-coloured blossoms carpet the vast clearing below thick pine forests on southern reaches of the lake at Mili Chaur.

This is where Mahendra, Nepal’s poet-king, sat under a lone juniper tree in 1964 and penned his famous ode to the lake: ‘Rara ki Apsara’. On the king’s order, the 10sq km lake and its surroundings mountains that soar to 4,500m, was declared Rara National Park in 1976. Mahendra’s juniper tree is still standing at the middle of Mili Chaur.

At this time of year, the surrounding forests are deep green as veils of monsoon clouds glide down the slopes to the lake. The pine, juniper and spruce with rhododendron and oak are draped in lichen and orchids, and the forest teems with musk deer, red panda, and in the higher reaches, ghoral mountain goats. The lake is home to 270 of Nepal’s 867 bird species.

Even though foreign tourists have stopped coming, better road access to Rara and an upgraded airfield at Talcha means that locals from Jumla and Gamgadi walk up to the lake to take selfies amidst the flowers.