Dolpo was on my bucket list for a while. Growing up, in school I used to read about Dolpa in Social Studies. The largest district in Nepal that houses the deepest lake Phoksundo inside Shey Phoksundo National Park. Also, the Great Himalayan Trail goes through Dolpa. So I was eager and excited to explore the region with Jessie. Our initial plan was to fly to Juphal but since the Juphal airport was under construction we looked for other options. We decided to get to Dolpa by whatever means and trek from East to West, from Dolpa to Jumla, exiting through Jumla airport to Nepalgunj to Kathmandu.

First step – we took a 24 hr bus ride to Rukum Khalanga. Rukum Khalanga is the headquarter of Rukum district. We were hoping to get straight in the jeep to our next stop Radi. We couldn’t get a jeep to Radi as the rain from last night made jeep roads slippery and hence the transportation was at halt citing safety concerns. We spent the night at a hotel in Rukum, Khalanga.

Jeep ride (#1) from Rukum to Radi

We already had a fare share of adventures and a misadventure (phone getting stolen!) even before we got to Suligadh (the starting point for Shey Phoksundo Trek). One of the scariest moments was when crossing road construction sites. The government is building a road between Jajarkot and Dolpa (Dolpa is the only district in the country with no road connectivity to national highways), cutting mountains where once there were only trails. So, we had to cross 7 or 8 sections where people on the cliff side were drilling rock faces and we had to run underneath hoping there was no rock fall. Our crossing was helped by two people blowing whistles on each side of the trail. They would blow a whistle each time they saw trekkers or locals crossing the trail and the drilling would stop. So our life was hanging on those whistle blowers.

A road under construction to connect Rukum and Dolpa

We then took 24 hr bus ride, changed four jeeps and trekked in three districts, over four nights and five days just to get to the start of Shey Phoksundo trek in Dolpa. Whew!

At the entrance of the Shey Phoksundo National Park.

We had such a great time trekking in Dolpo region though. I will let the pictures speak (in gallery below) but a few highlights in words: trekking along the Shey Phoksundo river, seeing a 167m tall waterfall descend down from the Phoksundo lake (3,611m),  camping on a rooftop, backyard, front yard of houses to camping right next to the lake and see it change color, getting to know about Tibetan and Bon culture, beautiful camping spots like Lasa before the Kagmara La (pass) 5,115m . And last, walking different parts of Rukum, Dolpa and Jumla.

View of Shey Phoksundo and Ringmo from the north side of the lake.

Few observations at my time in Dolpo.

The region is pristine with natural resources and has a lot of potential for (sustainable) tourism development. However, we barely saw fifteen trekkers in seventeen days! It might be partly because it was start of the monsoon season but frankly we need to promote Nepal as an all season destination. Although we stayed in a tent next to Phoksundo lake it was good to see new hotels being built by locals in Ringmo and along the main trail.

Dolpo is the only place in Nepal where I felt cultural shock in my own country. The primary reason being lack of hygiene, sanitation and medical care.

For lot of people in villages, development means roads reaching to their doorstep, even if it comes at a cost of destroying an existing trekking/local trail without alternatives. I think there is a difference in notion of development among villagers and trekkers (like me) who think the trail should be preserved and ‘development’ set up around it.

Itinerary

Day 1 Bus to Rukum (Overnight)
Day 2 Bus to Rukum, overnight in Rukum
Day 3 Rukum to Tallo Bagar (Jeep)
Day 4 Tallo Bagar to Tribeni to Sauunne (Jeep/Trek)
Day 5 Sauunne to Dunai/Suligadh to Chepka (Jeep/Trek)
Day 6 Chepka to Reiki (Trek)
Day 7 Reiki to Phoksundo Lake (Trek)
Day 8 Phoksundo Lake (Trek)
Day 9 Phoksundo Lake to Pungmo (Trek)
Day 10 Pungmo to Lasa (Trek)
Day 11 Lasa to Phedi via Kagmara Pass 5,115m (Trek)
Day 12 Phedi to Kaigoan (Trek)
Day 13 Kaigoan to Chaurikot (Trek)
Day 14 Chaurikot to Chotra (Trek)
Day 15 Chotra to Jumla (Trek)
Day 16 Jumla to Nepalgunj (Jeep)
Day 17 Nepalgunj to Kathmandu (Flight)

Thanks to Bidhyaman Mahatara, Balaraj Budha, Rishi Chudal, Lhakpa Sherpa, Bimal Regmi, Ram Krishna Banjade, Ganesh, Seth Wolpin, Christina Ayele Djossa, not to mention my adventure partner Jessie for her patience and support and all the incredibly helpful people we met along the way for helping in small and big ways, making this adventure possible.

#latelatetripreport the trip unfolded in June/July in 2017. All picture credits goes to Jessie (as I lost my phone on day 4). However, I got my lost phone back 6 months after the trip which is a whole another story/blog to write about.

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