From the bustling heart of Kathmandu, my adventure took flight, quite literally, as I soared above the majestic landscapes of Nepal towards the quaint town of Nepalgunj. I still remember the film festival where our parents took us to watch the documentary “Himalaya” / “Caravan” by Eric Valli. As the documentary began, we sat wide-eyed, staring at the big screen, captivated by the magic of Shey Phoksundo and Dolpo overall. The vibrant blue of the Phoksundo Lake held a mystical allure and looked unreal! I turned to my Ammu (mom) and asked, “Is it really like that? That blue? Can the water be as blue as that, just like the sky? And is it in Nepal?” She nodded with a smile, saying everything was in Nepal!
That sparked a flame within me, a fervent yearning to stand on the shores of Phoksundo Lake, to tread the ancient Caravan trail, and to breathe in the majestic essence of that faraway landscape. I found myself stepping onto the tarmac with a sense of excitement that even the silver screen couldn’t capture entirely. As we navigated through Nepalgunj, the air was thick with the promise of discovery. The journey unfolded with the resonance of my desires, echoing the essence of the characters and landscapes that had sparked my imagination.
The plane ride itself became a cinematic experience, with the panorama outside the window unfolding like scenes from a dream – valleys adorned in greenery, snow-capped peaks standing sentinel, and the pulse of adventure beating in my chest.
We landed in Nepalgunj and stayed at Hotel Shubham. Coincidentally, we met two brothers who were also headed to Shey Phoksundo. They were friendly and took us to a milk production factory. It was cool to see how they made different dairy products. After that, we visited Bageshwori Temple, and I told my Ammu about the experience as she used to visit the temple as a kid. Later, we tried some local foods, super delicious.
But things took a scary turn that night. A massive earthquake hit western Nepal, and we were worried because Shey Phoksundo was close to the epicenter. The tremors shook us, and we didn’t know what would happen next. The friends we made that day became a source of comfort as we faced the uncertainty together. Little did we know, this unexpected event would become a unique part of our Shey Phoksundo adventure.
Journey Through Uncertainty: From Juphal’s Delays to Chepka’s Tranquil Haven
On the second day of our Shey Phoksundo adventure, excitement buzzed in the air as we were set to take a flight to Juphal Airport. However, the earthquake in western Nepal caused a delay, and we were on the edge, wondering if our flight would even happen. Stranded at the airport, uncertainty loomed, but luck was on our side, and the flight eventually took off.
The aerial view as we approached Juphal was breathtaking – probably the most beautiful airport I have ever seen. Touching down in Juphal, the air was chilly, but our spirits were warmed up with anticipation. After a quick breakfast in Juphal, we secured a jeep and headed to Suligad, the starting point of our trek.
As we ventured on from Suligad, the landscape transformed, unveiling a picturesque trail that meandered alongside rivers and through enchanting pine forests (Pinus). The journey was as beautiful as it was exhilarating. Our first significant stop was at the Suligad checkpost, where we registered our names at the Shey Phoksundo National Park.
With renewed enthusiasm, we continued our trek to Kageni, absorbing the natural beauty that surrounded us. We had our lunch in Kageni that day. The rhythm of the trail, accompanied by the soothing sounds of rivers flowing and rustling leaves, made the trek truly magical. As the day unfolded, we covered significant ground, and after walking for six hours, our trek for the day concluded at Chepka. The sense of accomplishment mingled with the serene surroundings, and as we settled in for the night, the memories of the day’s adventure lingered, promising more wonders in the days to come.
Capturing Serenity: Tea Breaks, Scenic Pitstops, and Unanticipated Delights
On the third day of our Shey Phoksundo escapade, where many trekkers usually reach Phoksundo, we decided to take it slow and savor the journey. The day unfolded like a series of delightful pauses, filled with tea breaks at various stops along the trail. The path was adorned with the green hues of water flowing from Phoksundo, offering a tranquil backdrop to our trek. The trail, with its moderate difficulty, allowed us to relish every step.
Our lunch break was a special one at Rechi, where we sat in a quaint little hut. Despite its size, the meal emanated warmth and care, reminding us that good food is made with so much love. However, amidst the scenic pitstop, a moment of panic struck. A friend had left his phone behind. After realizing this about 20 minutes into our walk, he rushed back to retrieve it. We held our breaths, hoping for the best, and thankfully, he returned triumphant with his phone.
With the incident behind us, we continued our trek, and as we approached Jharna Hotel, our designated stop for the day, an unexpected sight greeted us – a sizable school in the heart of the rural landscape. The contrast of the rural setting and the presence of such an institution was truly amazing. After a mere 15-minute walk from the school, we reached our haven for the night – Jharna Hotel. Exhausted yet content, we took some well-deserved rest. The evening unfurled a hearty dinner, a few rounds of cards, and the comforting embrace of sleep.
Conquering Heights and Embracing Timelessness: Shey Phoksundo’s Majestic Lake Unveiled
On the fourth day of our expedition, the anticipation of reaching the iconic Shey Phoksundo Lake filled the crisp morning air.
Our trek began at 7:30 am, and the trail led us towards the most challenging climb of the journey – Ringmo Village. The ascent was steep and perilous, with sections of the path marked by recent landslides. Despite the risks, the trek offered glimpses of nature’s grandeur, including a breathtaking waterfall that cascaded alongside the trail. Around 11:45 am, after conquering a significant climb, we arrived at Ringmo Village. The Ringmo felt like stepping back in time – an antique village that radiated the beauty of yesteryears.
We settled into our hotel, had a hearty lunch, and took a well-deserved rest. However, the real excitement lay ahead.
Fully geared up, we embarked on a momentous journey to witness the grandeur of Shey Phoksundo Lake. The lake stretched out before us, a magnificent and untouched beauty. Spellbound, we captured its essence in a few pictures before making our way to the 800-year-old gumba nearby. With a khada scarf in hand, I offered my respects at the temple, feeling a connection to the ancient traditions. As we returned from the gumba, we found a quiet spot to sit and marvel at the lake changing colors with the shifting sky. The wind picked up, prompting us to head back to the hotel, mindful of the long journey to the viewpoints awaiting us the next day. Dinner was shared amid lively conversations with fellow travelers at the hotel, and as the night fell, we tucked ourselves into our sleeping rugs.
Heartfelt Ascent: Chasing Childhood Dreams at Phoksundo’s Peaks, Tears of Joy, and a Soulful Farewell
On our fifth day in the mesmerizing Shey Phoksundo region, we awoke with a sense of eagerness, knowing that the climb to the Phoksundo View Point awaited us. After a hearty breakfast at the hotel, our trek commenced at 7 am. The path to the viewpoint along the legendary caravan trail hugged the contours of the lake. The excitement was palpable and more so because the trail posed its challenges. As we ascended, the first 40 minutes led us through a dense forest trail, embracing us like a warm cuddle. Emerging from the forest, we encountered a rugged trail formed by a recent landslide, with rocks strewn around. Overcoming this, we climbed a steep trail for another hour until we reached the first viewpoint.
It offered a breathtaking panorama of Phoksundo Lake, with the quaint Ringmo Village nestled along one of its riversides. Reaching this spot was a dream since my seven-year-old self, and the realization brought tears to my eyes. It felt like a tribute to that little version of me. We spent precious hours there, then proceeded to the second viewpoint, a 45-minute trek that offered a different angle of the lake, forming a heart shape. It captured my heart, leaving me in awe. Continuing to the third viewpoint, a 15-minute walk revealed the Y-shaped beauty of the lake. Having witnessed all three ends of the mighty lake, my heart was full, and tears welled up in my eyes. As the weather turned windy, we descended to the first viewpoint within 45 minutes.
After savoring the moment, we trekked downhill back to Ringmo Village, reaching a place called Forest Camp before completing the caravan trail. At Forest Camp, which felt like a beach to Phoksundo Lake, I was completely lost in the moment. The long-awaited experience came when I dipped my feet into the lake. After an hour of serenity, we returned to the village, had a well-deserved lunch, and decided to trek downhill that very day. With hearts full of joy and tears, we bid farewell to Ringmo Village and Phoksundo Lake, trekking down to the Jharna Hotel, grateful for the unforgettable memories etched in our souls.
Downhill Memories: Navigating Nostalgia on a 9-Hour Trek
Day six marked the longest downhill trek of our Shey Phoksundo adventure. The prospect of walking for about 9 hours lay ahead, so we kicked off early, leaving at 6:30 am with the first light of the day. The air was filled with a mix of contentment and nostalgia, as memories of the journey fueled our steps.
The day unfolded as a continuous descent, punctuated by a few breaks for resting. We traversed the familiar trail, passing through places that held bits of our journey’s history. Seeking a change from the regular dal bhat tarkari, we opted for noodles for lunch at Chepka, the same hotel where we had stayed on the very first day of our trek. The warmth of familiarity added a comforting touch to our midday meal.
As we continued our descent, just before the sunset painted the sky with hues of orange and pink, we reached Kageni. The sight of this familiar spot brought a sense of accomplishment. The day may have been about walking downhill, but each step carried the weight of the memories we had gathered along the way. With Kageni behind us, we reflected on the journey so far, grateful for the shared laughter, challenges conquered, and the unique flavors that enriched our experience.
Embracing Endings: Temples, Unexpected Turns, and Celebrating Bonds
Day seven marked the final chapter of our Shey Phoksundo trek, a bittersweet farewell to the enchanting region we had come to love. The day’s trek was a short two-hour journey to Suligadh, our last stop. As we set out from Kageni in the early morning, a sense of contentment and gratitude for the incredible journey filled our hearts.
Arriving in Suligadh marked the official end of our trek, but we had a small plan still in store for the day. We yearned to visit the Tripurasundari Temple, the largest in western Nepal and nestled in the Dolpo region. Opting for a jeep ride from Suligadh, the 1.5-hour journey to Tripurakot unfolded with anticipation. Upon reaching the temple, an energy enveloped the surroundings, making the experience feel profoundly spiritual. It was as if the goddess herself beckoned us to be there at that moment.
We spent around 45 minutes, offering our prayers and absorbing the divine ambiance before retracing our steps. The temple’s location and energy provided the perfect conclusion to our journey. Riding back to Juphal, we indulged in a delicious lunch at Tripurakot, prepared in a humble hut-like setting but bursting with flavor. Upon reaching Juphal, we found ourselves with an unexpected turn of events. The flight back to Nepalgunj for the next day proved elusive, prompting us to extend our stay by two days. That night, we decided to celebrate the journey that had transformed us. What started as a trio had blossomed into a group of five, as strangers evolved into friends for life. Laughter echoed in the night, sealing the bonds forged in the mountains, and we embraced the serendipity that had brought us together on this unforgettable adventure.
Plot Twist in the Clouds: A Whirlwind Flight and Boarding Pass Bewilderment
Day eight of our adventure threw us a curveball that left us scratching our heads. Picture this: the sun had barely kissed the horizon at 5:30 am when an insistent knock on our door disrupted our dreams. Groggily, we stumbled to answer it, only to be hit with news that felt like a plot twist from a movie – we had 15 minutes to transform from sleep-deprived wanderers to jet-setting travelers. Our flight, originally scheduled for two days later, was now departing in a rush.
In a flurry of activity that rivaled a high-stakes heist movie, we scurried around the hotel room, tossing items into our bags like professional packers on a reality show. Toothbrushes, chargers, that half-eaten snack from the minibar – everything was fair game. It was like a game of beat-the-clock, and we were determined not to miss our sudden rendezvous with the airport.
At the airport, reality sank in, but our brains were still trying to process the abrupt change of plans. We stared at each other with wide-eyed disbelief. “Did we just time-travel into tomorrow? Is this some kind of cosmic joke?” we mused, half-laughing at the absurdity of the situation. The boarding pass felt like a golden ticket to a rollercoaster we hadn’t signed up for.
Amid the chaos, we couldn’t help but find humor in our bleary-eyed confusion. Imagine two friends, disheveled and sleep-deprived, squinting at their boarding passes as if they held the secrets to the universe. “Well, this wasn’t on the itinerary,” one of us quipped, earning a chuckle from the other. It was a moment of shared bewilderment, a plot twist that would become a legendary tale in our travel escapades. And so, with a mix of laughter and a touch of dazed disbelief, we boarded the flight that magically appeared on our schedule. Our adventure had taken an unexpected turn, proving that sometimes the best stories are the ones written in the margins of your carefully planned itinerary.
Bidding farewell to Juphal and the entire Dolpo region once again, we boarded the flight back to Nepalgunj. The same night, we caught a flight to Kathmandu, reaching home as late as 11 at night due to a delay, but every minute of the wait was worth it. The aerial view of Kathmandu illuminated by Tihar lights greeted us, marking the incredible end to our incredible journey. A journey filled with surprises, challenges, and the unexpected joy of witnessing the beauty from above. The journey to the Shey Phoksundo trek will forever hold a special place in my heart. It wasn’t just a trek; it was a tapestry woven with threads of laughter, challenges, and the breathtaking landscapes of Dolpo. Every step etched memories that are now my most cherished possessions.
From the sudden earthquake that transformed routine into chaos in Nepalgunj to the breathtaking views atop the Phoksundo viewpoints, every moment feels like a treasure. The camaraderie formed with fellow trekkers, the taste of noodles in familiar huts, the spiritual energy at Tripurasundari Temple, and the sudden flight back – these moments are not just recollections; they are a part of who I am now. The Shey Phoksundo trek wasn’t just about reaching a destination; it was about discovering the enchanting beauty in every step and turning strangers into lifelong friends, it was also a tribute to my childhood self and her dream to reach there. It’s a chapter that I revisit often in my thoughts, grateful for the serendipity that led me to those Himalayan trails and the unforgettable memories they conferred upon me.