Upper Dolpa Circuit Itinerary - One Week Trek
Day OneThe trek starts from Ranjha airport, a small airport on top of the town of Juphal. Currently, it is the only airport in Dolpa and can be reached from Nepalgunj. The road takes you through a little sojourn in the town of Juphal, after which it descends steeply For about an hour, the road is muddy and stony with little vegetation. After that, there is a short stretch of motorable road that lasts up to Suligad Suligad is the entrance to Shey Phoksundo National Park. Here, the tourists who have not paid their entrance fee can do so. Beyond Suligad is restricted area.
From Suligad the road becomes horizontal, with mild inclines in between. The road is populated with tea shops in between at Khalaripi, Kageni and Sangta Kageni and Sangta are both ideal lunch places as they have plenty of hotels Sangta even has a charming campsite with water and toilet facility. The campsite offers a view of the raging Suligad river Our actual camping was at Chhepka, which is more densely populated than the above mentioned intermediary villages. It also provides campsite and water facility.
Day two starts at Chhepka Dand goes on to several small outposts like Dhane, Kiptarung and Rechi. The road follows the Phoksundo River upstream through dense forests. The road inclines mildly uphill at first, and later the incline grows steeper. At some points, the rod dips down to the level of the water. At these points, there is a stone embankment which contains the water and yet lets travelers be close to the water. On this day travelers cross Phoksundo river several times over small local bridges. At one point between Rechi and Chunuwar, there is a dramatic point where two rivers of distinctly different colors merge to form a single Phoksundo River.
Dhane contains a shop in a tent, where you can buy basic food items. It also contains a trash can and water source. Kiptarung and Rechi also contain tents for basic necessities, and at Rechi a hotel is coming up. The camping is at Chunuwar, which houses a hotel, a campsite, a village water tap and well managed public toilets. It also contains communication facility through a PCO.
Third day's trek goes steeply Tuphill for the first three hours. There is minimal vegetation, and the hills are very dusty in dry seasons The road offers a bird's eye view of the unique beauty of surrounding hills. These hills are made almost entirely of gray stone with little vegetation. The bare outcroppings have jagged tops, which lead their majestic beauty to the beauty. At the end of three hours of uphill climb is a view tower, where travelers can rest. The view tower offers a view of Phoksundo falls, a spectacular 3-step waterfall that drops down 167 meters from the Phoksundo lake. After a ten minute walk uphill from the view tower, the of travelers can get the first glimpse of Phoksundo lake After that, the road goes gently downhill and the view of Phoksundo lake gets clearer After walking for about an hour, one arrives at the village of Ringmo. This village of mainly Buddhist people lies on the banks of Phoksundo lake.
We camped at Phoksundo lake after only half a day of walking in order to enjoy the beauty of this lake. There is plenty of open space to camp beside the Phoksundo lake, and also public toilets The village offers a PCO and electricity to charge mobiles. The Phoksundo bank also offers a spectacular view of Numala Bagala passes which are on the way to Dho Tarap.
With a maximum depth of 145 m. Phoksundo is the deepest lake in Nepal and also the deepest lake found at such a great altitude int the world. It is a freshwater lake completely devoid of any animal life. The lake is fed by streams that originate from the Himalayas, and hence its water is very cold. It is famous for its deep aquamarine blue color, but at close observation, it can be seen that the lake changes color with according to the amount of ambient light. It takes on a whole range of shades from deep green, shimmering silver, to its usual deep blue and gray.
The Legend Of Phoksundo
The word Phoksundo is of Tibetan origin, and is made up of three words: Phok which means spread out, Sung which means three, and Dhu, which means stone. These words describe the shape of the lake, which has three corners jutting out from the center. Once upon a time, there was a Lama in Tibet. There was a demon who was troubling his people. and the Lama started chasing the demon. The demon was carrying a bowl of oil in one hand, and a bowl of water in the other The lama chased the demon all the way from Tibet to Phoksundo, where the demon spilled his bowl of water, which formed a lake. The demon then escaped, leaving the Lama trapped behind the water. This is the locals' story of the origin. of this lake.
From this onwards we enter Upper Dolpa, as Ringmo village is the boundary between Lower and Upper Dolpa. We started out by walking on a rocky precipice over the Phoksundo lake The precipice offers different angles to view all three corners of Phoksundo lake. The precipice is also the site of a dramatic scene in the popular French movie Himalaya. The road climbs and dips to the level of the lake, where we crossed several shallow streams on foot We encountered many streams that empty into the Phoksundo lake. After walking for about two hours, the road swerves to the left, after which the first corner of Phoksundo is obscured from view and we only get to see the last corner. The track goes up to a height of 4,085m, after which it steadily descends through a dense pine forest. After walking downhill for about two hours, we got to Choklapuk, a lovely beach perfect for camping Located on the edge of Phoksundo's corner, this place offers a wide expanse for resting and relaxing, and a wonderful view of Phoksundo lake and surrounding mountains.
After lunch, we walked horizontally along a gorge with mountains on both sides. This was one of the most adventurous parts of the trip. This road is flooded in summer and we walked through ice cold water and among thorny bushes. The river is ice cold, because it descends directly from the Himalayas, and is the major source of the waters of Phoksundo lake.
Camping was at Ruktang, an open space beside the river. On the left side, this place offers a view of Kanjirowa mountain on clear days, which is full of snow even in the month of July.
On the fifth day, the route is Overy unique. We crossed Pisten River over and over again without bridges. The river flows inside a gorge, and alternately embraces each side of the gorge. As a result, we have to either walk through the river or due to which we have to walk on the dry side. The walk is uphill but not steep. The water ranges from shallow to knee deep, and the current is very swift. Sandals are recommended for entire day. Several waterfalls fall into the river from both sides.
On this day, we climbed up to a height of 4,677 meters. Although this is a considerable height where altitude sickness usually takes hold, this day the cold water alleviated the symptoms of altitude sickness. The lunch was packed this day, because the geography was not very suitable for cooking. Camping was at Base Camp, on the shore of the river. There is a wide open space at the river shore, with stony ground and thorny juniper bushes.
This day was the most arduous day of the trek, since we crossed our highest pass on this day The road is inclined steeply interspersed with short stretches of gradual inclines. The final few hundred meters are in a sandy mountain, where our feet slid at every step. Altitude sickness may take hold at this point, and travelers should be well prepared for that
After crossing the pass, the other wide offers a spectacular view of light sand colored mountains. The monsoon rains in Nepal come from clouds which travel northwards from the oceans in the south. But most of them disperse their water in Southern Nepal, as they cannot cross the tall Himalayan mountains. Hence, some places in Nepal which are behind tall mountains do not get much rainfall. Dolpa is one of them. The results of little moisture can be seen in these parts, where the mountains are bare and sandy, and the vegetation is very sparse
We had packed lunch on this day After walking downhill from the pass for about four hours, we get to Shey Gumba From a religious point of view, Shey Gumba is considered the most important of all Gumbas in Nepal. It is almost a Mecca for Buddhists. Though the building itself is modest, the statues in the
Gumba are very expensive, some of them are coated in gold and silver. They word Shey itself means "biggest of all" in Tibetan
The legends of Shey Gumba
Once upon a time, the people were making a Gumba in Digarji. The people would build all day, but every night demons would come and destroy whatever was made in the day. The Gumba could never be completed. The people finally decided to ask Guru Rimpoche. advice. The Rimpoche suggested a most secluded place that demons would never be able to get at That place was Shey, which is surrounded by tall mountains of more than 5,000 meters on all sides, and is almost inaccessible. for outsiders. The villagers came to Shey and built their Gumba, but even the gods were reluctant to stay in such an inhospitable place Once the villagers installed the gods and went back home, they found that the gods had already flown back, and had arrived at their village before them. The villagers went back to Shey Gumba again. This time they shackled the gods with iron chains, and that is how Shey Gumba came to be.
The Shey Gumba is said to be commissioned by the king of Jumla. The kingdom of Jumla
ceased to exist several hundred years ago, but Shey Gumba still houses a sword and an inscription from the king of Jumla.
Crystal Mountain, which stands right in front of Shey Gumba, is supposed to be the younger brother of Kailash Mountain. Kailash Mountain
is sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists. Some people worship the two mountains as females,
considering them to be sisters. Many legends are connected to this origin of this relationship. According to one, the Lama from Shey Gumba flew to the top of Crystal to meditate in a cave, and from there he could
see Kailash Mountain. It is also believed that the Ghyangtok Gumba at Kailash and Shey Gumba were constructed in the same year.
Every twelve years, in the year of
the dragon according to Tibetan
O calendar, Shey Gumba holds a
festival. Though the Gumba has
a ceremony in September every
year, there is a major ceremony
every twelve years. This festival
is celebrated grandly by inviting
Rimpoches from other surrounding
Gumbas, Buddhists from all over the
world flock to this festival. During
this festival, devotees make a
rotation of Crystal Mountain.
On this day we crossed the second pass of the journey From Shey Gumba the path is muddy at first. We walk on the side of a hill on a mild incline There are also some stretches of steep incline. After walking for about three hours, we get to a gorge with a shallow river. We walk uphill along the river shore, then we climb a short stretch of steep incline. The final stretchi takes us almost horizontally on a dark, sandy mountain.
After crossing the pass is a steep downhill trail. Though the hills are barren without greenery, there are all kinds of wildflowers in red, yellow, pink, and blue sprouting from rocky surfaces We follow a river downstream, and we see more and more barren rock like hills. Lunch was at Namgung, a small village that offers an open brick kitchen for trekkers if the travelers are weary, they can camp at Namgung instead of walking four more hours to Saldang, as Namgung offers a good camping facility as well
After walking uphill from Namgung for two hours, we reach a hilltop that offers a panoramic view of light green colored mountains far into the distance. We descend from the hilltop to the village of Saldang Saldang is a beautiful valley, its green fields in stark contrast to the bare hills around. Saldang is densely populated compared to the surrounding hillsides. It is a fertile valley which grows potatoes, rice, wheat, and barley. Saldang also has a primary school, a health center, and communication facility through Hello network. It has a good campsite and running water as well
Saldang contains a Gumba called Samiye Choying Gumba. This Gumba is older than Shey Gumba, and has been modeled on the Potala Gumba in Tibet and other Gumbas in Thimpu. It has been recently repainted for the festival. The Gumba officials have decided to retain old style stone roofs, instead of giving it a tin roof, so as to preserve its original look
Alternative: This is a very long stretch to complete in a single day, and it can be broken down at Namgung, Lunch can be packed and camping can be done at Namgung.