I read in a newspaper recently that a committee had been formed to celebrate 2016 as Visit Eastern Nepal Year. That’s a great idea, and one that has been a long time in the coming, for eastern Nepal is full of great natural beauty and extremely hospitable people. Unlike the far-west, there is no far-east in the country, but the further east you go, the better is everything, including the weather. You get good rains here, and so the forests are verdant, the paddy fields are lush green, and the rolling tea estates are very pleasant to look at.
While Ilam, where most of Nepal’s tea estates are, and Taplejung get a fair amount of tourists, there’s a district called Sankhuwasabha that is also pretty fetching, and where the best khukuris are made. Yes, the very same khukuris that the Gurkhas made so famous in the two Great Wars. The prima donna of eastern Nepal, however, is Kangchenjunga, which at 8,586 m, is the third highest peak in the world. It’s not only for its height that it is so well known, it is also one of the best looking mountains in the Himalayan range, equal to Machhapuchchhre of Pokhara in beauty. It borders India, and is the highlight of Darjeeling—a most iconic backdrop to the queen of hill stations. Another famous peak in this region is Jannu (or Kumbakarna), which is 7,710 meters tall, and which used to be once called “Mystery Peak”.
Then, there is also the Makalu-Barun National Park here, established as an extension of Sagarmatha National Park (world’s highest national park) in 1992. It sprawls for some 1,500 km2 across Solukhumbu and Sankhuwasabha districts, and has Makalau (at 8,463 m, world’s 5th highest peak), Chamalangu (7,319 m), Baruntse (7,129 m), and Mera (6,654 m) within its precinct. This park has amazing elevation, with the Arun River valley (344-377 m) in the southeast arising to 8,463 m at the apex of Makalu. The park has many diverse species of fauna, including exotic ones like snow leopard, clouded leopard, red panda, Himalayan tahr, etc., with the Asian golden cat being one of the rarest. Plenty of bird species, too, including the rare rose-ringed parakeet, Blyth’s kingfisher, deep-blue kingfisher, blue-naped pitta, sultan tit, white-naped vuhina, and so on.
Now, you can trek through this area on your way to Makalu base camp. Generally, you start off by taking a 40-minute flight from Kathmandu to Tumlingtar (457 m). From here, you take a one-hour drive to Khandbari (1,036 m), the district headquarter, from where your trekking adventure begins. Here is where you’ll find people making the best khukuris. After a halt for the night in a lodge or homestay, the next morning you begin walking to Chichilla (1,920 m), about a five-hour hike. There’s a place called Chhyankuti Chhyankuti on the way, 10 km to the north of Khandbari that has spectacular views all around, including that of the magnificent Himalayan peaks. At Chichilla, you get comfortable lodgings for the night. Come the dawn, and you are again on the trail, this time to Mude (2,060 m), which will require about 5-6 hours. Along the route, you’ll be treated to some really rugged mountain landscapes.
After a night of rejuvenating sleep, you should be ready next day to take the 3-4 hour walk to Saduwa, which is in fact the last village before entering the Makalu-Barun National Park. Your hike will first take you steeply downhill, before again going steeply uphill. The next day, you trek to Tashigaon, stay in a teahouse, and enjoy the local culture. Your guides will usually allow you a day of rest and recuperation at Tashigaon. And, you will appreciate this, because the next day you walk up, up, and up for 6-8 hours to reach Khongma (3,400 m). Early the following morning, you go to Dobate, or Mombuk, (3,540 m), walking for some 4-5 hours. You got to start early so as to avoid landslides risks further in the day.
The coming days, you’ll be first hiking to Yangle, or Nhe Kharka, (3, 750 m, 4-5 h), then to Langmale, or Shersong (4,600 m, 6 h), before finally reaching the Makalu base camp which is at a height of 4,800 meters. There’s a lovely glacial lake called Dudh Pokhari that will mesmerize you with its serene beauty. The return trip is along the same route, and you’ll be back in Khandbari in 5-6 days time from the base camp. There are some other routes on this trek as well, and it’s up to you which one you choose. However, no matter which route you opt for, it will be one of the most exhilarating times of your entire life, that much can be assured! So, what say, do we now plan a trek in beautiful eastern Nepal?