Trek to Gosaikunda: The experience of a lifetime
— Donald M. Thurston
“Have you guys brought raincoats? The sky is dark, it might rain,” Basu texted us from Kutumsang when we had just reached Chanaute – a small bazaar on the banks of the Melamchi River. There was no way we could get raincoats in this small marketplace. We decided to buy plastic sheets instead as they could be used to cover ourselves and our backpacks should it rain. Sun had already set when we reached Kutumsang – a small village on the border of Nuwakot and Sindhupalchowk districts – where Basu was eagerly waiting for us for the trek to Gosaikunda.
We three – me, my cousin Ronald and his wife Linda – were on a trek to Gosaikunda Lake. And Basu, headmaster of a local school in Kutumsang, was to guide us to the sacred lake. Most of the trekkers start Gosainkunda Trek from Dhunche – the district headquarters of Rasuwa – and descend to Sundarijal via Kutumsang. But we chose the opposite route. Though the trek starts from Sundarijal, we drove directly to Kutumsang as regular bus service to this place is available from Kathmandu. But it took us nearly 10 hours to travel a distance of less than 100 km. That too on a bus loaded with stuff ranging from rice sacks to cement and corrugated zinc sheets. Not to be forgotten is the narrow windy road that sent shivers to our bone time and again.
Basu took us to his quarter and briefed us on our plan. We were to start the trek to Gosaikunda early the next morning and try to reach Ghopte. If we managed to reach Ghopte, we could reach Gosaikunda by noon the next day. Linda volunteered to prepare dinner. After dinner, we retired to our room as we were to start the trek early in the morning.
We started the trek at 5:30 after having noodles soup. We had already prepared our backpack the other night. The trek was pleasing. Cool morning air greeted us, and chirping of mountain birds made us feel energized. After a trek of around two hours, we stopped at a small tea shop for tea and light snacks. The wonderful host, who was an acquaintance of Basu, served us steaming cup of tea and some biscuits.
We resumed the trek and reached Malechaur after around an hour for Gosaikunda Trek. There was big pastureland and a few stupas in Malechaur. We offered some flowers at the stupas and walked toward our destination. We planned to reach Thadepati for lunch. But the trek soon started taking a toll on us. We were sweating, and our legs were becoming heavy. We arrived at Magengoth at around noon. Our initial plan was to have lunch at Thadepati or Merikharka. But our slow pace forced Basu to change the plan.
Kalu Sherpa, the owner of Hotel Greenview & Lodge, prepared a delicious lunch for us. During our lunchtime chat, Sherpa, who is the coordinator of hotels inside the Langtang National Park (LNP), came down heavily on the national park officials. Commenting on LNP’s proposal to remove existing lodge owners and give their property on lease through auction, Sherpa said local hoteliers wouldn’t leave their property easily. “We have invested millions of rupees here. There is no way we are leaving it for nothing,” he said, urging the park officials to revisit the decision. We encouraged Sherpa to keep up the fight, as his stance is a genuine one.
After lunch, we bid adieu to our wonderful host and started our walk toward Thadepati. The trail from Magengoth is downhill for about an hour or so. It passes through pasturelands, and rhododendron and pine forests. The walk was pleasing. But about a walk of nearly an hour from Magengoth, it started raining. We covered ourselves with plastic sheets and continued our walk. We had to slow down the pace as the trail was slippery. Things turned worse. Hailstones started falling, and the sky turned to pitch dark. But we had no option but to continue the walk. After a walk of nearly three hours, we arrived at Thadepati (3600m) – a small junction with 4-5 lodges. There are two trails from where – one leads to Gosainkunda Lake, while the other descends to Melamchi Gaun in the Helambu Region.
We rushed to the first lodge and sat beside the fireplace. We ordered butter tea and hot soups. After about an hour, the rain subsided, and we ventured out to see the place. It was white all around. Initially, we presumed it was snow. But we were wrong. There were hailstones all around – in some places, hailstones were around one foot deep. We were very much excited, we took pictures, made a snowball, and hit at each other.
It was 3 pm, and we were undecided about advancing because hailstones had made the trail slippery. There was no way we could reach Ghopte – our planned destination for the day. But Basu encouraged us and said we could at least reach Merikharka. We packed our bags and headed downward. Basu led the walk as only he knew where the trail is. We slowly followed him. The path was narrow and slippery. In some places, we had to use both our hands and legs. After a slow walk of about one and a half hours, we reached Meri Kharka. There is only one lodge at Meri Kharka. An acquaintance of Basu runs the lodge. So it was more of a home for us. Our septuagenarian host was the most jovial person that I met on this trek so far. We changed our clothes, sat beside the fireplace, and started sipping tea. The older man prepared a delicious dinner – rice, lentil and gravy of gundruk (fermented lettuce leaf) and soybean.
Our hope of having a sunny day evaporated as it rained throughout the night. Rain in the lower area means heavy snowfall in the Lauri Bina Pass and Gosainkunda Lake area. We weren’t prepared for heavy snow — we didn’t have proper clothes and shoes to walk through the snow-filled trail. It was still raining when we woke up the next day. The nearby hills were blanketed with snow, and the air was chilly. After having Tibetan pancakes for breakfast, we thanked our host and started the trek toward Ghopte.
The trek remained largely uneventful. The rain was playing hide and seek with us. Though hailstones had melted, the trail was filled with snow in most of the places. We walked through sunshine, fog, rainfall, and snowfall – a fantastic experience for all of us. After having tea at Ghopte, we walked toward Phedi. It was around 1 pm when we reached Phedi. We ordered lunch and sat by the fireside to warm ourselves. The trekkers, who descended from Lauri Bina Pass, told us that there was knee-deep snow in the pass. We gave up the hope of reaching Gosainkunda. But one Sashi Adhikari, who was guiding two German trekkers, encouraged us. He asked us to join them the next morning and assured us that he would guide us to Gosainkunda. His words soothed us.
The lodge at Phedi was covered with fresh snow the next day. Today is the most difficult day of the trek as we are reaching Gosainkunda Lake after crossing the Lauribina La Pass (4610 meters). We started the trek at around 6 am. Around a dozen, trekkers were going toward the pass. We treated in their footsteps as the track was covered by snow. It was becoming difficult for us to take significant steps because of the high altitude. We decided to walk slowly as high altitude is not the place to test your limits. After about two hours, we reached the high camp where we had tea and hot soup. From here, we could see trekkers descending from the pass. It raised our hopes of reaching the sacred lake. If they can descend, there was no reason why we couldn’t climb up to the pass.
It was nearly noon when we reached the pass. We took some pictures at the pass and started downhill trek to Gosainkunda. After a walk of fewer than five minutes, we saw Surya Kunda, which was completely frozen, on the left side of the trail. We saw two more lakes before Gosainkunda – this time on the right side of the trail. Both the lakes were covered with snow. After a walk of nearly an hour from the pass, we finally saw Gosainkunda. Thankfully, it was not covered with snow, unlike the other lakes. But the trail was covered by snow.
It still took nearly an hour to reach the lake as the track was full of snow and slippery. We paid homage to Lord Shiva at Trishuldhari and took some pictures. We checked into a hotel at the lakeside and ordered lunch. We decided to offer puja to Lord Shiva early the next morning.
Situated at an altitude of 4,380 meters, Gosainkunda is a freshwater lake in Langtang National Park in Rasuwa district. The lake is spread over 34 acres. The Gosainkunda Lake Complex, which includes Surya Kunda, Bhairav Kunda, Nag Kunda, and Saraswati Kunda, among others, was designated as a Ramsar site in 2007. The lake flows down to form the Trishuli River – one of the major tributaries of the mighty Sapta Gandaki River that flows through central Nepal. The lake holds great religious significance as Lord Shiva is believed to have rested inside the lake after he consumed Kalkut Poison that was churned during the Samunda Mantha. The lake complex wears a festive look during Ganga Dashahara and Janai Purnima festivals when pilgrims from all over Nepal and from different parts of India visit the holy place. It is also a popular destination for trekkers in the Langtang Region.
Today is the last day of our trek to Gosaikunda. We woke up early in the morning and rushed to the lake to offer puja to Lord Shiva. The Gosainkunda Peak was already glittering in the sunlight. The reflection of the peak in the serene lake was something that will remain in your heart for long. After performing pooja to Lord Shiva, we returned to the hotel, had breakfast, and started trek toward Dhunche.
The trail until Lauribina was challenging. The snow had started melting and the track was slippery. A small mistake and you plunge hundreds of feet down. We sauntered, treading on footsteps left by fellow trekkers. In some places, we had to use both our hands and feet to negotiate the track. It took us nearly two hours to reach Lauri Bina. We heaved a sigh of relief. Yes, we had done it!! The trail from Lauri Bina is mostly downhill. The walk is pleasing as it passes through rhododendron and juniper forests. The chirping of birds keeps you rejuvenated throughout the trail. We had lunch at Chandanwari and continue our trek. At around 4 pm, we crossed Ghattekhola and headed toward Dhunche – the district headquarters of Rasuwa. We reached Dhunche at around 5 pm. We booked tickets for the next day and strolled in the bazaar area for some time. We had an early dinner and left for the bed at around eight, as all of us were tired.
The trek offered us the experience of a lifetime because it was the first time we crossed such a high pass. Also, it was our first walk on the snow-filled trail. Not to mention the hardship as all of us were unprepared for the snow – we didn’t have good boots, warm trousers, and warm jackets – as we presumed, there won’t be snow in summer. Though we managed to complete the trek to Gosaikunda, it taught us a valuable lesson.