Crown jewel of Mid-western Nepal, Karnali Highway is a symbol of both reverence and fear for those inhabiting the region. Reverence because of its overwhelming size and stretch. Fear because of its treacherous rocky trail which as the locals say is “synonymous to a blood-thirsty goddess claiming her sacrifice”.
Whatever it may be, Karnali Highway is definitely a lifeline for the people of Mid-Western Nepal. After its construction in 2007 the highway connected Jumla, once the hotbed of the decade-long “People’s War” led by the Nepali Maoist insurgents, to the commercial hub of the Southern plains, Surkhet. Sugar and rice as well as essential medical supplies make their way up to Jumla from Surkhet through this 232 km-long pass.
‘People’s War’ and Karnali Highway
With the onset of the “People’s War” in 1996, people from the district of Jumla and neighboring areas started migrating to the plains for refuge and also for sustaining themselves economically. Surkhet was one such host. When the war ended with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) in November 2006, Jumlis gradually started going back to their villages with the construction of the Karnali highway a year after the peace accord.
Today, major food and medical supplies reach not only to Jumla but also to the neighboring districts of Mugu and Kalikot. Thanks to the recently inaugurated Nagma-Gamgadhi section of the highway which links the two districts through Jumla, people in Karnali make avail of the 93 km-long stretch. Inaugurated in December 2012, this stretch also acts so a major tourist trail leading visitors to the famous Rara National Park, home to the pristine Rara Lake.
Rara Lake-“A shimmering blue jewel set in a ring of snowy peaks“
Enjoy the panoramic view of the biggest lake in Nepal. Rara Lake, known locally as Mahendra Taal, is the largest lake of Nepal and lies in Rara National Park, the smallest national park in the country. Trekkers can arrive at Jumla via air from Surkhet airport. For the more adventurous type, buses and trucks ply the Karnali Highway from Surkhet to Jumla from where tourists can go on their trek to Rara National Park.
For more insight into the road to Jumla, read this 2007 The Kathmandu Post article.
For more on the surprising adventurers of Nepal, read this post on Ideas Abound.