Nepal has a number of national parks and wildlife reserves that fairly teem with exotic flora and fauna. These are: Chitwan National Park, Bardiya National Park, Sagarmatha National Park, Shey Phoksundo National Park, Langtang National Park, Rara National Park, Khaptad National Park, Annapurna Conservation Area, Manaslu Conservation Area, Kangchenjunga Conservation Area, Shukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve, Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve, Kosi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, and Parsa Wildlife Reserve.
Each park, each conservation area, and each reserve has something exceptional to boast about. For instance, the Chitwan and Bardiya national parks have significant numbers of endangered animals, including the one-horned rhino, the royal Bengal tiger, and the gharial. Sagarmatha National Park is perhaps the highest such park in the world and this is where you’ll find the highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest (Sagarmatha) all 8,048 meters of her. Langtang National Park is home to the Himalayan black bear, the goat-like Himalayan tahr, and the shy red pandas. One of the most famous glacial lakes of the country, Gosainkunda Lake, is also located in this area.
Spectacular Darchula. Image by Mahendra Aryal
Now, there’s one more conservation area in the list. This is the Api-Nampa Conservation Area in the far western region of the country, specifically in Darchula District. Established only in 2010, it is spread over a large area of 1,903 square kilometers. Included in this large expanse are 21 village development committees. To the west, this conservation area is bounded by the torrential Mahakali River while to the west is the border with the Autonomous Region of Tibet. To the east are the neighboring districts of Bajhang and Baitadi. There is amazing eco-diversity because of the fact that the conservation area ranges in elevation from a low of 518 m to a high of 7,132 meters. The latter if of course the height of Mount Api, one of the Himalayan peaks of Nepal. Nampi (6,757 m) too is a Himalayan peak that is a prominent feature of the landscape here. The central part consists of a grasslands plateau. The conservation area is home to interesting flora and fauna, and inhabited by a variety of animals including snow leopards, clouded leopards, Himalayan black bear, tahr, musk deer, goral, serow, langur monkeys, red panda, and so on, while bird species include a variety of pheasants and the Snowcock, the Satyr tragopan, and the Himalayan Monal (danphe), Nepal’s national bird.
The newly opened conservation area has been successful in attracting a growing number of tourists to the far west, and to Darchula, which is one of the most remote regions of the country. Trekking in this region is especially interesting because of this fact since you get to hike through mostly virgin territory full of unspoiled nature. You can get to Darchula either by first flying to Nepalganj and then taking a bus from there to Dadeldhura and onwards to Darchula, or you can take a bus from Kathmandu to Dadeldhura (14-16 h) and then onwards to Darchula (6-8 h).
Once you reach Darchula you will be probably pleased to find that it’s quite a large town and there are plenty of places to stay in at relatively low cost. Anyway, now that you have arrived here, it’s time to see what’s in store as far as your trekking itinerary is concerned. Your most likely option is the Darchula to Chainpur (Bajhang) trek. It will take some eight day to complete and you’ll be walking for five to six hours every day. The trek takes you from Darchula to Dailekh, Sipti, Sela, Kaphalseri, Bubir, Bisauna, Jaya Prithivi Nagar, and finally to Chainpur. You’ll be hiking through some great wild landscapes and be one with nature during your time there. What’s more, it’s a relatively easy trek. Sipti village is more of a terraced plateau above a charming valley. There’s a view point to the east of the village that offers a grand spectacle of rolling hills and imposing mountains and dawn is the best time to get a really splendid view. From Sipti, you descend down to Chamaliya Nadi where you can go slightly upstream if you want to have better views of Api and Nampa Himals, or go downstream to Gunna from where you walk along the banks of the Gunna Khola.
Eventually, you’ll find yourself walking in the middle of the Karali Ghad valley to a place called Pipalkot, and this is the point where you enter Bajhang District. Thereon, you can walk up the Khalanga Nadi on a high trail that provides you with some lovely views of Saipal Himal. The trail goes on to the district headquarters of Chainpur, which you’ll find to be quite a bustling little town with a great bazaar. Have a nice stay here and take the opportunity of mixing around with the locals, an interesting mix of different communities: Khas, Magar, Tamang, Gurung, Chettri, and Bhotia. And yes, relish also some of the best doughnuts ever at a place called Bickey’s Bakery. They are highly recommended by all who have traveled to Chainpur.
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