It is always the right time to visit Khaptad. One short visit is never enough to devour what Khaptad has in offer for us. At least a couple of visits are required if one wants to experience the real beauty that Khaptad is blessed with. Our trek was pleasant; it wasn't too hot, neither too cold. It wasn't raining incessantly on the day we reached there. Yet we missed the beauty of Khaptad despite the jour seven of us had for every moment that we spent there.
Khaptad National Park is named after a renowned sage Khaptad Baba, who lives no more. He lives only in memories of people who have been to Khaptad and seen the holy man. His hermitage is a ‘must visit’ place in Khaptad. Several anecdotes are there of Baba's harmonious relations with the nature. Before I left for the place, my grandmother, who is 92 years now, told me a strange and interesting story about how tigers came and stretched their legs and Baba picked up thorns from their paws and relieved them of the pain. The beauty of the place, she said, was in its best when the flowers bloomed there. It looked like a natural garden with different colors of flowers as if planted meticulously by a gardener. We missed both these sights. One for the reason that Baba no longer is alive and the second we were in the wrong time of the year. However, there were Rhododendron flowers blooming throughout on the way as a consolation. We could make out some four to five different colors. One of the lieutenants stationed in the army barrack in Jhingrana showed us some photographs, and I must confess, we were mesmerized by the beauty of Khaptad during the season. What we did not experience was the snow and the natural garden at Khaptad.
We were lying down in the unique landscape (called Patan) of Khaptad basking in the sun and cool breeze reminding us about where we were and my cousin sister, whose parents migrated to America when she was an infant, promptly suggested how Khaptad could be a place of winter sports with its amazing landscape and the snow during the winter season. I could not disagree with her. Government of Nepal should consider Khaptad as a winter sports destination and it will be a real boost to tourism in Nepal and for the development of the region.
We began our journey on the auspicious day of 1st Baishak 2069 (Friday April 13, 2012). It took us 21 hours to reach Pipla of Dipayal from Kathmandu. There are good hotels in Pipla. The third day we stretched our legs for over two hours till Baglekh from Shantinagar. There are no hotels in Baglekh. However, the food they served us was warm. We had carried our tents with us and pitched them on the ground with lots of enthusiasm as it was for the first time some of us were going to spend the night in the tents. Torrential rains spoiled the comfort of the tent and we had to sleep in an outhouse which had no doors. There were no beds. We had mats and sleeping bags and the wind was bitter cold.
The next day we reached Jhinrana for lunch. We were shown a great hospitality by a home stay owner. He suggested we stay at his house for the night when we returned. Immediately after lunch, talking about siesta, we climbed uphill for almost two to three hours. This is the toughest climb throughout the trek.
We rested at Bichpani for the night. There is a provision for food but not a cozy shelter for eight people. There are rooms but no beds. For the second night we were saved by the sleeping bags and mats that we carried with us. The night was spent little better than the night before at Baglekh. However, everyone of us was complaining about the discomfort we never thought we would be welcomed with. There was nothing in between Jhingrana and Bichpani so we happened to be wise to carry chocolate bars and water bottles. We had also carried a liquid water guard (few drops of water guard in a liter of water would get rid of bacteria) to purify source water of any bacteria or germs.
The next day after a hearty breakfast of noodle soup we left for Khaptad and reached there in time. There is couple of dharmashalas (empty rest houses). Dharmashalas were built to avoid catastrophe during the winter season when heavy snow hindered movements to and from Khaptad. Four soldiers had died on the way some time back. There is an army barrack in Khaptad for the protection and preservation of Khaptad National Park. Army men only host people whom they know. We stayed at army barrack and were overwhelmed by the hospitality shown by Major Dambar Singh Bohara, the man in command there. There is also National Park Warden's guest house for those who travel to Khaptad. The warden’s guest house can only host certain number of persons. Khaptad hosts an annual fair during sometime in May.
To experience and appreciate the warm and cold weather that Nepal has to offer, a night or two at Bardiya National Park is awesome. The hospitality, civility and liveliness of Bardiya people will give a touch of nature. Of course, then, there are different things that one can do at Bardiya National Park from rafting in Karnali to Jungle Walk to Jeep Safari to get the scare and excitement of rapids of river and wildlife. Bardiya National Park is some seven eight hours drive from Pipla, Dipayal and would be a much wished for break after the trek and to break the long journey from Pipla to Kathmandu.