This is a not just a coming of age tale of a journey three young adults made in their early twenties. It is also an account of an experience that would somehow mould their lives as adults. It was no small journey for these youngbloods, born and raised in Kathmandu and not having left the valley very often. It was a journey that stood as a trailblazer which would make them hungry for more in the years to come.
It all started when a few friends discussed their travel ideas and one person suggested they all go to Gosaikunda for the Janai Purnima festival. Around eight people agreed to go, out of which four backed out the day before the start of the trip. The remaining three of the four agreed to be part of the journey, only because one friend had already been there once and had experience.
Living on the edge. Photos by Mohan Duwal.
Later, the next morning, the experienced friend who was supposed to be the guide backed out at the bus park due to personal reasons and so the three guys were left alone. With little travel experience to show for, the group was very much hesitant to make the move to Gosaikunda. Two even suggested playing it safe and going to Pokhara instead. It took some convincing from the third friend, Mohan Duwal, before they finally embarked on a journey that they would remember for a lifetime.
Beautiful emerald green hues on the way to Gosaikunda lake. Photos by Mohan Duwal.
Many hours on a bumpy off-road bus, long walks, altitude sickness and tired feet later, they reached Gosaikunda. The bus ride itself was not free of complications. At a turn in the road Duwal, who was traveling on the roof of the bus along with 20 other people, due to lack of free seats inside, lost his balance, and was about to tumble off. In a quick move, he jumped to a little patch of grass and landed inches away from the edge of the cliff. Recalling the incident still sends shivers down his spine.
Holy Gosaikunda lake with Ganesh Himal in the background. Photos by Mohan Duwal.
On the morning of Janai Purnima, the group made it to the Kunda. Duwal plunged into the lake as it is believed that the dip is supposed to wash away the sins we make in our human vessels. To his dismay, it was so cold that he felt his heart stop and his body become immobile. After about 15 seconds, he mustered up the energy to resurface and felt as if he had been resurrected.
The shrine on the bank of Gosaikunda lake, and a devotee bowing down to offer his prayers to the holy lake.
After the holy dip in the Gosainkunda on the day of Janai Purnima and a light breakfast in Suryakunda pass, the group walked to a junction where two roads diverged towards Thadepati. They trusted an elderly local man, who convinced them to take a shorter route. In contrast to what the old man said, the route was riddled with obstacles. Every few steps, there were rocks and boulders tumbling down. The group was nearly swept away by a landslide, from which they luckily managed to outrun. Duwal brushed off death, once again, for the third time in a time span of few days.
The view of player flags flapping in the wind and Buddha smiling upon you makes the uphill slog to Lauribina pass worthwhile. Photo by Mohan Duwal.
After eleven hours of exhausting trekking, the men finally reached Thadepati around nine in the evening where they found a guest house, took their supper and retired for the night. They would later learn from the guest house owners that the construction engineer who overlooked the road project on the precarious path they had taken earlier, died while making the road and there were directions against taking the route.
Trekkers heading to Gosaikunda lake. Photo by Mohan Duwal.
One of the members of the group, Mohan Duwal, was to return to Gosainkunda on four occasions in the years to come. In 2016, on the sixteenth anniversary of his first trip to Gosainkunda, Duwal revisited the area. This year, he went on the excursion with a group of thirteen people, which also included a friend from the first trip. With transport sorted and remedies for altitude sickness in hand, the new group set off on a thrilling jaunt, from Dhunche, Cholangpati and continued to Thadepati, where Duwal hadn’t set foot for more than 16 years. All along the way the group was oblivious to an idea that Duwal had planned.
Cholangpati on the left and to the right, the Ganesh Himalayan Range as seen from Cholangpati. Photos by Mohan Duwal.
16 years before, on the morning after their night in Thadepati the then novice photographer, Duwal, assembled his group of 3 friends and the family of the guest house owners to take a photograph. He would carry the same photograph 16 years later and see if he could locate the hotel, the people and recreate the experience that was left crisp in his mind after all this time.
The odds were stacked against him as the region was struck by earthquake in 2015, but upon the arrival at Thadepati, they saw that the guest house was still standing, and to his luck, the owners were still the same. The child of the owners who was present in the first picture was already in his late teens. Overjoyed that his dream would materialize, Duwal shared the photograph with his friends. He proposed to the team and the guest house owners to recreate the old photograph. Everyone agreed to the proposal. Duwal and a friend arranged everyone in the same position as in the photograph.
Before and after. Duwal and his trekking partners in Thadapati in 2000 (left) and again in 2016 (right).
The two old friends, guest house owners, their child and a few new replacements were captured. They had the same scenic beauty in the background smiling upon them. They even managed to place the guest house signboard in the new photograph which was displaced after the quake. He fondly recalled his memories and reminisced his past as he showed me both the photographs months later. If it were not for the first travel, the photographs he took on his camera back then, Duwal might not have discovered his love for travel, wanderlust and turned into the photographer he is today.
Woman looking at the photo taken during the 2000 trip. Photos by Mohan Duwal.
Wanderlust drives people to push their limits, test their courage and learn lessons they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. So, pack your bags, put on your hiking boots and plunge into the journey of your lives. And do not forget to take some photographs on your way!
A Tamang father with his baby boy on the left and a Tamang mother carefully carrying her child, as fog creeps in in the background. Photos by Mohan Duwal.
For more photos of the Great Himalaya Trails by Mohan Duwal check out his Instagram account @mohgraphy. If you want to get started with your own mountain photography get some helpful tips from Mohan on our blog post “Picture Perfect Nepal – A Beginner’s Guide to Mountain Photography“.