A journey through another face of Nepal
Wind, water, rock and sky are the quiet yet constant companions one travels in Mustang or the Lost Kingdom of Lo. Passing beyond the sparkling snow peaks of Dhaulagiri and the Annapurnas, another landscape personality of
Nepal emerges as sojourners travel beyond the lush green middle hills and venture up the Kali Gandaki river valley toward the Tibetan plateau.
One is impressed by the power of the stark earth elements felt in Mustang. Large open spaces with towering rock formations dominate its terrain. Canyons and caves permeate the scenery and add shadowed mystery to the land. Described as barren or desolate, the beauty emanating from this region is one of subtle colors and hues.
Walking the trails of Mustang, one becomes attuned to sensations rarely noticed in the hectic pace of everyday life. The wind blows incessantly. The soothing sound of water from nearby canyons carving routes through stone and sand cools one from the intensity of the sun at altitude.
Crossing this lonely landscape, villages appear in the distance as tiny green oases nestled within the valley’s only grove of trees or looming as fortresses perched on rocky crags. Tight and compact, these settlements are alive with agricultural activity and roaming animals in the narrow pathways. The abrasive lifestyle of the people of Upper Mustang, or Lobas as they are known, is easily evident here. With only one or two growing seasons for wheat, barley, or buckwheat crops the people here struggle with their surroundings to coax out a harvest.
They are traders too. With their mule caravans plying the trail-ways, many travel to India and southern Nepal during the harsh winter months to do business. Other times, they cross the China border and barter wheat, rice and cloth brought up from the lowlands for goods such as cigarettes, tea, canvas shoes and ready made clothing.
Despite the many hardships faced in everyday life, the people of Mustang endure with a light spirit and an ever-present sense of humor. Their spiritual beliefs are deeply rooted in Tibetan Buddhism and radiate in the physical construction of large chortens, in the long stretches of mani walls along rocky paths, in the Sako Namgo or spirit catchers hung protectively above every household door, and even in the colors used for structural decoration.pg_17map.jpg (31851 bytes)
The traditional red/orange, white and gray/black, very much in evidence, represent the Buddhist deities of Chenrezig (the embodiment of Compassion), Jamphel-Yang (the embodiment of Wisdom), and Chakna Dorje (the embodiment of Spiritual Power).
A journey into Mustang is a special opportunity to explore a unique Himalayan landscape and to come into contact with one of Nepal’s distinct cultural clans. Upper Mustang, as a destination, is limited to those willing to follow stiff regulations established by the Ministry of Tourism and the Annapurna Conservation Area Project. Designed to protect the fragile environment and sensitize travellers to preserving ancient culture and tradition, such education is aimed toward reducing the negative impact tourism can have in newly opened areas.
For those who do make the trip, many find that internal landscapes explored through provocative exposure to the way of life here is as much of a challenge as the physical exertion required to traverse the grain of the land. A place of wind, water, rock and sky, Mustang indeed fills the senses and fully saturates the mind.
Location: North central Nepal
Altitude: 3,815 m above sea level
Access: Fly Pokhara-Jomsom (25 minutes) and trek from Jomsom via Kagbeni (105 km, four days)
Permits: Permits are given only to organized groups
Accommodation: Trekkers’ lodges
Activities: Trekking, monastery visits, cultural experiences
Additional info: ACAP Headquarters, Hariyo Kharka, Pokhara; Tel: 061-21102