Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Last Forbidden Kingdom- Mustang

This is a trek that takes you along the Kali Gandaki Valley to the ancient Himalayan Kingdom of Mustang.  The word 'Mustang' conjures up ideas of remoteness and seclusion, a region lost amongst the mountains. This was an independent country until it was closely consolidated into Nepal just a few decades ago. The kingdom of Mustang lies in the rain shadow formed by the Annapurna & Nilgiri Himalayas and thus gets very little rain which fortunately, makes the area ideal for trekking even in the mid monsoon while the other areas of Nepal remain unsuitable for trekking due to heavy monsoon rains. 

 The Trek to this mystique kingdom which requires a special permit that costs US$ 500 per person [valid for 10 Days] begins at the airstrip of Jomsom after flying up early from Pokhara. The trek is rather easy as most of the route goes along the bank of Kali Gandaki River and eventually leads you to Lo Manthang, the capital of Mustang at 3730 meter, which is the highest point on this trip. 
 Fascinating areas: culturally and historically, picturesque villages, monasteries, unique landscapes with easy access and very few trekkers going to this area are the major highlights of this trip. This is among the very few adventure trips in Nepal which can be done throughout the year. The region of Mustang lies north of the main Himalayan range in the area known as the trans-Himalaya. 
A vast high valley, arid and dry, it has a barren desert-like appearance similar to the Tibetan Plateau and is characterized by eroded canyons and colorful stratified rock formations. It was once an important route for crossing the Himalaya between Tibet and Nepal, and many of the old salt caravans passed through Mustang. Known to its inhabitants as Lo, Mustang was only opened to trekkers in March 1992 and you will be part of a small privileged minority to visit this remote outpost of Nepal.
 The capital of the Mustang district is actually Jomsom but the Tibetan influenced area north of Kagbeni is known as Upper Mustang. It is this area which we will explore fully, discovering the wonders of the architecture, language, culture and traditions which are almost purely Tibetan in this once-upon-a-time mystical kingdom.
It is possible to trek right up the river valley, but we use a combination of the high trail and the riverbank pathways,trail then widens significantly revealing an endless stretch of sand but the path is kept interesting by the passing of trains bearing goods from Mustang and Tibet. On the west bank of the river are some caves and Gompa Kang. Unlike most monasteries in Upper Mustang which are of the Shakyapa sect. 
Gompa Kang is of the Nyingmapa sect. We stop for lunch at the village of Chuksang, where we come across the first black, white and red Chortens that typify Upper Mustang. The little town is a labyrinth of narrow alleys among white washed houses, fields of buck wheat and barley and apple orchards. Nilgiri Peak continues to dominate the southern skyline. Chhuksang village is only about 2hrs walk beyond Tangbe at the confluence of the Narshing Khola and the Kali Gandaki. There are three separate parts to this village and some ruined castle walls on the surrounding cliffs. Across the river from Chhuksang are some spectacular red eroded cliffs above the mouths of some inaccessible caves. After Chhuksang the trail goes up until you reach in Chele village.