"Mustang, The Forgotten Tibetan Kingdom" Mustang by into-thin-air
Mustang Travel Guide: 42 reviews and 174 photos
February 2008, my rucksack all packed up and about to depart for trip number seven to Nepal, But this time a trip with a difference, not my usual independent “Tea House” style trekking around the Annapurna’s or Everest Base camp, But this time a fully supported Expedition into the restricted and isolated area of Upper Mustang and the forgotten capital, Lo Manthang.
Myself and my Trekking Partner, Helga from Vienna met up in Kathmandu and arranged to details of the support team with my old friend Nirmal who runs Himalayan Magic Adventures, a small travel agents in Thamel, Kathmandu, The team would consist of seven Nepali’s, a Guide, Cook, Cooks Boy and 4 porters, They would meet us at the entrance to Upper Mustang, the fortified frontier village of Kagbeni and we would walk in independently and meet them there.
As usual things didn’t exactly go entirely to plan, Our original route was to walk in up the valley of the Marsyangai and cross the 5,440m pass, Thorung La entering Kagbeni from the east, But probably due to something that I ate before departing I went down with a particularly bad dose of the infamous “Kathmandu Quickstep” This forced us to retreat on day three of the trek and return to Pokhara to recuperate, Helga also went down with something nasty, so we lost 5 days and then had to start out again, This we did by revising our plan and walking in from the south by the easier route following The Kali Gandaki, more or less in the footsteps of Michel Peissel, The first European to enter Upper Mustang in 1963.
Starting trekking at less than 1,000m and walking first through paddy fields we followed the Kali Gandaki Valley north; This is the deepest valley in the world as it passes in between Annapurna and Dhaulagiri, both mountains in excess of 8,000m, making the valley some 7,000m deep !! We soon left the paddy fields behind us, then trough fields of barley, potatoes and eventually grazing land before entering and leaving pine forests, we reached kagbeni after 4 days, Here we decided to trek up to Muktinath at 3,700m and visit the famous “Fire on the Water” temple and spend a couple of days at altitude before starting the trek proper.
Our team was waiting for us when we arrived back in kagbeni the day before we were due to enter the kingdom of Upper Mustang which although controlled by Nepal is geographically in Tibet, it is “Trans Himalayan”, Beyond the Himalayas. Historically The King of Lo Manthang paid tribute to both Kathmandu and Lhasa, But now Mustang, although classed as a sensitive area because of its position is solely controlled by Nepal.
Tuesday 11th March we passed the checkpoint showing our $700 entry permits and entered the steep sided gorge of the now re-named Mustang Khola, More reminiscent of Arizona or the Grand Canyon than Nepal.
One major piece of luxury was that I was no longer carrying my 75 litre 20kg rucksack, this being now precariously balanced on top of a porter’s basket.
The first day of the trek was a relatively easy day following the river up the gorge, sometimes in the bottom and sometimes on narrow paths 50 metres or so above it. The first night we camped at the village of Chele which clings to a narrow ledge some 100m above the Mustang Khola, The next day we set off early and headed away from the river into a baron dry landscape with little vegetation, climbing steeply and during the course of the day crossing five 4000m+ La’s (passes)
Tired but awestruck we eventually entered the small village of Gelling and again camped. The next day was relatively easy as we only had two La’s to cross, so we visited the old and beautiful Monastery of Gelling before setting off.
We entered Ghami mid afternoon and it started to snow, So we decided that camping might not be the best idea this night and managed to find a room to rent, There are few hotels or even shops in Mustang so we considered ourselves as very lucky in finding a room.
The snow also made the next mornings trek to Tsarang interesting, Thankfully again there were only two La’s to cross, again both over 4,000m but the path was unusually wide with few horrendous drops at the side of it to contend with.
On 15th March we entered the capital City, Lo Manthang after taking a side trip to the oldest Monastery in Mustang and indeed one of the highest Monasteries in the world at Ghar Gompa.
Lo Manthang is a place that time has truly forgotten. We were lucky enough to be the only foreign visitors there and were able to secure ourselves the one and only available room to rent at the so called “Lo Manthang Guesthouse” which is right across the “Street” from the Royal palace, The King, who is now 73 years old has to journey by horse for three long days to Jomsom, the nearest mountain airstrip every time he wishes to visit Kathmandu
We spent a day resting and visiting the attractions of the “City” before heading across country the next day for the tiny settlement of Dhi, back on the banks of the Mustang Khola. The path was at times a particularly narrow and dangerous one with drops off the side that I don’t even like to think about, Never-The-Less we arrived safe and sound at Dhi without incident.
Then it was an easy day following and often wading the Mustang Khola down to the ancient village of Tangge where we had our final nights camping.
The penultimate day was a long and tiring one with our final three La’s to cross to the village Chhuksang, This took us over 11 hours walking so it was dusk when we arrived. Here we were again lucky enough to find a room to sleep in.
Our final day in Mustang was following the river back down to kagbeni where we sadly said good bye to our excellent team. We had been Exceptionally well looked after, the food provided to us by Tej, our cook was Superb and often cooked in Less than Ideal conditions. Pasang our Guide was a gentleman and our porters were all friendly and smiling in spite of the heavy loads that they carried.
From Kagbeni we again trekked out independently to Beni, But had a couple of days relaxing at the famous Hot Springs at Tatopani before bussing back to Pokhara and then returning to Kathmandu.
Thank you for taking the time to read these pages. If you are thinking of trekking in the Upper Mustang region and / or want more information then please feel free to email me.
- Pros:It took me seven trips to Nepal to finally get to go to Upper Mustang – Well worth the wait !!
- Cons:$700 trekking permit, However this is rumoured to soon drop ??
- In a nutshell:Don’t think about it – Just Go
The Best way to organise an Upper Mustang Trek is through a Local Kathmandu Agent – But pick your agent with Great Care... more travel advice
Overnight destination – kagbeni (Elevation 2800m) Estimated walking time 4 ½ hours Our last day was a simple walk back... more travel advice
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