“Sky Cave in the Upper Mustang and its capital, Lo Mantang.”
By Lily Ho, Malaysia
Mustang – some call it “The loss of Kingdom”, others call it “the desert of Nepal”. This place is located within the world’s highest mountain range and is to the south of Tibet Autonomous Region. It is widely believed that Mustang is one of those places where traditional Tibetan culture still remains intact and untouched. This was the main reason for me to visit this remote Kingdom of Mustang. The old-style of Tibetan culture remains after Tibetans had escaped away from their homeland via the Himalayas due to persecution. This culture may not be found easily in the Tibet Autonomous Region today.
“The desert of Nepal” – if you are lucky enough, you will see snow leopard in this wide wilderness.
I heard about this trail in 2012 but due to limited finances, was not able to go until 2014 when three hiking friends were interested in joining me. We called ourselves, “The Fantastic Four.”
Cost & Itinerary:-
USD1680 per pax
9/9/2015 KL-Kathmandu (1,400m)
10/9/2015 Kathmandu-Pokhara (830m)
11/9/2015 Pokhara-Jomsom (2,710m), Chusang and then Chaile (3,080m)
12/9/2015 Shengmuchen (3,800m)
13/9/2015 Lo-gami (3,510m)
14/9/2015 Charang (3,620m)
15/9/2015 Lomanthang (3,730m)
16/9/2015 Lomanthang (3,730m)
17/9/2015 Shengmuchen (3,500m)
18/9/2015 Chusang (2,980m)
19/9/2015 Kagbani (2,807m)
20/9/2015 Jomsom (2,743m)
21/9/2015 Early morning flight to Pokhara
22/9/2015 By tourist bus, Pokhara-Kathmandu
23/9/2015 Departure, back to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Upper Mustang’s Trek Profile
Mustang was the first trip for our Sherpa guide, 6 months after the massive earthquake that struck Nepal. We were equally nervous. We thought there were not enough people on the trip and just four people made it harder for the Sherpas to cover expenses. In keeping with the spirit of the journey we decided to continue and hope that encourages you to go.
The rice is ready for harvest when the grain turns yellows and the leaf starts to drop. The colours are amazing with the combination of between yellow, green, orange, and red spread across.
When we landed in Kathmandu, we were welcomed by the “Khata”; a welcoming scarf used by local people to accept the arrival of their guest. The local guide, namely Da Kusang Sherpa, arranged for us to stay in called Peace & Park, a Kathmandu motel near Thamel. I felt privileged to be back in Nepal for the fifth time and awaited the journey to Mustang with anticipation.
Khata is an informal term and Jael-dhar is the formal term, for traditional Tibetan offering scarf.
Kusang showed us around some of the collapsed buildings damaged in the earthquake. This country was quiet during the peak hiking/ trekking season thisyear, and seems the earthquake aftermath that occurred since April is utterly impacting their economic. Even then, I still saw the kindness, happiness on the local people’s faces here. It still felt safe walking around Kathmandu.
Aftermath of the earthquake that happened in April 2015 – Kathmandu
The second day, we took a tourist bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara (the distance between this tow major city of Nepal is at approximately 80 km). We got there faster due to the lack of cars on the road. This shows how bad the tourism in Nepal is after the earthquake. During the evening walk in Pokara, sadly enough I only saw local people around the popular Phewa Lake and hardly any foreign tourists.
Tourist bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara
The third day, we took a local flight from Pokhara to Jomsom. The snowy mountains on the plane were unforgettable. Jomsom is a place where apple grow and we were lucky enough to taste local apples in season. Rita had some minor Acute Mountain Sickness when touched down in Jomsom due to the high altitude of 2,710m. However due to the tight schedule of rushing the 10 days itinerary, we were not allowed to acclimatise our bodies but took an hour jeep drive to Chusang follow by an hours walk to Chaile (3,080m) to conclude the day.
“The Kaligandaki or Gandaki River” (also known as the Narayaki in southern Nepal and the Gandak in India).
Infinite land before us, a piece of cloth folded unevenly, a layer after another layer, the vast piece of land, mountains and sky connected to each other.
We officially registered our trek in the town of Kagbeni (2,807masl), and Kusang is pleased that we are his first Malaysian Group. There were very few Asian visitors here with most coming from Europe. September is a good season for Mustang, the weather is sunny, windy, and moderately cold.
Tough roads often lead to beautiful destination.
Many hikers are in the perception that Mustang Hiking is a horizontal walk. In fact we need to cross endless mountains with the big crossed “Z” when ascend slowly from 2,600masl to 4,200masl with a total walking distance of 120km to complete our entire trek in this huge land.
In one day of the trek, I was fortunate enough to see a two snow leopards when on the trekking route to the capital of Lo Manthang. They were quite distant from me, and I was lost in thought when saw them in the wilderness. There are professional photographers waiting for months in the heavy snow just to take a good shot of this precious creature but I was lucky enough to see two. Wow, I was so fortunate! Not many people can see snow leopard in their life time.
This big red rock reminds us of the Grand Canyon in America
On the way to the capital of Lo Mantang, it is hot, sunny, hungry, and facing high altitude challenge. Yes I need the blessing as the wording of the big rock behind – Ong（翁） Ma（嘛） Ni（呢） Bei （呗）Mei（咪） Hong（吽） (Buddhist Mantra).
Due to Mustang’s location in the far north in Nepal it is only 25km from the border of Tibet. And due to China’s increasing building of a road connecting to the capital of Lo Manthang, has mixed feelings among Mustang’s people about maintaining the traditional Tibetan culture in Mustang and evolving towards a new development from the influence of China. Some welcome the road and supply of electricity from China, as it allows for the inflow of cheaper goods, but many fear the erosion of traditional lifestyles. I can sense the confusion and concerns when talking with the local people from Lo Manthang.
Chasing the Antelope is always part of the fun of hiking in Nepal
Face of an local woman in Lo Manthang
From the 10 days trek, we completed our trek of approximately 120km at high altitude of 4,200masl. Mr Phang suffered AMS on his first time trekking in Nepal, and yet he overcame the problem and trekked at a fast pace; Respect to Rita, she took care of all of us like a Big Sister; Cheers to Gan, she enjoyed this trip very much; as to myself, I am proud that I can maintain my stamina with my injured ankle.. Additionally, I am very proud to see my brother Lamababu Sherpa has grown up finally. I have sponsored this little Sherpa boy in my first trek of Thorong Pass via Annapurna Full Circuit since the year of 2012. And after 3 years, he has gotten his Trekking Guide license with my financial support and certainly through his own effort.
Old Buddhist Stupa & Ancient Human Settlement with my Sherpa brother – Lamababu Sherpa
In one of the lunch breaks I spoke with two Lamas. I shared the reason I visited Mustang was due to my interests in Tibetan culture. Because of Tibetan culture, I have visited Ladakh India, Tibet China, and Nepal in many times. However I shared with the Lamas that I am still looking for an answer. And to his wise advice, the Lamas had shared with me that we should not be restricted by certain religion about life. By limiting ourselves into certain religions, we will create our own attachment. And attachment will make us create enemies. In simple terms, we are only required to practice kindness, righteousness via listening to our heart, not via certain religious formality.
Keep going, going strong
Celebration with country flag when reach the highest point of Mustang – 4,200masl
“Attachment creates enemy” this is the most valuable advice I got from this Mustang trek. We should not limit ourselves inside the frame of our belief. Instead, we should be more open minded to try to understand the culture and practices of others, as I believe there must be something common good for us to learn, adopt and enhance ourselves. Whilst trekking, I think about many things, and many peoples. Appreciation given to those whom supported me to Mustang. To me, this Mustang trek is not about the body exercise per se. It is a spiritual visit. I am truly fulfilled, Namaste!
“Consider the lilies how they grow; they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you,
that Solomon in all this glory was not arrayed like one of these” – (Luke 12:27)
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