Mustang is the arid region at the end of the Kali Gandaki, beyond the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri ranges. Lower Mustang is inhabited by people related to the Manangis whilst in northern Mustang (the ancient Kingdom of Lo), language and traditions are almost purely Tibetan. With a rich and complex history with written records dating back to the 8th century Lo, like Dolpo, was once a part of the western Tibetan region of Ngari and maintained its status as a separate principality until 1951.
It is a land of barley fields and pasture and vast expanses of gray and yellow rolling hills eroded by the wind that howl across the area most afternoons. Sun baked bricks of pale mud are used for almost all construction, including the walls and palace of Manthang.
Days 1-2: Flying into Kathmandu is an unforgettable experience with the Himalaya spread out before you. You will be met at the airport on arrival and transferred to your hotel. In the morning of day 2 a half-day city tour will introduce you to some of the highlights of Kathmandu.
Day 3: Drive from Kathmandu to Pokhara, or you may choose to fly. USD 67 - oneway.
Day 4: A morning flight to Jomson, renowned for the best apples in Nepal, is followed by a 4-hour walk along the Kali Gandaki to Kagbeni, gateway to Mustang. Here houses are flat-roofed in the Tibetan style and it is not uncommon to fine ammonites fossils along the river. Nilgiri Peak dominates the skyline.
Day 5: Trek past the Nyingmapa Gompa Kang to Tangbe. This is the first of many stunning villages marked by the black, red and white chorten typical of Mustang, and of the Sakya sect to which most belong. Like Kagbeni and other settlements in the area, Tangbe is a labyrinth of narrow alleys amongst whitewashed houses surrounded by fields of buckwheat, barley and wheat and apple orchards. The spectacular eroded red cliffs are a mass of inaccessible caves as you climb out of the river valley to Chele.
Here you enter the area of Tibetan cultural influence – houses have sheep horns above the doors, amulets to capture evil spirits and ferocious Tibetan mastiffs guarding their property. The predominance of Chinese rather than Indian or Nepalese goods indicates the changed trading patterns – and that traditional trade routes continue to flourish regardless of politics.
Days 6-7: After a long steep climb, reach a traditional stopping place for horse caravans, Samar, situated amongst a grove of poplar trees. Annapurna Himal is still visible to the south. Ridges, gorges and small passes traverse barley fields and juniper groves. Many of the villages have imposing chorten and, crossing the Tangmar Chu River, climb past the longest and most spectacular mani wall in Nepal. Charang is a maze of fields, willow trees and houses separated by stone walls at the top of the large Charang Chu canyon. There is a large dzong and a gompa with a good collection of statues and Thangkas
Days 8-10: Entering the Tholung Valley the trail becomes a wide path across a desert-like landscape of gray and yellow. Lo Manthang, the capital of Lo, lies within a tall white washed mud brick wall. Narrow alleys wind between closely packed houses, temples, gompas and the palace. The surrounding fields produce a single annual crop of wheat, barley, peas or mustard. It is a prosperous town whose wealth was built on the wool and salt trade from Tibet. Despite disruption trade continues along this route and many Lobas also travel south to India to trade during winter.
Days 11-13: Follow irrigated fields out of the city, taking a last look back at Manthang from the pass. Ghar Gompa, situated in a grove of trees by a stream, probably dates from the same time as Tibet’s first monastic institution, Samye (built 775-87) and contains a self-emanating statue as well as hundreds of painted carved stones, paintings and several large prayer wheels. Rejoining the trail you trekked in on, continue back to the Kali Gandaki and to Kagbeni.
Days 14-15: The route to Muktinath passes the medieval village of Jharkot with its ruined dzong and Bon gompa. Continuing to Muktinath, the afternoon is free to explore this fascinating village, sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists, it attracts many pilgrims. Here spring water flows from a rock face via 108 spouts (108 is a sacred number to Buddhists). This water wall surrounds a temple sacred to Vishnu and below the statue runs a trickle of water with pale flames caused by natural gas. There are shrines to Shiva and his consort and Padmasambhava as well as numerous chorten and the surrounding poplar grove supposedly sprang from the staffs of the 84 Siddhas. The mass of Dhaulagiri I makes a striking contrast. Return to Jomson.
Day 16: Fly Jomson-Pokhara. Drive Kathmandu or you may choose to fly (USD67one way).
Day 17: Depart.
Note: Please note that the published itinerary is a statement of intent and to be used as a guide only. The guide in charge of your trip will alter the schedule if conditions necessitate and any/all such alterations are at the discretion of Shiva Outdoors and your guide.
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