A trek to the ancient Kingdom of Mustang. Wild and harsh, yet stunningly beautiful landscape.

Young Buddhist monk

Young Buddhist monk

The Approach.

If this is your first time in Nepal, then travelling by fast bus west to Pokhara, instead of flying, you’ll start to see the real Nepal. Driving out of Kathmandu  is an experience  not to be missed. Starting at dawn, you’ll witness the sprawl of a poor country and everything that goes with it,crowds, noise, dust and pollution, poor sanitation and housing, the latest cars next to old men pulling wooden carts. Somehow it all works together. You will be outside of the bubble of western culture but don’t worry, it’s all perfectly safe and your guide will organise everything from storing your luggage to food and water.

Once the culture shock wears off, you’ll find it interesting and you will start to notice the wonderfully painted trucks with colourful nonsensical English slogans on them, the shouts of hawkers, the piles of fruit, the way the traffic weaves in and out of each other. The ‘rules of the road’ as we know them are flexible here and it’s a marvel that anyone gets anywhere. There is a system of course but it’s mystifying at first. Everyone is polite and there’s no road rage here.

You’ll be following the central valley of Nepal alongside the Trisuli river. Crops are grown on any flat ground and often sold on the roadside. In season you’ll find whole villages of people selling oranges and, in other places, selling root vegetables. Little tracks lead off into the hills to half glimpsed farms high above the road. Small boats or cable bridges cross the broad Trisuli. At the lunch stop you’ll get a typical Nepali / Western meal of food of rice and lentils, curried vegetables and a drink. It’s basic but it’s clean.

At days end, you’ll be in Pokhara and staying in a clean and comfortable hotel in the Lakeside area. This is the nearest thing to a resort in Nepal. The main road is full of all types of shops and restaurants so enjoy it as tomorrow you’ll be in the mountains!

Next day we fly to Jomsom. Weather is always a problem in the mountains and it might just be that we judge it easier & quicker to take a jeep up the Kali Gandaki Gorge. The gorge separates the major peaks of Dhaulagiri (8,167 m/26,795 ft) on the west and Annapurna (8,091 m/26,545 ft) on the east. If one measures the depth of a canyon by the difference between the river height and the heights of the highest peaks on either side, the gorge is the world’s deepest. At it’s deepest it’s 5571 metres lower than Annapurna 1. The river is older than the Himalayas and, surprisingly, runs north to south cutting through the main backbone of the Himalayas. This region is known for shaligram fossils, revered as one of five non-living forms of Lord Vishnu. These fossils are readily purchased in Pokhara and ……… well, discover for yourself! All I’ll say is that they are fascinating!
If we choose to take a jeep,  then the drive is not to be underestimated. It’s dangerous due to the poor state of the road.

Threshing barley in Mustang

Threshing barley in Mustang

The Trek.

At Jomosom, we start trekking north through the police and army checkposts, where your expensive permit will be checked. Still heading north we trek into the mysterious Kingdom of Mustang, which is still presided over by a royal family and where the Bon religion is still widely practised alongside Tibetan Buddhism. In fact Bon was widespread in Tibet before the takeover of Buddhism in the 7th century.
The landscape of Mustang is an arid high altitude desert and mainly treeless. It is desolate, subtly colored and hauntingly beautiful. The landscape is interspersed by  towns and in the spring by green crops cultivated by irrigation channels.

The culture is more akin to Tibetan but without the disastrous Chinese influence. It’s been described as ‘more Tibetan than Tibet’. It feels remote and it is remote but it’s not immune to the modern world. A new ‘road’ is being built through Mustang to Tibet.

Most trekking companies will take you up and straight back along this road. We aim to take a more circuitous route up to and back from Lo-Manthang, the capital of Mustang, camping all the way. The trek avoids the road as much as possible but does use it for part of the time.

Interestingly, as it is beyond the Himalayan divide, there is no monsoon and the spring and summer months are the best time to visit when the colours of crops and vegetation are vivid on the desert. In winter it’s bitterly cold and many people head south to escape it.
Please ask for exact route details.

Mustang horse

Mustang horse

Duration.

This trek is 13 days plus 6 days rest, administration and travel days within Nepal. International travel is extra, so it’s a longer trip than many. Any flight in the Nepal Himalayas is subject to delays due to bad weather so you are advised to buy a flexible ticket for your international flight. In other words think about leaving a few days spare, especially at the end.

We also run a trek up to Lo-Manthang and return the same way, staying in basic lodges all the way. This takes 12 days plus other days, as above.

Costs:

The 13 day circuitous camping trek costs £4280 for two people. Five persons would cost £9580. This is including everything, apart from your international flight and hotel and meals in Kathmandu for three nights and two nights in Pokhara. We can advise on hotels etc.
It is possible to extend this trek by five days to go up to Damodar Kunda which is a lake visited by pilgrims in September. Also it is feasible to go from Damodar Kunda over several high passes into the Manang valley and then back over the  Tilicho Lake to Jomosom. This is a real adventure trek and rarely done by anyone. Please ask for details.

The 12 day trek staying in lodges is £2985 for two people. Five persons would cost  £6840. Extras as above.
On this, we take a tent, just case the lodges are full so you can then camp outside of the lodge. You will still eat in the lodge.

Unfortunately the Nepali government charge US$500 for a permit to enter Mustang and we pay that for you in Kathmandu as part of the package.

This doesn’t includes staff tips. These are poor people, so please bear that in mind. I always give 12%.

This doesn’t include your international flight, extra days, etc.

More details from Steve Climpson via the contact form or phone 01256 895600.

We are thinking of running a photographic trek with the renowned Nepali photographer, Mani Lama. Mani was brought up alongside the Mustang Royal family and was educated in America. His photographs of Mustang and indeed of the rest of Nepal evoke a sense of timelessness, a connection between the land and its people.

Please ask about this unique trip.

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