I do not know from where to begin. Everything about this trek has been wonderful. I stumbled upon Upper Mustang while I was planning a trip to Tibet. It did not cross my stupid, ignorant mind that such a place could exist in my own country. After seeing some pictures and reading few blogs, I completely changed my plan and decided to go for a trek to Upper Mustang instead.
Choosing the destination came easy but the real tough part was to find a female guide to take me there. I really couldn’t trek there myself as I won’t know where to go (am bad with directions or maps). Plus, my poor parents needed some assurance that I will be safe and have not fallen in love with a guide. I guess it happens more often than you would think. More than that, being a woman I wanted to support fellow women. After a lot of searching, I found a very sweet lady to take me there.
I don’t think words or pictures will give justice to this mystical kingdom that once used to be a part of Tibet and was only open to outsiders since 1992. Because of its isolation and geographical location, this area still retains much of the Tibetan culture and language. Here is my photo journey to this forbidden land full of myths and stories about demons, gods, and spirits. It felt more like entering a storybook. [Warning: It will take a while to scroll through all these pictures. If you are press on time, come back next time]
Day 1: Kathmandu – Pokhara
Probably, one of the best tourist bus to go to Pokhara from Kathmandu. It includes a stopover at Riverside Resort for lunch. Worth the price!
Day 2: Pokhara – Kagbeni
Bus driver checking to see if our bus can go through this old rickety bridge
Voila! It made it. Of course, we all got off the bus. You will also see a tractor stuck in the middle of the river bed from where our bus was supposed to go through.
Day 3: Kagbeni – Chele
The moment you touch Upper Mustang, you see the change in the landscape. Long gone the green pastures and the snow capped mountains.
And, then there are these huge rocky hills which look like someone carved into it. Also, any green spot is pleasing to the eyes.
The village of Chele is beautiful with probably around 200 inhabitants. Every household in this region has stacks of wood on the rooftop. As wood becomes quite scarce in this region, the quantity and quality of wood on the rooftop shows how prosperous one is.
Thenktup–homemade Tibetan noodle soup. Yummy and the only food picture that I got.
Day 4: Chele – Syangmochen
It all started at 7:15 with a nice uphill and lot of pictures on the way
A stopover at this cute village, Samar, for tea around 9:30 AM
Then, it was uphill to one pass (4,200m, I think), then down and up to cross another pass (3,800m). I thought I was done only find out I have to go down this hill all the way to the river and climb a bit more to get to Syangmochen–the camp for the night. Dizziness was what I was feeling by then with hunger taking over every part of my body.
We did this detour to stop by this ancient cave, Chungsi, where Guru Padmasambhav/Rinpoche meditated in the 8th century. It was beautiful inside with stone carved statue of goddess Tara, Guru Padmasambhav, Ganesha, and few others.
And, finally, at 2:30 PM we were at this little village, Syangmochen, with only two tea houses/hotels–not many options to choose from.
Day 5: Syangmochen – Ghami
Trek to Ghami was much better than the day before
That green patch area on the left is Ghami. I love these hills with a different color rock formation all around.
Ladies picking up rocks on the road to make a community toilet.
Day 6: Ghami – Tsarang
This is the longest mani wall of the Himalayas–200m. It is believed that the intestine of the demon killed by Guru Rinpoche/Padmasambhava fell here and turned into this wall. All these stories of Gods and demons made me feel like I have stepped into a storyland.
Almost to Tsarang. Look at those beautifully carved hills!
Climbed this earthquake damaged Royal Palace (Scary, cracked everywhere) that was used by Mustangi King till 1440 to see a real hand of a human (I don’t think it is real, though!) and …
..to get a bird’s-eye view of this gorgeous 12th-century monastery
Having tea inside the kitchen of our lodge and our lovely cook
Day 7: Tsarang – Lo Manthang!
Love love these chortens along the way
Yaeeeee…almost to Lo Manthang! Do you see it??
This walled city is the capital of the forbidden Buddhist Kingdom of Mustang. The kingdom used to be a part of the Tibetan empire and due to its close proximity with Tibet, Tibetan culture and language is still very prominent here.
Lo Manthang library–I can totally spend some time here
People chilling outside in the evening and gossiping away..
They are having fun..
Day 8: Lo Manthang – Chosser caves
Hired a horse (not sure why; could have walked) to see…
…these sky caves. Do you see those holes? The 5-storey 40+ rooms caves were used by Tibetan Khampa warriors 1000 years ago as a hideout when China invaded Tibet.
And, this is the view from one of the holes.
Also, got to go inside this amazing cave monastery.
Roaming around L0 Manthang…
I love these little alleys…more below
Isn’t this beautiful?
last one, I promise…
2016 Cosmetic Shop – This shop will be expired by 2017, I guess.
Day 9: Lo Manthang – Ghar Gompa – Dhakmar
The rain overnight brought some snow to those high hills. The walk this day was long as well (7 AM to 4 PM with 2 hours break in-between) but totally worth it.
Stopped by Ghar Gompa–the oldest Tibetan monastery in the world built in the 8th century
Inside the monastery…these wall arts were simply amazing
And, stopped by the monastery tea shop to have some noodles. That’s my guide!
While these little monks were chanting the prayers,
we also enjoyed some milk tea, khapse, and tsampa (Tibetan snacks) made by these friendly ladies at the monsatery
Dhakmar–our camp for the night! The reason only these cliffs are red is because it is believed when Guru Rinpoche killed the demon, its blood was spattered here. Sure, why not! I will take this story.
Day 10: Dhakmar – Chele
Another super long day crossing probably two passes, walking through the rain, and trails like this with loose sand (I am afraid of these kind of trails)
My monster bag, still heavy! Even after I have reduced/consumed, almost, 2 kgs of food along the way. I now know how to pack for the next trek.
Day 11: Chele – Kagbeni
It was another long day to get to Kagbeni with the strong wind blowing against you. When I saw the village of Kagben, I jumped with joy!
People on a pilgrimage to Muktinath doing pooja for their ancestors
Told you…I love little alleys
Not really sure who this guy is but he is there standing and displaying
Day 12: Kagbeni – Muktinath – Marpha
Took a super fast shower on this 108 taps with icy holy water at Muktinath temple……brrrrr. It should wash away all my sins, I hope
As we enter Lower Mustang, the mountains become so much closer and we also get to see some green pastures around.
The village of Marpha, probably, one of the prettiest village with white brick houses and maroon-colored windows and doors.
Day 13: Marpha – Kalapani
The plan was to take a bus from Marpha to Pokhara. But, the public transportation drivers decided to have a strike on that day for the hike of traffic ticket prices. So, instead of staying at Marpha, we decided to walk to Kalapani. Another 6 hours walk – a piece of cake! Also, look at the greenery now.
This chicken is cold. Looks like it is trying to warm itself up!
Day 14: Kalapani – Pokhara
And, so, we took the bus from Kalapani to Pokhara. Luckily, we got good seats but these people stood for about 10 hours all the way to Pokhara on this windy/bumpy road. Hats off to them!
Day 15: Pokhara – Kathmandu
I tried to be a cheapo and took another bus back to Kathmandu for half the price. It was the worst mistake everr!! The driver would only occasionally turn on the AC, and we got stuck on the highway, due to an accident, for about four hours. The driver, finally, stopped at this hotel for lunch at 3 PM, which had horrible expensive food. And, to recover for the lost time, he drove recklessly for the rest of the trip. Do NOT ever travel with Reef Travels. Never ever!