Mustang; Walks in the Forbidden Kingdom12 - 29 August, 2019

Nepal
Trip Dates:
12 - 29 August, 2019
Trip Price: £3180 excluding international flights
Trip Length: 18 days

Locked away in the wilderness of the Himalayas lies the secret, ancient kingdom of Mustang This is a spectacular land whose history and culture are steeped in ancient customs and traditions. There are few places left in the world where time is measured not in minutes but according to the rate at which crops grow in the spring and fruits ripen in the autumn. The trek passes through open valleys, deep ravines, desert canyons, grasslands with white-walled villages and ancient cave homes all set against the magnificent backdrop of the soaring snow-capped Himalayan peaks. Dr Ramble will show that Mustang is a cauldron of myth and even today with modernity creeping in, it still provides a taste of authentic Tibetan culture.

Historically the Lo-pas – as the inhabitants of Mustang are known – generated income by taxing the traffic in salt between Tibet and India. Around 1380 the powerful leader, Ama Pal, gained control of the salt trade, united the country and seceded from Tibet. Ama Pal brought the civilizing influence of Buddhism to his subjects and by the 15th century Mustang had earned the reputation as a centre of artistic and creative excellence. With China’s invasion of Tibet, borders with Mustang were closed, forcing the Lo-pas to become self-sufficient. Its political and geographic isolation has protected its Tibetan culture and Mustang remained quite pure and largely ‘unbruised’ by Chinese occupation. 

 

After two nights in Kathmandu and one in Pokhara, fly to Jomsom on a spectacular flight path that loops around the Annapurna range. Begin walking north from Jomsom to Mustang’s southern border at Kagbeni. Continue on along the Kali Gandaki River through one of the deepest gorges in the world, the Great Himalayan Breach. The high peaks of the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri ranges, only 22 miles apart, tower more than three miles above the river bed. Through this narrow gorge blasts a wind from the plains sculpting the walls of Mustang’s upper valley into organ-pipe cliffs, below which huddle white-walled riverside villages. 

Like Mustang’s 22 other villages, Tetang is self-sufficient and the terraced fields are irrigated by hand. Spend one night at the village of Chele where the surrounding bare hills are streaked with red and yellow beyond which stretches a dust-colour plateau with snow-capped peaks in the distance. From here the route climbs quite steeply to Samar considered the wettest and greenest place in Mustang. The last stop before Lo Manthang is the village of Tsarang, situated in a maze of fields, willow trees and houses separated by stone walls at the top of the large Charang Chu canyon. 

The first view of Lo Mantang, the capital, is of its two great gompas and the King’s palace rising prominently above the town’s walls. Visit the Chamba Monastery which contains the world’s largest collection of 15th century mandalas and a golden Buddha nearly 50 feet high. In Thugchen Monastery, wall paintings from the 15th century depict classical figures of Buddhist deities and carved lion-heads look down from the tops of wooden columns. Enjoy spectacular dawns and sunsets on this endless sea of mountains - it is a world of silence, shadows and spirits.

This trek, classified as Moderate, does not require special technical abilities and will involve about five – eight hours of walking per day over uneven and in places steep ground. The highest altitude that the party will reach is 3,930 metres. Accommodation throughout the trek is in lodges, which offer very simple and basic accommodation. Though some lodges on the trek such as those in Kagbeni and Jomsom will have enough rooms to accommodate the whole party, other lodges are much smaller and the party will probably need to be divided amongst more than one lodge and guesthouse. These lodges are at best functional and travellers will need to share bathrooms with very basic showers often driven by solar power which offer a very erratic water supply both in terms of flow and temperature. We may not be able to provide single travellers with single rooms in some of these lodges. Walkers will only need to carry day packs (cameras, notebooks, water, etc) as porters will carry the rest of your equipment, baggage etc.

 

Maximum Party Size: 16

Trip Leader: Zara Fleming

Zara Fleming is an art historian, exhibition curator and lecturer specialising in the art and culture of Buddhist countries. Initially based at the Victoria & Albert Museum, she has also worked with the Central Asian Department of Bonn University, the Orient Foundation and Asia House.

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Mustang; Walks in the Forbidden Kingdom Trip Comments:

‘Zara excelled in patient, clear explanations of what we were seeing and their historical, religious and political background’
‘This holiday was one of the most memorable I’ve ever had. Nepal and its people were fascinating and the excellent standard of leadership and organisation allowed us to appreciate it to the full. Thank you.’
‘This was an excellent trip which I thoroughly enjoyed and would not have missed for anything! Zara was an excellent leader, informative, caring and sensitive with a great sense of humour. An ideal choice!’  
‘I would like to thank you for organising such an amazing and memorable trip. All the arrangements worked perfectly – flights, hotels, cars, guides, buses, etc -  and the trip itself was fascinating, spectacular and all utterly memorable.’