Upper Mustang Trek
The Upper Mustang, also known as the Kingdom of Lo, existed as an independent state as early as the 5th century, but was absorbed into Tibet in the 7th century. Later it achieved a degree of independence and became an important centre of the Sakya sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Ame Pal (1380-1450) founded a dynasty that has survived until the present day, even as the country was integrated into Nepal in the 18th century. The present king, Jigme Palbar Bista, the 25th after Gyalpo Ame Pal, was born in 1930 and is still regarded as the king by the people of the Upper Mustang – population about 6,000.
The inhabitants of Mustang are culturally a Tibetan people, speaking the Tibetan language and following Tibetan Buddhism. The Mustang was a closed area until 1992. Permit fees are high at $500 for 10 days to travel in the region so not many foreigners go there. Those that do discover a beautiful landscape and a traditional way of life, architecture and art so enthralling that it cannot be forgotten!
We did this trek in October of 2013. The trip started with a flight from Pokhara to Jomson, which can be a challenge on any given day due to early morning fog in Pokhara and high winds that start around noon in Jomson each day! As a result many flights are cancelled. However, we got in to Jomson on our first try and we began trekking shortly after our arrival. We made our way up the valley alongside the Kali Gandaki (river) for several days until we reached Lo Montang – the old walled city. This area is a high desert so the vistas are spectacular throughout the whole journey. There are many villages along the way and some very old monasteries. I recall seeing one monastery that was built in the 8th century. This trip reaches an elevation of ~ 4,200 meters so is a relatively easy trek for most reasonably fit people. We normally camp in tents on our treks but this trek could easily be done staying in teahouses – that are becoming more numerous these days. There is an apple industry in the lower part of the valley which seems to be growing. A word of warning though, stay far, far away from the so called apple brandy……