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Mustang - page 4

Tsarang gateway stupa

North of Kagbeni lies the restricted area of upper Mustang. To trek here, you need to travel with an organised trekking group and to have purchased the permit in Kathmandu. More often than not, you will be accompanied by a Special Forces Police Officer since the area is still deemed to be politically sensitive. For those trekkers who do go, all these careful preparations only serve to make the trip even more of an adventure. North of Kagbeni lies the restricted area of upper Mustang. To trek here, you need to travel with an organised trekking group and to have purchased the permit in Kathmandu. More often than not, you will be accompanied by a Special Forces Police Officer since the area is still deemed to be politically sensitive. For those trekkers who do go, all these careful preparations only serve to make the trip even more of an adventure.

The best way to travel to Lo Monthang is by horse. The local breed is hardy and well acclimatised to the altitude, and being the only form of transport other than feet in the whole region, is the subject of much admiration and pride. The royal family of Mustang own some of the best horses: the crown prince himself has a trekking agency based in Kathmandu, known as Royal Mustang Excursions, and fortunate trekkers get to ride on these choice steeds.

Tsarang

En route to the magnificent walled capital of Lo Monthang, there are many other wonders in store for those who venture into side valleys. One of the most breathtaking is the Luri cave temple, cut into the rock as the name implies. The approach is steep and rocky, but well worth the extra day hike. Every one of the villages along the main trail is beautiful and different. Gompas, stupas and other sacred sites abound in settlements such as Tangbe, Samar and Tsarang, but this spiritual voyage is only complete once you have seen the three temples in Lo Monthang itself. The 50ft tall image of “The Coming Buddha”, or Maitreya in Sanskrit, dominates the Jampa gompa and is one of the largest statues of its kind in Nepal.

Trail to Monthang

The rulers of Mustang have always been patrons of the Buddhist faith, and in about 1425, the first great king of Lo, Amepal, founded the city and commissioned a 108-volume of the Buddhist scriptures in gold and silver as well as the painting of the gompa’s walls. The frescoes can still be seen today whilst the only remaining gold and silver book is now in the king’s private chapel. In the great halls of Thubchen gompa, the pillars are well over 30ft high and the bright murals that still adorn the walls are currently being restored by artists and experts both from Nepal and the West.

Monthang
 

In short, Mustang continues to be a place of deep spirituality and fascination. Beautifully illustrated coffee table books with panoramic photos abound, with such titles as Mustang—the Forbidden Kingdom; East of Lo Monthang; Mustang - A Lost Tibetan Kingdom and Himalayan Pilgrimage, each of them extolling the virtues of the area. If you are interested in Buddhist art and culture and want to walk through Himalayan history, Mustang remains the perfect destination. With the Tibetan plateau in your sights and the wind in you hair, it is the trek of a lifetime. ||

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