Two amazing villages to visit before it is too late
Lo Manthang in Upper Mustang and Nar Phu villages in the north east corner of Manang are two villages that has special features that enthusiastic travelers love to visit in their life time. Both villages were very much secluded until the end of last century. These areas still remained controlled for foreign visitors. To enter Mustang the permit cost US$500 for 10 days and US$75 for Nar Phu. And you got to be in a group of minimum 2 persons.
Unlike earlier days now the access is much easier due to road that has reached almost closed to these destinations. The road to Lo Manthang is actually not a road. It is virtually carved out of the flat land of the plateau in the north. Every year in the beginning of summer local people make motorable path by shuffling stones and big boulders of the river bed through the narrow gully in the lower section.
The road from Pokhara to Beni that is stretched through Kaligandaki valley is in operating condition throughout the year except in monsoon season the flood may disrupt part of the road. The road goes all the way to Muktinath and beyond Kagbeni towards Lo Manthang. There is no road to Nar and Phu valley but the main road through Marsyangdi river valley has reached Manang. These are fair weather road. In winter it is not feasible and in summer (during monsoon rain) there is no guarantee if the road remains in operating condition.
In upper Mustang the jeep and truck can still ply through rough condition. It is indeed an adventure to take ride in one of the jeeps or trucks that ply the roads. The road has opened the regions for easy access to basic need and trade. In due time as the road becomes better its effect will be seen in the transformation of the unique culture these two villages has so far maintained. Now the trek logistics, schedule and duration can be modified to suit trekker’s requirement to visit the fascinating land. Visit this charming land and villages now so you can say later that I did the trek then when it was different and interesting. These are the sentiment expressed by old time trekkers who had done Annapurna Circuit trek when there were no road and easy access.
Lo Manthang – 14 days
Trek Start & End at Jomsom with flight from Pokhara
Trip Duration: 14 day all Inclusive trek package
Trip Grade: Moderate
Maximum Elevation: 3950 meter at Nyi La (pass)
Trip Cost: from US$2230 per person
Highlight: It is one of the best destinations to see the culture and geographical landscape that are similar to Tibetan plateau. You travel in high altitude regions without too much concern about high altitude sickness. The weather in summer and monsoon season is perfect in this once forbidden kingdom. We travel on foot to Lo Manthang (3730m), capital of Mustang and return back to Jomsom (2750m) using diversion trail. The trail is not so tough. A good leg is just enough! You would enjoy the adventure in an instant that took Giuseppe Tucci, Michael Peissel and Tony Hagen not less than 3 weeks to travel to this old magic kingdom.
Features The forbidden land of Mustang has been opened to limited number of foreign visitors. Lo Manthang, capital of Mustang, is located north of the main Himalayan chain between the snow-capped mountain on the east and west. It is part of Nepal that has jutted inside Tibet. We cross the dull, dusty, barren and high passes (average 3200m) on foot to reach the enigmatic land. The weather is generally dry throughout the year. Most of the historical sites and villages are located in the valley at the elevation of 3300 to 4000 meter.
We take a scheduled flight to Jomsom. It is one of the remote mountain airstrip. As you ascend to higher elevation you come across patches of green vegetation on the western side of Mustang and in places where small rivers flows down from Mustang himal. It is amazing to see the landscape that keeps changing with the light of the sun. The panoramic view of Nilgiri and Damodar himal are in the south and in the east you will see dull and gray rolling hills spreads towards Tibetan plateau.
At Lo-Manthang you will find the houses and monasteries enclosed in the fortress. We visit some of the major villages around Lo Manthang that has historic gompas (monasteries) and caves. At the monastery at Tsarang (3620m) we can see valuable fresco painting on its walls. There are several caves used by people long time back. Historian and archeologist believe that human civilization of Mustang dates back to 800 BC. Indeed Mustang is totally another world.
People of Lo-Manthang are called Lobas. Their surname is same as that of Bista and Gurung ethnicity of middle hills but their way of life and cultural practice is typically of Tibetan. Many of them have two names – one is Hindu and other is Buddhist. The land and people can still mesmerized anyone like it did to Tony Hagen, a Swiss geologist, Giuseppe Tucci- an Italian scholar, and a French adventurer – Michael Peissel who traveled to Mustang in between 1952 to 1962. Little has changed since then. This kingdom was closed for foreigners for about 3 decades. It was opened for tourist only in 1991. Since then the government have allowed only limited visitors. This old salt trading route of the Trans Himalayan region is bound to change dramatically in due course of time when a proper road from the north is eventually linked to Jomsom.
Nar & Phu Village in Manang – 18 days
Trek Start at Syanje & End at Jomsom with flight to Pokhara
Trip Duration: 18 day all inclusive trek package
Trip Grade: Strenuous
Maximum Elevation: 5335 meter at Thorang La (pass) T
Trip Cost: From US$2380 per person
Nar ((4110m) and Phu (4080m)villages is located off the Around Annapurna main trekking trial en-route to Manang (3540m). It is surrounded by Peri Himalaya to the north, Gangla and Gangru Himal to the east and Damodar Himal to the west. The villages are situated at the altitude of 3820meter. Being nestled inside the valley it is less windy but the lands are dry. Perhaps late Prof. David Snellgrove, a renowned Tibetologist, is the first westerner to have visited these villages in his Himalayan Pilgrimage. Their spoken dialect is different from Manang and Tibet. Most of the houses are two-story with the entrance from the top. There are three Buddhist monasteries. Phu is located at the upper end of the valley. As in high mountain area people of the Nar and Phu descends to warm region from December to February. People of Nar have closer relationship to Manang. Unlike people from Manang they do not trade widely, rather concentrate to nearby areas in the south. The Gurungs of Lamjung use the lamas of Nar- Phu as they believe they are expert therefore they have great influence.
The villages were lost around 1960 at the advent of Khampas (Tibetan warrior) until 1975. Khampas made their actual presence from 1964 and lasted until they were driven out of Nepal entirely. They wages insurgency operation in Tibet after Dalai Lama escaped to India. The Khampas were powerful than the local so they dominated the villages. Actually the valley was a secure place for them. The valley was opened to foreigners with special permit in 1985. Since then the lost village was opened to the outside world. Though it is in close proximity to Lamjung in the south yet for central administration it is beyond their outlook post. In many aspects Manang dominated every aspects of Nar Phu though at later stage Lamjung exerted their influence as people of Nar Phu detested superiority exhibited by Manang. That is also one reason for the oblivion condition that isolated them from the rest and deprived of the development benefits happening around them. They have not been able to get out of their entrenched social clutch and the valley that surrounded them.
Occasional visitors were climbers. They go to climb Himlung Himal (7126m) to the east on the border with Tibet (China) of Phu and Kanguru (6981m), east of Nar. French expedition to Kanguru in 2005 had met a big climbing disaster due to avalanche that happened near Meta. In 2009 another climbing disaster happened at Himlung due to unexpected avalanche. Technically both peaks are challenging than most trekking peaks.
The valley is also approachable from North West from Mustang through the high pass at Thorila (5529m) and Saribung La. These are not regular route used by the people of Nar and Phu. However, climbers liked to cross this pass after climbing Saribung peak (6327m). Most trekkers visiting Nar- Phu liked to cross Kang la (5306m) to reach Manang via Humde (airport) and Braga on the other side of the valley. Other interesting places in this region are visit to Tilicho Lake (4920m) and climb trekking peaks like Chulu West, Chulu East and Chulu Central. Pisang peak (6091), a training peak of Nepal Mountaineering Association, is also very popular.
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