GHT | Sky Caves + Last Nomads of Upper Mustang to Nar Phu (Teri La) - Nepal Exploratory!

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'Mustang is a center of the sky, the middle of the earth. The head of all rivers where horses grow swift.'
- Sienna Craig, author of 'Horses Like Lightening'

This year we've added a twist to our already off-the-beaten-path trek into fabled Upper Mustang, trekking out of Upper Mustang via the remote Teri La pass to reach the fortified Tibetan villages of Nar and Phu, tucked away in a beautiful valley on the eastern side of the Annapurna Circuit.

We trek through the ancient Kingdom of Lo (Upper Mustang) with a 17 day Upper Mustang permit, hiking along the Kali Gandaki, the deepest river gorge in the world. Our unique Mustang trek is a timeless, breathtakingly beautiful journey through a hidden Tibetan Buddhist enclave, until recently forbidden to foreigners. Taking the most remote routes, we venture deep into the realm of the last nomads of Mustang (perhaps Nepal), still living their traditional migratory lifestyle with yaks, sheep and Pashmina goats on the high Mustang plateaus bordering Tibet.

Sculpted canyons and fantastic rock formations, medieval villages, ruined fortresses, royal palaces, unexplored Neolithic cave complexes, Tibetan Buddhist gompas and snow-peaks characterize this spectacular region, a thumb sticking up into the Tibetan plateau. Upper Mustang and its walled capital, Lo Manthang, is a remote and starkly beautiful region, home to Buddhism as well as the remnants of the older, mystical Bon religion. Mustang was first explored by a handful of intrepid Himalayan travelers and pilgrims in in the 50s and 60s, and we continue in their spirit of exploration. We journey along some of the least known routes to the more isolated villages in this sun-drenched region, often following the rocky Kali Gandaki river-bed, other times trekking on spectacular trails high above it, and descending through marvelously sculpted and multi-hued gorges.

We'll trek along the eastern, winter route from Lo Manthang and explore the forgotten 'sky-caves' (some we're some of the only Westerners to visit) as well as the now-renown Luri Gompa and Tashi Kabum, filled with some of the most exquisite murals of the Tibetan Buddhist world and dating back to ancient times. We stop and camp at some of Mustang's most far-flung villages, like Dhe, Ghara, Yara and Tangge, having salt-butter tea and battering for locally-woven textiles with the villagers.

The exploratory Teri La route to Nar Phu is wild and spectacular, a trek along ancient trade routes and thorugh grazing pastures to the Nar Phu valley just off the Annapurna Circuit. Nar Phu was recently opened to foreigners, and sees fewer trekkers than many of Nepal's trekking regions. The inhabitants are ethnically Tibetan, traders of old, and have lived an isolated existence for centuries. Phu is an intriguing fortified village perched on a hill at the intersection of many glacial valleys and backed by high Himalayan peaks, and Nar is a fascinating and busy village of slightly more modern 'Bhotias', or Nepali Tibetans. Both are stunningly beautiful.

Don't miss this incredible GHT journey through some of Nepal's most stunningly beautiful + remote regions!
17 Day Upper Mustang Permit

Trip

Day 1 - Wednesday, 1 May 2018 - Arrive Kathmandu
Day 2 - Kathmandu
Day 3 - Fly Pokhara
Day 4 - Fly Jomsom. Drive Tetang
Day 5 - Trek Samar
Day 6 - Trek Zaite | Visit Chungsi Caves
Day 7 - Trek Dhakmar
Day 8 - Trek Nomads Camp | Visit Lo Gekar
Day 9 - Lo Manthang | Visit Monasteries
Day 10 - Lo Manthang | Visit Chosar Valley + Sky Caves
Day 11 - Trek Sam Dzong
Day 12 - Trek Yersa Nomads Camp
Day 13 - Trek Canyon Camp
Day 14 - Trek Ghara
Day 15 - Trek Yara | Visit Luri Gompa + Tashi Kabum
Day 16 - Trek Tsarang
Day 17 - Trek Tangge (Mustang Group Drive Jomsom)
Days 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23 - Trek Teri La to Nar - Exploratory!
Day 24 - Nar
Day 25 - Trek Kyang
Day 26 - Trek Phu
Day 27 - Phu | Explorations
Day 28 - Trek Meta
Day 29 - Trek Koto
Day 30 - Drive Bandipur | The Old Inn
Day 31 - Drive Kathmandu
Day 32 - Saturday, 1 June 2018 - Trip Ends

Add Ons | Per Person
+ Kathmandu World Heritage Sightseeing Tour | Pashupatinath, Boudhanath + Swayambunath (+$75)
+ Kathmandu Durbar Square Walking Tour | Durbar Square (+$50)
+ Bhaktapur Heritage Sightseeing Tour (+$100)
+ Patan Heritage Sightseeing Tour (+$50)
+ Extra Day Chitwan (+$125)
+ Everest Sightseeing Flight (+$250)
+ Everest Sightseeing Helicopter Tour (+ $Inquire)
+ Shivapuri Heights Cottage (+ $Inquire)
+ Cycling Trip in Kathmandu Valley (+Trip Price)

Chitwan National Park | Maruni Sanctuary Lodge
Chitwan + Tharu Villages Wildlife Safari
+ Upgrade to Tharu Lodge Chitwan (+$300 Per Room)

Nepal Modules
Nepal & Kathmandu Modules | Customize Your Trip!

We strongly recommend keeping an extra day post-trek in Kathmandu in case of flight delays out of Jomsom. Make sure you have good travel & travel medical insurance

Highlights+Reviews

Trip Advisor Reviews

Client Comments
I have done numerous treks in the Himalayan region over the last 25 years, and I would rate Kamzang Journeys at the top of my list for trekking companies. Excellent service, attention to detail, great food, good equipment, friendly and competent staff. We had far more snow than normal on our March-April trek, and alternate plans were made while sticking as much as possible to the original itinerary. The crew went above and beyond to help us get where we wanted to go. Pay attention to the trip description. They travel to out of the way places and take the more difficult route - on purpose!
- Kate C (USA), Sky Caves & Last Nomads of Mustang Trek 2015

I must say that on reflection there was a lot more that I got out this trek than I initially realized. We faced many challenges due to unseasonal weather but Kim and Lhakpa always found a way to get us where we needed to be. Kamzang Journeys provides a unique experience that is backed by professionals who go out of their way to make the trek as exciting and enjoyable as possible. Would really recommend Kamzang Journeys to anyone who is looking for a great Himalayan experience!
- Greg W (Australia), Sky Caves & Last Nomads of Mustang Trek 2015

Thanks again for the absolutely spectacular trip, and hopefully we won't delay nearly as long next time in making our way back to Nepal!
- Anne P (Canada), GHT | Nar Phu to Upper Mustang Trek 2014

Mustang is a must with Kim! In 2013 I was lucky enough to trek with Kim through the upper mustang region of Nepal. This was my second trip to Nepal but my first with Kamzang Journeys. Kim and her talented crew created a welcoming and safe environment to explore the upper mustang region including the highlight of visiting the last nomads in Nepal. Kim's organisational skills and connections in the region insured any unforeseen circumstances were dealt with humour and a minimum of fuss. I will never forget this experience and look forward to many years of trekking with Kim and Kamzang Journeys. Kim, Thanks to you & Lhakpa for the fantastic adventure you gave us! You kept us safe and gave us memories that will stay with us forever. I had so much fun and so many laughs, a Kamzang adventure!
- Sue W (Australia), GHT | Nar Phu to Upper Mustang Trek 2013

I did the Upper Mustang Trek in 2011 and the Upper Dolpo to Mustang Trek in 2012 with Kim and her outstanding crew, and am going back again this coming April. 
Kim is truly professional, reliable, safe and very organized. Kim and Lhakpa's knowledge of these remote countries make you feel so relaxed that you just enjoy the scenery everyday. They also know the people in the different villages we go through. At camp the food is excellent, clean and gear is top. 
It is an incredible experience!
 - Nan (France), Sky Caves & the Last Nomads of Mustang Trek 2011, Sacred Upper Dolpo to Mustang Trek 2012

Thank you for making this trip one of the most memorable ones in my lifetime. You have been a friend when I needed one, a leader when the group needed one, an impeccable organizer and a great conversationalist. I marvel at your unlimited energy.
- Shivan M (USA, India), Sky Caves & Last Nomads of Mustang Trek 2011

Read More Testimonials
Trekkers' Comments

Trek Highlights

  • Remote Nar Phu's fortress villages
  • Wild & remote Teri La route to Tangge & Upper Mustang
  • A unique insight into 'Old Tibet'
  • The most removed of Mustang's medieval, colorful villages
  • Camping with Tibetan nomads & their yaks and sheep in their high plateau camps
  • 'Sky-cave' monasteries with exquisite murals
  • Luri Gompa & Tashi Kabum
  • Fortresses, palaces & cave hermitages
  • Tibetan Buddhist monasteries
  • Incredible sculpted valleys and wild rock formations
  • Classic scenery of the high Tibetan plateau
  • The Kali Gandaki gorge & fossil collecting
  • Our secret Mustang...

Kim Bannister Photo Gallery | Trip + Trek Photos
Kim Bannister Photography

Kamzang Journeys | Country + Regional Photos
Kamzang Journeys Photos

Kamzang Journeys Group Photos
Group Photos

Himalayan Photos
Himalayan Wildlife Photos

Himalayan Bird Photos

Himalayan Flower Photos

Market + Street Food Photos
Asian Markets + Street Food

Travel Reading | Enhance Your Trip!
Travel Books

Articles + Videos on Mustang

Kamzang Journeys Upper Mustang | Colin + Pauline's Blog

Myths & Mountains in Nepal | New York Times

Last King of Mustang Dies at 86 - My Republica

Last King of Remote Buddhist Kingdom Dies in Nepal - Indian Express

Before They Pass Away (Photos) | Jimmy Nelson

Sky Caves of Nepal | National Geographic

Cave People of the Himalaya | PBS

Mustang: Lives & Landscape of the Lost Tibetan Kingdom (photo essay) | Global Oneness Project

New Death Ritual Found in Himalaya | National Geographc

Mustang, a Kingdom on the Edge | Al Jazeera

Mustang, a Kingdom on the Edge (YouTube) | Al Jazeera

The Ancient Mysteries of Mustang's Caves | BBC

Himalayan Art | Mustang Cave Art

Nepal Diary: A Gift of Sight Expedition

Buddhists, Reconstructing Sacred Tibetan Murals, Wield Their Brushes in Nepal | New York Times

Earth Door Sky Door - Paintings of Mustang by Robert Powell | Asian Art

Modernizing Mustang

A Fortress in the Sky: The Last Forbidden Kingdom of Tibetan Culture (Photo Essay) | Washington Post

Foreign Correspondent: The Road | ABC

Himalayan Healers | Nepali Times

Mustang, the Kingdom of Lo (exerpts from Kamzang Journeys)

Documentaries + Movies on Mustang
Secrets of Shangri La: Quest for Sacred Caves | National Geographic | Leisl Clark (Director)
YouTube Download
YouTube Preview

Mustang: Hidden World Beyond the Himalaya | Ghang-Tuk Tsokpa Film (available in Kathmandu)
YouTube Preview

Online Articles on Nar Phu
Nar Phu | ECS Magazine
Into Thin Air | How to Spend It

Date+Price

2018 Dates
2 May - 2 June
32 Days

2018 Trek Price
$5480

+ Single Upgrade Hotel Rooms - $165
+ Single Upgrade Pokhara, Jomsom + Kagbeni Hotel Only - $65
+ Single Upgrade Luxury Hotel Rooms - $495
+ NO Single Supplement for Trek (Single Tents!)

Includes

  • Kathmandu Guest House - Kathmandu
  • Lakeview Resort - Pokhara
  • The Old Inn - Bandipur
  • Western + Sherpa Guide | Kim + Lhakpa Sherpa
  • Upper Mustang Permit
  • Annapurna Conservation Area Permit
  • Nar Phu Permit
  • Hotels En Route to Trek
  • Group Transportation by Private Vehicle
  • Airport Transfers
  • Domestic Flights + Departure Taxes
  • NO Single Supplement on Trek
  • Kamzang Journeys Trekking
    Marmot (or similar Western) tents, 'gourmet' food with seasonal, fresh produce, French-press coffee, chai, Kashmiri + herbal teas, Katadyn filtered drinking water, warm washing water, library, 'lounge' with colorful Indian rugs, camp chairs, blankets, occasional tent music in evenings, oxygen & PAC bag (when needed), full medical kit, horses, yaks or porters, Western, Sherpa & local guides (when needed), our 5-star Kamzang staff + the signature yellow Kamzang dining tent. NO single supplement for single tents on trek!

Safety & Health Precautions

  • Thuraya Satellite Phone
  • InReach Satellite Messaging System (Free Texts on Trek)
  • Updated Route Published on InReach Site
  • Helicopter Evacuation Services (excluding cost of evacuation)
  • Oxygen Saturation Monitoring System
  • PAC Bag (Portable Oxygen Chamber)
  • Full Medical Kit + Stretcher
  • Kayadyn Filtered Drinking Water
  • Safe, sanitary, delicious & plentiful food + drinks

Excludes

  • International Flights
  • Travel Medical + Travel Insurance (both required)
  • Nepal Visa
  • Helicopter Evacuation
  • Meals (while not on trek)
  • Monastery Donations
  • Equipment Rental
  • Alcohol, Sodas & Packaged Drinks
  • Laundry
  • Tips

Tips & Extra Cash
Allow approx $250 for meals (while not on trek), drinks (on trek) and tips. We recommend $300 per trekker thrown into the tips pool for the crew.

Contact+Details

Trekker's Comments
Travel Books

Kamzang Journeys Contact
Kim Bannister
kim@kamzang.com
Mobile: +(977) 9803414745
On-Trek Satellite Phone: +88216 21277980 (Nepal)
On-Trek Satellite Phone: +88216 21274092 (Tibet & India)

Kathmandu Contact
Khumbu Adventures
Office: +(977) 01 4488352
Lhakpa Dorji Mobile: +(977) 9841 235461, 9813 371542
Doma Mobile: +(977) 9841 510833, 9803 675361

InReach Explorer
We have a MapShare page that works for sending emails to our InReach messaging device. Give this link to people who want to follow us and have them send us a message so we have their email in the system. We can email them back directly Please tell people not to expect updates every day. There is a ‘message’ button on the top left, and the message sender needs to put their EMAIL address instead of phone number to get a response. Messages are free, enjoy.

Follow Us on Facebook
Kamzang Journeys Facebook
I will post InReach updates to our Kamzang Journeys Facebook page if friends & family want to follow our progress.

Satellite Phone
We carry a satellite phone with us for emergencies. Send us a free message at the online Thuraya link below. We can call you back or email you back. If you want a return call or email include your contact info. You can send this in two SMSs if needed.
Kim Satellite#1: +88216 (21277980) – Nepal
Kim Satellite #2: +88216 (21274092) – Tibet + India (2 choice Nepal + ONLY if permitted in Tibet + India)
Lhakpa Satellite: +88216 (87710076)
Thuraya

Arrival Hotel
Kathmandu Guest House

Kathmandu Guest House Single or Double Upgrades | 3 Nights
Garden Single - $75
Deluxe Single or Double - $300

Kathmandu Guest House Extra Nights
Includes breakfast + 25% taxes
Book with Kamzang Journeys + save on room rates

Kathmandu Guest House | Room Prices
Standard Single - $80
Standard Double - $100
Garden Single - $120
Garden Double - $140
Deluxe Single - $200
Deluxe Double - $220

Kamzang Journeys | Room Prices
Standard Single - $55
Standard Double - $65
Garden Single - $75
Garden Double - $85
Deluxe Single - $135
Deluxe Double - $145

Extra Days in Kathmandu | Customize your Journey!
We have plenty of great suggestions for extra days, or weeks, in Nepal! See our Nepal & Kathmandu Modules | Customize Your Trip! to put together the perfect journey.

Mountain biking, rafting, vespa tours or yoga retreats around the Kathmandu valley or Pokhara, trips to Bhaktapur or Patan (Kathmandu Valley's other historic capital cities), a visit to the Newari temple of Changu Narayan and a night at the Fort Hotel in Nagarkot for sublime Himalayan panoramas, an Everest sightseeing flight, a luxurious stay at Temple Tree Resort & Spa, paragliding, hiking or zip-lining in Pokhara, a spa & wellness getaway at Dwarikas Resort in Dhulikhel, a relaxing excursion to Chitwan National Park Wildlife Safari & Tharu Villages (staying at Maruni Sanctuary Lodge) or Bardia National Park, a weekend of adventure, sauna and pampering at The Last Resort or five-star treatment in historic Dwarika's in Kathmandu.

Kamzang Journeys can customize any of these excursions for you, just inquire!

Kathmandu
Kathmandu Happenings

Photo Gallery | Trip + Trek Photos
Kim Bannister Photography

Visas
You can get your Nepal visa either at the airport (or any land border) when you arrive in Nepal, or before you leave home.
Nepal Visa

Health Information
Nepal Health Information
CDC

Medical
We have a full medical kit with us including Diamox (for acclimatizing), antibiotics, inhalers, bandages, re-hydration, painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs etc. but please bring a supply of all prescription and personal medications. Kim has First Aid, CPR and Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certifications as well as many years of experience with altitude in the Himalaya but is NOT a qualified medic or doctor, so please have a check-up before leaving home, and inform us of any medical issues. This is for YOUR OWN safety.

DO bring all prescription medications and good rehydration/electrolytes. We advise bringing your own Diamox, Ciprofloxin, Azithromyacin & Augmentin. We have all of these with us but the Western versions are always better than the Indian equivalents.

PAC Bag + Oxygen
We carry a Portable Oxygen Chamber, or Gammow Bag, with us on many treks. There is no charge for use of the PAC bag but oxygen is $300 per canister (cost price, pass on to insurance company).

Notes on Itinerary
Although we try to follow the itinerary below, it is ONLY a guideline based on years of experience trekking in the Himalaya. At times local trail, river or weather conditions may make a deviation necessary; rivers may be impassible, snow blocks passes, and landslides wipe out trails. The trekking itinerary and campsites may also vary slightly depending on the group's acclimatization rate or sickness.

The Himalaya are our passion, and we take trekking seriously. Although everyone is here on vacation, please come with a dollop of patience and compassion added to your sense of adventure ...

Arrival Kathmandu

Arrival
You will be met at the airport by the Kathmandu Guest House van or our Kamzang Journeys driver. Look for a sign with your name on it AND the Kathmandu Guest House sign. You will be driven to the Kathmandu Guest House (or the hotel of your choice) where your rooms have been booked for you. Kim will meet you at the Kathmandu Guest House to go over details and get you settled into Kathmandu.

Arrival Hotel
Kathmandu Guest House

Visas
You can get your Nepal visa either at the airport (or any land border) when you arrive in Nepal, or before you leave home.
Nepal Visa

Temperatures + Clothing
Kathmandu during trekking season, in the spring and autumn, is usually warm (t-shirt, sandals, light pants or skirts) during the day, and gets chilly (light fleece or windproof top) in the afternoon. Nights can be cold enough for a sweater or light jacket, or warm enough for t-shirts. Summer is hotter and wetter; you’ll need a rain jacket and umbrella. The winter months (November – March) are chilly in the mornings and evenings, cold enough that you might start the day in a down jacket, but often warms up enough to wear a t-shirt by mid-day. Nights get cold enough for a down jacket if you’re sitting outside in the spring and autumn, and much colder in the winter when you won’t leave the hotel without your down jacket. It never snows in Kathmandu, leave your snow boots behind. Keens or lightweight sandals great for wandering around Kathmandu, and for trekking in lower altitudes.

Trekking is a mixed bag of temperatures. LAYERS are the key as hot can change quickly to freezing crossing the passes and snowfalls are common. We often have some rain below 3000 meters in the spring and early autumn, and it can rain hard in the summer. Have a wide range of layer-able trekking clothes for summer to winter temperatures. Keep a lightweight down jacket or synthetic jacket with you at all times, available inexpensively in Kathmandu. A lightweight rain poncho and umbrella for trekking recommended spring and summer. Be prepared! See our GEAR LIST for full details on gear, shoes, clothing, electronics and meds for the trek.

There are lots of real gear shops (North Face, Mountain Hardwear, Marmot, Sherpa Gear) and of course many fake ones in Kathmandu, so if you don't think you have the right gear starting the trip it will be easy to pick-up stuff once in Kathmandu. We have sleeping bags, duffel bags down jackets to rent.

Dress conservatively in Kathmandu and on the trail as a rule. Shorts are okay if they aren't too short, mini skirts aren’t recommended. Sleeveless t-shirts are absolutely fine, but perhaps avoid tank-tops on the trail. Super tight doesn't go over so well with the village elders. Many of the younger generation in Nepal wear modern Indian or Western-influenced clothes, but remember that you haven't signed up for a beach or surf vacation. Use your good judgment, be an ambassador for western tourists! Please ask Kim or your guide if unsure about appropriate clothing.

Duffel Bags
We have North Face style duffel bags with Kamzang Journeys logos for sale (XL, orange). They are (mostly) waterproof, mid to lightweight (lighter than North Face) and good quality. Price 4000 NRP (about $40)

Cultural Issues
Nepalis are very open and welcoming, but there are a few issues you should be aware of to make your stay in Nepal more fulfilling. Use your right hand to pass things, shake hands or do most anything. Left hands are somewhat taboo. Nepali's often place their left hand on the right forearm when passing things to others, a sign of respect. Best not to pat kids on heads, or point feet ahead of you at monasteries. Don't walk over someone's legs or feet, but put your hand down in front of you to signal them to pull their legs to the side. Take off shoes and hats when going into Buddhist monasteries and Hindu temples, don't use flashes inside monasteries or temples in general, be respectful of a puja (prayer ceremony) if attending one. You can talk, all religious are very tolerant, but be aware of your level of voice.

Nepalis don't anger quickly, so try not to raise your voice if exasperated or angry as it only will make a situation worse. Do bargain at shops, with taxis and rickshaws, but don't fleece them. They are poor and making a living, generally.

Give small donations on the streets if you choose, but try not to encourage begging too much. Be aware of who you are giving money to, and please only give small amounts. If you do want to donate to a cause, ask about our Kamzang Fund or other responsible organizations.

Pampering Yourself in Kathmandu
We’re happy to book your rooms before or after the trek (or upgrade during the trek) at other boutique or luxury hotels in Kathmandu. We recommend Dwarika’s, Shangri-La, Yak & Yeti or Hyatt. We can also direct you to wonderful spa & massage centers in Kathmandu.

Tips for Staff
We recommend at least $200 per person to go into the tip pool for the staff. Please bring Nepali Rupees (NRP) with you on the trek for the tips. It’s nice to buy the staff drinks on the last night. Or any other night that you feel like getting them a bottle of Kukure Rum!

Tips in General
Tips are always appreciated but they don’t need to be extravagant. 100 NRP to carry bags to/from your room is fine. The women who clean your room will be happy with 100-200 NRP when you leave, and 100 NRP is good for drivers to/from the airport. Round up taxi fares. A larger tip would be expected for a daytrip in a car, perhaps 500 NRP. 10% is included in most restaurant and hotel bills in Nepal, and if it’s not included it’s still expected. Check your bills, and still round up at restaurants. Feel free to give out small change to the beggars in the streets (5, 10, 20 NRP) but try not to give it out to the street kids who use it for glue to sniff.

Cash + ATMs
You’ll want some cash with you on the trek for drinks, snacks, beer, sodas, etc. There are often  chances to during the trek, and usually local crafts to buy en route. (You’ll want your tip money in NRP as well). There are ATMs in KTM but they don’t dispense large amounts of cash (usually 10-20,000 NRP) so you’ll be best with currency or TCs to change.

International Medical Center Kathmandu
CIWEC

Kathmandu + Kathmandu Valley Information
Our personalized 'Insider' list of things to do, places to go, what to visit, the most happening restaurants + the best hotels in Kathmandu and the beautiful Kathmandu Valley.
Happenings in Kathmandu

Gear List

Travel Photography Gear Guide
The Complete Guide to Gear for the Landscape Photographer

Gear List
This is a guideline, not a bible, for the gear you will need on the trek. Ask if you have questions! One 15 kg (33 lbs) maximum weight limit for the duffel bag for flights. 20 kg (50 lbs) weight limit for treks.

  • Duffel Bag
  • Day Pack (35-45 L)
  • Sleeping Bag (-20F/-30C recommended)
  • Down Jacket
  • Trekking Boots
  • Air Mattress
  • Crocs (evenings & washing) 

  • Hiking Sandals | Running Shoes (REQUIRED for river crossings)
  • Trekking Pants (2-3)
  • T-Shirts (3)
  • Long-sleeve Trekking Shirts (2-3)
  • Trekking Jacket
  • Gortex (or similar) Jacket & Pants
  • Fleece or Thermal Top (evenings)
  • Fleece or Thermal Bottoms (evenings)
  • Lightweight Long Underwear (to sleep in or layer under clothes)
  • Socks (5)
  • Gloves (lighter & heavier for passes)
  • Wool Hat
  • Baseball Cap or Wide-brimmed Hat
  • Camp Towel
  • Trekking Poles (optional, recommended)
  • Down Booties (optional, recommended)
  • Sunglasses (2)
  • Water Bottles | Nalgenes (2-3)
  • Bladder (optional, recommended)
  • Toiletries, Sunscreen with SPF, Lip Balm with SPF
  • Watch (with alarm)
  • Extra Batteries
  • Battery Chargers
  • Head Lamp 
(2)
  • Yak Trax (for treks with icy passes)
  • Water Purifying Tablets, Small Water Filter or Steripen
  • Camp Washing Bowl (optional, collapsible for clothes)
  • Laundry Detergent (Kathmandu) or Bio-degradable Clothes Soap
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Small Solar Panel (optional, recommended for iPods, iPhones, camera batteries, Kindles)
  • Book(s)
  • Zip-Lock | Plastic Bags
  • Soft Toilet Paper | Tissues (we supply toilet paper but you will want something softer for blowing your nose)
  • Baby-Wipes | Wet-Wipes (for personal cleaning)
  • Handi-Wipes, J-Cloth or Chux (optional: easy for a quick daytime clean, fast drying)
  • Rehydration | Electrolytes
  • Snacks!
  • Personal Medical Supplies

NOTE: We have a 'dress code' for the evenings in the tent, which essentially means you'll be changing out of your trekking clothes and into clean, dry evening clothes!

Medical Supplies
We strongly suggest bringing Western meds with you as there are a lot of Indian fakes on the market!

Suggested: Diamox, Azithromyacin, Ciprofloxacin, Tinidazole or Flagyl & Augmentin. Bring COMPEED for covering blisters & good tasting electrolytes &/or rehydration salts (Emergen-C is a good American brand). The local versions aren’t very appealing.
We also recommend bringing strong knee & ankle supports & braces, ACE bandages for sprains & strains, Tegaderm &/or other would coverings. Duct tape is always useful. We're happy to take excess medical supplies off your hands when you leave if you won't need them and pass them on to others. We use lots of the large amount we have with us to treat locals as well as our own trekkers ...

NOTE: We have a 'dress code' for the evenings in the tent, which essentially means you'll be changing out of your trekking clothes and into clean, dry evening clothes!

Comments on Gear
Layers are essential for trekking. Quality is more important than quantity. It’s worth investing in the great, newer lightweight trekking gear available in all gear shops, online or in Kathmandu.

Kim's Gear Suggestions: I generally wear a trekking t-shirt, light trekking pants, a mid-weight shirt, a lightweight synthetic jacket (instead of a fleece), a lightweight jacket and pants for wind and rain. If the weather looks stormy or it’s a pass day I carry a lightweight down jacket and a storm-weight jacket. I always have a pair of lightweight gloves (heavier ones additionally for pass days), a hat, a baseball cap and an extra pair of socks in my day-pack. I generally trek in low Merrill hiking shoes, and Keen boots on very cold days and over passes. I always carry Crocs with me in case of river crossings, or to air my feet at lunch. I carry a 38 L (although it looks larger) Black Diamond day pack although I also love Osprey packs. On pass days I carry Yak Trax and trekking poles, and I always have an extra pair of sunglasses, electrolytes, my camera, a medical kit, a Steripen, snacks and lots of water in my pack. My favorite gear brands available in Kathmandu are Sherpa Gear, Mountain Hardwear and Marmot. I wear lots of Patagonia gear although it's not available in Kathmandu.

Good trekking boots are essential. High boots are best, but you don’t need climbing or plastic boots (for mini-crampons or micro-spikes). You can also get away with low, sturdy trekking boot, which I wear quite often except for over the passes. Trekking poles are not required but strongly recommended, especially for going down passes which are often steep and icy and for treks with river crossings. Bring gators if you tend to use them but they’re not required if you don't own a pair. Micro-spikes (mini-crampons) or YakTraxs are almost always useful (or essential) for the pass crossings. We will have at least one ice ax with us. It’s also good (possibly essential) to have a pair of plastic Crocs for washing and to wear in the lodges in the evenings. Tevas take a long time to dry and are relatively heavy.

Good, polarized sunglasses are essential. Do bring an extra pair. Don’t forget a sun hat and/or a baseball cap, an extra headlamp and have plenty of sunscreen and lip balm with SPF!

The weather is changeable in the Himalaya, so again I recommend that everyone has a strong, WATERPROOF duffel bag for the trip (although they do tend to weigh more). We supply covers that go over the duffel bags to protect them from rain, dirt & rips.

Nights are chilly to cold, so a down jacket and a WARM sleeping bag are essentials. For your sleeping bag, we recommend a DOWN bag of 0 to -20 F (-18 to -28 C). Mine is -20 F. At lower altitudes I open it and sleep under it like a quilt and up higher am toasty warm during the cold nights. Campsites near passes can get COLD. Rentals available. The dining tent is a Tibetan style ‘yurt’, with blankets and camp chairs on the ground. It warms up in the evenings with the gas lamp but it is still important to have warm clothes for the evenings. I always use down booties which are great when it’s cold, but a pair of thick wool socks also work.

Bring extra large plastic bags or stuff-sacks in case of rain. You can pack electronics in them or stash your sleeping bag and clothes. The weather is changeable in the Himalaya, so again I recommend that everyone has a strong, WATERPROOF duffel bag for the trip. We supply covers that go over the duffel bags to protect them from rain, dirt & thorns.

Tents
Everyone gets their own Marmot Thor 2 tent without a single supplement. Singles have a 2-person tent and couples share a larger, 3-person version.

Daypack
We recommend a 35-45 liter daypack (ask at your gear shop if you’re not sure of the capacity). Better to have it too large than too small as on pass days you’ll need to carry more warm gear. Most have internal water bladders built in, which are good for ensuring that you stay hydrated. Make sure it fits and is comfortable before purchasing!

In your daypack, you will be carrying your camera, 2 liters of water, a jacket, wind & rain pants, hat, gloves, extra socks, sunscreen, snacks, electrolytes, water purifying tablets, filter, or Steripen, hand sanitizer, a pack-cover and often a down jacket. I slip my Crocs on the back in case of unexpected stream crossings or for lunch. Lhakpa & I carry small medical kits in our daypacks.

Water
We bring KATADYN expedition-sized water filters along on the trek for fresh drinking water, ecologically the best way to get water in the Himalaya’s fragile trekking regions. Bring your own filter pump, Steripen/UV purifier or iodine/chlorine tablets for fresh water while trekking. NOTE: To be extra safe with your drinking water, you can drop one purifying tablet into your water bottle after filling with our filtered water. Make sure you wait the required amount of time before drinking, and don’t add anything with Vitamin C as this negates the iodine.

Please bring at least TWO (and better three) Nalgene, Sigg or other unbreakable plastic/metal water bottles. Camelbacks and other bladder systems are good for trekking but can leak, so as a back-up it’s best to also bring a Nalgene or other water bottle.

NOTE: We do not provide boiled water for drinking on either our tea-house/lodge or our camping treks although there is endless hot water for herbal, black or green teas, hot chocolate, hot lemon as well as Indian chai and Kashmiri tea.

Snacks
You will NEED snacks hiking at altitude, even if you’re not a snacker. People crave unusual foods at altitude!  Energy bars, ‘GU’ gels, chocolate bars, dried fruit & nuts, beef jerky (or whatever) are important to have along for long days, pre-lunch bonks and passes. Lemonade mix, Emergen-C or similar drink mixes are great to have for hot days in your water bottles, and it is ESSENTIAL to bring electrolytes with you every day.  

Bring something to share in the tent in the evenings if you want. Cheese is great as a treat on a cheese-board before dinner (Blue, Stilton, Yarlsburg, good Cheddar, Brie, etc). If you would like, bring a bit of your favorite and we’ll throw it on a cheese board for appetizers one night.

NOTE: Nothing besides your personal snack food is required, but it’s fun to see what everyone comes up with!  Almost all basics available in Kathmandu, so no need to over-load.

Rentals
We have Western down jackets to rent for $1.50 per day.  We also have good super-down sleeping bags to rent (0 to -10 F) for $2.50 per day.

Duffel Bags
We have North Face-style duffels with Kamzang logos for sale, L & XL. They’re very good quality and come in Yellow (L) for $35, Orange (XL) for $40 or Orange (XS) for $30.

Packing & Storage
It’s easiest to pack and unpack from a duffel bag, especially when the temperature drops, and easiest for porters to carry. Inexpensive and decent quality duffels are available in Kathmandu but it’s best to invest in a strong, waterproof duffel such as a North Face. You can store extra gear in Kathmandu at the Kathmandu Guest House storage room free of charge. Valuables can be stored at the Kathmandu Guest House in private safety-deposit boxes for 2 NRP per day.

Shopping
Almost all gear is now available in Kathmandu, from real (North Face, Mountain Hardwear, Sherpa Gear, Marmot shops in Thamel) to inexpensive knock-offs. The real gear shops take credit cards.

Nar Phu+Mustang

Mustang
Formerly the Kingdom of Lo and a part of the Western Tibetan Kingdom of Ngari, 'forbidden' Mustang has lured intrepid travelers to its remote realm for centuries, but only the most adventurous made it to this mountainous and inaccessible bastion of Tibetan Buddhism and its mythical walled city of Lo Manthang.

People have inhabited this harsh region for thousands of years, some of the early dwellers living or meditating in ancient caves, rich in Buddhist art, which pepper the bizarre rock formations. Mustang became part of the Yarlung Dynasty of central Tibet, later falling under the jurisdiction of the Malla Kingdom of Nepal (Jumla) and in the fifteenth century, the independent Kingdom of Lo was founded, ruling such other remote regions as Dolpo. It was only incorporated into the Kingdom of Nepal in 1951. Soon afterwards, renegade Khampa freedom fighters battling the Chinese used Mustang as a base of operations, and it was closed to all Westerners until 1992.

There are 9 sacred kabums, or cave monasteries, in Mustang, and an estimated 10,000 caves. Ka = 'teaching of Buddha' & bum = 'rimpoche'.

This mythical land north of the 8000 meter peaks Annapurna and Dhaulagiri still requires a special restricted area permit to enter, and numbers are limited, thus helping to preserve its unique heritage.

A Short History of Mustang

  • 7th century: Mustang was part of the Tibetan empire, and the mystic Milarepa spent a summer here in 651.
  • 11th century: Upper Mustang had followed the Bon religion, based on a cult of royal tombs and sacrifices. Upper Mustang was visited by masters from southwest Tibet. Lo was ruled by kings of western Tibet, and Buddhism was reestablished.
  • 13th -14th century: In the 13th century a Kashmiri scholar from Tibet, Sherap Rinchin, visited Mustang and translated 5 texts of the Tengyur. During the 13th & 14th centuries, Mustang was ruled by kings of Guntang in Tibet and protected by the fort in Muktinath. They had close ties with the Sakya sect of Buddhism in Tibet, which had the patronage of the Yuan dynasty in China. The fortresses may have been built to protect Mustang against the rulers of Jumla.
  • 14th century: There had been a practice of creamating 1/2 dozen men alive whenever a man died until the 14th century, which was put to an end along with the slaughter of animals. The Tibetan governor of Guntang's son, Chokyongbum, reconquered the western Tibet region of Purang (1380s) and gained governorship of Purang Fort (Barang?), presiding over Lo & Dolpo.
  • 14th - 15th century: Chokyongbum's son Ampel extended Lo's rule to include Purang & western Tibet. Lo gained independence from Guntang and gained an important fortress at Khacho.
  • 15th - early 17th century: Mustang went to war with Tibet in the 15th century. Mustang was called the Kingdom of Lo, and then dominated the salt trade along the Kali Gandaki River and throughout the Tibetan region . It was a wealthy and powerful region.
  • 17th century: Mustang was forced to pay levies (taxes) to the Kingdom of Jumla and came under their extended Kingdom.
  • 1795: Jumla was defeated by the Gorkhas and the Kingdom of Lo (Mustang) transferred its allegiances to Gorkha, which by then was the capital of a unified Nepal.
  • 1855: Lo supported Nepal against the Tibetans. The King of Nepal thus allowed the King of Mustang to keep his title of 'Raja of Mustang' although he had little politely power.

Birdlife
Hill and rock pigeons, crag martins, rose finches, pied wagtails, rock buntings, black redstarts, impeyan pheasants, grandala, snowcock and white-capped river chats, Himalayan griffin, lammergeiers, golden eagles (and many more).

Wildlife
Snow leopards, black bear, marmot, lynx, black wolf (chango), Himalayan wooly hare, blue sheep, red fox, pikas (and more).

Caves + Murals
"Mustang, the former Kingdom of Lo in northern Nepal, is home to one of the world’s great archaeological mysteries. In this dusty, wind-savaged place, hidden within the Himalayas and cleaved by the Kali Gandaki River, are approximately 10,000 human-built caves. In the mid-1990s, archaeologists from Nepal and the University of Cologne began exploring the stacked caves and found several dozen bodies, all at least 2,000 years old. Since then, groups have continued to investigate the remote Upper Mustang site, but no-one has discovered who built the caves."

"From Tombs to Homes. Scientists divide cave use in Upper Mustang into three periods. As early as 1000 BC, the caves were used as burial chambers. During the 10th Century, the region is thought to have been frequently battled over, and consequently, placing safety over convenience, families moved into the caves, turning them into living quarters. By the 1400s, the caves functioned as meditation chambers, military lookouts or storage units as people moved into villages.”

"In 2010, a team of mountaineers and archaeologists uncovered 27 human remains in Samdzong’s two biggest caves. The relatively intact skeletons – dating from the 3rd to the 8th Centuries, before Buddhism came to Mustang – had cut marks on the bones. Scientists believe that this burial ritual may have been related to the Buddhist practice of sky burial: to this day, when a citizen of Mustang dies, the body is sliced into small pieces, bones included, to be swiftly snatched up by vultures."

- Excerpts from The Ancient Mysteries of Mustang’s Caves, BBC

“In the 1990s, a high Himalayan cave in Upper Mustang, Nepal was discovered to contain 42 ancient people, buried on wooden bunk beds. American archaeologist Dr. Mark Aldenderfer believes there must be more burial caves … (His) theory is the funerary caves were carved out by the earliest people to have settled in the Himalaya. If he can find their remains and extract their DNA, he'll learn who these people were and what brought them to the toughest parts of the planet to live.

A series of burial caves are discovered above the riverbed, with human remains spilling forth from dangerously eroding caves … (They) recover bones from a total of 27 individuals: adult men, women, adolescents, even infants, along with their goats, cows and a horse. Wood inside the caves provides the clue that bunk beds must have housed the bones at one time.

Upon cleaning and taking painstakingly detailed observations of each bone, Eng discovers that 63 percent of the bones have cut marks on them, clear evidence of defleshing! Aldenderfer's quest takes an unexpected turn toward the macabre as he begins to trace the mortuary practices of Himalayan peoples, including the distinct sky burial rituals of the people of Upper Mustang today, where they cut up the flesh and bones of their dead and offer them to birds of prey. Could this modern practice, which dates back to the eighth century, be somehow related to the early peoples found with cut marks in Mustang's caves? Aldenderfer thinks so. Carbon dating reveals the cave people were from the 5th century. Their practice of defleshing bones was likely a precursor funerary ritual that eventually led to the development of what is known as sky burial by ethnically Tibetan peoples today.

Another cave tomb discovery, however, reveals to Aldenderfer that Mustang was home to a mosaic of cultures, all practicing different means of disposing of their dead. This cave has no bunk beds and there's no evidence of cut marks on the skeletal remains. (He) discloses that the dead were put into pits with multiple layers of sticks and stones. By analyzing the ceramics inside the burial cave, Aldenderfer concludes that the people interred inside date to approximately 1000 BC. This culture, likely different from the defleshed peoples found a little further north, was one among many, Aldenderfer believes, that traveled along Upper Mustang's Kali Gandaki River Valley trade route. Aldenderfer's cave people and their differing mortuary practices prove that the Kali Gandaki was a major trade artery connecting migrating people, their goods and their evolving funeral rituals with the well-traveled and highly influential Silk Road, further to the north.”

 - Excerpts from National Geographic Special: Cave People of the Himalaya, produced by National Geographic Television & Liesl Clark, Sky Door Films

Kim Bannister Photo Gallery | Trip + Trek Photos
Kim Bannister Photography

Kamzang Journeys | Country + Regional Photos
Kamzang Journeys Photos

Nar Phu
The Nar Phu valleys combines high peaks and passes, glaciers, remote villages, narrow canyons, lovely forests, amazing rock formations, yaks, gompas and two remote Tibetan villages (Nar & Phu). The inhabitants are Lama, Gurung and Ghale, all ethnically Tibetan. There are 5 gompas (monasteries) in Nar, and 3 in Phu, a large number for such a small valley; many of the lamas are 'ngakpas', or practitioners of the mantras, who may live as a householder rather than a monk.

Two long days of walking from the border of Tibet, this region was first explored by Tillman in the 1950s. Closed to trekkers until late 2002, few westerners have explored these virtually untouched villages or climbed the many 7000m peaks surrounding it. Along with spending plenty of time at these colorful and timeless villages, we explore the high alpine valleys above Phu (including Himlung Base Camp for those who want to), and then from Nar cross the Kang La to Ngawal on the upper Pisang route leading back into the Annapurna circuit.

Itinerary

Day 1 - Arrive Kathmandu 1340m
You'll be met at the airport by a representative from your hotel who will have a sign with your name on it. Transfer to your hotel where your rooms have been booked for you.

The Kathmandu Guest House and Kantipur Temple Home are located in the hub of Thamel, a myriad of banners, signs, music shops, bakeries, internet cafes, restaurants, bars, hotels, shops of all imaginable varieties and eccentrically clad backpackers. Dwarika's is an oasis of calm near the airport. Relax by the pool, visit the spa and enjoy the historic and serene surroundings, dining at one of their world-class restaurants. Yak & Yeti is just off Durbar Marg, a tree-lined, upscale road of shops and hotels. Shangri La is in Lazimpat, just a few kilometers outside Thamel and features a lovely garden and outdoors cafe.

We'll need your travel medical insurance, a copy of your passport and Nepali visa and one (or more) visa-sized photo, so have them ready to give to your guide.

Day 2 - Kathmandu
Enjoy a free day to explore Kathmandu's many World Heritage sites, to decompress at your hotel or the spa, to head out shopping or to embark on a tour of the Kathmandu and the beautiful Kathmandu valley, surrounded by Himalayan snow-peaks.

Kathmandu | World Heritage Sites (Optional Tour)
Kathmandu is filled with World Heritage sites and sacred destinations, crowded with traditional neighborhoods and colorful festivals. Spend a few days exploring Nepal's exotic capital and the history-laden Kathmandu valley. We can arrange sightseeing guide, vehicles and guides as required. See Kathmandu Heritage + Happenings for more details.

We recommend beginning with Pashupatinath in the early morning, and moving on to Boudhanath mid-morning. Hindu Pashupatinath on the sacred Bagmati river and its sacred temple complex is one of Nepal's most important sites, a powerful cremation site and Nepal's most important Hindu temple. Here, monkeys run up and down the steps of the burning ghats, and trident-bearing saddhus draped in burnt-orange and saffron sit serenely meditating, when they’re not posing for photos-for-rupees. Local guides can explain the significance of the complicated ceremonies. Please be respectful when taking photos.

Boudhanath, in the midst of traditional monasteries (gompas) and hung with long strings of multi-colored prayer flags, attracts Sherpas, Tibetans and tourists alike for daily circumambulations (koras) of the iconic stupa. The striking Buddha eyes of Boudhanath Stupa watch over a lively and colorful Tibetan community and attract pilgrims from all over the Himalayan Buddhist realm. There are wonderful spots for lunch at Boudhanath (Roadhouse Cafe has wood-oven pizzas and a breathtaking view of the stupa and colorful Nepals circling it), and it's a good place to learn the technique of thanka painting and purchase a thanka (Buddhist mural). See also Bhaktapur for more options for shopping for thankas.

Wander through the many temples, pagodas, courtyards and the museum at Kathmandu Durbar Square, a timeless gathering spot and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Kathmandu Durbar Square, including the old royal palace, is Kathmandu's 'Palace Square', a showcase for the world renown artisans and craftsmen of Kathmandu and a synthesis of Hindu and Buddhist palaces, temples, stupas and statues. The Malla and Shah kings ruled over the Kathmandu Valley during the centuries of the building of the layers of this Durbar Square. Along with their opulent palaces, the square surrounds numerous courtyards and temples, all works of art with intricate and often erotic carvings. Kathmandu Durbar Square is known as Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square, a name derived from a statue of Hanuman, the monkey devotee of Lord Ram, at the entrance of the palace. The social, religious and urban focal point of the city, Durbar Square is often the site of festivals, marriages and other ceremonies such as Teej. Some important structures are Hanuman Dhoka Palace, Kumari Ghar (Abode of the Living Goddess), Taleju Temple, built between the 12th and 18th centuries, the 17th century stone inscription set into the wall of the palace with writings in 15 languages.

In the evening (take the interesting back streets from Durbar Square) climb the many steps to the gilded Swayambhunath stupa (known as the monkey temple) which rises from the Kathmandu valley floor at 1420 meters and is one of the holiest Buddhist sites in Nepal. . Swayambunath, the 'self created’  stupa, was founded over 2000 years ago at a time when the Kathmandu valley was filled by a large lake, with a single lotus in the center. Mythology says that Manjusri, a bodhisvatti, drained the lake with one cut of his sword and the lotus flower was transformed into the stupa. From its commanding views of Kathmandu, circumambulate Swayambunath's white-washed stupa, painted with distinctive Buddha eyes, the complex a unique synthesis of Buddhism and Hinduism. Another interesting time to visit Swayambunath is in the mornings, when Nepalis visit the temple dedicated to the God of Smallpox to with colorful offerings for the goddess.

Stop to photograph reflections in Kathmandu's many pokhari's, or ponds, including the beautiful Rani Pokhari (queen's bath) near New Road, and the Naga Pokhari (pond of the snake gods of the underworld) just beyond the palace gates. The many bathing ghats, square enclosures with steps leading down to water spouts, often decorated with naga heads, are also interesting and colorful gathering spots.

Kathmandu World Heritage Sightseeing Tour | Pashupatinath, Boudhanath + Swayambunath (+$75)
Kathmandu Durbar Square Walking Tour | Durbar Square (+$50)

Day 3 - Fly Pokhara 800m
We start the day with a short but scenic flight to Pokhara, 198 kilometers west of Kathmandu, flying above the rivers flowing down towards the Terai from the Himalaya and Tibet. We look down on terraced villages and green hills, with the Ganesh, Langtang, Manaslu and Annapurna ranges in the distance, and land in balmy, sub-tropical Pokhara. We stay at the lovely Lake View Hotel with a cafe overlooking the lake. 

Enjoy the afternoon; wander the shore of Phewa Lake, drink fresh juice, do some shopping, or sit and relax at the hotel with a book. We'll head to Moondance Cafe for dinner and drinks in the evening, an atmospheric restaurant just near the hotel.

Day 4 - Fly Jomsom 2720m. Drive Kagbeni 2900m + Tetang
Up early for our spectacular mountain flight to the district headquarters of Mustang, Jomsom. Once on the ground at one of the world's most scenic airstrips on the planet we are greeted by the sound of jingling horse bells as the Mustangi people pass by with their pony caravans. From the airport we have a fantastic panorama of Himalayan peaks: to the far west, Dhaulagiri, followed by Annapurna South, Hiun Chuli with Annapurna I in back, the sacred Machhapuchhre (Fishtail), Annapurna III, Annapurna IV, Annapurna II, Lamjung Himal, Himlung Himal and perhaps, on a clear day, Manaslu, Peak 29, Himal Chuli, Boudha Himal and Ganesh Himal to the distance to the far east.

After sorting out gear and loading our horses we drive up the windy Kali Gandaki valley to Kagbeni. The wide trail along a sandy, saligram-filled riverbed provides views of the surrounding peaks of Dhaulagiri, Tukuche and Niligiri, and to the south the entire Annapurna Massif. Kagbeni, spectacularly situated atop a cliff overlooking the confluence of the Kali Gandaki and the Jhong Khola rivers, is the last village in Lower Mustang and guards the entrance into Upper Mustang, visible across the Kali Gandaki riverbed. It is an oasis of green, patchwork fields in the midst of rocky, arid mountains, with Niligiri looming grandly behind it. This ancient, partially ruined citadel town provides us with a taste of scenes to come in upper Mustang, with its narrow alleyways and tunnels, irrigation canals, green fields of barley and its massive, newly-restored brick-red Sayka gompa, 800 years old. We'll also wander past the ancient, crumbing, 100-room King's Palace. At the police check post at the north end of the village where a sign reads 'Restricted area, tourists please do not go beyond this point', we will complete our paperwork to enter Upper Mustang!

Back in the jeeps, we drive a another 2 hours to Tetang, where our staff has set up our first campsite!

EDITS COMING

New Route!
Day 5 - Trek Samar
Day 6 - Trek Zaite | Visit Chungsi Caves
Day 7 - Trek Dhakmar
Day 8 - Trek Nomads Camp | Visit Lo Gekar
Day 9 - Lo Manthang | Visit Monasteries
Day 10 - Lo Manthang | Visit Chosar Valley + Sky Caves
Day 11 - Trek Sam Dzong
Day 12 - Trek Yersa Nomads Camp
Day 13 - Trek Canyon Camp
Day 14 - Trek Ghara
Day 15 - Trek Yara | Visit Luri Gompa + Tashi Kabum
Day 16 - Trek Tsarang
Day 17 - Trek Tangge (Mustang Group Drive Jomsom)
Days 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23 - Trek Teri La to Nar - Exploratory!
Day 24 - Nar
Day 25 - Trek Kyang
Day 26 - Trek Phu
Day 27 - Phu | Explorations
Day 28 - Trek Meta
Day 29 - Trek Koto
Day 30 - Drive Bandipur | The Old Inn
Day 31 - Drive Kathmandu
Day 32 - Saturday, 2 June 2018 - Trip Ends

OLD ROUTE

Day 3 - Drive Dharapani 1860m
After breakfast you'll have an early start for the long, scenic drive from Kathmandu to Dharpani. The first section of the road to Besi Sahar follows the Trishuli River on the Kathmandu Pokhara highway, soon turning northeast to follow Marsyangdi River to Besi Sahar, (760m), a long, dusty town which used to be the start of the Annapurna Circuit trek. From here we'll have a more adventurous drive up the Marsyangdi on a 4WD road to Jagat, past Chamje and on to Dharapani where you'll spend your first night in one of Nepal's famous lodges, or 'tea-houses'. Showers are solar in the Annapurna region, and it's first-come-first-serve, so wash off the dust from the drive and settle into Nepali village life with a beer ... (8+ hrs driving)

Day 4 - Drive Koto Qupar 2565m
Back in our 4WD jeeps for another long day of driving, today along newly blasted mountain roads all the way to Koto. Or so we've planned ...

It will take us a bit less than 3 hours of bumpy driving along the Marsyangdi River, past the new Chinese-funded hydro-electric project and other now-obsolete trekking villages to reach the once-lovely, cobbled village of Jagat (1335m). Just past Jagat we pass a series of large waterfalls plummeting from the steep canyon walls, and half-domed bee hives clinging precariously to the sheer rocks. Soon we reach Chamje, an atmospheric, 'wild west' village of traditional-style teahouses, often packed with brightly saddled horses. Staying high above the Marsyangdi on the same side (the left bank), we look down on scenic Tal, once a glacial lake and the first village in Lower Manang, on the opposite bank far below. Continuing through the now predominately ethnically-Tibetan Manang, we arrive at the Tibetan village of Dharapani (1945m), with prayer flags fluttering in the winds. Across the river, at the start of the trail leading to the Manaslu region, sits Thongje with its old, colorful gompa, part of the original Annapurna trail.

Driving north, we pass the hamlets of Karte & Khorte on alternate sides of the river and drive on the new road through dense  forests of pine and oak to Bagarchap and Danagyu. Finally, we drop back down to Koto Qupar, the starting point for our trek to Nar Phu. From the lodge (where we've set up camp) we can gaze straight up to the west to nearby Annapurna II, a breathtaking site. Koto Qupar is the gateway to Nar Phu, a small, atmospheric hamlet at the bottom of the deep gorge that we head up tomorrow. Our staff will have set up camp in the green backyard of a small teahouse, and we will get you set up in your Mountain Hardwear & Big Agnes tents, set up our famous 'Kamzang-style Dining Tent' and introduce you to the camp routine. Chai is brewing and a rest from the dust and bumps of driving is welcome!

Day 5 - Extra Day
As the road building allowed us to get further than we previously thought, and if we weren't held back by land-slides, muddy roads or other Himalayan obstacles we'll save this extra day for further along in the trek ...

Day 6 - Trek Meta 3560m
This morning we head out early, a long and somewhat difficult day before us as we head north towards Nar Phu and the border of Tibet. Just past the Koto check post, we cross the river on a long suspension bridge leading to the Nar Phu valley and ascend on a lovely trail through beautiful woods above the Phu Khola (river). Continuing to climb through the forest, we emerge out of the narrow canyon, the trail passing right under a wide waterfall from which point the woods become thinner and the vistas wider. Soon afterwards we trek past several small cave shelters and a dharamsala, or pilgrims' rest house. We might camp at Dharamsala but will most likely continue on and make the steep climb up the valley along a small, scenic trail to high, grazing pastures. This is the kharka of Meta, 3560m, the non-permanent winter settlement of Nar, and we will definitely share the campsite with a few yaks and possibly some villagers. It will be a chilly night, so we'll try to get a fire going to warm up.

Day 7 - Trek Kyang 3880m
Our hike today is one of the loveliest walks in the Himalayas. The landscape is similar to the Sierra Nevada; white rocks, low shrub and juniper, scattered evergreens, delicate brick-red and orange leafed bushes, crumbling shelves of flat slate, white, sandy trails and gnarled trees. The mountains around us are utterly spectacular, and the Phu Kosi shadows the trail far below. An hour past Meta, Junam is the second semi-permanent settlement, one where 'khampas' from Tibet sometimes sheltered. Above the kharka to the right looms a massive glacier, which falls jaggedly down to the high pastures above us. It's all truly amazing scenery. Across the river, the cliffs contort in swirls and waves, similar to Ladakhi landscapes. The next semi-permanent settlement is Chako, formerly a Khampa settlement, where grass lies tied in bunches to dry on all the rooftops and prayer flags flutter in the breeze. A previous year we saw a massive yak caravan from Phu pass by at Chako on their way down to Manang to re-supply, a scene from old Tibet, Many more ups and downs take us to tonight's campsite at Kyang, the extensive winter settlement of Phu, on a plateau high above the river. Kyang is a flat plateau with an extensive mani wall, about as scenic a campsite as they come with soaring cliff walls surrounding us.

Day 8 - Trek Phu 4050m
Dropping steeply down to the river, we trek for a while along the river bank and past the 'submarine' rock, passing some small possible campsites along the way. Today we begin to see the unique, ochre and white chortens made of sticks, stone and mud-brick for which Nar and Phu are known. We have to rock-hop carefully across a small glacial stream before reaching a larger one with a bridge only half covered with large slabs of slate. Some large steps do the trick ...

Another hour and a half of trekking through scenic canyon lands and gorges, and the 'leaning tower of Pisa' monolith guards the steep trail up to the Phu gate, called Pupigyal Kwe. This ancient gate provides us with our first view of the three villages of Phu, as well as an old 'dzong' and the remains of two forts, all now in ruins, but impressively situated atop the flatlands before Phu. Just before the bridge to Phu, a line of wonderful chortens color the landscape and lead the way to the main village of Phu, perched high up on a hill, amphitheater style. We will set up camp on the lower reaches of Phu, formerly called Gomdzong, and head up to the famous Tashi Lhakhang Gompa on a neighboring hillside to pay our respects to Lama Karma Sonam Rimpoche, a trulku who came to Nepal with His Holiness the Dalai Lama back in '59. He is also a renowned amchi, or Tibetan doctor, as well as a thanka painter and father of several children (some trulkus as well as certain lamas are permitted to marry). Later, we might head up to the village to hunt down some chang.

Day 9 - Phu
Having spent quite a few days getting to Phu, we will spend an extra day in the area to enjoy it, meet the local Phu residents and perhaps do some exploring up the wide valley systems above us. Tibet is two long days away, so a bit far for a visit, but we might walk up the valley to the summer grazing settlement, or 'kharka' at Ngoru, a three hour's walk past the gompa. For those with lots of energy, a hike towards the east through a glacial valley leads to Himlung Himal base camp, a 7125m peak recently opened for climbing. There are often expeditions climbing this peak, as well as nearby Gyanji Kang. The mountain views are tremendous.

For others, a walk west up past Phu towards the chortens on the hillside provides some incredible vistas and views down over Phu and the surrounding fields, forts, valleys and peaks. Phu itself is an incredibly interesting village, and a day is well spent sitting with the villagers as they spin their yak and sheep wool and chat, pound mustard seeds into a paste for oil, or involve themselves in the countless activities that take up a day in Tibetan villages. For photographers, the light is spectacular, and the skies a deep blue, and we may even see some blue sheep on the surrounding hillsides. A wander through the village will probably involve an invitation into someone's home for some authentic Tibetan salt butter tea, or perhaps a small glass of local 'raksi', or rice/barley liquor.

Day 10 - Trek Junam 3550m
Back through Phu gate, we descend to the river, and retrace our steps back to Junam kharka, a lovely spot as any for our campsite for the evening. In 2003 we camped with some Phu residents (all but one women) on their way back up to Phu with huge loads of planks from the nearby forests, and the evening was filled with Tibetan, or Manangi songs, smoky shelters and that unique Tibetan laughter.

Day 11 - Trek Nar 4225m
Another classic Himalayan trekking day, as we trek down to the old bridge spanning a deep, contoured and narrow gorge (cameras out for this crossing), and then all the way back up again. It's a good thing the scenery is so stunning ... Below us sit Gyalbu Kumbum, built in 1650, and Satte gompa, both empty. We finally reach the Nar gates at the top of the hill, and pass by yet another line of wonderfully painted, bamboo-topped chortens and a large tiered chorten before turning the corner and being rewarded with sublime views of Nar, the undulating patterns of the surrounding barley, potato and mustard fields, four old, colorful and traditional gompas and the snow-peaks looming overhead. We arrive early, so will have some lunch in the sun before doing some exploring.

Physically, Nar is not far from the main Annapurna trail, but it feels centuries away and is about as picturesque as they come. Nar is bit more social and lively than Phu, and the village 'square' is full of chatting women with their back-strap looms weaving wool fabric for rugs and blankets, pounding mustard seeds for oil, or spinning the ubiquitous wool while catching up on the news. The children in Nar seem to be always out in the streets, presumably preferring this life to the classroom! Each family in Nar seems to have at least one son or daughter in a gompa, and many live at home or visit frequently, so there is the resonating sound of cymbals, chanting and drums echoing throughout the village. Other Nar villagers may be printing prayer flags, doing some carpentry, collecting wood from the forest and carrying large loads with a head-strap back up to the house, harvesting the crops, tending the yaks, sheep and goats or spinning the prayer wheels in the center of town. Climb the prayer-flag festooned hill above Nar for wonderful views, or sit at our lovely guest house overlooking the whole scene in the sun, sheltered from the chilling and ever-present afternoon winds. It is a good day to try some local buckwheat pancakes or 'dhiro'.

The people of sell their yaks to the Manangis, who in turn sell them to butchers for meat. The yak tails are sold to Hindus, and the skins are kept and used. Locally, they sell butter, dry cheese (churpi) and hand-woven blankets. The traders who go to Kathmandu often trade the butter and cheese for wheat and buckwheat, some of which they again sell in Manang. The blankets are sold for cash. In the winter, the Nar-pa often travel to Kathmandu and the Lamjung villages to sell traditional medicinal herbs and juniper, and lamas sell their services. Once they have cash in hand, they stock up on essentials such as chili for the winter ...

Days 12 to 17 - Trek Tangge (3215m) over the Teri La (5595m) * Exploratory Route to Upper Mustang

Probable stops ...
Day 12 - Trek to Yak Kharka 4400m
Day 13 - Trek to Lapse Khola Camp 4500m
Day 14 - Trek to Teri La High Camp 4900m
Day 15 - Trek to Pasphu Khola Camp 4750m (cross the Teri La 5,595m)
Day 16 - Trek to Yakpa 4300m
Day 17 - Trek to Tangge 3360m

We've got six adventurous exploratory days in front of us as we trek the remote valleys, once old trade routes with Tibet and now used by locals for grazing their animals, over a very high pass and finally to Tangge, one of Mustang's most scenic villages and just off the main Mustang trekking route. Locals from Tangge won't use this route in July or August as they say it upsets the local gods and causes big storms.

We'll follow the Dho Labse Khola past the local grazing doksas of Chhungseng and Chhubche followed by the intersecting Jomsom Khola coming from the north, and set up a high base camp at a chilly sumdo. Heading further west, we'll cross the formidable 5595 meter Teri La (pass) which is just northeast of the Thorung La in the Annapurna region, across the Purkung Himal with the Chulu peaks just to the southeast of the pass.

Crossing the Rijung Chwa and Rijung Prama Kholas to our north as we get closer to Mustang, we follow the steep, green riverbanks of the Yak Khola, contouring around numerous ridges as we trek to the northwest. Later, far above the Yak Khola, we descend steeply into Mustang's patchwork of villages below us, finally spoting the magical, whitewashed village of Tangge built into on the terraced hillside. We'll have to cross the Tangge Khola on a good bridge, climbing slightly to the main trail. We'll pass the impressive and beautiful group of red, yellow, white and blue-grey chortens and the long mani wall with four carved figures on each one before reaching our camp.

Day 17 - Arrive Tangge 3360m
Tangge is a village of twenty houses, many sheep, goats and large mastiffs and the largest chorten in Mustang, over 50 feet high. There was a massive mudslide some years ago which wiped out many of the houses and barley fields on both banks; an elder of the village told us there were over a hundred houses in Tangge before this disaster. The culture now that we've reaached Upper Mustang becomes even more Tibetan; sheep horns adorn the houses, and there are protective amulets in the shape of a cross on the walls of the houses, similar to what we find in the old Tibetan villages in Ladakh and Zanskar. These 'zor' do what the look like they might do, capture evil spirits in their web and protect the inhabitants of the household, and date from the pre-Buddhist Bon religion. You will also see woman wearing the Tibetan decorative turquoise, coral and amber as well as 'dzis', ancient protective amulets of agate, which Mustangis believe came from lightening when it falls onto the mountains.

At the far end of the village is the high route to Yara. Look to the south for views of the snow-peak called Ka Karru by locals. The staff has set up camp at Tip Top campsite, just above the mani walls, a site sheltered from the unrelenting Mustang winds.

Day 18 - Trek Dhe 3930m
Leaving Tangge heading northeast, we climb briefly out of the village and continue on an undulating trail through a fantastic moonscape, colored by ochre, weatherworn rocks sculpted by centuries of wind and water erosion. We stay high, climbing gradually until we reaach a small pass which we called the Dhe La (4245m), decorated by a cairn of saligrams, a tribute to Vishnu and the local gods. A short descent through another bit of contorted landscape, past tri-colored chortens, leads to the remote village of Dhe, one of the most isolated in the Himalaya. The inhabitants are planning to leave their village in a few years to relocate just northwest of here as there are serious water issues in Dhe. Still, it's a lively village with an old gompa to explore, and the villagers are friendly and welcoming as trekkers here are scarce. Enjoy the afternoon and get out to explore this beautiful village.

Day 19 - Trek Yara 3610m
We're trekking along a little-used route on the far eastern fringes of Mustang, leaving remote Dhe and heading west along a somewhat rough trail. Climbing out of the village, we pass over more eroded gullies and stay on a high trail for a while, soon passing through an old mudslide which resembles a muddly glacier. To our right a distant trail heads east to Damodar Kunda and ancient clusters of cave dwellings appear dramatically in the cliff faces far above us. The trail crosses a small river and has a few ups and downs before it descends rather steeply to the riverbed below at just over 3400 meters. We wander down the small Dechyang Khola, collecting saligrams as we go and jumping or wading across (sandals would be a good idea) for an hour. To our right, near the end of the river at a settlement called Phangyakawa (where the Dhe-pa want to resettle), is a steep, switchbacking trail which we ascend.

Upon reaching the plateau, we're treated to a feast of eroded canyons and hoodoos, so take some time to admire the scenery and take a few photos. We cross the plateau on a little-used trail, following it through more fantastic landscapes, and eventually spot the lovely, green village of Yara below, across the Puyung Khola. We descend to the rocky river bottom, cross the river and head for the village. We camp for the night in the courtyard of a local guest-house in the lower section of Yara, a bustling campsite full of Mustangi life. Have a walk above the village in the afternoon, lovely with the sun shining through the willow leaves which brighten the village. We sponsor a young girl from Yara, Tenzing Kondo, for a hearing problem, so we'll hope to get a visit from her and her family ... And perhaps a cultural dance in the evening, so be ready for a Mustangi party!

Day 20 - Trek Ghara 3930m (Visit Luri Gompa)
After breakfast, heading northeast out of Yara, we pass fantastic, sculpted canyons with the remains of a network of ancient caves, now eroded enough to be inaccessible. We have a walk of less than an hour along the rocky, saligramed riverbed to the Tashi Kumbum cave complex, accessible via a narrow ledge of a trail. Tashi Kumbum is a newly discovered group of six cave dwellings dating from the 15th century, with fantastic Buddhist murals and a large exquisitely painted chorten. Gary McCue, who went there over fifteen years ago, wrote that the approach is very difficult/dangerous although though only an hour from Yara. We discovered last year that our lodge owner was actually the one who discovered the ancient Tashi Kumbum, and then went there with Gary McCue. Exiting stuff and really one of the most amazing works of Buddhist art I have ever seen.

Another hour along the Puyung Khola brings us to the fabled Druk-pa Luri Gompa and its complex of Tibetan Buddhist caves, some of which are accessible others now 'closed' forever. One of the older Kings of Lo married a Bhutanese princess, thus the Druk-pa influence. The main Luri Gompa is situated down near the riverbed; the teacher, kids in tow, will lead on a crumbling trail us up to the upper prayer-room and the fifteenth century 'Kabum Stupa', made of highly polished stucco and painted with intricately detailed Newari-styled Buddhist frescos of the Kagyupa saints Tilopa, Naropa and Marpa. Historians estimate them to be from the 13th or 14th century, and linked to the Tashi Kumbum caves, one of a group of connected cave dwellings throughout this particular region. Unfortunately, or fortunately, most have been rendered inaccessible due to the intense erosion in Mustang, so will remain hidden throughout history.

It's an easy half-hour hike from Luri to the green oasis of Ghara, with its ruined gompa and old, winding walls, where the staff have set up our camp just above the village, in a walled enclosure with the village tap just below. We'll have many villagers as visitors, both adults and kids, all of whom will bring some of their ubiquitous saligrams and Mustangi artifacts to display. We'll be treated to fantastic mountain panoramas down-valley towards the Kali Gandaki at sunset and sunrise.

Day 21 - Trek Canyon Camp 3690m
We have a hard, six or seven hour day in front of us so have plenty of fresh coffee and a good breakfast before we head off. It's a steep climb behind the village along a dusty trail, past several cave dwellings, for well over an hour to reach to the top of the Ghara La at 4380 meters. En route we'll look down onto the red and white striped Luri Gompa and the patchwork of terraced fields of barley surrounding Ghara & Yara villages.

Contouring around several hillsides, staying high, we soon drop down to the green doksa of Kepuchhimi at the valley bottom, a stream running through it. Crossing the stone doksas, littered with dung, we have a steep climb on a trail of hardened mud back up to the plateau where we regain our expansive views of the sculpted rocks and canyons surrounding us. More scenic contouring and two small cairns later we reach the steep descent down to camp. We'll have lunch overlooking the border of Tibet ahead of us and then start on the switchbacking down the 500-meter descent to the pebbly riverbed below. Another half hour of jumping the small Chaka Khola as we trek downstream brings us to our lovely Canyon Camp, where the sun goes down early but is a lovely spot for a wash in the network of streams, downstream from camp ...

Day 22 - Trek Lo Monthang 3820m
A river day, bring your sandals; new adventures await us on our rarely visited route west. Our adventures continue as we trek through a magical world of salt drips, narrow canyons, pebbly flood plains and soaring cliffs. It's ten minutes downstream to the first sumdo or river junction, where we take a sharp left into the narrow canyon of the Chuchu Gompa Khola, which soon widens into a large, pebbly flood plain. The right fork heads to the 14th-15th century Cho Dzong, 'castle of the faith', restricted for camping but which Peter Matheissen wrote about in his book, 'East of Lo Monthang' and which houses some of the most important Buddhist artwork in Mustang. Unfortunately the main cave entrance has now crumbled away and is inaccessible. The nomads to the north hold the key to the main gompa.

We have to cross the tangle of streams several times during this section, so best to hike in your sandals for the next hour. The valley is sublime, a feast of mustard yellow, reds and oranges gurgling out of natural springs as it narrows and widens, the horns of blue sheep marking our path. The canyon narrows around us as we hike. We've entered a lost world of contorted canyons, muted earth-tones and narrowing passages, the wonderful world of 'lost' Mustang. More mustard and blood-orange stained rocks signify mineral content in the organically-shaped rock, and we start to see salt drips suspended from the rock faces, intriguing hints to past salt trade in the region which made Mustang wealthy.

Soon we reach another river intersection where we hike up the hill and take the small bridge high over the river, possibly having to unload the horses in the narrow, high section just before the small bridge. At this sumdo the rivers become the Kali Gandaki River as it heads almost directly south. Further along the clear river, trekking along the riverside past the mustard-stained Tumu Khola intersecting our river from the right, we pass an incredible complex of caves gompas called Mar Dzong (or Mar Jhong), only explored a few years previously by an international research and climbing expedition. Inside these now nearly inaccessible caves the team found a treasure chest of 11th & 12th century scripts called Lemsa. There are several other caves built into the cliffs along today's trail, testament to an ancient cave-dwelling civilization and the monks that later used them as meditation retreats.

Heading up the Nhichung Khola we pass Namaru Dikha kharka as we trek on sun-baked plateaus and up stone steps, crossing the river a few times. There are hot springs just below our trail, not very hot but worth sticking feet into. Finally we spot the ancient walls of the fabled city of Lo Monthang high on the plateau ahead of us. We head directly west following the gurgling, willow-shaded Dokpolo Khola for about an hour until we reach the gates of Lo Monthang. This is an wonderfully green section, with grassy river banks underfoot, stone walls bordering the river, and behind, backed by the snow-peaks bordering Tibet, the ruins of the once-imposing Lo Dzong.

We enter the outer walls of the city and head to Pema Bista's campsite right at the walls to the city, under a small grove of ancient, sacred willows. The horses and crew will arrive behind us, so we will start exploring the maze-like alleyways of this fascinating village. Be prepared for the onslaught of tourism in Lo as vendors immediately find us and set up 'shop' next to the campsite. It's not as pristine as it used to be, but just as mystical in the golden, yellow light as the local men bring their sheep and horses inside the city gates for the night. Perhaps, we we'll have a cup of the infamous suija (salt butter tea) at Pema's house in the afternoon, after visiting his shop. And we'll have plenty of time to marvel at the surrounding panoramic views of the Tibetan Plateau and the Himalayan peaks bordering Tibet.

Lo Monthang
In the 1380’s, King Ame Pal established his reign in Lo, aptly named the ‘Plain of Aspiration', with the walled city of Lo Monthang as the capital and its inhabitants called Lobas. Within the walls of Lo Monthang are about 180 houses built among narrow streets, and some of the largest and finest Tibetan Buddhist gompas in Nepal. The city is quite prosperous due primarily to its past salt and wool trade along the Kali Gandaki with Tibet, and the Lobas themselves are still very Tibetan, living in Tibetan-style dwellings which we'll have a chance to visit. There are even yeti (known here as mehti) prints rumored to be found.

Lo traditionally had a single entrance, through which only the King, Queen and Kempo (Abbot) were allowed to ride. All others must walk, to pay their respects to Chenrizig, the Buddha of Compassion. King Jigme Palbar Bista, called 'Lo Gyelbu' by the Mustangis, still resides at his four-storied palace inside the city walls; that is, when he’s not in Kathmandu. He is an avid horseman, and keeps his own stable of horses, some of the best in Mustang. These days, the king plays a somewhat ceremonial role although he is well loved and respected throughout Mustang. The present king is the 25th descendent of Ame Pal.

There are four major temples within the medieval walls of Lo, the 14th century, brick-red Jampa Lhakhang (the oldest gompa, built in 1387, with the striking 50 foot 'Jampa' (Future) Buddha, the largest clay statue in Nepal until a few years ago), 15th century Thubchen Gompa (Great Assembly hall, pillars 30 feet high, the second oldest gompa with fantastic murals in the Dukhang), Chhoede Gompa (where the Kempo lives, with a monastic school) and Choprang Gompa. There is also the Raja's Palace, home to the present King Raja Jigme and Queen 'Rani Sahib' (who is from an aristocratic Lhasa family) and an interesting maze of a village to explore. There are approximately 1100 Lobas within the walls of the city although many lower caste Lobas live outside the walls. Many of the Lobas still practice polyandry.

Day 23 - Lo Monthang – Visit the Chosar & Tingkar Valleys on horseback
NOTE: We recommend horses for anyone wanting to come along on this day-trip; others are free to stay and wander the intriguing streets of Lo. There is an amchi that runs a Tibetan herbal medicine clinic in town, two schools and even a coffee shop along with the increasing number of shops to visit.

Leaving Lo along a wide, canyon trail, past dry gullies and an ancient, ruined fortress, across a bridge and through a cultivated area, we finally view the cave village of Chosar, with the deep-red Nyphu Gompa built into the rock face. We'll need to cross two bridges to arrive at the gompa, at 3760 meters. Plenty of time for photographs before rounding the chorten-toped bend, where we get views of Gharphu Gompa on the east banks of the Mustang Khola. Past the gompa is an incredible cave-dwelling site called Jhong Cave, which you negotiate by ladders and through small tunnels, very interesting and reputed to be 2500 years old. In front of us, a range of spectacular snow-peaks marks the border with Tibet, and around us gurgling streams and green meadows line our trail. If we take the long loop, we can stop at Nyamdo Gompa, ride over a small pass and then head back down the western valley to Lo.

The western valley leads to Namgyal Gompa (the Monastery of Victory), set spectacularly on top of a desolate ridge and the newest and most active gompa in Lo. The village of Namgyal spreads out past the Gompa. Just past the gompa is the large, sprawling village of Thinggar, where the King has his summer palace. There is a new gompa here, where we saw a puja (prayer ceremony) last year, and met most of the villagers! There are also many ancient ruins surrounding the village, some gompas and others old fortresses perhaps. Further on, we reach Kimaling village, which is an interesting, white-washed village surrounded by fields where we did some carpet shopping last year. Kimaling Gompa is below the village, on the way out as we head towards Phuwa and its gompa on the way down towards Lo. There are tremendous views of Namgyal Gompa backed by snow-peaks behind us as we wander up the valley, and white peaks in front of us bordering Tibet.

The Chosar valley was the main trading route with Tibet and Lhasa, and is peppered with the ruins of old fortresses guarding this strategic valley. Just north of this valley, over the border in Tibet, Lhakpa and I met a Tibetan man who still dealt in the trade of rare animal skins with Mustangi traders, a risky and of forbidden endeavor. It will be interesting to see if we can find out anything of this trade on the Nepal side of the border.

Back at camp, dinner is on the fire, tea is brewing, and cold beers are available from the tea-shops, so relax and enjoy our last evening in this magical capital.

Day 24 - Trek Nomad Camp 4280m
Leaving mystical Lo, we turn right out of the gate of Lo, cross a small bridge and head towards the high grazing plateaus of the nomads.Horses roam freely amongst the the crumbling walls and fields that surround Lo. We trek along the southern walls surrounding the city and hike for a few hours, following the valley bed, past the ruins of ancient fortresses and gompas. We climb the hill ahead of us, look back to the city-complex of Lo behind us, and drop down into the green valley below where to the 'last nomads of Lo' have now settled for most of the year. We have a bird-eye view over this scenic valley, dotted with nomadic tents of yak-hair, yaks, herds of sheep and goats, piles of yak dung and nomads. Several families live in this valley in their tents, and a few more in the valley over the next ridge.

We'll possibly take a northern route to the nomad settlement depending on our plans ....

Our campsite is idyllic, set right next to a clear stream on a grassy, flat plateau looking down-valley over Himalayan peaks. We'll visit the lively doksa later in the afternoon, perhaps being invited for a steaming cup of salt-butter tea and dried cheese. This is one of the last nomadic settlements in all of Nepal, a rare chance to see how real Tibetan nomads exist. We are quite high so it gets COLD in the evening. Sunsets and sunrises are perfect.

AFTERNOON TRIP: Hike over the hill to the north to visit the other nomadic settlements in the afternoon; all of the nomads were living in the Tibetan borderlands northeast of Lo Monthang, but many families moved to this spot about fifteen years ago to have better access to supplies, schools and medical facilities in Lo Monthang. From the hill between the camps, at the prayer flag, you can look right down to the walled city of Lo Monthang, a great view. Locals from Lo Monthang might come to the doksas to collect the sheep and goat dung that the nomads don't use. We might get some yogurt from the nomads, delicious and fresh, and we can buy exquisite textiles from the nomads if we like.

Day 25 - Trek Tsarang 3575m (via Lo Gekar)
It's an off the beaten path trekking day today as we head to Lo Gekar, or Ghar Gompa. Over a high ridge, we'll see the imposing chortens of the Lo Gekar after a few hours. Lo Ghekar, 'Pure Virtue of Joy', sits majestically in the valley above us. Ghar Gompa, built in the 8th century, is one of the oldest gompas in Nepal. It belongs to the Nyimgma sect and is connected by legend to Samye Gompa in Tibet as well as to the ubiquitous Guru Rimpoche. The name means 'house gompa' after the style of architecture, and harbors many exemplary frescoes as well as wonderfully carved and painted mani stones. Surrounding the gompa are massive, block-like chortens of a unique style and strings of colorful prayer flags fluttering in the winds of Mustang.

The story of Lo Gekar: Samye Gompa, the oldest gompa in Tibet, was repeatedly destroyed by demons when it was being built. The head lama dreamed that Guru Rimpoche could help with the construction and invited him to the site. The great Guru Rimpoche found demons to be the problem, and suggested that they first build Lo Gekar. Guru Rimpoche killed the demons at the spot that Lo Gekar was soon to be constructed. The long mani wall just south of Dhakmar is said to have arisen from the intestines of the demon, and the red cliffs above Dhakmar the blood of the demon. After Lo Gekar was completed, Samye in eastern Tibet was also successfully built.

Heading directly downvalley, we soon intersect the mail trail from Tsarang to Lo, and head south past the masive and newly re-constructed chorten along the trail. A few hours of easy trekking brings us to the fortified village of Tsarang, meaning 'cock's crest', perched on the edge of a dramatic canyon. We walk between high walls to the south of the village, green with poplar and willow trees, and stop for a look at the Tsarang Gompa and its ruins, impressively built on a crag of rock. We we camp for the night at a lovely, grassy campsite called 'Green Camping' next to The Royal Mustang Holiday Inn run by a relative of the King, Maya Bista, the Palace and Gompa visible in the near distance.

Tsarang is a large village of 83 houses (population 400) built on top of the Tsarang Khola canyon, one of the later capitals of the Kingdom of Lo in the 14th century. Stone walls separate the houses and form tunnel-like paths, a new irrigation ditch lines the main street, and willow groves turn the village green. Tsarang bustles with its many shops, its own hydro-electric plant and quite a few guest houses and visitors. It is dominated by the massive, crumbling five-story Tsarang Dzong, a Tibetan-styled fortified palace built in 1378, and the large, ochre-hued Tsarang Gompa, built in 1385, of the Sakya sect and with the greatest library in Lo (the palace also has a great library). The dzong and palace were both built by Ame Pal and the other of the 'Three Sangpos'. The palace has a wonderful, old prayer room with a gold-printed prayer book and a fascinating array of statues, thankas and large Buddha paintings that the resident lama will show you, and the withered 500 year old hand of the master architect of the palace. Tsarang Gompa is adorned with fantastic 15th century frescos on the assembly hall walls; don't miss the older prayer room in back, once an 'ani gompa', or nunnery. Elaborate sand mandalas are created at the gompa at festival time, and then ceremonially deposited into the river at the festival’s end. Ekai Kawaguchi stayed nine months here in 1899, and Michel Peissel spent time with the Abbot of Tsarang, the king's brother (the present king's father) during his time in Mustang.

Take a walk through the maze of paths to the dzong and friendly gompa before dinner, and stop in at one of the many shops for a look. Many of the wealthier homes here have family shrines which you might be lucky enough to be invited to see. The local women will be herding their sheep through the narrow, walled paths as dusk as the snow pigeons circle, shimmering, under the setting sun ...

Day 26 - Trek Zaite 3840m
A morning walk through the maze of Tsarang's alleyways leads to the masive, brightly pained chorten which guards the entrace to Tsarang, and then hike along the dirt road for about an hour, soon reaching the Tsarang La (3870m). From the large cairn topped with Tibetan prayer flags, or lung-ta, we swithback steeply down to the bottom of the valley. Just ahead is a cluster of ancient chortens, some of the most massive in the Tibetan world, backed by dramatic, sculpted cliff-faces and said to be 1500 years old (the same as Lo Gekar); an awesome sight. The trail looks across the valley to ochre, blue and steel-grey cliffs, and leads us past tri-colored chortens and perhaps the longest and most spectacular mani wall in Mustang, behind which is the hospital.

After a short, steep descent we directly cross the new bridge and climb briefly up to Ghemi (3570m), built along the steep edges of the cliff as are many fortified villages in Mustang. There are actually the ruins of an old fortress somewhere in Ghemi, which was largely abandoned until the Khampa fighters set up a magar (war camp) here and brought new life and wealth to the village. We'll wander a bit through this interesting village, passing the mani walls and prayer wheels, perhaps finding the key-keeper to open the Ghemi Gompa for us.

After lunch (or perhaps we'll eat at the pass) we'll continue on to Zaite, another 2 hours away up and over the Ghemi La. From Ghemi it's a straight-forward climb to the Ghemi La (3520m) from where there are beautiful views down to Ghemi. Contouring to the south, we continue to climb gradually for another hour or so to the Nyi La (4010m), where we're treated to Himalayan panoramas including Annapurna 1 & Niligiri, as well as the clusters of white-washed villages, ochre gompas and cave complexes in the Gelling valley. A short hike down the pass brings us to the Gelling intersection, from where we continue straight for about 10 minutes to our idyllic, green and sheltered campsite at Zaite

(Dhakmar route, which we won't do ...)
After a look at the 'lha-khangs' or prayer rooms of the gompa, we start up an easy series of passes, the Mui La (4130m) and its second ridge (4175m). We'll stop for a break, gazing out at the Himalayan peaks in the distance. Blue sheep graze in these arid hillsides, their tracks stripping the otherworldly ridges, and griffins and choughs soar in the clear, blue Mustangi skies overhead. Climb the small hill to the left of the cairn; the views down the Dhakmar Valley are breath-taking, as is the sight of our horses descending into the tunnel-like pass. Rested, we descend steeply through the canyon and spires, droping way down to dwellings and green pastureland below. 20 minutes later, past the prayer flags at the start of the village, we reach the lively, sprawling village of Dhakmar (3820m), dominated by a dramatic, red canyon wall with many ancient cave dwellings. Across the stream on the western side is an old gompa. Sunsets against the red cliffs, which house Himalayan griffins and lammergeyers, are fantastic ...

Following the small stream through the lower part of the village, green with old willows and more recently planted poplars, we continue hiking through a scenic, green valley, stopping occasionally for passing herds of sheep and goats. After crossing the small bridge, we reach the large chortens on the outskirts of Ghemi

Day 27 - Trek Samar 3605m
From Zaite, we continue on to Samar over the Syangboche La, with an option to visit the Chungsi caves en route ...

From camp, we climb gradually, mostly along the small, dusty road, to reach the Syangboche La at 3825m meters. After a fewp photos of the dramatic Himalayan vista, with Annapurna 1, Niligiri and the peaks north bordering Tibet. We'll drop down to small Syangboche village just below the pass and perhaps split into two groups.

CHUNGSI CAVES OPTION:
Once below Syangboche, we veer off to the left and descend into the valley, past seasonal doksas and shepherds herding their flocks of sheep and goats, on the eastern route to Samar via the important Chungsi Caves, at 3425 meters. En route, we see many nests of Himalayan Griffins high up in the cliff-faces, noticeable from their white below them (vulture droppings), and will see these majestic birds with their three meter wing-spans circling high above us. It should take us about an hour to reach the Chungsi Caves, one of the ubiquitous Guru Rimpoche's meditation caves. Up a series of rock steps to the entrance, and inside are fantastic 'rangjung' or self-created Tibetan Buddhist sculptures, chortens, 'Tara's terraced fields' and others Buddhist relics. The old caretaker is from Gheling. *** See page 144, Tucci.

We've now got a steep but spectacular walk in front of us as we head towards Samar, which means 'red earth' in Mustangi. We climb high up into an incredible, vast canyon, with wonderful, expansive views the entire time, and reach the Chungsi La (3810m) , approximately 500 meters above the cave. Then down, again steeply, to the Jhuwa and Samarkhung Kholas, and back up the switch-backing trail to the entrance chorten of Samar. A good day's trekking!

HIGH ROUTE:
The other, shorter and easier route, entails hiking over the Yamdo La (3860m) and then the Bhena La (3860m), but on a 'Himalayan flat' trail, so the ups and downs aren't so steep and you'll stay relatively at the same altitude between passes. After the Bhena La there is a steep drop down to the intersecting stream, which is crossed on a small bridge, and then another two small climbs until reaching the entrance chorten at Samar.

Lovely Samar is visible just below us, with its lovely poplar grove and flat-roofed houses, formerly a staging post for Khampa raids into Tibet. The Annapurna range, still dominated by Nilgiri, is visible to the south, a fantastic backdrop. We'll set up camp on the green, shaded grounds of the New Annapurna Guest House, one of our favorite campsites and the owned by good friends Namygal Gurung. His brother Karma used to be our horseman, and is now one of our guides. Relax, have a wash in the cold stream next to the grassy, campsite and enjoy the afternoon and sunset over the Himalayan peaks in this charming village. Showers are available inside the lodge and feel free to go into the kitchen for a cup of salt-butter tea ...

Day 28 - Trek Chhusang 2950m. Drive Jomsom 2720m
Trekking almost finished, but we'll start the day with a couple of hours of hiking to reach our jeeps at Chhusang. It's an easy hike up the Dajori La, and a long, wonderful descent, past the Gurung village of Gyakar aross the new suspension bridge, along our cliff-side canyon trail back to Tsaile, down and back across the tunnel bridge, and then along the riverbed for about 20 minutes to Chhusang.

Note the extensive number of caves in the massive rock face across the Kali Gandaki. Of these caves, the historian Gucci believes that they were the homes of the earliest Lo-pas, later used by hermit-monks as retreats. (As Tibetans in the western part of Tibet lived in similar caves until recently). Many anthropologists believe that the caves were the Neolithic sites of early man from a time when there was much more water, large forests and plentiful game to hunt.

There is a salt mine two hours from Chhusang, and fortified Tetang village just up the same valley; the salt trade was of utmost importance to Mustang in years past, and much of the wealth of the villages came from this trade. Across the Kali Gandaki , high up in the dramatic, fluted rock face, are clusters of ancient caves, their origins lost in antiquity

We'll drive south on the east bank of the Kali Gandaki along the new road, high up on the plateaus above the river-bed, all the time with magnificent views from all sides. We head north past the red, white and black chortens to the fortress-like Gurung village of Tangbe (3030m) three hours past Kagbeni. Tangbe is a labyrinth of narrow alleyways separating white-washed houses, fields of buckwheat, barley, wheat and apple orchards, unique in Mustang with its moat-like drainage system. Tangbe is split into two sections, the ruins of its ancient dzong (fortress) in the upper section. Nilgiri, which dominates the southern skyline at Kagbeni, continues to loom massively at the foot of the valley. The village of Tiri Gaon sits on the west bank of the river.

Soon we reach Jomsom and are are greeted by the sound of jingling horse bells as the Mustangi people pass by with their pony caravans, and beautiful textiles are woven by hand looms in the traditional style, readily available for sale. Yak tails to adorn your horses or dust your house are also sold. We arrive in Jomsom along a long, cobbled trail in time for lunch, with the afternoon free to wander, wash and shop. We'll celebrate our trek through 'Forbidden' Mustang at the Trekker's Lodge in the evening, handing out tips, extra gear and a few beers to our fantastic staff ...

Day 29 - Fly Pokhara & Kathmandu
Up early for our 20-minute spectacular mountain flight from Jomsom to Pokhara, flying between Dhaulagiri and Annapurna South before landing in balmy Pokhara. We re-board for our short, scenic flight to Kathmandu, 198 east of Pokhara, flying high above the north-south rivers flowing down towards the Terai from the Himalaya and Tibet. We pass over terraced villages and green hills with the Ganesh, Langtang, Manaslu and Annapurna ranges in the distance.

In Kathmandu, rooms are booked, showers are hot and laundry can be dropped off. We'll meet for a farewell dinner tonight although we advise keeping an extra few days in Kathmandu post-trek ...

NOTE: In the case of flight cancellation out of Jomsom everyone will be responsible for their rooms and meals after Day 30 of the trek.

Day 30 - Depart
We send you off to the airport for your flight home, and hope to see you again soon!

NOTE: We STRONGLY suggest you add at least one, and perhaps two days in Kathmandu at the end of the trek that allow for flight delays or cancellations leaving Jomsom.

Kathmandu Tours

Kathmandu | Bhaktapur  Sightseeing Tour
One more day in Kathmandu, with a sightseeing excursion by private vehicle to Bhaktapur. Bhaktapur which translates as 'Place of Devotees’ and is also known as Bhadgaon, is an ancient Newar city approximately 15 kilometers east of the Kathmandu Valley. Bhaktapur is one of three ancient capitals of the Kathmandu valley, the capital of the Newar Kingdom and a city of artisans and craftspeople famous for its art and architecture: intricate carvings, sculptures, paintings, thankas, pottery, statues and temples, or pagodas. Bhaktapur has a well-preserved ‘durbar square’, or palace square, and has been named a World Heritage site by UNESCO because of its incredible temples, pagodas, wood carvings, stone carvings and metalwork. Bhaktapur is also famous for its yogurt, called curd in Asia, a taste which hasn’t been duplicated anywhere.

Spend a full day exploring Bhaktapur and its rich cultural heritage, where a majority of enthnic Newaris live in traditional ways, and life seems to stand still. There are many great restaurants and cafes to rejuvenate, and it's possibly the best spot in Kathmandu for purchasing a thanka after watching the technique, as well as shopping for endless other locally produced crafts. Bhaktapur is home to countless local festivals, so if you are lucky and arrive on a festival day, enjoy the timeless and colorful events unfold.

+ Kathmandu World Heritage Sightseeing Tour | Bhaktapur (+$100)
+ Entrance Fees not Included for Single Person

Kathmandu | Patan Sightseeing Tour
Visit the third of Kathmandu's ancient capitals, known as 'The City of Fine Arts', best if you have an extra day in hand as Patan is also rich in cultural heritage, has many lovely roof-top cafes for lunch and world-class museums. Some of the highlights of Patan are its Durbar Square, the Krishna Temple within the palace complex of Patan (entirely made of stone, with 21 distinctive spires), and Hiranya Varna Mahavir, or the Golden Buddha Temple.

+ Kathmandu World Heritage Sightseeing Tour | Patan (+$50)
+ Entrance Fees not Included for Single Person

Kathmandu | World Heritage Sightseeing Tour
Kathmandu is filled with World Heritage sites and sacred destinations, crowded with traditional neighborhoods and colorful festivals. Spend a few days exploring Nepal's exotic capital and the history-laden Kathmandu valley. We can arrange sightseeing guide, vehicles and guides as required. See Kathmandu Heritage + Happenings for more details.

We recommend beginning with Pashupatinath in the early morning, and moving on to Boudhanath mid-morning. Hindu Pashupatinath on the sacred Bagmati river and its sacred temple complex is one of Nepal's most important sites, a powerful cremation site and Nepal's most important Hindu temple. Here, monkeys run up and down the steps of the burning ghats, and trident-bearing saddhus draped in burnt-orange and saffron sit serenely meditating, when they’re not posing for photos-for-rupees. Local guides can explain the significance of the complicated ceremonies. Please be respectful when taking photos.

Boudhanath, in the midst of traditional monasteries (gompas) and hung with long strings of multi-colored prayer flags, attracts Sherpas, Tibetans and tourists alike for daily circumambulations (koras) of the iconic stupa. The striking Buddha eyes of Boudhanath Stupa watch over a lively and colorful Tibetan community and attract pilgrims from all over the Himalayan Buddhist realm. There are wonderful spots for lunch at Boudhanath (Roadhouse Cafe has wood-oven pizzas and a breathtaking view of the stupa and colorful Nepals circling it), and it's a good place to learn the technique of thanka painting and purchase a thanka (Buddhist mural). See also Bhaktapur for more options for shopping for thankas.

Wander through the many temples, pagodas, courtyards and the museum at Kathmandu Durbar Square, a timeless gathering spot and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Kathmandu Durbar Square, including the old royal palace, is Kathmandu's 'Palace Square', a showcase for the world renown artisans and craftsmen of Kathmandu and a synthesis of Hindu and Buddhist palaces, temples, stupas and statues. The Malla and Shah kings ruled over the Kathmandu Valley during the centuries of the building of the layers of this Durbar Square. Along with their opulent palaces, the square surrounds numerous courtyards and temples, all works of art with intricate and often erotic carvings. Kathmandu Durbar Square is known as Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square, a name derived from a statue of Hanuman, the monkey devotee of Lord Ram, at the entrance of the palace. The social, religious and urban focal point of the city, Durbar Square is often the site of festivals, marriages and other ceremonies such as Teej. Some important structures are Hanuman Dhoka Palace, Kumari Ghar (Abode of the Living Goddess), Taleju Temple, built between the 12th and 18th centuries, the 17th century stone inscription set into the wall of the palace with writings in 15 languages.

In the evening (take the interesting back streets from Durbar Square) climb the many steps to the gilded Swayambhunath stupa (known as the monkey temple) which rises from the Kathmandu valley floor at 1420 meters and is one of the holiest Buddhist sites in Nepal. Swayambunath, the 'self created’  stupa, was founded over 2000 years ago at a time when the Kathmandu valley was filled by a large lake, with a single lotus in the center. Mythology says that Manjusri, a bodhisvatti, drained the lake with one cut of his sword and the lotus flower was transformed into the stupa. From its commanding views of Kathmandu, circumambulate Swayambunath's white-washed stupa, painted with distinctive Buddha eyes, the complex a unique synthesis of Buddhism and Hinduism. Another interesting time to visit Swayambunath is in the mornings, when Nepalis visit the temple dedicated to the God of Smallpox to with colorful offerings for the goddess.

Stop to photograph reflections in Kathmandu's many pokhari's, or ponds, including the beautiful Rani Pokhari (queen's bath) near New Road, and the Naga Pokhari (pond of the snake gods of the underworld) just beyond the palace gates. The many bathing ghats, square enclosures with steps leading down to water spouts, often decorated with naga heads, are also interesting and colorful gathering spots.

+ Kathmandu World Heritage Sightseeing Tour | Pashupatinath, Boudhanath + Swayambunath (+$75)
+ Kathmandu Durbar Square Walking Tour | Durbar Square (+$50)
+ Entrance Fees not Included for Single Person

Everest Sightseeing Flight
An hour long extravaganza of the world's 8000 meter peaks, including airport transfers. (+$270)

Everest Sightseeing Helicopter Tour
Inquire for prices + options. Cost per helicopter.

Shivapuri Heights Cottages
A wonderful get away 20 km north of Kathmandu, Shivapuri Heights Cottages are stylishly designed and personal cottages built around a 'common house', where you can breakfast overlooking the stunningly beautiful Kathmandu valley. Massages available on request. (+$Inquire for Options)

Cycling Trip Kathmandu Valley
Many options for day trips, or extended trips, in the Kathmandu Valley. We can customize a cycling trip for you in partnership with one of our knowledgeable partners in Kathmandu. (+$Inquire for Option)

Extra Days in Kathmandu | Customize your Journey!
We have plenty of great suggestions for extra days, or weeks, in Nepal! See our Nepal & Kathmandu Modules | Customize Your Trip! to put together the perfect journey.

Mountain biking, rafting, vespa tours or yoga retreats around the Kathmandu valley or Pokhara, trips to Bhaktapur or Patan (Kathmandu Valley's other historic capital cities), a visit to the Newari temple of Changu Narayan and a night at the Fort Hotel in Nagarkot for sublime Himalayan panoramas, an Everest sightseeing flight, a luxurious stay at Temple Tree Resort & Spa, paragliding, hiking or zip-lining in Pokhara, a spa & wellness getaway at Dwarikas Resort in Dhulikhel, a relaxing excursion to Chitwan National Park Wildlife Safari & Tharu Villages (staying at Maruni Sanctuary Lodge) or Bardia National Park, a weekend of adventure, sauna and pampering at The Last Resort or five-star treatment in historic Dwarika's in Kathmandu.

Kamzang Journeys can customize any of these excursions for you, just inquire!

Birds

Namaste & Tashi Delek!

© Kim Bannister

 

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