Upper Mustang Trek by Christiane Feill

I remember it was August 2012 in Nepal, my husband and me we made a plan for Upper Mustang Trek. We were on stopover in Kathmandu before flying back to German after our short trekking in Nepal. Pilgrim’s Feed and Read Restaurant in Thamel is something interesting for us all the time. While we were there I found myself staring on book written by Michel Peissel. Name of book was “Mustang – A Lost Tibetan Kingdom” and I bought it. By the time we retrace back to Frankfurt in German I had finished the entire book. Then we came to know that Mustang is the place in Nepal Himalayas where we were going for next adventure.

When we start doing a research about Upper Mustang we come to know at least two trekkers are needed for permits. It was not a big deal for us. Saugat, our initial trek operator from Nepal was very helpful on planning our adventure in Upper Mustang. He is very cool and knowledgeable about all aspects of Tourism in Nepal. We finalize all necessary arrangements for our trip in 2014 September. We agreed on being accompanied by one guide and one porter. We were about to do this trek depending entirely on teahouse for accommodation and food. This blog is something small from our side to Saugat. We know he is a good blogger and we had already made a plan about this.

Below is a daily itinerary of our trip

September 7 – The joy of being in Kathmandu

We were flying from Bangkok to Kathmandu via Thai Airways. We woke up pretty early in morning. I went downstairs for take away coffee. I forget it was around three and half hours flight to Kathmandu from Bangkok. It was in the mid of day when we land at TIA (Tribhuvan International Airport). Schedule was just after couple of other flights so airport was mess. Lounge was pretty busy and so was visa queue. Finally we manage to get 30 Days Tourist Visa. Saugat was eagerly waiting for us just outside of the arrival terminal. He took us to our hotel, Hotel De Veda. Drop our bag off and we went to Saugat office. After all things were settled down we go out for some chill beer in Café De Veda (Run by Hotel De Veda). For dinner we went out for Revolution Cafe. Best place for food and wine in Thamel.

September 8 – Around Kathmandu

It was Mystical Monday Morning. Trust us there was none place left nearby Kathmandu for us to explore. This time we decided to go for Chandragiri Hike. We had already handover out passport to Saugat. He had arranged a jeep for us to drop on hiking trail to Chandragiri. It was just two of us. It’s a good day hike. Although we didn’t make our way to the top view was amazing. Weather was pretty cloudy, I just feel like we could see even Mount Everest. But I’m not sure. There is small teashop on the top (Top for us). Don’t expect western hygiene or wide varieties of menus. Owner can cook you good noodles. Again at the end same driver picked us up and we go back to Thamel. Our permits were ready and as well as all necessary gears. Our porter was almost about to reach Beni. (It’s because we can’t afford entire flight tickets, so we had paid for his round bus ticket and extra days salary to reach Jomsom)

September 9 – Flying to Pokhara

After breakfast we leave for domestic airport at 9:00 am in the morning. Our flight was at 10:30 via Buddha Air. It’s a short flight about twenty minutes to Pokhara. Our hotel in Pokhara (Hotel Family Home) had arranged our pickup. Drive is very scenic and it’s about ten minutes. We had entire day in Pokhara so we decide to give a try for mountain biking. After lunch we hire a mountain bike from Chain and Gears (renowned mountain biking company in Pokhara). Plan was to ride to Hemja (Close Northwest of Pokhara). Hemja is Tibetan Refuge Camp and host small monastery along with Lama school. Ask for main entrance gate to Monastery otherwise you will end up with bumpy off road on last part. It took us almost one and half-hour to reach there. After spending some time we ride all the way back to Pokhara. There are lots of good restaurant on Pokhara for dinner. It’s little expensive but I recommend Lake View Resort. They perform amazing cultural show every night. It’s always fantastic to be there.

September 10 – Flying to Jomsom and Trek to Kagbeni

May be it’s still because of jetlag I’m not having a sound sleep. But my husband was fine and it’s pretty strange. Oho I woke up in the middle of the night around 3:00 am and can’t go for sleep again. I just start arranging my backpack and I’m very concerned about noise. I just listen to some music until 5:00 in morning. Our guide showed up at quarter past five and alerts us to get ready. Our flight was scheduled at 6:50 and it was via Tara Air. Exactly after 30 minutes of scheduled time we boarded. Tips – There is no fix seat on plane, so try to get a one right side. This is because you can have dazzling view of Mount Annapurna. I got seat on right side, poor me. But view was still amazing with Dhaulagiri on distant and Ghorepani Poonhill next to window. It is short flight of fifteen minutes from Pokhara to Jomsom. We checked in at Cold Desert for breakfast. We stop for a while and met our porter there. After all backpack were arranged we start a hike. Scenery was spectacular onward from Jomsom. It looks like desert though surround by snow capped himalayas on either side. Exactly like the way Mustang was described it start to show little wind from North of Kagbeni. We were already on our lunch camp at Ekle Bhatti. After a while we continue our hike toward Kagbeni. We witness the jaw-dropping beauty of Kagbeni from distant. Summit of Dhaulagiri and Nilgiri were visible. We settle out on Red House Lodge. They had good traditional looks especially in dining and terrace. Just next to old fort was our room. Well I would love to say stay in Red House Lodge was out of my imagination. Good room, good food and hot shower. What else you expect on such trans himalayan trail?

September 11 – Kagbeni to Chele

I had heard some people use this day for acclimatization in Kagbeni. They hike to Muktinath and descend back to Kagbeni again. Saugat had already offers this option and suggest us not to take acclimatization here. Because he know out past mountain experience and fitness level. Sounds cool, we agree with his suggestion as always J

We left Kagbeni around 7:30 in the morning after breakfast. Oat porridge with fruits was delicious. We climb to eastern ridge of Kagbeni. View back to Kagbeni from cliffs was something awesome. After some up and down we descend to riverbed. I love it cause we don’t have to go more up and down on riverbed trail. Tangbe, first settlement on Upper Mustang was next to us. It looks like we have to go steep up and follow gentle climb to reach Tangbe. After several up and down onward from Tangbe we reach Chusang. Stop for a lunch and continue to Chele. After lunch we follow riverbed trail all the way to Chele. Trail is pretty amazing and you can see entire flows through a tunnel in certain portion. Cross the bridge and climb steep up all the way to Chele. There is something amazing especially for us. Large German group whom we met on the way were setting down here on same place. As far as I remember Diamir, renowned adventure company from Germany had organized their trip. They were on camping trek. Their leader speaks fluent German, however their operational cost for trek was pretty high in compare to ours. After dinner we went for sleep and sleep until five in the morning.

September 12 – Chele to Syangmoche

Syangmoche or Syangboche?

It sounds same but little different on pronunciations. We want to skip German camping group. We had made a plan to start hike pretty early before other Germans J

Almost at 7:00 we were ready for our adventure. It starts with pretty steep uphill climbs. After a while trail gets flattened and we enter a deep canyon. There is scary suspension bridge to reach next side of Canyon. After the bridge we follow uphill climb and reach at the top of Taklam La Pass. After this Taklam La we further continues up toward Dajori La and descend down to beautiful settlement of Samar. We just order our lunch. It was not to have in Samar though. Cause our porter he was continuing ahead to Bhena and place our lunch order there. We stop a while in Samar for tea. When we reach Bhena our lunch was almost ready. It’s another tough climb to top of Yamda La Pass before we descend to Syangmoche. Eventually we manage to reach Syangmoche. It looks like German group had something different plan, as they didn’t arrive Syangmoche. Good for us because we love to be with locals.

September 13 – Syangmoche to Tsarang

Day was accompanied by pretty strong winds than before. It is quite normal to receive strong wind of Mustang.  We hike to the top and descend down to Ghiling. Here also it might be Gheling or Ghiling, don’t pay attention to spelling. There exist a Gompa and it is supposed to belong with Shakya Buddhism. There are some nice paintings inside the monastery. After this break we continue toward Nya La Pass. After some descend a beautiful and picturesque village of Ghaymi comes into sight. Especially in mountains of Nepal there exist some conflicts on spelling. Like Syangmoche or Syangboche and Ghaymi or Ghami? Even on different version of map there are different spelling. No matter what we need to pass via Ghaymi. It looks like weather is not going permit us to hike to Tsarang. Wow it was raining on mountain desert of Mustang. Unbelievable, it rain quite heavily and decide to pack off on Ghaymi for tonight. Hotel owner was a cool local woman from Upper Mustang. She assists on getting key for Ghaymi Gompa. Otherwise it was supposed to be closed until next morning. She also holds some of the antique stuffs like old Thanka Paintings, Handicrafts, and Garments. Some of them were very old, even eighty ninety years old. To be honest most of those stuffs were out of our budgets. We just buy small piece of black fossil with opening on it. There was print on some pre historic creature on it. We were little wet as we get hit by sudden rainfall just before arriving Ghaymi. We hang our clothes on dinning and keep gossiping with others people out there.

September 14 – Ghaymi to Lo Manthang

I woke up pretty early and climb to rooftop. Wow view was amazing. Initially we had planned to leave Ghaymi at 7:00 but we didn’t. Why? Answer is pretty simple, Ghaymi is simple beautiful. But with dream of Lo Manthang we start our trek almost at eight in the morning. We descend down to river and cross steel bridge over it. There is a long Mani Wall here it is considered as longest on in Upper Mustang. According to the legends this Mani Wall contains remaining of demons killed by Guru Padmasambhava. Chinggel La Pass at elevation of 3870 bridges Tsarang on next side. View of Nilgiri and Tilicho Peak is amazing. Tsarang seems more picturesque than Ghaymi. We now regret than we couldn’t make it last night. After taking some good enough pictures of Chorten on premises of Tsarang we place our order for lunch. There exist 775 years old monastery in Tsarang. It had preserved some of nice wall paintings and statues of deities. Monks were friendly they give us brief introduction about things inside monastery. After lunch we continue toward Lo Manthang. It follows steep hike down and up to get on the other side of Tsarang River. Chortens on end on Tsarang mark end of Tsarang. After we make our footsteps on top of Lo La Pass at 3950 m, Lo Manthang appears on next side. We descend down to Lo Manthang together. Being on elevation of 3700 m from sea level it is ok to drink alcohol, at least a beer. Yes we order some beers and Lhasa Beer comes out to be our best companion. Being a Tibetan Beer it was one of the cheap and best on town. Room there in Mystique Himalayan Lodge was pretty good. It was clean, big and I also get western commode toilet and shower.

September 15 – Around Lo Manthang

I woke up around 6:00 am and my husband was still sleeping. So I decided to walk around for a while by myself. When I walk for a while I came to know that Lo Manthang is surrounded by huge wall of clay. Our lodge was just outside of wall. I dare to enter inside wall along and I feel like I’m lost on maze. I manage to escape from city of wall and get back to lodge. We plan to go to northern end of city. There was a monastery named Chhoede Gompa along with Chhoede Gompa Monastic School. We also explore Jhampa Gompa built around 1387. It belongs to one of the oldest monastery in Lo Manthang. You can check email on ACAP office though connection is slow. We stop for a lunch and plan to explore Thupchen Gompa. This is second oldest monastery in Mustang and date as 15th century back. There are several statues and nice painting inside monastery. Now we can see huge German are coming to Lo Manthang. It looks like they were trying to conquer Upper Mustang. After this we walk a while inside city of wall. It almost looks same everywhere. Very strange but well build.

September 16 – Lo Manthang to Chhoser Cave and back to Lo Manthang

After a breakfast we head toward further north of Lo Manthang. Idea is to explore Chhoser Cave next to village of Garphu. For this we have to cross the river and get to next side of Lo Manthang. It mostly passes through road, behind is the view of Nilgiri and Tilicho Peak. We continue along the valley. It almost took us around two complete hours to reach Garphu. Wow that is amazing we were walking next to very long Mani Wall and there are caves everywhere on next side. There was small prayer room in caves. After this we went o Jhong Cave. This was most amazing cave we had ever seen in our life.  We can’t imagine that it is five stories high and there exist forty rooms within this cave. According to our guide and local this almost 2500 years old cave. Steep stairs will allow you an access for cave. There are several staircases inside cave for access to different stories. View from windows in cave offers some different view. This must be safest place in past. We ate our pack lunch and head back to Lo Manthang. We made our way back to Lo through different routes and passes through some local settlements. On backdrop of valley there were several snow-capped mountains. At 4:00 pm we went to King’s Palace in Lo Manthang. It used to be separate kingdom even after unification Nepal. This is the reason why it is also called “The Last Forbidden Kingdom”. This was perfect day out we were pretty much hungry. When we were back to Lo Manthang, Dal Bhat was our choice for dinner. We ate dinner pretty early almost around 5:00 in afternoon. We just chill with couple of Lhasa Beer again.

September 17 – Lo Manthang to Ghaymi

After breakfast we manage to hike up to Lo La Pass. The view of Lo Manthang from here is final view for us. Who knows we might or might not be back to Lo Manthang again? We wish we could. It looks like Upper Mustang Trek is on peak season now. There were lots of big group on the way up to Lo. I thought large German group already descend down yesterday. Normally we prefer not to be in a big group. We spend overnight on Ghaymi. We had traversed all those passes again on reverse to reach Ghaymi. Because of large flow of trekkers everybody seems busy. Owner busy arranging necessary accommodations, cooks were eventually busy on kitchen cooking foods. I feel like we had started a trek on perfect time. To be honest I still wish to spend couple of days in Upper Mustang. I really don’t want go back home. I don’t about my husband but seriously I don’t go back.

September 18 – Ghaymi to Chele

It’s pretty long day. Almost took us a nine complete hours from Ghaymi to Chele. We cross those passes, re crosses river bridges again. This was our last night in Upper Mustang. We could now smell cool breeze of Kagbeni again J

There were lots of trekkers on the way up. It was good discussion during dinnertime. There was couple of American, German and Chilean. Most of them were on the way up to Lo Manthang. Before our food we were just sharing an experience like we do this, we do that. We were suggesting them where to go, where to stay. But after dinner when we drink couples of beers then there arise a new topic. It was politics. I’m not that much interested on political stuffs so I went to bed. However my husband stays awake and attends political meeting on Chele.

September 19 – Chele to Jomsom

We start with Chilean trekkers. We did that on very fast pace. When we hike further down from Tangbe we were almost near by Kagbeni. It took us around almost four and half to reach Kagbeni from Chele. We again stop by Red House Lodge. Their solar room was amazing. Food can be delivered on solar room! But we decide to stay on dinning hall cause it was very warm. There was strong wind out. We almost spend 2 hours in Kagbeni for food. Cause Jomsom is not far from here. Wind was still strong. We decided start walking despite of winds. It looks like even the Gore-Tex Wind Stopper can’t withstand with wind in Kagbeni Jomsom Trail. We almost don’t spend a time on rest. We had managed to reach Jomsom within two hours from Kagbeni. We stay in same guesthouse at Jomsom. Hot shower and food were simply perfect there. There is new monastery just in front of out hotel. It is located on convenient place.

September 20 – Fly Jomsom to Pokhara and Pokhara to Kathmandu

Our flight was early morning. Eventually we had to catch connecting flight from Pokhara to Kathmandu. Saugat had already made all the arrangements. He had booked our flight ticket on Tara Air and Yeti Air. So just incase if our flight from Jomsom to Pokhara gets delayed then it will be easy to reschedule Pokhara to Kathmandu Flight. This is because Tara Air is sister concern of Yeti Airlines. Luckily our flight was on time. There is just one and half-hour difference in our flight. So we stay in airport. May be our porter was on wheels from Jomsom to Pokhara. We board on Yeti Air. Our car was ready waiting for us outside. We were back to Hotel De Veda again. Wow it’s so different feel of being back in Kathmandu. Our flight back was on 23rd September. We had made a plan to go Nagarkot for one day.

September 21 – Kathmandu to Nagarkot

It was very lazy morning. Almost at 10:00 o’clock we walk down for breakfast. And collect back laundry. We had asked car at 1:00 o’clock. We were on hotel lobby. Car was already standby there. So was quarter to one and we leave for Nagarkot. Road was perfect than our last visit. It was under construction before. Now it’s fine and probably the best road in Nepal. We didn’t stop on Bhaktapur. Hotel View Point in Nagarkot is ideal place for sunrise and sunset. We decide to walk to view tower for sunset. We walk all the way to view point. Air was fresh and we pass through army area. Peoples are no more allowed to climb view tower. Ladder was removed on bottom. Still some crazy people were on top of view tower. However we don’t want to climb cause it’s difficult for us. After a while we hike down to road. As requested our car was there to take us back to hotel. Restaurant on hotel was good so we decide to have dinner in hotel. It’s a big dinning hall. There is also a fireplace on one corner of dinning. Their restaurant usually closed before 10:00 pm. So we ordered some beer and chips. We took it our room. I think we won’t be waking up pretty early for sunrise. Our room was above the dinning so even from our room we can view amazing sunrise.

September 22 – Sunrise | Nagarkot to Kathmandu

It was an amazing sunrise. Breakfast was ready. Right after breakfast we drive back to Thamel. We want to buy some Pashmina Shawls, Fridge Magnet and other stuffs to take back home. Saugat had already made reservation for dinner on Utsab – An Authentic Nepali Restaurant. At seven we drive to restaurant. Thanks for amazing dinner Saugat. Something similar to Lake View Resort in Pokhara cultural performance was outstanding on Utsab. We highly enjoy the company of Saugat. Tomorrow we have to fly back to Thailand and onward to Frankfurt Germany. But we are pretty sure we will be back to Nepal as soon as we can in near future. Don’t know where but it might be Kanchenjunga.

September 23 – Fly back to Thailand

We had two days stopover in Thailand before flying back to Germany. It’s farewell time. Saugat was quite busy with his stuffs and he had already informed us about that. Our guide was there to drop us to airport. He put blessing scarfs (Khada) around our neck. Look after a trolley and wave his hands. Tears were almost about to roll down to cheeks. We board inside from Terminal A. We will be staying on same hotel at Thailand for next two days. We just plan to sit and relax in Thailand. Because we know we had still lots of weekends to spend on beaches getting restless about trek again.

There might be lots of grammatical mistakes here on my trip report. Please forgive me for that. Being a German citizen English is my second language. Though not perfect I hope this is clear to read and understand. This is just about how we feel during our trek in Upper Mustang. Now we are handing over this blog to Saugat. Soon or late he will definitely turn this blog as good information source for Upper Mustang. I had already seen his several other blogs. I don’t like to disclose my contact email and number here. Just incase if you feel like you need to be in touch with me ask to Saugat. He can pass my contact information.

Christiane Feill & Aras Orhon
Hamburg Germany

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