Mustang Horse Trek

ITINERARY


Click on map to expand and navigate

 

Day

 

 

 

1

Arrive Kathmandu
Overnight at a hotel

 

 

2

Fly from Kathmandu to Pokhara  We take a bus if the weather is unsuitable to fly
Overnight at Pokhara Hotel near Fewa Lake

 

 

3

Fly (Twin Otter) to Jomsom (2,720m)
Trek to Kagbeni (2,810m)

 

 

4

Day ride to Muktinath (3,760m)
Overnight Kagbeni

 

 

5

Kagbeni to Chele (3,050m)

 

 

6

Chele to Syangboche (3,800m)

 

 

7

Syangboche to Ghemi (3,520m)

 

 

8

Ghemi to Dhakmar (3,820m)

 

 

9

Dhakmar to Charang (3,560m)

 

 

10

Charang to Lo Monthang (3,809m)

 

 

11

Day trip to Nomad Settlement
Overnight Lo Monthang

 

 

12

Lo Monthang to Ghemi

 

 

13

Ghemi to Samar

 

 

14

Samar to Chhusang

 

 

15

Chhusang to Jomsom

 

 

16

Day trip to Marpha

 

 

17

Fly to Pokhara and then on to Kathmandu

 

 

18

Contingency Day

 

 

19

 Trip Ends

 

OVERVIEW

Our trip will initiate in Kathmandu, the colourful capital of Nepal. On the next day we fly to the picturesque town of Pokhara. After an evening discovering the pleasures of Pokhara we fly to the high village of Jomsom beneath the 8000m massifs of Annapurna and Dhaulagiri. From here we trek to the edge of the Forbidden Kingdom after a visit to Muktinath, a monastery sacred to Hindus and Buddhists alike.

We leave the tourist route here and trek on foot or ride on horseback through lower Mustang where spectacularly fluted cliffs of red hueins overlook the Kali Gandaki River. The Kali Gandaki flows from the high plains of Tibet through Mustang into Nepal before flowing into India. (Our steeds are sure-footed and suitable for first timers, although you may elect to trek instead of ride.)

The upper Mustang is dominated by an endless expanse of yellow and grey rolling hills made smooth by the wind. We traverse this lonely landscape on horseback via several passes (the highest being the Mui La at 4,170m/13,680ft), camping in villages nestled in their green irrigated oasis until we reach our ultimate destination on the journey, the spectacular walled town of Lo Monthang. Visually, this is an extraordinary place and home of the Mustang Raja (King) as well as some beautiful temples and monasteries. The people of Upper Mustang are always curious about new arrivals and we can expect children, with scary windblown hair and apple red cheeks, will gather to confront the spectacle of foreign visitors. The abrasive lifestyle required to survive is easily evident here.

After taking time to explore the area and interact with its small population we return to Jomsom and fly again to Pokhara and Kathmandu.

DETAILED ITINERARY

Day 1  
The group arrives into Kathmandu to be met by our smiling Sherpa crew. We stay at a hotel in the Lazimpat region of Kathmandu, which is close to a multitude of shops and restaurants in the Thamel region.

Day 2   
Kathmandu to Pokhara: Stay at Pokhara Hotel located near Fewa Lake. We can hire boats to take us out onto the lake or wander around town shopping for Tibetan or Nepalese items. We drive by bus to Pokhara, if the weather is unsuitable to fly.

Day 3
Pokhara to Jomsom (2,720m/8,925ft): flight (by Twin Otter) up the dramatic ravine of the Kali Gandaki Valley. For centuries this valley was the primary trade route between the Tibetan High Plains and the comparative lowlands of India. The walls of two of the world’s highest mountains; Mt’s Annapurna and Dhaulagiri, stand sheer for 5,000m/16,404ft above the valley floor.

We disembark the plane at the small village of Jomsom and trek to Kagbeni (2,810m/9,220ft) via Chhanche Lhumba, otherwise known as Ekle Bhatti (“Lonely Hotel”). We follow the river to Kagbeni, a green oasis at the junction of Jhong Khola and Kali Gandaki.

Day 4  
Kagbeni to Muktinath (3,760m/12,340ft): Muktinath is one of the most important pilgrimage sights for both Hindus and Buddhists and monasteries from the two denominations exist peacefully side by side. Miraculously a fire burns in water under the Buddhist temple which is staffed by Nuns.

After the monastery visits we return to Kagbeni with a brisk ride down the trail. In the evening after a tasty meal, we can wander around the town to sit on the street and chat with the locals or visit the Kagbeni Monastery.

Day 5  
Kagbeni to Chele (3,050m/10,000ft): Today we enter Mustang itself. After completing the necessary procedures for entering the national park we ride up the valley, sometimes on the riverbed and sometimes along the river terraces. We lunch in Tangbe village where the local children are as interested in us as we are in them! A grassy orchard provides shelter from the sun and one can try out truly organic apples! From Tangbe we have great views of Nilgiri Peak dominating the northern skyline. Riding further we pass through Chhusang with its huge cliffs and cave dwellings across the valley. Not far above Chhusang the trail leaves the Kali Gandaki Valley and climbs steeply up to Chele.

Day 6  
Chele to Syangboche (3,800m/12,470ft): We ascend a long slope towards the Taklam La (Pass) at 3,736m/12,257ft. The trail takes the ‘Cliff Road’, a very steep trail cut into the side of the valley wall. The horses perform incredibly well in this terrain and it is our own fear which encourages us to dismount and walk the steepest sections. Once over the Taklam La, we pass some Chortens in treeless dry terrain and ride on to the town of Samar. After lunching in Samar, the trail follows a large gorge then climbs to enter another valley. We descend to Syangboche (3,800m/12,470ft), a unique little enclave where we rest up for the night.

Day 7
Syangboche to Ghemi (3,520m/11,550ft): At first we climb gently to a small pass with views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. We descend into the Tama Khola (River) and traverse above the town of Ghiling displaying lush and plentiful barley fields. Another short ascent onto the Nyi La (4,010m/13,155ft) reveals views of Mustang and the bigger peaks of Nilgiri and Annapurna.

Traversing the high hills with a wide vista we reach the Ghemi La where we look down into the village of Ghemi and our destination for the day. The ripe yellow wheat and buckwheat fields flowering in pink provide a colourful contrast to the barren and eroded hills around.

We stay with the nephew of the King of Mustang and enjoy the relative comfort of his home. There is plenty to see around the town with the harvest in full swing and an active community in full production.

Day 8  
Ghemi to Dhakmar (3,820m/12,530ft): We awake to the sounds of the villagers going about their work. The animals are taken out into the hills to feed and rush hour traffic consists of an assortment of goats and cattle coursing through the narrow streets.

We cross a narrow bridge over the Ghemi Khola to climb a long slope, which brings us to a traverse into the Dhakmar Khola. The hills here have terrific coloration and the scene is quite stunning as we approach the village of Dhakmar. Beautiful pink and orange cliffs stand above green and lush meadows and many ancient caves abound in this region. We climb up to investigate the closest caves and one gets a real feel for how the long lost inhabitants must have lived.

The village is small and surrounded by an abundance of fields, which are beautifully pink with the buckwheat blooms. This is a veritable photographer’s mecca with the cliffs, the fields and the buildings of the village in perfect harmony.

Day 9
Dhakmar to Charang (3,560m/11,680ft): We cross the highest pass on the trip today with a long climb up from Dhakmar to the Mui La at 4,170m/13,680ft. After soaking up the views we descend into Lo Gekar and the Ghar Gompa (Gompa means monastery). This site was identified by Buddhist saint Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) and is said to be the first Buddhist monastery in the world. We are privileged to enter this ancient building and be educated on the history of Buddhism.

After lunch we ride through an active harvest into Charang. Here we stay at the house of the Kings sister in a large and comfortable lodge. After an extended tea session we set up our tents on the rooftop. As night descends the town comes alive with the sounds of the villagers singing as they come in from the fields.

Day 10  
Charang to Lo Monthang (3,809m/12,500ft): An early morning visit to the old fort in town reveals a sense of the history of the area. The highlight of the fort visit is the room containing a 5th Century Kings armoury with all the battle regalia used to keep control in that era. Amongst the weapons is a dried up human hand! As the story goes, the builder of the Charang Monastery had his hand chopped off by the king after he had completed the job so he wouldn’t build another like it! Brings new meaning to the term performance bonus!

We depart by mid-morning and after a long haul out from the river valley, the horses have a good sweat going. The trail is virtually a road at this point and we enjoy a solid canter. It sure is great to feel the wind in the hair! Finally we top a rise and look down into a large and open valley with green fields and sporadic villages. Largest of the villages is the high walled Lo Monthang, our ultimate destination and home of the King of Mustang.

Full of anticipation we enter the town and revel in this medieval environment. One can just imagine the security this place must have provided when under siege over the ages. There are houses, monasteries and shops inside the 5m high walls and in the centre is the Kings Palace. After setting up tents within a small enclosure outside the city walls we are invited to meet the King and his wife, the Rani. We are escorted into the palace by the king’s bodyguard and exchange greetings with the Royal couple. We present some gifts we have brought for the occasion. After half an hour we leave them and all of us feel a real sense of privilege and appreciation for the hospitality we have been shown.

That evening we dine with a few of the locals. Interesting discussions abound and it is fascinating to realise how worldly these people are given their geographical situation. After such a full day, sleep comes easily!
 
Day 11
We are woken early for a light breakfast. We mount our horses and are soon climbing the gentle slopes towards the very green meadows high above the town. After an hour and a half in the saddle, we arrive at some large yak-wool tents surrounded by several hundred yaks. The inhabitants of the tents have just finishing milking the yaks and are about to make the coveted yak butter which the locals consider a delicacy.

We are invited into one of the tents for yak butter tea, which is made for us over a yak-dung fire. We drink the brew and converse with the nomads through our local guide. A complete juxtaposition between the medieval and the modern, on top of the tent is a solar panel which powers a light inside, yet everything else about these peoples existence is from a different era to our own. Soon we are heading back down the valley and into Lo Manthang again after yet another very fulfilling day.

Day 12
Lo Monthang to Ghemi: It is time for us to leave Lo Monthang behind and our small group of local friends makes a special effort to bid us farewell. We retrace our steps back to Charang for lunch then explore new territory over the Charang La back to Ghemi. We walk the horses down the hill to arrive at the world’s longest Mani wall, opposite Ghemi. Some major chortens nearby provide wonderful photographic opportunities with the changing light and the backdrop of the Dhakmar cliffs and before long we cross the river into Ghemi again. That night we are drawn into a harvest festival where the locals soon have us up on our feet to join them in traditional Sherpa dance.

Day 13
We ride to Syangboche for lunch then drop into the Syangboche Khola with its’ steep and narrow gorge which is shear for hundreds of metres above us. A right turn in the trail takes us to Bhena Khola, an ancient cave perched on the side of the hill and apparently the place where the Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) meditated to achieve enlightenment. Now there is a resident monk living a solitary existence and he will graciously show us around the cave and explain the meaning of all the statues and the history of the cave. A huge stalagmite stands inside the cave which looks unnatural in the setting of the conglomerate rock of the cave.

We then descend into the valley again and begin the big climb out of the valley to come out on the Bhena La. A short descent brings us back to Samar for the night.

Day 14
Samar to Chhusang. The descent to the Kali Gandaki Valley is like a homecoming and it is early afternoon when we stop to have a late lunch and set up camp at Chhusang. We wander around the riverbed in the afternoon looking for saligrams, black rocks that when split reveal nautilus type fossils inside. Altogether this is a pleasant afternoon’s activity before retiring for the evening.

Day 15
Chhusang to Jomsom: We are seasoned riders now and it is no problem for us to ride through to Kagbeni without many stops. We complete formalities at the Annapurna Conservation Committee office, then ride on to Elko Bhatti for lunch. We are asked to fill a questionnaire about our experiences and we unanimously agree that restricted entry into Mustang is a good thing as it protects the culture from mass tourism, even if we do have to pay a premium for the experience. The horses can sense that home is close by so we quickly cover the miles back down to Jomsom.

We celebrate the journey we have shared with our Sherpa crew as some of them are departing tomorrow. We share jokes and laugh away the evening. It seems hard to believe the journey is virtually over!

Day 16
Jomsom to Marpha day trip:  The team enjoys a late start so after a relaxed breakfast we ride to Marpha, a pretty town one hour down the valley. With its streets of large flagstones and whitewashed buildings this town seems very modern to us after our Mustang experience. We meander through stores with lots of new paperback books and enjoy a relaxed lunch before returning to Jomsom.  

Day 17
We fly to Pokhara on the first flight at 8.00am and then on to Kathmandu. It is luxury getting back to the modern hotel and team members relax in the afternoon either shopping or merely wandering around the town. A haircut and shave at the local barber is a highlight for the gents and part of the Asian experience!

Day 18
Spare day if the flights from Jomsom or Pokhara to Kathmandu were unable to operate yesterday.

Day 19
Depart from Kathmandu for home, trip ends.

 

Dispatches

 


Stories & Photos
Mustang Horse Trek C Rutherford
01 October 2014

   Camilla Rutherford and her husband Tim chose the Mustang Horse Trek for their honeymoon.  Check out her amazing photos and blog about their trip:
Part 1     Part 2

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