Friday, January 20, 2012

Asian Adventure Day 17 and 18: Road to Lo Manthang

Mustang Trek Day 2
Chele (3100 m) to Geiling (3570 m)

The trail continued on from Chele steeply climbing the hill behind the town following the new road under construction for a short distance before entering a deep canyon. After two hours of climbing a narrow path perched on the edge of the canyon wall we finally reached the first pass at 3660 m.


The trail dropped down to the town of Sumar then wound along the hillside constantly climbing to one ridge, falling to the bottom of a gorge to cross the river, only to climb even higher to the next ridge.


The weather was overcast even with the occasional snowflake but at least it meant it was not windy!

After reaching the final pass at 4010 m, the trail dropped down to the town of Syangboche (3800 m) where we stopped for lunch at the Nilgiri Hotel. From Syangboche the landscaped changed from arid with scrub vegetation to dry and dusty. The sky cleared and of course that meant the wind picked up.

Nilgiri Hotel

The Nepali government is in the process of building a road connection Jomsom in the south to the Chinese border north of Lo Manthang. The road is mostly complete except for the connection between Chele and Chhusang and large portions of the trail are on the road or follow the road. Thankfully at this point in time, the only traffic is the occasional tractor or jeep.

Bolero Camper ambulance


After about 6 hours of hard walking we finally reached our destination for the day - the town of Geling. Geling is a sprawling town located in a sunny valley overlooking a cascade of terraced fields and the mountain ranges beyond. The houses were spread out amongst animal corrals, grazing pastures and clumps of popular trees. We were welcomed into town by a swarm of children chanting the traditional mantra of "school pen? chocolate? sweets?". By this time we were certain that those are the first words Nepali children are taught in English. We did not have any of the three, they had to settle with posing with our cameras to see themselves in the screen.


Welcoming committee


After checking into the Darjeeling Hotel, we explored the town and attempted to visit the monastery. Unfortunately we had both forgotten to grab our wallets (not a souvenir shop in sight!) and forgotten that it is customary to charge 100 rupees to enter any building as a tourist in Mustang. We did get the chance to chat with a young monk from Pokhara who was visiting Geling on retreat.


White yak

Butchered yak

Upon returning to the hotel, we discovered we were once again the only guests, so we were invited to hang out in the kitchen with our guide, the inn keeper Nima and her six year old son Tashi. At six years old, Tashi already spoke good English and was able to read my journal entry as I wrote it. He provided the evening entertainment, showing us his homework and drawing pictures for us. For dinner, we were able to convince Nima we wanted to try real Nepali food not the tourist version all the tea houses served so she made us dal bhat with a fantastic pumpkin vegetable curry and a buckwheat dough that was eaten dipped in a spicy soup.

Darjeeling Hotel

Another cosy room


Our hostess

Mustang Trek Day 3
Geling (3570 m) to Charang (3560 m)

As we were leaving Geling, we got to enjoy the sounds of the local school children doing their morning exercises and singing the national anthem in the school yard. Once again the trail began with a steep climb up a dusty hill to Nyi La Pass (4020 m). The skies were perfectly clear offering stunning views of the Annapurna and Nilgiri ranges rising above the deep valleys of the Kali Gandaki River.

Geiling School

Nyi La Pass

After three hours we reached the charming town of Ghami (3510 m) with its tightly packed houses, colourful chortens, multiple mani walls and well hidden gompa. We stopped for lunch at the Raju Apple Guesthouse were we encountered our first foreigners in days! We shared lunch with a fascinating British couple and Dutch couple who regaled us with their travel stories of Tibet, Afghanistan and Pakistan from twenty years ago.


Ghami gate



After chatting with the British couple, who were on their way back out to Jomsom, we decided to rearrange our itinerary. Instead of spending the night in Dhakmar, about an hour down the trail, and taking the longer high path to Lo Manthang the next day, we would take the low road to Charang allowing us more time in Lo Manthang.

Leaving Ghami, we passed the longest mani wall in Nepal before the trail climbed yet another pass - thankfully this time only to 3870 m. From Choya La pass, the trail made a long gentle descent before reaching the maze of fields surrounding Charang.

Mani wall

Approaching Charang

We arrived in Charang (3560 m) by 3:00 PM and checked into the Maya Inn which to our surprise actually had about 7 other guests! Charang is home to a large monastery and a derelict dzong fortress but unfortunately we were not able to find anyone with a key so late in the day. We spent the remaining day light exploring the narrow lanes, dodging the evening "rush hour" of goat herds returning from pasture. Despite having the company of the other guests, the dark and cold (and smokey dining room) still meant that we were in bed by 7:00 PM! 

Rush hour


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