Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Mustang……..a land of mystery, intrigue, complex history and certainly one of the most visually stunning regions of Nepal.  We have just returned from 3 weeks of trekking through this last forbidden kingdom, diverging extensively from the main trail that leads to the Tibetan border, and distributing 600 fleece jackets to four villages nestled into the virtually treeless, barren blue, gray and red cliffs that are reminiscent of the Grand Canyon.  Many of these villages had early beginnings in a network of caves, much like the early peoples of the American Southwest, and still these dwellings are in use as meditation retreats for the Tibetan Buddhist population of Upper Mustang.

 We were accompanied by my beloved friend and guide, Karsang Sherpa, 3 assistant guides, Mingma Dorje Sherpa, Pasang Sherpa and Kansa Rai whom I have known for 11 years…… our cook Purakitta and 4 kitchen boys, Mingma, Ram Kumar, Maila, and Jetta……and finally a mule and horse train of 20!  Quite a merry little band transporting all of our food and cooking fuel and camping gear for 2 ½ weeks, plus 17 duffle bags full of fleece jackets.

 As we started out by following the mighty Kali Ghandaki riverbed, mere specks in the landscape of towering sandstone cliffs that closed in on both sides of us, I was acutely aware that the length of our trek was very predictable……we had obtained a permit that allowed us 2 weeks to “peek” into the inner workings of this restricted culture that had only allowed foreigners access to it since 1992.  I picked my way along the riverbed littered with “saligrams”, black stones that, when broken open, reveal the fossilized remains of prehistoric ammonites formed more than 140 million years ago.  And like the riverbed, I knew the length of it, but realized I must nurture the width and the depth of the journey ahead.  What were the physical challenges that lay ahead?  How receptive would the villagers be upon our unannounced arrival?  As much as I try and prepare for each year’s trek into the wilds of Nepal, part of the allure for me is the adventure of the unknown……no blueprints, no expectations, a willingness to answer the call of spontaneity, inviting disturbance and reshuffling my assurances! 

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