Oct 9 – 11
We finally arrived in Lo Manthang, the Walled City which was originally inhabited in the 700’s and other than a few years of occupation by invaders, has been presided by its own King as an independent kingdom. The present King is now 92 years old and is in care on Kathmandu. Nepal has now absorbed the whole area including Lo Manthang into its realm so this may be the last
King. None of these towns are very big – the whole area of the lost Kingdom only has 6000 people. They live mainly by herding animals including goats, yaks, cattle and horses. Life is very simple here. Lo Manthang is the largest and most important town in the Upper Mustang. It is dominated by its 3 Gompas though only one is presently used. We visited all three plus a very interesting Monastic Museum. The oldest one is from the 14th Century and the interior walls of two of them have been restored by the American Himalayan Society. There are no lights in these important Buddhist sites but one can use a camping headlight when touring. All three and the museum are located inside the walls of Lo Manthang. There is also a Winter Palace inside the Walls and a Summer Palace high on a hill outside of the town. The Summer Palace is in ruins and only part of the Winter Palace is now usable.
The museum was small but had a great collection of old artifacts including hideous masks used in festivals, drums, and old tools. There is also a million year old Wooly Mammoth tooth displayed here openly as though they are found everywhere. Everything is full of dust and displayed haphazardly but really cool to see. This whole area including Lo Manthang has been used as a refuge for Tibetans since the Chinese invasion. The culture is definitely singular to Tibetans. We are really enjoying this visit to an area seen by relatively few in this world. A friendly pastoral landscape preserved by its remoteness.
The following day Bridget and I hiked up 8K to the small village of Choser which is only 13k from Chinese Tibet. Just outside of Choser we found the incredible caves of Jampa where the Tibetans hid from the Nepali army during a conflict here. It was an amazing maze of caves climbing higher and higher into the steep cliffs. It also offered a great view of anyone coming so all could hide. After touring this honeycomb of caves we went to a Gompa in the village itself. The monks were playing music with 3 cymbals , two small horns, two long large horns and a couple of drums. It was great. Bridget got a video of them playing – usually they don’t allow cameras. We hiked 16K and we were happy to get back onto Lo for the evening.
Tomorrow we start biking three days down to Jomsom where our porters leave us, then on to Pokhara. We leave our bikes in Beni for the bus trip back to Kathmandu. We will fly from Pokhara.
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