Looks like I’ll be returning to the Nepal Himalaya. Joining Richard at the Mustang trail race, and doing some recce and research for him. Details to be hashed out. I’ll use this blog as a scrapbook for anything remotely connected to this multi-stage trail event and the physical and mental universe that it is part of.
Mustang district is larger than the former Kingdom of Mustang that is the main arena for this trail race. It’s that upper part, North of Kagbeni, a no-go area for tourists until 1992, and still requiring an expensive special permit, which is the object of Shangrila fantasies of outsiders. The Southern part has been open to tourism for decades, and walking the Kali Gandaki gorge to Jomosom, Kagbeni and major pilgrimage town Muktinath was for a long time the most popular trek in Nepal.
Let’s start with some orientation because maps are like good paintings, irrespective of the number of your visits, they never make for boredom and manage to come up with something new every time. The big picture (click on the image for a larger version):
Obviously, exposure to tourism (and road access) affect areas dramatically. But it’s important to keep in mind that the effects are mainly socio-economic and cultural. Geographically, Mustang’s transhimalayan barren rainshadow landscape doesn’t start in the fabled Kingdom but South of it. So parts of it were accessible since the early days of trekking in Nepal. Having said that, Mustang only extends one walking day South of Kagbeni, and that village remains the door way to Tibet proper. That’s what Mustang is really part of. So let’s step back a bit further and have a look at an even bigger picture:
A map of Mustang (click on the image for a large version):
The Annapurna area to the South of Upper Mustang, including its Lower part (click on the image for a full screen version):
Now, after indulging in my orientalist longing for the landscape of boddhisattvas, to complete this first page in my scrapbook we move scenery to another Mustang country, one which is the occidentalist equivalent for quite some Nepalese.
That Mustang also inhabits a corner in the canyons of my mind and let’s be explicit here: I’m not trying to be facetious. Mustang is a mental thing. Until my feet are going to be on its soil, and its wind is going to blow right through me. That fact is not a choice, it’s a given. And my stance is to take the given and explore as many corners of it as I can, and hope that the more I engage and play with my map, the less I’m going to confuse it with what’s really out there. Does that make any sense?