Mustang, Land at the end of the world, Nepal
It’s a strange sensation, travelling through this desert. The massive mountains that stretch out of sight leave an impression on me, they almost destabilise me. The greatness of the landscape reminds me how minute we are, yet how at the same time we can be just as strong and powerful as the mountains if we conquer them.Extract from vd’s diary
Mustang is situated in the north of nepal at an average altitude of 10,500 feet. It is home to about 6000 people of which the majority are from the bista community – nepalese of tibetan origin. Here, tarmac and vehicles don’t exist, the only way traverse this isolated region is by foot or by horse.
History tells us that the forbidden kingdom became independent after 1380, when a warrior and devout tibetan buddhist ame pal built the fortress at ketcher dzong. After his defeat at the hands of local warriors, ame pal founded a fortified capital, lo-manthang. The current king, jigime palbar bista, has no political power, but remains loved and respected by the population. At the beginning of nepal’s parliamentary democracy in 1990, mustang was opened to foreigners but with limited access by way of a paying pass.
Here, nature is king. It dictates the daily rhythm of the inhabitants. Journeys are counted not by distance, but in hours. A schoolchild might take two hours to get to his class. An old lady, 3 hours to travel to the doctor or a farmer 8 hours to retrieve his herd yak from the valley.
Electricity is rare in people’s homes. Candles prolong the day by a few hours, but most activities quickly grind to a halt after sunset. Having herded the flocks into their paddocks, families sit in circles around the stove. The porters bring news from neighbouring villages and the swaddled children cling onto their mothers. Only the wind moves in the alleys stirring up clouds of dust.
Over the centuries, protected by their mountainous frontier, mustang remains a place of mystery.
Picture Credits: Max Slastnikov.
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