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.

The gandaki river – the black river – is like a black line that has slipped between the mountains. It guides the way. It’s as if we’re in a land at the end of the world. Extract from vd’s diary

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.

Time rolls on, the sun which blurs into the horizon tells us to pick up the pace, otherwise the thick night will keep us prisoner in this immense and silent cage. Extract from vd’s diary

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.

And i admire how the inhabitants of this isolated region have so skilfully tamed nature, which is so tough, but at the same time so beautiful.Extract from vd’s diary

The fertile fields around the villages where the villagers grow cereals, vegetables, potatoes and fruit, provide a rich and varied diet. For the other necessities of daily life, they travel twice a year to tibet or into the kathmandu valley. It’s an expedition from which they return in a convoy of horses with provisions for the coming months.

Over the centuries, protected by their mountainous frontier, mustang remains a place of mystery. The population continues its lifestyle, traditions and the buddhist religion of its ancestors, passing onto its children the precious knowledge needed to survive in this unique environment.

Caught between two worlds, a return to origins and the lesson in life, whoever adventures to the sinuous fields of these white lands, will return transformed.