Getting the trek logistics right is important. If you’re not on an organised trek from your home country, you’ll probably advised to use the services of a trekking agency in Nepal of which there are a plethora in the Thamel area of Kathmandu. Trying to do it yourself would require patience and having to spend a lot of time awaiting permits and you’ll still need to employ a guide.
The country is effectively in two halves, Lower and Upper Mustang. Lower Mustang has been open to trekkers for many years but it is only relatively recently that Upper Mustang has been open to foreigners but only if they pays a daily permit fee and employ at least a trekking guide or porter. The daily fee in 2014 is $50 and the authorities prefer it if you go in in an organised group, although we did see a few lone travellers who had just employed a local guide (usually from Kathmandu not Mustang) to accompany them.
My group was three in number and we had a guide, an assistant Guide and three porters who carried our kit apart from our own personal days sacs. We were staying in tea houses and lodges along the way, but Camping is also an option albeit a more expensive option as more porters are needed to carry the enormous amount of kit that will accompany you. If you camp you’ll stay in the grounds of the lodges.
Getting to the Start of the Trek
Once you’re in Nepal, there are a number of ways of doing this depending on your budget
- flying in from Pokhara to Jomsum. Try to book an early flight as the winds (and in the summer months) monsoon rains can affect flights later in the day. The flight costs around $120
- Walking in via the Annapaurna Trek down to Muktinath and Kegbeni.
- By bus from Pokhara (about 14 hours of bumps.)
You’ll find some good trekking maps in Pokhara and also in Jomsum. They are a bit flimsy so open them carefully, but careful study of the contours will give you an idea of what to expect during the walk.
The lodges are simple affairs, basic rooms, hole-in-the-ground loos and if there are showers, they are probably cold, or lukewarm if the solar panels have kicked in that day. (Showers via hot water in a bucket are the closet things to heaven though!)
On a tented trek your porters do the cooking, carry your kits and all you need to carry is a day sac for water, camera and an extra later or two. Porters can carry carry your stuff on a Tea House trek, but they aren’t compulsory, although if you’re on an organised trek porters will be employed. All you need is a day sack. Tea House menus are the same throughout Mustang, not haut cuisines but filling and nutritious. Expect chow meins, noodles, fried rice, pasta and pizza (occasionally on a Chipati base!) The apples pies, rice pudding and porridge are delightful. Bottled mineral water is available throughout the trek as is beer and coca cola.
When we were there most electricity was solar generated so evening battery charging was hit and miss. Electricity cables are heading towards Lo Manthang so this may change but expect it to be unreliable.
Money and Supplies
Nepal uses the Nepalese Rupee of which there are around 150 to the British pound. Dollars are accepted when tipping guides and porters. Access to cash in Mustang is virtually non-existent so you’ll need to bring enough from Pokhara (where there are Money Changers and a couple of cash points.) As for ‘comfort’ supplies like sweets and biscuits, again these are limited but you’ll get basic supplies in Lo Manthang. The authorities would prefer you to drink boiled water (I’d still filter and purify it) although bottled water (and beer) is available for the entire walk.
Day One – Jomsum to Kagbeni
Day Two – Kagbeni to Chele
Day Three – Chele to Syangboche
Day Four – Syangboche to Tsarang
Day Five – Tsarang to Lo Manthang
Day Six – Rest Day
Day Seven – Lo Manthang to Tsarang
Day Eight – Tsarang to Ghami
Day Nine – Ghami to Syangboche
Day Ten – Syangboche to Chele
Day Eleven – Chele to Kagbeni
Day Twelve – Kagbeni to Jomsum