Nepal

JAN Treks & Travels

Journeys to remember

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NEPAL
 
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Nepal needs no introduction. To many, it is the abode of the Himalayas. Though most of the Himalayas lies outside Nepal, the truth is that much of the Himalayan exploration that has happened in the last 50 years, has happened in this relatively small country, home to the highest peaks in the world.

Although we can offer treks and tours in the whole of Nepal, including cross border tours to Tibet, we focus presently on two areas. In the eastern part of Nepal, relatively easily accessible from Kathmandu, we will offer medium level and easy treks at intermediate altitudes with good views of the Himalayan giants that fit within a two-week programme. For longer, higher and more strenuous treks, we focus on Dolpo and Mustang, two trans-Himalayan areas that are unsurpassed in terms of remoteness, stark barren landscapes and a truly ‘Tibetan’ population and culture.

For those who would really like to see the beauty of the high mountains but are not into multi-day treks, we offer walking tours on which you will travel by car and stay in decent hotels or lodges, but get out into the mountains as far as you can on day walks. These tours may include a two day ‘minitrek’ where you stay overnight in tents or a lodge along the trail. This formula gives everyone maximal flexibility as members of the same party are then free to decide from day to day whether they partake in the walks or not.

Our wildlife tours in Nepal either focus on the Southwest, where we make a combination with some splendid parks in India or on the Central-south and eastern areas of Nepal. The latter are ideal for extensions into Northeast India or Bhutan.


Dolpo and Mustang

The land behind the Himalayas’ is what they called it. Little was known about this hidden land until Christoph von Furer’s visit in 1962 and the subsequent recording about the trade in the Trans Himalayan region including Dolpo in his book, ‘Himalayan Traders.’ Later, about 38 years ago, Peter Matthiessen (author of “The Snow Leopard”) and zoologist George Schaller visited the Inner Dolpo region. Some selected researchers were allowed to visit the area in the 70’s and the 80’s, but otherwise the entire region of Dolpo was forbidden to foreigners during those times.
Particularly, the inner Dolpo region has always caught the imagination of people in the west. Phillip Sturgeon, a 75 year old American, in his travelogue “Himalayan Echoes” expressed his 1992 experience of Inner Dolpo as “If there is a Shangri La, it is Inner Dolpo.” This imagination was fueled further by the feature film called “Caravan-Himalaya”, directed and produced by Eric Vally. The Oscar-nominated film brought the mesmerizing landscape and life in Dolpo to the attention of people worldwide. However, the land known for Shey Gompa,
blue sheep, and musk deer is still an enigma to the outside world.

Shey Gompa lies behind the so called ‘crystal mountain.’ It is not an easy walk to this hidden place. There are several high passes that you have to go through and as this is largely unexplored land, the trails are not always defined.

For years, people have wanted to have a look at the monastery at Shey known as the Shey-gompa. Shey gompa is behind the so called ‘crystal mountain.’ It is not an easy walk to this hidden place. There are several high passes that you have to go through before getting behind the crystal mountain. This is unexplored land where the trails are not always defined. The trek to Shey demands a lot of energy and patience. But good weather would make this trek a truly memorable one.


Mustang is easier to reach than Dolpo as it lies at the end of a long gorge, and there are no passes to cross to reach it. Still, it has had the privilege of ‘splendid isolation’ for a long time as well. Until 1992, it was simply not allowed to go there.

Called Lo by the locals, the Tibetan-influenced area north of Kagbeni is known as Upper Mustang. A vast high valley, arid and dry, it has a barren desert-like appearance similar to the Tibetan Plateau. It is characterized by eroded canyons and colorful stratified sandstone formations. Mustang was once an important route for crossing the Himalayas between Tibet and Nepal, and many of the old salt caravans passed through Mustang. Its architecture, language, culture and traditions are almost purely Tibetan, and quite unique with its own blend of Tibetan culture.

In May, the Tiri Festival is held in the walled city of Lo Mantang, Mustang’s capital (3730m). Lo Manthang is also home to Mustang's former King Jigme Dorjee Palbar Bista who lost his royal title in 2008 after Nepal became a republic. But he is still highly regarded and respected by the locals, and he and his family still occupy the royal palace situated at the center of the city square.

The Tiji Festival is one of the most sacred and colorful festivals in this whole region. The festival features a three-day ritual known as the 'chasing of demons'.
Monks donning masks and colorful costumes enact the story of Dorje Jono who fought against his demon father to save the Kingdom of Mustang from falling apart. The festival is held annually at the onset of the spring season. Just as the spring season symbolizes the renewal of life, this festival is also about hope, revival and affirmation of life.


Elsewhere in Nepal

As It would be futile to try and describe the other regions of Nepal, being supremely diverse both culturally and landscape-wise, we won’t even try. And as we’re not pretending to offer tours in the whole of Nepal, but only in selected areas we hope to be excused for this. Gradually, we will expand the number of tours and regions covered, so do keep checking our website.