Tucked away behind the Himalayas and bordering Tibet lies one of Nepal’s most remote and special places: Upper Mustang, or the former Kingdom of Lo. For a long time, this Tibetan kingdom was isolated from the rest of Nepal. Until 1992 it was even forbidden for foreigners to enter the area. Because of this, its traditional Tibetan Buddhist culture is considered one of the best preserved in the world.
It is still difficult (and expensive) to access Upper Mustang, which gives trekking in the area a kind of mystical touch. Last November I visited the former kingdom, travelling from the ‘gateway’ village of Kagbeni to its walled capital Lo Manthang and back, following the beautiful Kali Gandaki Gorge.
We met this local goat herder along the way to Upper Mustang. Life as a goat herder is rough on the vast, rugged Tibetan plateau, where the sun and wind are merciless. Often the animals belong to a rich family that hires labour to take care of their cattle. Photo: Ynske Boersma
Local women in the village Charang, wearing the traditional striped dress, which denotes a woman is married. They seemed to find our cameras very amusing, and the older lady burst out laughing when we showed her the picture. Photo: Ynske Boersma
Local girls in Lo Manthang grinding roasted barley for what they call ‘local porridge.’ Photo: Ynske Boersma
The elderly of Lo Manthang gather in the square in front of the king’s palace. Photo: Ynske Boersma
We met this woman in the village of Choser, a three hour hike away from Lo Manthang. That morning she had walked one and a half hours to cook food for the lamas of the monastery, who would perform a seven-hour ritual that day. Here she shows a cheese from yak milk, conserved in the intestine of the same animal. Photo: Ynske Boersma
Prayer flags marking the highest point of the pass, looking out over Lo Manthang. Photo: Ynske Boersma
One of the many Buddhist stupas in Upper Mustang. Photo: Ynske Boersma
Local men working the land with dzos, a cross between a yak and a cow. It was early morning and the men were singing while slapping the dzos’ backsides to urge them forward. Photo: Ynske Boersma