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Upper Mustang (Nepal)

Upper Mustang is a region in north-central Nepal that borders Tibet (China). It is mostly Tibetan, culturally distinct from the rest of Nepal, and was occupied by the retreating Tibetan army until the 1974. It is a restricted area and off limits to any foreigners without a special (and expensive) permit and guide. I’ve been living in a town on the border of Upper Mustang and soon found out that it was pretty easy to sneak into the zone–and I frequently do. Besides a distinct culture, the area has a different–and beautiful–geology.


The Kali Gandaki River.



It’s mostly soft rock such as limestone or rock composite that is easily shaped by wind and water. Though the elevation is still very high the mountains are not the soaring snow capped peaks just south of the area but often what looks like plateaus stacked on top of each other.



The ‘red mountain’ outside Chhusang.



Tibetan graffiti inside Chhusang.



A village on a perch above the Kali Gandaki.



Inside the village.



It’s now monsoon season and the river grows bigger each day. A month previous it was half this size. At it’s peak the entire valley will be flooded.



As the river grows it breaks its banks and forms new channels. While walking along the riverbed in Upper Mustang one day I witnessed the river break through its banks. It was fascinating to watch it forge new ground and flood new territory as it snaked its way south.



Nepal suffered a civil war from 1996 to 2006. The communists, who would eventually come out the victors and are now the controlling party of government, controlled most of rural Nepal throughout the war. Some graffiti leftover from the war in Upper Mustang.



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