Tag Archives: tibetan plateau

Mystery of the ancient kingdom discovered in Nepal

Remember a while ago, I talked about Mustang made it to Lonely Planets Best in Travel 2013 List. Today I read this on Mail Online and I have to share this with you all. If you are still questioning, if you have to go to Nepal, here is why I say you must.

Mystery: Thousands of man-made caves 155ft from the ground lie hidden within the Himilayas in a gorge so large it dwarfs the Grand Canyon

Bizarre: With dozens of holes carved into the fragile, sandy-coloured cliff face this unusual ‘neighbourhood in the sky’ looks like a giant sandcastle

Dangerous: Climber Cedar Wright explores the series of caves near the village of Tsele

Mystery of the ancient kingdom discovered in Nepal where thousands of caves are carved 155ft off the ground.  An estimated 10,000 of the caves have been found in the former Kingdom of Mustang in North, Central Nepal. They have either been dug into the cliffside or tunnelled from above.    Caves are thousands of years old but who built them and why remains a mystery.

Hidden within the Himalayas, 155ft from the ground, these man-made caves are one of the World’s greatest archaeological mysteries.Thousands of holes are carved into the fragile, sandy-coloured cliff in a gorge so large it dwarfs the Grand Canyon.

Adventure: Climbers and scientists follow a trail above the Kali Gandaki River

The astonishing number of caves, some dug into the cliffside, others tunnelled from above are thousands of years old but who built them and why remains a mystery.It is also not known how people climbed into the caves which are dug into a cliff 155-foot above the valley floor.

An estimated 10,000 of these mysterious human-built caves have been found in the former Kingdom of Mustang in North, Central Nepal. Those who have seen the mysterious caves say the effect of them on the cliff face makes it look like a giant sandcastle.

Adventure photographer, Cory Richards joined climber Pete Athans, archaeologist Mark Aldenderfer and a team of explorers to unearth the hidden relics of the ancient and remote caves. Mr Richards said: ‘I was in Nepal working in this village called Forte, where Pete [Athans] and I were teaching a group of Sherpas climbing techniques, safe climbing techniques so they could climb Everest. And Pete asked me if I would be interested in this project in Mustang. He started telling me about this place where we were going. The words he was using conjured these images of a place I couldn’t really imagine.

High up: Climber Pete Athans looks inside a cave found near Chuksang. It is not known how people climbed into the caves which are dug into a cliff 155foot above the valley floor

Quite honestly when I got there it was even bigger and more grand than anything I ever could ever have imagined. ‘We’re talking about somewhere that reminds us of the Grand Canyon, the desert south west but then has this incredible history to it. You see these caves carved into the rock and now they’re completely inaccessible.

As we started getting deeper into it, I started to see the magic of what we were approaching, the culture in practice, a 12th century village underneath the caves they used to live in, caves that are now forgotten. We started asking questions about how did people get into them?

Impressive: This image shows eroded murals on the walls of the Ritseling Cave in Upper Mustang. The astonishing number of caves are thousands of years old

I started wondering how do I light up people’s imagination to make them think what it would have looked like thousands of years ago, that was my final challenge, how do I give people that imagination.

One of the ways we did that was lighting up the caves, going them into them a night, spending the night in caves, using lights to light them up and strobes. Trying to give people the feeling this is a very ancient place, this is a place that has so many stories to tell us so much more than we can even really imagine in our lifetime.

Discovery: A scientist enters a maze of rooms in a looted cave near Chuksang, left, while another member of the team hoists himself up at a Mustang cave entrance, right

Climbing into the sky caves was no easy feat, the rock was unstable and posed a real danger to the team of explorers. In fact climbing into the caves was so dangerous, Mr Richards lost his footing, fell and broke his back. On another assignment to Mustang the following year, videographer Lincoln Else was hit by a falling rock, fracturing his skull.

He said: This was real exploration. It’s dangerous it’s loose rock it’s scary. Everything is loose, everything around you feels like it’s crumbling. You feel like when you’re climbing everything is going to collapse.

One of the things I think we forget when we’re talking about adventure, science and exploration is it gets dangerous at times one of the reasons it’s so exciting is because there are consequences and big consequences. On my first trip there I was trying to climb in and a foothold broke and I fell about 12-20 feet, I landed on my butt and I broke my back. It was an eye-opener because yes it this was really exciting, really engaging, I want to tell this big story but I just broke my back, maybe this isn’t as important as I thought.

Exploration: Members of the team do a preliminary survey of a cave

The next year we came back to try again. I took this shot and my friend Lincoln Else was filming right next to me. Next thing I heard was Pete’s wife scream, she said “oh my god, oh my god” Lincoln was lying on the ground with blood pouring from his head and convulsing.

A rock had fallen from above, hit him and given him a 21cm skull fracture, it completely depressed his skull. Again it was a point of realisation that yes what you are doing is very important but it’s also very dangerous and when you talk about adventure there are sides to it that are unpleasant.

Lincoln made a full recovery, I thought for certain I think we all thought at the point that Lincoln was going to die. Essentially at the end of the experience, what was illuminated to me the marriage of science and exploration and culture is the ultimate in how we bring the world to everyone.

‘We have to make it exciting, digestible but we also have to give the knowledge of what’s out there to everyone else.

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Mustang in Lonely Planets Best in Travel 2013 List

The other day I was so happy to read the following article and I am sharing it here. Yes, Mustang, the picturesque town in Nepal has mangaed to get on the list of best places to travel in 2013 list.

I have never been there and I hope to go there in the near future. Here are some information regarding the place.

Only a few years ago it was “nobody’s been there”, now it’s heading towards “last chance to see”. The completion of a road connecting Mustang to China in the north and the rest of Nepal to the south will make all the difference.

Lo Manthang, or Mustang as it’s usually called, has been dubbed “little Tibet” or “the last forbidden kingdom”; though politically a part of Nepal, in language, culture, climate and geography, it’s closer to Tibet. The remote region is north of the Himalayan watershed and on the Tibetan plateau, and just south of the border with “big Tibet”, the Chinese one.

Life in Mustang revolves around tourism, animal husbandry and trade. Apart from nine kilometers between Chhusang and Syangboche (just south of Ghiling (Geling)), it is bisected, as of August 2010, by a new road linking it to the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) to the north and to the rest of Nepal to the south. Plans call for these final nine kilometers to be linked within the next few years, at which time the road would become the lowest drivable corridor through the Himalayas linking the Tibetan Plateau to the tropical Indian plains. The highest point would be 4660 m at Kora La on the Mustang-TAR border. Currently, the easiest and only widely used road corridor, from Kathmandu to Lhasa via the Arniko Rajmarg (Arniko Highway), traverses a 5125 m pass.

The below is an excerpt from the October edition of National Geographic magazine.

“Mustang, a former kingdom in north-central Nepal, is home to one of the world’s great archaeological mysteries. In this dusty, wind-savaged place, hidden within the Himalaya and deeply cleaved by the Kali Gandaki River—in spots, the gorge dwarfs Arizona’s Grand Canyon—there are an extraordinary number of human-built caves.

Some sit by themselves, a single open mouth on a vast corrugated face of weathered rock. Others are in groups, a grand chorus of holes, occasionally stacked eight or nine stories high, an entire vertical neighborhood. Some were dug into cliffsides, others tunneled from above. Many are thousands of years old. The total number of caves in Mustang, conservatively estimated, is 10,000.

No one knows who dug them. Or why. Or even how people climbed into them. (Ropes? Scaffolding? Carved steps? Nearly all evidence has been erased.) Seven hundred years ago, Mustang was a bustling place: a center of Buddhist scholarship and art, and possibly the easiest connection between the salt deposits of Tibet and the cities of the Indian subcontinent. Salt was then one of the world’s most valuable commodities. In Mustang’s heyday, says Charles Ramble, an anthropologist at the Sorbonne in Paris, caravans would move across the region’s rugged trails, carting loads of salt.”

Mustang has an average elevation of 13,000ft and is located to the north of the mountain giants of Dhaulagiri and Annapurna and is therefore north of the main Himalayan range and geographically is part of the highlands of Tibet. It is a vast high valley, arid and dry, characterized by eroded canyons, colorful stratified rock formations and has a barren, desert like appearance.

Naturally, most of the history is now a matter of legend rather than recorded fact, but it seems clear that Lo was once part of Ngari, part of Tibet and a rather loose collection of feudal domains. It was incorporated into the Tibetan Empire under the most famous of the Tibetan kings Songtsengampo. It was an important means of crossing the Himalaya from Tibet to Nepal, and many of the old salt caravans passed through Mustang. By 14C much of Ngari became part of the Malla Empire, whose capital was Sinja in western Nepal. It became an independent kingdom in its own right, under the rule of Ame Pal, the founder king of Lo in 1380. The present royal family can trace its history 25 generations back to Ame Pal, and the city of Lomanthang, was the centre of their power.

Well known, intrepid explorers such as Professor David Snellgrove and the Italian scholar Guiseppi Tucci visited Mustang in the 1950’s and it has largely been their tales of a Tibetan like arrid region that has fuelled interest in the area.
If you love nature or trekking, I am sure you will love it there so do make a plan to go and visit this beautiful place.

Enjoy some amazing photos from Mustang.

Climbers and scientists follow a trail above the Kali Gandaki River in Nepal’s remote Mustang region. More than 60 feet above are rows of unexplored man-made caves dug centuries ago. There may be thousands in the region.
© Cory Richards/National Geographic

To reach a series of caves dug into a cliff 155 feet above the valley floor, Matt Segal scales a rock face so fragile it often breaks off to the touch. Linked by a ledge, the 800-year-old caves, empty now, may once have stored manuscripts.
© Cory Richards/National Geographic

Dusk falls over the temples and homes of Tsarang, once the region’s most important town. In Mustang, where the centuries have not disrupted the traditional rhythm of life, the caves offer clues to a time when the remote Himalayan kingdom was a hub linking Tibet to the rest of the world.

Mustang (1) Mustang (2) Mustang (3) Mustang (4) Mustang (5) Mustang (6) Mustang (7)All the images below Credit: Gilles Sabrie for The New York TimesMustang (8)The Kali Gandaki riverbed in Kagbeni, Nepal. Most trekkers enter Nepal’s Upper Mustang region at Kagbeni. Mustang (9)North of Kagbeni, trekkers make their way along a high trail near Samar. Last year, nearly 3,000 tourists entered Upper Mustang, according to government statistics. Mustang (10)Farmers harvesting in the village. Mustang (12)A nomad’s necklaces. Much of Upper Mustang is desolate, inhabited by about 5,400 people.Mustang (11)A view of Lo Manthang, the walled capital of Mustang.  Mustang (13)A closer view of the capital. Mustang (14)A man appears at his window in Lo Manthang. Mustang (15)Shadows of people on horseback appear in the barren landscape around Mustang’s capital. Mustang (16)Just to the southeast lies Yara. Mustang (17)A farmer stands in fields near Lo Manthang. Mustang (18)Locals haul baskets between rows of prayer wheels. Mustang (21)Another view of Yara. Mustang (22)Tashi Kabum, a cave temple near Yara, opened to the public only a few years ago.Mustang (20)Inside the cave, a fresco representing Chenrezig. For Tibetan Buddhists, Chenrezig was a bodhisattva embodying compassion.

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