A Trip to Jomsom & Muktinath

Jomsom is a small town located at the discreet region of Mustang district. The Muktinath temple in the outskirts of Jomsom is major attraction of the region. A tourist destination, Jomsom is also an important economic and geographic hub connecting Nepal with Tibet.


Jomsom

Jomsom is the district headquarter of Mustang region. It connect Upper Mustang with other important cities in the South. Also known as Dzong-Sampa or New Fort,  it is located at the altitude of 2,700 meters; and covers Kali Gandaki river on both sides.

Kali Gandaki Gorge
Kali Gandaki Gorge

The Dhaulagiri and Nilrigi peaks are clearly visible from the town, along with the northern side of Annapurna mountain range.

It is 67 km away from the tourist city of Pokhara. You can choose to take a short flight, bus or jeep to Jomsom from Pokhara. The road can be treacherous throughout the year due to its poor condition. It goes along the side of Kali Gandaki until Jomsom, and passes through important towns of Beni, Parbat, Lete and Marpha.

The region is also popular for its unique apples and locally produced wine. Marpha exports most of its apples and wines to nearby towns.

It also forms a section of the greater Annapurna circuit trek and Upper Mustang trek. One must reach Jomsom to access the discreet Upper Mustang region, however, you aren’t required to obtain ‘restricted area’ permit to reach until Jomsom.

Muktinath

Muktinath is a temple located at the Muktinath town in the outskirts of Jomsom. Located at 3,710 meters on the foot of Thorong La pass, it is mostly visited by both Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims.

In Hinduism, the temple is considered to be 106th among the available 108 Divya Desam (premium temples) considered sacred by the Sri Vaishnava sect. The Hindu pilgrims must visit the temple one their lifetime and offer prayer along with holy bath under the 108 stone taps available inside the temple premise.

In Buddhism, Muktinath is considered an important place of dakinis, goddesses known as Sky Dancers, and one of the 24 Tantric places. They understand the statue to be a manifestation of Avalokiteśvara, who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas.

It is believed that, Guru Ringpoche (the founder of Tibetan Buddhism) mediated at Muktinath before heading towards Tibet.

The temple is located 22 km away from the Jomsom town. One must take a locally available jeep, mule or bus to reach Muktinath. You can also choose to trek. The area is flourished with newly opened hotels, restaurants, shops and other services.

Due to its sheer altitude and geographical proximity, the temple remains inaccessible throughout Monsoon and Winter.


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Leah Thomas & Her Mera Peak Feat!

Leah Thomas (26) hails from Vermont, USA. An outdoor enthusiast, she guides rock climbing trips at Cat Ba, Vietnam through Asia Outdoors.

She recently completed her 17 days trip to Mera Peak summit. An arduous climb, Mera Peak makes up for the highest climbable small peaks in Nepal. At 6,476 meters, Mera Peak makes an exciting trip which includes both trekking and minimal climbing experience.

She says,

From the start, Caravan Outdoors was really easy to work with. I talked mostly to Salman who helped me through each step of the process of getting signed and getting to Nepal. I had never done anything like this before, climbing a peak, and they were very helpful in directing me to what I needed to get and do before arriving.

I ended up being the only one on my trip, but it was great. I summited Mera Peak (6400+ meters) which I had my doubts on doing since I was coming directly from sea level, but was able to do it with no major problems!

It was a great experience, the guides were amazing, the trip was amazing! I can’t say enough good things, I’m already looking to go back and do anther trip!

From Her #Insta



I like the suffering. I like being tired and cold and exhausted at the end of the day, I even like knowing that I have to do it all again the next day. I like knowing that it doesn't matter that I haven't showered in weeks, that I haven't changed my clothes in weeks. Out here you can separate yourself from society, from all those social norms that you're required to do. The being exhausted, dirty, hungry, sweaty, cold, hot is part of the adventure. The suffering is part of the thrill. Knowing that you and only a select few others are willing to go through something so painful and difficult, yet come out the other side wanting to do it all again, creates a close community found no where else. There is pain in suffering. There is also great adventure. . . #sufferfest #sufferinginadventure #type2fun #nepal #trekking #longdistance #adventure #liveformore #dontjustexist #live #adventuremore #travelmore #travelwander #seemore #domore #pushlimits

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Gosainkunda Lake

Gosainkunda is one of the most revered sites inside Nepal. The lake situated at Gosainkunda is visited by millions of devotees and tourists throughout the year. It’s mostly visited during the local festival of Janai Purnima.


Overview

Gosainkunda is a fresh water oligotrophic  lake located inside the Langtang National Park of Rasuwa district. Situated at the altitude of 4,380 meters, you must trek for days before reaching the holy lake. It has a surface area of 13.4 ha; and it was declared a Ramsar site back in 2007.

The lake freezes and remains inaccessible throughout October-February. Spring (March-June) and Autumn (September-October) are the best times to visit Langtang region. The weather remains clear during these times of the year.

It makes up for many sources forming the Trishu river. There are 108 smaller/larger lakes in the area.

Legend & Pilgrimage

Lord Shiva
Lord Shiva

The Hindu mythology of Puranas attributes Gosaikunda as the abode of the Hindu deities Shiva and Gauri. The Hindu scriptures and the epics Ramayana & Mahabharata refer to Samudra manthan (Churning of the Sea), which is directly related to the origin of Gosaikunda.

It is believed, Lord Shiva created the lake when he thrust his trident into a mountain to extract water to quench his thirst after swallowing the poison.

The water of the lake is considered holier and significant during the events of Gangadashahara and Janai Purnima. Thousands of pilgrims make a visit on foot to Gosainkunda during these festivals.

Trekking

Gosainkunda forms a greater trekking trail in Langtan region. It can be reached during both Dhunche-Helambu trek and Langtang trek.

Lauribina La Pass at the altitude of 4,610 meters forms the toughest part of the treks. The surrounding mountains of Langtang Lirung and Ganesh Himal are clearly visible during the trek. The farthest you can reach is at Kyanjin Gompa inside the national park.

Langtang National Park was established in 1976 as the first Himalayan national park in Nepal. It covers an area of 1,710 kmand covers 3 different districts, namely; Nuwakot, Rasuwa and Sindhupalchok.


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Langtang National Park

Langtang National Park is located inside Langtang region of western Nepal. The fourth national park of Nepal is also the first Himalayan national park, and the expanse of the park reaches 3 different districts. It is also home to one of the rarest animals in the world; Red Panda.


Overview

Langtang National Park was established in 1976 as the first Himalayan national park in Nepal. It covers an area of 1,710 kmand covers 3 different districts, namely; Nuwakot, Rasuwa and Sindhupalchok.

Kyanjin Gompa
Kyanjin Gompa

The area extends from 32 km north of Kathmandu to the Nepal-China border. The inhabitants of the region are culturally Tibetan and are mainly the adherent of Buddhism.

While the main reason for the park is to preserve the natural environment, an equally important goal is to allow local people to follow traditional land use practices that are compatible with resource protection.

Tamang tribe of people are the major inhabitants of the region, followed by Sherpas. The former were the followers of Bon religion, which later got assimilated into Buddhist teachings.

Wildlife & Vegetation

Around 25% of the park area is forested. The northern part is mostly covered by mountains. The region is home to wild dog, red panda, pika, muntjac, musk deer, Himalayan black bear, Himalayan tahr, ghoral, serow, rhesus monkey and common langur.

The most available vegetation at lower Langtang regions are Oaks, Chirpine, Maple, Fir, Blue pine, Hemlock spruce and various species of rhododendron.

Langtang Lirung

Langtang Lirung
Langtang Lirung

Langtang Lirung is the highest mountain located inside the park. Par of the Langtang Himalayan range, it is measured at 7,234 meters. It’s included in the short peaks of Nepal and is opened for climbing.

It was first climed in 1978 by Seishi Wada and Pemba Tsering, from a Japanese-Sherpa expedition, via the East Ridge route.

Trekking

Langtang makes up for one of the most sought for trekkings in Nepal. A comparatively shorter trek than Everest and Annapurna, the highest you may reach during the trek is 4,983 m at Tsergo Ri.

The trek may last anything from 11 to 15 days, and it may take you to Gosainkunda lake, Tsergo Ri and Kyanjin Gompa.

The region was heavily devastated during the major earthquake of 2015, however, the locals have rebuilt the region, and today it’s is fully operational. Langtang Trek is suitable for all kinds of hikers. You must be accompanied by a guide to enter the region; a strict policy maintained by the government of Nepal in light of unforeseen accidents in the region.

From mid-October to mid-December and from mid-February until mid-April the weather is usually clear but cold at higher elevations. From mid-April to mid-June, it is warm but often cloudy with thunder showers, spring flowers are at their best.


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Phoksundo -The Deepest Lake of Nepal

Phoksundo is a fresh water lake located in the Dolpo region of Nepal. It is popularly known as the deepest lake in the country, and makes up for one of the best trekking experiences in Nepal.  Reaching the lake isn’t easy either. You need to trek for days and up to 3,612 meters to reach the site.


Overview

Phoksundo or Shey Phoksundo is an alpine fresh water oligotrophic lake located in the Dolpo region of mid-western Nepal. It lies to the north of Dhaulagiri mountain bordering Tibet and inside Shey Phoksundo National Park.

Phoksundo Lake
Phoksundo Lake

With the depth of 145 meters, Phoksundo is known to be the deepest lake in Nepal. The lake and surrounding was designated a Ramsar site back in 2007. At the lake’ southern end, the village of Ringmo lies on the 30,000-40,000 year old landslide dam that formed the lake. Past the dam, the waters of the lake plunge over a 167 meter tall waterfall, called Phoksundo Waterfall.

The lake is rich in biodiversity and also supports various wildlife in the region. Snow leopard, musk deer, Blue sheep, Tibetan wolf and frequently traversing Yak caravans and cattle.

Visitors are prohibited from stepping inside the lake, as it is considered a holy site by the local inhabitants.


Dolpo region

Upper Dolpo is a high-altitude region located at western Nepal. A rain-shadow area, Upper Dolpo receives least rainfall; therefore, most of the terrain resembles a desert like landscape and can be trekked throughout the year. It lays close to Tibet in the North, therefore, the inhabitants, local culture, dialect and architecture, resembles its northern counterpart.

The Dolpo people have practiced trading salt through caravans for ages. Eric Valli, a renowned French filmmaker made a movie based on the life of the people of Dolpo, named “Caravan.” It was nominated for Oscars in 1997.

Phoksundo National Park

Shey Phoksundo National Parkestablished in 1984, is the largest and only trans-Himalaya National Park in Nepal. Covering the entire Dolpa and Mugu districts, the park is home to some of the most exotic and least seen wildlife.

The national park is home to 6 different species of reptiles and 29 butterflies. Snow Leopard, Grey wolf, Musk deer, Blue sheep. Goral, Great Tibetan sheep, Himalayan Tahr, leopard, Jackal,Himalayan black bear and yellow-throated marten dominate the wildlife. Rhododendron, Caragana shrubs, Salix, Juniper, White Himalayan birch and the occasional Silver fir are the most found flora inside the park.


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The Red Panda

The Red Panda is the most elusive of the wild animals found in the world. A predominant inhabitant of the Himalayas, Red Panda has been listed as the most endangered species due to major loss of its habitat and human encroachment. It is one of the most protected wild species in Nepal, India & China.


Overview

Habitat Map
Habitat Map

COMMON NAME: Red Panda
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Ailurus fulgens
TYPE: Mammals
DIET: Omnivore
AVERAGE LIFE SPAN IN THE WILD: 8 years
SIZE: Head and body, 20 to 26 in; tail, 12 to 20 in
WEIGHT: 12 to 20 lbs


The Red Panda or Red-bear cat is a mammal of Ailuridae family found mostly in the Eastern Himalayas. Almost 38% of the total population is found inside Nepal. It has reddish-brown fur, a long, shaggy tail, and a waddling gait due to its shorter front legs; it is slightly larger than a domestic cat.

It lives in the trees, feeds mainly on bamboo. Due to its omnivore nature, it seldom feeds on bird eggs, birds, and insects. It is a solitary animal, hence, its sightings is one of the rarest among the entire wildlife.

It has been listed under the Endangered species by IUCN, due to its dwindling population. Human encroachment has been the major cause for its habitat loss.

Habitat & Breeding

They reside in the rainy and high-altitude forests, similar to Giant Pandas, in the mountains of Nepal and northern Myanmar (Burma), as well as in central China.

They spend most of their lives in trees and even sleep aloft. When foraging, they are most active at night as well as in the gloaming hours of dusk and dawn.

Red pandas are known to have a sweet tooth for bamboo, however, they feed on fruits, acorns, roots and eggs as well.

They are obscure animals except when mating. Females generally give births in the spring and summer, typically one to four cubs at a time. Young red pandas remain in their nests for about 90 days, and are solely nurtured by mother pandas.

Facts

  • Only about 10,000 Red Pandas are estimated to be living in the wild.
  • China has the largest known population of Red Pandas. About 42% of the entire population is found inside the protected regions of China.
  • Even though they were placed in the Racoon and Bear family before, the extensive research has proved they are unique species and have since been placed in the Ailuridae family.
  • Red Panda is the only surviving member of the Ailuridae family.
  • There are over 86 protected areas inside China, India, Myanmar and Nepal dedicated to the conservation of the Red Panda.
  • There are only two recognized species of Red Panda, namely; Ailurus fulgens fulgens and Ailurus fulgens styani.
  • Red pandas have a long gestation period (roughly 135 days) for an animal that weighs only 11 pounds at maturity.

 

The Highest Mountain Pass in the World

Thorong La is a mountain pass located at Damodar Himal in the mid-western region of Nepal. At 5,416 meters, it is known as the highest mountain pass in the world. The access to the pass is only possible on foot, unlike Zatwar La Pass of Ladakh which is accessible through road.


Overview

Thorong La or Thorung La is situated at the elevation of 5,416 meters in the Damodar Himal and inside the Circuit trail. The pass connects two different villages, Manang and Mustang.

It is the highest point you may reach during the Annapurna Circuit trek. It is advised to start the treacherous hike early morning to avoid any worsening weather at the pass. It’s easier to cross the pass from east to west because its safer and you can stay overnight at Thorung Phedi before approaching the highest point.

The western side of the pass, Muktinath, is drier compared to the eastern side, mainly because the massive Annapurna mountain ranges blocks the monsoon clouds from reaching the area.

Due to its sheer elevation, trekkers are recommended to acclimatize properly before crossing the pass. The safest time cross the pass are March-April and September-November. The weather at the pass is likely to worsen during other seasons, and may bring avalanches, snowfall and storm. The altercation in weather can prove to be fatal to your life.

The Annapurna Circuit

The Annapurna Circuit spanning over 200 meters encompasses into one of the longest treks in Nepal. It may take well over 2 weeks to complete the trek and covers a great sparse of geography. You will get to cross 4 different districts during the trek, namely; Lamjung, Manang, Mustang and Myagdi.

You will witness people of varying tribes and ethnicity. The villages, settlements and lifestyles found along the trail may differ in every 30 km.

Along with the Annapurna Base Camp, the circuit receives over 130,000 trekkers annually.

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Asiatic Vs African Elephants

The pachyderm evolved around 80 million years ago. It is believed, around 50-60 million years ago the Moeritheriums, approximately the size of current day pigs, were the roots from which the proboscideans evolved. Elephantide is the only sub-species of proboscideans alive today.

There are 3 recognized species of elephants alive today; African Bush elephant, African forest elephant and Asiatic elephant. There are around 700,000 and 40,000 African and Asiatic elephants alive today respectively. The latter’s number has dwindled in the last 50 years due to mass poaching, hunting and human encroachment.


Major Differences

  • Asiatic elephants are older than the African elephants, even though the former migrated from Africa. The African elephant appeared only about 1.5 million years ago.
  • Asiatic elephants are genetically closer to Mammoths than the African elephants. Morphological evidence suggests Mammoths and Elephas (Asiatic elephant) are sister taxa.
  • African elephants tend to be larger in size than the Asiatic elephants. A male Asian elephant may measure avg. 2.75 meters, while a male African elephant may measure anything from 3.4 -4 meters.
  • Due to their dwindling number, the Asiatic elephants have been listed under Endangered category by the IUCN list. The African elephants are categorized as Vulnerable species as of yet.
  • An Asiatic elephant can live up to 60 years in the wild, while their African cousins can live up to 70 years.
  • Poaching for ivory is rampant among Asian elephants than the African elephants. Most of the ivory is smuggled throughout Asia for preparing medications or as jewels.
  • Experiencing of Musth, the increasing level of testosterone and libido, is common among both species of elephants. They use Musth to attract female attention during breeding season.
  • A female elephant from both species may carry a child for 22 months before giving birth.
  • An African elephant has larger ears than the Asian elephants. The former’s ear can easily be spotted because of  its shape resembling the shape of African continent.

 

Insight on Everest Trekking

Mount Everest is the highest peak on earth. It attracts more than 50,000 people in a year to trek through the treacherous trail to reach its base camp. But, there’s more to the trekking than just seeing the Everest. The Sherpa inhabitants of the region, their native culture, rich biodiversity and the sight of humongous mountains are few treats of the trekking.


Everest Region

With the commercialization of Mount Everest, the trekking began in late 80s. Since then, millions of tourists have visited the Khumbu (Everest) region; few of them comprising of climbers. Today, the Everest Base Camp along attracts more than 50,000 tourists in a year.

Over 5,000 people have summited the Everest. With availability of better logistics and assistance, more climbers tend to join the expedition every year bringing the total summits over 300 per year.

Mt. Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse
Mount Everest

Khumbu is mostly accessible through a short flight from Kathmandu to Lukla. Those who wish to map it on foot can arrive through Jiri village. It may well take over 9-10 days to trekking to reach the base camp. However, there aren’t any lodges available in the base camp, hence, you must stay at Gorakshep or Lobuche before approaching it.

Kala Patthar at 5,643 meters is located just above the base  camp. It’s a small hill or the monument where the trekkers can spend time enjoying the up-close glimpse of the Mount Everest. (Note: Everest isn’t visible from the base camp. The towering Lhotse peak blocks the entire view)

Namche Bazaar, Gokyo lakes and Tengboche are another major attractions in the region. Namche and Tengboche are accessible through the usual trail, however, you must take an entirely different route to reach the Gokyo lakes. Gokyo is a discreet village located at the western section of Khumbu.

Trekking

The trek is generally strenuous and may require walking over 5 hours a day. It begins at Lukla. The trail aslowly ascends towards Namche Bazaar through Phakding. Namche is the most populated Sherpa town and is known for its luxury lodges, markets and ethnic lifestyle. Hiking around the place or staying a day more is recommended.

The trek ascends further towards Tengboche. Tengboche boasts the highest monastery on Earth. The monastery is over 100 years old and the popular Mani Rimdu festival is held every year to commemorate its legacy. Few other Sherpa villages, you’ll come across are Dingboche, Lobuche and Gorakshep before heading towards the Everest Base Camp.

You can hike to the base camp from Lobuche in few hours and come back to Gorakshep to stay overnight. The next day, you an make an early hike to Kala Patthar and start descending the usual way afterwards.

Anyone from the age 8 to 59 can do this trek, with sound health and proper assistance. Acclimatization is essential to get used to the local environment and altitude.

Facts

  • The Everest was attempted by British mountaineer George Mallory before it was successfully summited by the 9th British expedition
  • Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa became the first humans to touch the summit of the peak, in 1953.
  • Over 5,000 people have summited the Everest since 1953.
  • Reinhold Messner became the first person to summit the Everest without the use of bottled oxygen
  • The term Sherpa actually signifies the native tribe of Khumbu region. Today, Sherpa is used as a misnomer for porters, guides and such.
  • Over 250 people attempt the summit in a single day every year during the climbing season of May.
  • The disaster of 1996’s at Everest cost 15 lives. The incident was later adapted into the best-seller, Into Thin Air.
  • The popular trekking seasons are Spring and Autumn. They last from March to June and September to November simultaneously.

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10 Facts about Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia is the national landmark of Turkey, located at the center of the capital Istanbul. It was built by the Roman empire as the basilica in 537 AD, and has survived through various transformations. Around 3.47 million tourists visited the landmark in 2015, making it the most popular tourist site in the entire Turkey.


10 Interesting Facts

  • Hagia Sophia was originally built as the Greek Orthodox Christian patriarchal Basilica in 537 AD by the Byzantine Roman empire during the reign of Jutinian I.
  • It was converted into a mosque by the Mehmed the Conquerer of Ottomon empire in 1453. It remained a mosque until 1931, and was opened as a museum in 1935 by the Republic of Turkey.
  • The original church on the site of the Hagia Sophia is said to have been built by Constantine I in 325 on the foundations of a pagan temple. It was damaged in 404 by a fire that erupted during a riot following the second banishment of St. John Chrysostom, then patriarch of Constantinople. It was rebuilt and enlarged by the Roman emperor Constans I. The restored building was rededicated in 415 by Theodosius II. The church was burned again in the Nika insurrection of January 532.
  • The four minarets surrounding the main dome was later added by the Ottomon empire. One minaret was built out of red bricks while the other three were built of white limestone and sandstone.
  • The main structure; the porphyry columns came from Rome and the marble columns came from Ephesus. Marble in varied colors, alabaster, and onyx were cut, fitted, piered, and veneered to cover walls and pavements in geometric patterns. It was built by the Greek architects, Anthemius of Tralles  and Isidore of Miletus.
  • The Blue Mosque and Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul were designed with an inspiration of Hagia Sophia.
  • To fortify (and beautify) the interior of the church, columns from the long-abandoned and destroyed Temple of Artemis in Ephesus were used for the Hagia Sophia. Additional building materials may also have come from ancient sites in Baalbeck and Pergamom.
  • Also called the “sweating column,” the “wishing column,” and the “perspiring column,” the weeping column stands in the northwest portion of the church and is one of 107 columns in the building. The alleged blessing of St. Gregory has led many to rub the column in search of divine healing.
  • It was enlisted in the world heritage site by UNESCO in 1985.
  • Over 3 million tourists visit the landmark every year, making it the most visited tourist site in Turkey.