Instagram trip to Lo Manthang, Upper Mustang

Recently, our team was part of one of Great Himalaya Trails (GHT) initiatives to encourage tourists to visit Nepal by sharing their travel experiences along the GHT by using hashtag #MyGHT on social media channels. The GHT team invited Instagram Influencers from the US, Japan and Nepal – including @NatGeoTravel – to explore the country, from the snow-capped Himalayas to the lowlands of Terai region. Managing logistics for Instagrammer celebs and NatGeo Travel photographer was an amazing experience for us.

The credit for the success of the trip also goes to Yeti Airlines. Yeti Airlines sponsored all the domestic flights including mountain flights for all the participants. Thank you very much.

Day 1: Around the capital city!

Kathmandu is always an interesting place to walk around; and when it’s with bunch of good people it’s even more exciting. Our Kathmandu sightseeing started with Swayambhunath (also known as the Monkey temple). Even though the quake have had made some damages to the temple, the place still has many things to offer. The rebuilding work is in high progress, the Stupa is standing beautiful and the monkeys are always there to welcome you. Indeed it’s a great place to capture some nice shots, the monkeys will smile for you, play around and if you are lucky they might even pose for you ;)

Spending quite a high amount of time at Swayambhu, we then quickly went to Kathmandu Durbar Square. Unfortunately, the square is quite damaged by the quake; however, you can still find lots of interesting stuffs along with many beautiful and old architectures/temples. Ever smiling people and their affecting stories are always great to cover.

The evening was yet another visit to the UNESCO world heritage site – Patan Durbar Square. The square is vibrant with loads of people around, and beautiful structures everywhere. We all had a great time there. All in all the day was well spent with lots of stories captured on the camera :)

Day 2: Hey! We are in Pokhara.

The next day we had an early morning flight to Pokhara from Kathmandu. Pokhara is always exciting; it's the pristine air, the stunning backdrop of the snowy crest, the serene lakes, the bracing greenery whatever it is Pokhara is always filled with fun. Even though there was a strike, our exploration fun didn’t stop. We went boating in Fewa lake, kayaking, explored the city in scooters and checked in some nice places to enjoy some great food. The sad part was our paragliding adventure got cancelled that day because of the poor weather; however we did compensate it with some other fun activities.

Day 3: Another great day in Pokhara

The day was scheduled to go to Jomsom via air, but due to the unpredictable weather conditions our flight got cancelled. The hours of wait at the airport were not pleasing, but it’s understandable as the weathers aren’t predictable. But since, everyone was in a very tight schedule; the flight cancellation got us to thinking for some alternative plans. Confirming with all the logistics by Thamserku, we shared the PLAN B with the group which was basically changing our destination. The team agreed but we all wanted to take a chance for the flight next morning. The day was now planned for Pokhara.

Pokhara has so much to offer so having a day extra in fact gave us more time to enjoy the city. We hired some scooters and the city was all ours. Went to Devis Fall, Gupteshwor cave, local markets and to Begnas Taal for boating; everyone took some nice photographs and even posed for some Wefies ;)

Day 4: And it begins; flight to Jomsom took off

When it was announced that we are flying to Jomosm; the excitement was at its peak. And this means we stick to our initial plan to go to Lo Manthang :) As the Tara Air was landing in Jomsom, the landscapes, villages from the window were already so great; everyone had their camera out. We stayed for a while in Jomsom to drop off some of our luggages (only took for few days as we would come back to Jomsom later) and then walked few minutes to get into our Jeeps. A little wait there for the jeep, but the wait was worth it.

The jeep ride was quite an experience but the landscapes along the way were too beautiful; had to stop the jeep at various destinations to capture the beauty of nature. A single jeep wouldn’t be able to take us to our destination as it was all off roads with narrow bridges and rivers flowing. But everything was managed all great, every time we crossed the roads, another jeep would wait us on the other side and on time. I personally enjoyed crossing a river on a tractor – it was sure a nice experience for me and many ;)

That day we decided to stay at Samar; the drive could have been pushed till Lo-Manthang but considering the altitude difference we needed to acclimatize.

The day was way too good; everyone had nothing but smile on their face and preferably amazing photos on their cameras :)

Day 5: We are driving to Lo Manthang!

After a quick breakfast and Khapse at Samar, our exciting drive to Lo Manthang was all set. Everyone was looking forward to Lo Manthang because we all knew it was going to be so great :D

The bumpy drive, the landscapes, the nature, the beauty…aah it was exceptional. I can’t even remember how many times the jeep was slowed and/or the stops we made for photographs. But I am sure by the time we reached Lo Manthang our camera’s memory card was almost filled with beautiful photos. When we reached Lo Manthang; people were celebrating the horse riding festival – "Yartung Festival”. Here’s what NatGeo Photographer Tyler James Metcalfe says “We happened to arrive in Lo Manthang on the same day as the annual Yartung horse racing festival in the Mustang region of Nepal. Men travel each year from every corner of the Mustang to compete, which involves horse and rider decorated in traditional Tibetan attire. For a few hours, we watched as riders galloped back and fourth down the main pathway of the Lo Manthang village, trying to impress judges and locals, and often times nearly trampling bystanders who happened to be in the path of a rogue horse."

Day 6: Getting back to Jomsom with good memories and experiences

After spending a quality time in Lo Manthang, we were all set to drive back to Jomsom. The drive was quite a long one – approximately 8 hours of drive in the bumpy roads; but hey that’s the adventure smile emoticon Switching jeeps, driving on a tractor, getting into another jeep etc it was an epic drive. While coming back from Lo Manthang to Jomsom gave us ample opportunities to take additional images; you always want to stop and take photographs no matter how many times to travel along. Exhausted with the drive, we reached Jomsom, grabbed some drinks, talks, had dinner and went to the bed early to prepare for the flight to Pokhara next morning.

Day 7: Day waiting at Jomsom

Because of the unpredictable weather conditions, the flights from Jomsom to Pokhara (or vice versa) are never sure to take off. Understanding this very well, our guide Dinesh Dai went to the airport alone to learn about the flight status, and asked everyone to stay at the hotel (He would call if there any flights depart from Jomsom). We waited for hours but then due to the poor weather, all the flights for the day got cancelled. This then became a little stressing as some of our clients needed to catch up the international flights the day after. What next – we began to work on alternatives.

Discussing with the team, we had few options - drive till Pokhara (not great especially because of poor roads - monsoon) or charter a helicopter and wait (Heli flights also depends on the weather but heli can fly till 4-5PM but not planes). We decided to take a chance for Heli and waited. At around 3PM we heard a helicopter flying, immediately made few calls but figured out it was on a rescue mission and was waiting to take flight from Pokhara since yesterday. Our heli was waiting in Kathmandu but they couldn’t fly unless they receive green signals from all the routes. Making everyone understand why the heli couldn’t fly is not that easy, especially when you can see the other helicopter flying. That heli which was on the rescue also couldn’t make it to Pokhara that day and had to stop in between. Our heli couldn’t make it to Jomsom so the day was spent in Jomsom.

But then some of them decided to go hike at Dhumba Lake in Jomsom and places around, while some stayed at the hotel playing an interesting drinking card game. All of them had fun in their own ways. The day was fair enough, had a bit of time to check the images, upload it on social media, but more importantly spent some quality time with the team.

Day 8: Goodbye Jomsom!

We made it that day; the flights from Jomsom took off and landed in Pokhara all safe. Though while on the flight, at times looking from the plane I could see nothing but white clouds and from both the windows…Anyway, after landing in Pokhara, few of our teams got another flight back to Kathmandu as they had to take their international flights that evening. We had to stay in Pokhara for few hours as our tickets were being arranged for the day.

However, there was a bit change in the plan. Our NatGeo Photographer – Tyler James Metcalfe and our Nepali photographers Mohan Duwal & Shikhar Bhattarai wanted to have the taste of Chitwan before ending the whole trip (Trip to Chitwan was initially planned but we had change because of the flight changes vs limited days). So the logistic team immediately got into action. I am very pleased to find such an efficient team who arranged vehicles for us in such a short notice. We had to get two vehicles one picking Tyler from Kathmandu (to Chitwan) and other one to pick up us from Pokhara (to Chitwan). Thanks Yalamber Rai & Beenod Magar for arranging this all; if they hadn’t made the vehicles arrangement, probably we couldn’t have made it to Chitwan that day.

We reached Kasara at around 9 PM, fully tired and hungry; but hey the feast was waiting there for us smile emoticon Thanks Pramila Rai DD and Gaurie Malakar DD for everything smile emoticon We had a great dinner, had a little chitchat on how we made to Kasara …and then everyone crashed into the super comfy and soft beds at Kasara Resort. This was probably one of the best night spent; such a relaxation..

Day 9: The perfect way to end the trip - relaxation at Kasara Resort

After having a super nice sleep at Kasara, we had more surprises to come. Our day was fully planned for the adventure and we were all excited to see animals and birds in their natural habitat and of course learning about the local culture around the area.

The morning started off with safari; we saw 9 rhinos some with their little babies (quite lucky to see them in just around 2 hours). Many species of birds, deer etc were also caught in the camera. Next we went canoeing in the Rapti River, walked through the jungle and went to Crocodile breeding center. The experience was phenomenal.

We also have had a chance to talk with Mr. Colonel Sanjay Deoja (Thanks to Gauri DD for making it possible). He and his team are to be credited for Zero poaching fiscal year of Rhino in Chitwan. They use simple yet effective applications on their PC/Phones which help them to monitor their team and also their team can report immediately in case of any suspicious activities. Great to know what these guys were doing! With some nice words of wisdom, we came back to our resort, where the beautiful pool was waiting for us. After the quick refreshment; we were all set to get back to Kathmandu. We reached the K-city in around midnight. We waved goodbye hugged and thanked everyone for the wonder trip experiences.

Our fun Instagram trip came to end but with wonderful experiences and nice memories :)

Image courtesy: Saujan, Moh Photography

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