Day 14: To Syanboche
(O/nt Altitude 3,800m/7hrs approx.) The trail from Chele climbs to a spur, from where there is a view down to the village of Ghyakar. It then continues over the Chele La (3,630m), then down to the ‘oasis’ of Samar. High above the river and set amongst apricot and apple orchards and often a bright yellow mustard crop, Samar is known for its supply of sturdy pack-ponies. From here one should still be able to see the Annapurnas and Nilgiri in the South. The trail continues to Bhena before crossing the pass known as Yamdo La (4,010m). A descent, before another short climb to Shyangmochen, a classic Mustang village. On upwards again to Shyangmochen La (3,850m), and then yet another remarkable valley.
Day 15: To Ghemi
(O/nt Altitude 3,510m/4hrs approx.) Another high point of the expedition, which is reached today, is Nyi La (4,020m). There are 360 degree panoramic views, North to the Tibetan plateau and South to the Annapurnas. Descending from the pass now, reach Ghemi, a large settlement distinguished by scores of white-washed houses and surrounded by cultivated, walled fields.
Day 16: To Charang
(O/nt Altitude 3,560m/4hrs approx.) Two impressive sights today: the broad alluvial plain, and a 400m long 2.5m tall prayer wall – the longest in Nepal. The trail climbs to cross Choya La (3,870m) and then descends to the fields and village of Charang.
Day 17: To Lo Manthang
(O/nt Altitude 3,840m/4.5 hrs approx.) It is not actually the valley of the Kali Gandaki that we have to follow today, but a series of tributary valleys, both sharing and crossing our path. We thus avoid the geological chaos of all the torrential tributaries as they rush to meet the Kali Gandaki. Around us now is a barren yet remarkable landscape, intense and colourful none-the-less; its desert-like features belie its simple riches. A short descent after Lo, then on upwards onto a plateau, arriving at the walled city of Lo Manthang.
Days 18: In Lo Manthang
(Altitude 3,840m) A day is set aside in this most atmospheric of places for savouring Lo Manthang and the surrounding mountain views.
There are around 150 houses clustered in close proximity in this ‘city’ settlement. The doors of most houses open onto a two-storey central courtyard with ground level generally used as storage space.
A wooden staircase leads to the upper storey, which characteristically has a veranda overlooking the courtyard and doors leading off to living rooms and kitchen. The all-important sunshine means most activities are conducted out-of-doors hence, many opportunities to glimpse typical domestic scenes.
There are four Buddhist gompas within the city: Jampa Lhakang, Thubchen, Chodey and Choprang - each one of different interest and each dimly lit by row-upon-row of butter lamps.
An incongruous four-storey building, the king’s palace, is in the centre of town. Though only ceremonial, the king is still well-respected and consulted on many issues.
Day 19: To Dhakmar
(O/nt Altitude 3,820m/6hrs approx.) To date the sun has always been at our backs but from today it will travel across our horizon. We may opt for a different, more westerly route, via the Marang La (4,230m), using it to include a visit to the monastery at Lo Gekar. Surrounded by grassy pastures the gompa is decorated with paintings and statues and numerous large prayer wheels. It’s a lively place, busy with monks and pilgrims. Next is the Mui La, and alpine meadows give way to fluted red and purple cliffs leading us to Dhakmar.
Day 20-23: To Ghiling
(O/nt Altitude 3,570m/5.5hrs approx.)
(O/nt Altitude 3,050m/6 hrs approx.)
(O/nt Altitude 2,800m/4hrs approx.) and
(O/nt Altitude 2760m/3hrs approx.) Retracing our route to Jomson, this is familiar territory. To make it even more interesting, we turn to take a new route from Jhaite, passing via Ghemi to the village of Ghiling (3,570m). We rejoin the main trail at Syangboche, making our next two night stops at Chele and Kagbeni, and reaching Jomson the following day.
Day 24: Fly to Pokhara
A morning flight (25 minutes) to Pokhara, where we are soon at our Pokhara Base Camp. End of Expedition. Final celebratory dinner in the evening.