The Hidden Valley Mustang (#8 of 8)The Hidden Valley Mustang (#8 of 8)
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Mustang region is a high desert plateau at 12,400 feet. Dry, wild and windy, it is a paradise like no other on earth. The strong winds blowing between the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri mountains have created this desert landscape, dusty and bare in its beauty. Mustang was off limits to foreigners until 1964 when French anthropologist and author, Michel Peissel, was granted a one-time permit into the region. In 1992, it was partially opened to foreigners. Today, only a limited number of tourists are granted ten-day permits to visit this region. This is the last remaining Kingdom in Nepal. Mustang is currently ruled by Raja Jigme Palbar Bista, the 25th descendent of the founder of the kingdom of Lo. The largest settlement in this area is Lomanthang, a small fort city with high surrounding walls, sentinel turrets at each corner and prayer flags blowing in the wind. This city is as good as having been frozen in a time capsule dating to pre-Buddhist Bon Po culture, more exotic and protected than even Tibet. The whitewashed walls around Lomanthang is shaped like a misshapen L with a short vertical arm oriented north-south and a very fat, almost square horizontal arm. The closely packed houses, the palace and temples are in the bottom portion, the vertical part of the L houses the monastic community and two gompas; this portion of the city wall is painted red. The school, health post, police post and several important chhortens are located outside the walls to the North of the gate and East of the monastic part of the city. The city contains 150 houses plus numerous residences for Lamas. The only agricultural land inside the walls is a field owned by the monastery situated near the center of the city. The walls of Lomanthang were once more imposing than it is now. In the mid 1980s, the Raja sold much of the land surrounding the city and as a result, numerous stables, houses and stone-walled fields now adjoin the wall.