Visiting the Lost Kingdom of Tibet
Photojournalist Darren Ornitz traveled last year to Mustang, Nepal, known as the “Lost Kingdom of Tibet.”
Situated within the world’s highest mountain range and just south of the Tibet Autonomous Region, Mustang is one of the last places in the world where traditional Tibetan culture remains intact. However, due to China’s ever-increasing presence in the region, and their building of a road connecting Lower Mustang to the walled city of Lo Manthang, near the Tibetan border, this status is under threat. There appears to be mixed feelings among the inhabitants of Mustang. Some welcome the road, as it allows for the influx of cheaper goods, but many fear the erosion of traditional lifestyles.
Those seeking an adventure and a rare cross-cultural experience can pay the hefty permit fee of $500 per person and hire a guide to trek the ancient villages of Mustang, either by horse or on foot.
Like most Mustang trekkers, I started my journey with a 20-minute flight from the town of Pokhara to the Lower Mustang town of Jomsom, which serves as an entry point for visitors. After a delay of a few hours, we were rushed onto the runway and into the plane to take off before the high winds returned. Flights are often cancelled, sometimes for days, due to wind and low visibility. Emerging from the clouds shortly after takeoff to blue skies and the tallest mountains in the world is both humbling and exhilarating.