Among the 100 or so ethnic languages of Nepal, there are a handful that are spoken by just a few hundred people. One such language is Nar Phu, or Narpa, spoken by the 800 or so villagers of Nar and Phu villages in the Nar Khola Valley of Manang District, an area whose people are known as Mananges. However, the inhabitants of Nar and Phu do not consider themselves to be Mananges. So much so, they have even devised a ‘secret language’ among themselves that is indecipherable to the other inhabitants of Manang. Talk about protecting your unique identity! Anyway, this is one of the valleys that was only opened for trekking in 2003. Nar and Phu are heavily influenced by Tibetan culture, and one of the highlights of the valley is the Tashi Lha Khang monastery there.
This is a trek that generally takes some 20 days to complete and it has plenty to satisfy the most jaded trekker: high passes and still higher peaks; narrow canyons and fascinating rocky crags; snow white glaciers and heavily wooded forests; picturesque villages and lovely gompas; and yes, a unique culture and lifestyle. On offer are spectacular views of some mighty Himalayan peaks—Machhapuchhre Himal, Manaslu Himal, the Annapurna massif, Lamjung Himal, Tilicho peak, and the Dhaulagiri range. It’s a fairly secluded route which means you have it all to yourself most of the time during your trek.
You drive from Kathmandu to the bustling town of Besisahar (830 m), a journey of some seven hours, and spend the night at one of the guest houses there. Early next morning, you start your trek, initially walking on the famous Annapurna Circuit route for some six hours to reach Bahun Danda (1,305 m) where you spend the night. The next day, you start off for Chamje (1,410 m) where you again hunker down for the night at a guest house. Similar is the case for the third day: you hike to Dharapani (1,960 m), which should take you about six hours again. The fourth day, you trek to Koto, and once again you stay at a guest house. Then-on, it’s all wilderness.
From Koto is where you take the track off the Annapurna Circuit trail, and six hours later, hiking through the Marsyangdi Valley, you reach Dharmasala (3,220 m) where you set up camp for the night. The scenery is sure to fascinate you; the wilderness will most certainly fill you with an exhilarating sense of high adventure. The next few days is hard trekking, going gradually uphill and giving you time to acclimatize yourself. On the way you’ll be camping in Kayang before reaching the village of Phu, and then it’s onward, first to Junam, and then to the village of Nar. Spend some time exploring these villages; an ancient way of life still prevails there.
From Nar, you hike to Ngwal, crossing the Kang La pass (5,200 m) on the way, from where you get a fantastic panoramic view of the Annapurna massif. Another day takes you to Manang and then to Yak Kharka (4,350 m), both are short hikes of three-four hours each, but because of the height, it’s slow going. By and by, you will be in Thorung Phedi (4,420 m) and then you’ll be hiking through lower Mustang before reaching the sacred site of Muktinath (3,850 m). You’ll have to do some hard walking before that, however, as you will be crossing the Thorung La pass (5,416 m) on the way. But, from Muktinath, it’s all downhill to Kagbeni (2,895 m) and then to Jomsom (2,650 m) from where you fly to Pokhara, a short flight of only 20 minutes.
Sounds like a pretty interesting trek, what do you say?