Travel to Nepal
Lo Manthang
Travel to Nepal
The whitewashed wall around Lo Manthang 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 of the bottom portion, the palace and temples are in the bottom portion ; the vertical part of the L houses the monastic community and two gompas and this portion of the city wall is painted red. The school, health post, police post and several important chortens are located outside the walls to the north of the gate and east of the monastic part of the city. The city contains about 150 houses plus numerous residences for lamas. The only agricultural land inside the walls is a field owned by the monastery situated near the centre of the city.

surrounding the city ‘ as a result numerous stables, houses and stone-walled fields now adjoin the wall. Nothing will
The wall of Lo Manthang was once more imposing than it is now. In the mid-1980’s the raja sold much of the land grow in this arid land without irrigation. A small canal flows around the city providing sustenance for a few willow trees and another canal flows under the wall and through the city itself. The surrounding irrigated fields provide one crop a year of wheat, barley, peas or mustard.

PALACE: The raja’s palace is an imposing 4-story building in the centre of the city. It is the home of the present raja, Jigme Parbal Bista, and the queen or rani, who is from an aristocratic family of Lhasa. The raja is an active horsemen and keeps a stable of the best horses in Lo. He also breeds Lhasa Apso dogs and several monstrous Tibetan Mastiffs that can be heard barking angrily on the second story of the palace. Though his duties are largely ceremonial, he is respected by the people and consulted about many issues by villagers throughout Lo.

The raja’s family name was originally Tandul. It was changed in accordance with a recent tradition in which many people of Tibetan descent Nepalised their surnames. The practice is similar to the custom of the “ Matwali Chhetris” of Dolpo in which Khampas adopted Hindu surnames. It is also similar to the practice of many Managis who call themselves Gurungs. Almost all have a second Nepali name that was assigned when they enrolled in school.

There are four major temples within the city walls. Each of these buildings is locked. The villagers feel it necessary to control access to the temples; the caretaker keep the key and are available upon request.
CHAMPA LAKHANG: The tall Champa Lakhang (“ La khang” translates as “ god house”) is said to date from the 1420’s and is on the second storey. Inside the temple is a huge painted clay statue of Maitreya, the future Buddha, sitting on a pedestal that occupies the entire ground floor. The walls are painted with elaborate mandalas almost two metres in diameter that are in marginally better condition than the paintings in Thugchen Gompa.

The red Thugchen Gompa near the city centre, has a massive assembly hall supported by huge wooden columns dating from 1420s . Tucci observed that the same artists had painted frescoes in both temples. There are statues of the deities Sakyamuni surrounded by Avaloketasvara, Vaisravana (the god of wealth) and Padmasamabhava. On the walls are intricate frescoes in various stages of deterioration. The entrance hall contains huge scowling statues of four Lokapala, the protectors of the cardinal points of the compass.

CHYODI GOMPA: The main temple is the Chyodi gompa which contains dozens of beautifully crafted small bronze, brass and copper statues, many said to have been cast in Lo Manthang itself. Nearby is the older assembly hall. Despite the apparent squalor of Lo Manthang, the city is prosperous and maintains a strong sense of community. Though the people call themselves Lobas, they are very much Tigbetan and practice a sophisticated culture and economy. Before trade with Tibet was disrupted, all of the salt and wool trade on the Kali Gandaki passed through Lo Manthang, bringing prosperity to the people. Wealth is primarily measured in land, horses and social standing.
The door of most houses opens onto a two storey high open central courtyard. The ground floor is for storage of food, horse trappings. A wooden staircase leads to the first story which  has a balcony overlooking the courtyard and doors leading off to living rooms and the kitchen. A notched log leads to the roof which is surrounded by huge stacks of juniper twigs and firewood and also used for relaxing or working in the sun.

Virtually every house has an indoor toilet on the upper floor that drops into a ground floor chamber. Ashes from the hearth are dumped into the toilet to eliminate smell; the resulting product is a nutritive fertiliser.  Stoves are a three-armed affair with a 30 centimetre high burning chamber that gets roaring like a volcano when fed with yak dung and goat droppings. People rarely burn the wood on the roof for cooking; it is there largely as a show of wealth and for ceremonial occasions.

TINGKHAR: There are two valleys above Lo Manthang. In the western valley are Tingkhar, the site of the raja’s summer palace, Kimling and Phuwa as well as the gompa of Namgyal

NAMGYAL GOMPA: The imposing Namgyal Gompa, (“ the monastery of victory”) situated in a spectacular setting atop a desolate ridge, is the newest and most active gompa in Lo. It is an hour ride away and is the largest Gompa in Nepal with numerous monks, large coutryard, big prayers hall. It seems as if it is an enclosed city by itself.

CHOSAR: The western valley contains Chosar, the site of the high school, and Garphu and Nyphu Gompas. This is the main trading route to Lhasa, a route that Tucci describes as “ …used over the centuries by pilgrims and apostles, robbers and invaders.” The ruins of numerous forts along the trail lend credence to this observation.

TSARANG: A famous village used for centuries as the resting point for travellers and horses, beautiful hills ,green pastures and numerous brooks cris crosses this village. Tsarang is a maze of fields, willow trees and houses separated by stone walls at the top of the large Tsarang Chu canyon. The huge 5-story white Dzong and red gompa are perched on the edge of the Kali Gandaki gorge on the east end of the village. The gompa houses a collections of statues and thankas as well as many large paintings of seated Buddhas.  

Important Information

(A) Temperature

Lo Manthang (3,780 m / 12,400 ft)

Month  Jan Feb    Mar Apr    May Jun    Jul Aug    Sep Oct    Nov Dec
Min C  -9  -3     1   3     7   8     9   7     5   0    -3  -7

(B)    Necessary accessories

1.    Sun screen lotion with ultra violet protection.
2.    Appropriate warm clothing as per the travel period (temperature).
3.    Sunglasses.
4.    Gloves.
5.    Good walking shoes for rocky and uneven paths.
6.    Sun hat.
7.    Thermal under garments.

One of the factors that should be taken into consideration while planning a trip in High Altitude Area, is Acute Mountain Sickness. The acclimatization is necessary and preventative and cautionary measures and facilities for rescue must be given maximum priority. Since the body is unable to store oxygen, as it does food energy, changes begin to occur rapidly when one is deprived of oxygen. If a person travels to a high altitude without gradually allowing the body to adjust, symptoms of AMS-Acute Mountain Sickness will develop. There are two more severe forms of High Altitude Sickness – HAPE-High Altitude Pulmonary Edema and HACE-High Altitude Cerebral Edema.

Recognizing the Symptoms
Above 9,500 feet or 3,000 meters, Acute Mountain Sickness or Altitude Sickness take effect if one ascends too rapidly. Ones individual response to AMS can be safely experienced in an altitude chamber. One of the first symptoms of Altitude sickness is impaired judgement. The part of the body that is the first to be affected is the retina of the eye causing blurred vision. As soon as any of these symptoms appear, proper precautionary measures must be taken. At high altitudes there is a time period known as the Time of Useful Consciousness, which amounts to a matter of minutes. This is the period when any life-saving decisions must be carried out. Recovery occurs rapidly after one has been given oxygen. Even so, ones mental and physical performance can be greatly reduced for a few hours, so rest must be taken. Climbing down to a lower altitude also helps.

Some of the Symptoms of AMS are :

1. Nausea and Vomiting 2. Loss of Appetite 3. Insomnia/Sleeplessness 4. Persistent Headaches 5. Dizziness
6. Lightheadedness 7. Confusion  8. Disorientation 9. Drunken gait 10. Weakness 11. Fatigue 12.  Lassitude
13.  Heavy legs 14. Slight Swelling of Hands and Face 15. Breathlessness and Breathing irregularity 16. Reduced Urine Output.

AMS is preventable if the proper precautions are taken. Rest and increase of water intake also help. If the symptoms do not improve, one has to descend.

High Altitude Pulmonary Edema

In HAPE, fluid accumulates the lungs. The symptoms are:

1. Increasing shortness of breath. 2. Cough-Dry or productive with blood in sputum 3. Wheezing sound from the back or chest 4. Unusual fatigue while walking 5. High pulse rate-more than 90 or 100 6. Blueness of face, lips and fingernails 7. Drowsiness 8. Reduced urine output 9. Chest pain.

The treatment for HAPE is to descend and arrange for rescue at a lower altitude.

High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE)

HACE causes fluid to accumulate in the brain. The symptoms are:

1. Severe headache 2. Vomiting 3. Persistent Ataxia makes person act like a drunken man 4. Mental confusion and altered mental status 5. Double vision 6. Irritability  7. Hallucination 8. Change in behavior 9. Unconsciousness.

The symptoms of HACE and common diarrhea are similar and may be confused. To distinguish the two, make the person walk a straight line or ask simple questions like their name, simple sums etc. Descent is imperative and the patient has to be carried down. For helicopter rescue a destination 4-500 m below should be given.

Trekkers, especially in groups, are unwilling to admit that they are suffering from symptoms of AMS, even though they are aware of the symptoms. One reason is that they are unwilling to be left behind while the rest of the group proceeds to their destination. Companions should act before the symptoms become more severe.

Signs of improvement:
1. Urine output increase 2. Good appetite 3. Shortness of breath while climbing (not at rest).

Mantra for gradual acclimatization:
1. Walk up slowly 2. Do not make rapid ascent 3. Drink more fluid i.e. 3 to 4 litters a day 4. Do not carry packs heavier than 10 Kg.
5. Do not ascend more than 300 meters at a time after reaching an altitude of 3,000m. If you fly in to a height of 3,000 m., take two days rest to acclimatize.
6. Do not drink, smoke or take sleeping pills.
7. If, in spite the following precautions, symptoms of AMS appear, take rest at the same altitude and take plenty of fluid. If conditions worsen descend to a lower altitude. Never leave a companion with altitude sickness behind. Impaired judgement will prevent him form making coherent decisions.

Some Essentials to take along:
1. Medicines like Acetazolamid, Dexamethazone and Nifedine should be carried.

Acerazolamide (Diamox)-This is used for prevention or treatment of mild AMS. Potential side effects are tingling of fingers and toes and heavy breathing (which is habitual to good acclimatizers) Dose: 250 mg. Twice a day.

Dexamenthazone (Decadron) – This is not used to cure but to relieve the symptoms of AMS and HACE. It is for temporary relief to aid in descent or to buy time before rescue or descent. Dose: 4 mg every 6 hrs.

Hifedine-This drug is used to reduce pulmonary pressure in the lungs. It rapidly improves HAPE and is therapeutic in nature. Side effects include dizziness and weakness. Dose: 10 to 20 mg. every 8 hrs. as needed.

2. Portable Oxygen Cylinder.

3. Portable Altitude Chamber – Gamow Bag was invented by Echo Gamow. It is an inflatable bag, which mimics barometric pressure at altitudes of 1500-3000 m. Air is pumped into the cylindrical bag where the patient suffering from HAPE or HACE is put. This is a temporary symptomatic relief and not therapeutic. After the patient improves, he has to descend to a lower altitude. Relief is only for a few hours and for severe cases repetitive or prolonged use is necessary.

4. Accompanying Doctor must have a thorough working knowledge about AMS.

5. Arrangements should be made for a possible rescue operation by helicopter. For rescue and insurance purposes the following details have to be recorded accurately-Name, Nationality, Nature of Condition, Insurance Policy Number, Contact Persons, whether doctor/oxygen is required on the flight.

Precaution is the best preventative measure. Awareness and thorough knowledge about AMS and its treatment is essential to enjoy the mountaineering in high Himalayas.
Tiji Festival (Chasing of the Demons.)
This festival is one of the most important festivals in LoManthang. The Tiji festival is carried out every year, with the assistance of High Priests. With prayers and incantations and magic they drive out the demons that lurk in corners and may even enter the bodies of animals. This three-day festival is usually held on Tibetan New Year, which generally falls in April- May. The whole city gathers in a small square, overlooked by a four-story, great white Palace building. The people are bedecked in their best finery with ornaments of silver and precious stones, mainly bright orange coral stones alternated with turquoises. The ceremony is observed to the wail of trumpets, the clashing of cymbals and the rather unusual sound of human bone whistles accompanied by the booming noise of large cylindrical drums.

The ceremony is carried out with great dramatic flair accompanied by the high din of local musical orchestrated for the purpose. Symbolic demons, in elaborate costumes and masks appear to create fear and havoc among the people. The monks, wearing elaborate headgear comprising of images of Mara; dragons and human skulls then chase them out of the town. After the monk's secret rites and ceremonies are observed, soldiers carrying muskets with large bayonets fire their guns, facing east away from the walls of the city. The demons disappear physically and symbolically in a cloud of dust, while the crowd cheers.

This ceremony stretching to three days of elaborate rites and revelry is indeed a sight to behold. This grandiose extravaganza adds to the sense of mystery that is LoManthang.
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