In the land of the Loba

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The Chosar caves in Upper Mustang in Nepal, near the Tibetan border. Photo: Sudha Mahalingam

A view of Lo Manthang. Photo: Sudha Mahalingam

A Loba, or resident of Lo, in Tsarang. Photo: Sudha Mahalingam

A Khampa man in Gelling. The Khampa were originally fearsome warriors who held out the longest against the Chinese advance into Tibet. Photo: Sudha Mahalingam

On the Jomsom-to-Kagbeni trek, which is along the riverbed of the Kali Gandaki. Photo: Sudha Mahalingam

The Kali Gandaki flowing through a narrow gorge at the bottom of the sky caves. Photo: Sudha Mahalingam

The Choede gompa, one of the three beautiful gompas in Lo Manthang. Photo: Sudha Mahalingam

The Tsarang gompa. It houses priceless murals in reasonably good condition. Photo: Sudha Mahalingam

The Ghar gompa, an example of the fusion of Buddhism and the Bon faith. Photo: Sudha Mahalingam

A lone chorten (temple) on the way to Lo Manthang. Photo: Sudha Mahalingam

The earthy hues of mud sculptures near Chuksang village (2,965 m). Photo: Sudha Mahalingam

The bridge across the Kali Gandaki en route to Kagbeni. Photo: Sudha Mahalingam

Buddhist prayer stones in Chuksang. Photo: Sudha Mahalingam

A mural outside a gompa. Photo: Sudha Mahalingam

The Mani wall (which is a wall faced with stone slabs that have a Buddhist prayer or mantra inscribed on them) at Ghami, on the way to Lo Manthang. Photo: Sudha Mahalingam

Buckwheat fields and apple orchards in Mustang. Photo: Sudha Mahalingam

The sky caves near Tsaile. Situated on a 155-foot-high cliff, the caves had artefacts of the pre-Buddhist Bon culture, besides human skulls and bones and animal remains. Photo: Sudha Mahalingam

Grinding herbs in Lo Manthang. Photo: Sudha Mahalingam

Monks playing chess at the Choede gompa in Lo Manthang. Photo: Sudha Mahalingam

In Lo Manthang, a town that has just 800 residents. Photo: Sudha Mahalingam

The Muktinath shrine. Photo: Sudha Mahalingam

Inside the Chosar caves, once the home of monks. Relics from a Bon past were found here alongside Buddhist artefacts. Photo: Sudha Mahalingam

On the treacherous high-altitude trail to Lo Manthang, the walled city that is the capital of Upper Mustang province in Nepal and whose denizens are true custodians of a vanishing culture and way of life.
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