Soon after Upper Mustang opened to tourism in 1992, a number of travel guides surfaced in the market. Promising to lead the German speakers up to the walled city of Lo Manthang came Gudrun John, a self-appointed Himalaya specialist claiming to be among the first Germans to have obtained the rare and expensive trekking permit to Lo Manthang. John casts herself in the role of a modern-day Wilhelm Humboldt, but breaks all commandments of ecologically and socio-culturally decent trekking tourism. Mustang. A Rediscovered Kingdom in Nepal reads like a life¬less diary, one monotonous anecdote after another and written in embarrassing neo-colonialistic language. Without any knowledge of medicine, for example, she attempts “medical treatment” of sick villagers. “…I pulled the boy´s earlobe and immediately a stream of heavy puss broke its way. “Indiscriminately, she distributes pain killers and antibiotics from her travel kit and proceeds to advise village women on how to use different local herbs as remedies.
This kind of short-sighted, pseudo-humanitarian “Albert Schweitzer attitude” is bound to cause even more fatal consequences than tourists playing Santa Claus, handing out candies and pens to village children. Distributing Western medicine to villagers without diagnosis by a trained medical practi¬tioner is a mortal sin. Whether acting out of ´compassion´ or latent cultural arrogance, tourists and tourist guide-book writers who do this must be censured without reservation.
Not only does the book ignore the rich religious, cultural and historical heritage of Upper Mustang, it also gives a distorted picture of the Loba. As for the author, there couldn´t be a worse person to give advice on how to trek in an ecologicaly and socio-culturaly fragile region.