I have been looking forward to this trip ever since I got back from a trekking and climbing trip in Nepal’s Khumbu region last year with Lonnie Dupre and his friends Elias and Brigette de Marcos. Elias is the head climbing guide for Seattle based RMI and Brigette is a very strong mountaineer in her own right. I think most all of you know Lonnie and his amazing adventure accomplishments. Along the way I met a couple of biking guides who told me about biking the Annapurna Circuit. I was totally hooked. Annapurna was going to be on my plate for 2016. The classic climbing book “Annapurna” by Herzog was one of my early reads and left a lasting impression on me. Now I would be going there myself. With my bike!
In early January I sent out an invitation to my email list of bikers that I have traveled with over the years. For logistical reasons only seven (plus myself) could go. Any more would be difficult. I ended up with a very strong group; Michelle Gane and Chad Paynter from Australia, James Hodges and JR Patee from the US, Paul Fokker and Rien Lauwerijssen from Holland, and my great friend Bridget O’Meara from South Africa. Paul was recommended by biking friends. Bridget I have biked with in New Zealand and South Africa and the rest I know from a 4 and a half month biking trip doing the length of South America. Very solid group.
I landed in Kathmandu after a 36 hour travel which was marred only by a trying stop in Istanbul where they wouldn’t forward my luggage and bike through. I was very lucky to have four hours there or I never could have accomplished the transfer and re- ticketing with long lines and a laborious process. A little stressful. Our logistical conduit Nima was at the Kathmandu airport to meet both Rien and I and get us to the Hotel Marshyangdi in the Thamel section of the city where all the others would trickle in to meet. Rien and I had met in Istanbul for the last leg of our trip.
This year is the tenth running of an amazing bike race on the Annapurna Circuit called the Yak Attack. It’s billed as the highest bike race in the world and definitely one of the toughest if not the toughest. It follows the same route as ours. Not all of the sections all totally rideable including the Thorung Pass at 17,800 feet. There will be snow on the Pass. One has to carry the bike for 5 kilometers to the top of the pass and, depending on conditions, part of the way down as well. A link on the Yak Attack which Bridget had sent me led me to Neil Cottom, who has done the race four times and is here in Kathmandu for a fifth race. Neil has many great tips on his blog about the route including using a backpack to attach your bike to for hiking over the pass. Carrying our bikes over had had me concerned so I contacted Neil for more details. He produced a video for us which he posted on his blog showing each step to attach a bike upside down to a backpack. This also frees ones hands to use trekking poles for the steep high altitude climb. Fantastic. I wanted to thank Neil in person.
We met Neil in the bar of our hotel two nights ago. He is an effusive and highly personable Brit who is as in love with Nepal as he is with biking. He brought along Jenny, the owner of the best mountain bike shop in Nepal which is right around the corner from our Hotel. Chad and Michelle, Rien, JR, Bridget and myself joined the two of them for drinks and then dinner at the Black Olive (next door). It was truly a delightful evening with stories and laughter throughout. We will try to meet up with Neil again in Pokhara.
Yesterday we went on a shakedown ride with our biking guide Ganga through the crazy streets of smog filled Kathmandu to a Gompa high above the city. A Gompa is a Buddhist temple of monastery for the monks. I can’t begin to describe the wild ride through the city. Asian cities seem to have traffic rules known genetically only to Asians. We felt very lucky to get out of and then back through the city without any incidents or injuries. We also should have worn masks. The air is toxic. All appears fine, though, with the fitness of the riders and bikes both.
We had also made a trip to the main Stupa in the Bhoda section of town the day before. I am running out of time here but will try to describe these fascinating places in a later blog, I’m not sure if I can continue this blog due to the difficulties of finding Internet and charging places along the way since we will be tenting but will do my best.
Thanks for coming along on this section of the trip.
Sent from my iPad