We began our descent from the beautiful high altitude country of the Upper Mustang to Pokhara with three days that seemed to contain almost as much climbing as descent. Several big passes and warmer temps tested our stamina. The travel was also very technical on the bike. The last thing we wanted now was any injuries and these types of steep drops were tailor-made for accidents. Slowly, slowly was our mantra. Bridget did take a spill on the 3rd day down and luckily not badly hurt but did hit hard and she was having trouble taking any deep breaths. Combined with her bad cold, it was tough riding for her. Of course she persevered and was up to the task.
The ride into Tatapani was 50K’s of the craziest descents any of us will ever experience. Over 2000m of drop. I cannot adequately describe to anyone just what this “road”was like. Bedrock, rock piles, washouts, creeks flowing down the track, deep mud, dust, steep climbs and steeper descents – all this with a constant flow of massive-tired four wheel drive diesel powered buses spewing black clouds, diesel jeeps, and dirt bikes vying for space on a track barely allowing for even one lane. We weaved our way through all on a very tiring hot day. Actually, we were able to move more efficiently on our mountain bikes than any of the others. The bus rides had to be miserable. These jeep trails will eventually evolve into something drive able – they are just a Wild West fore-runner of what will someday open this area to people other than locals and adventurers.
The countryside had become heavily forested with huge mountains rising high over the forests. It reminded one of the Alps of Switzerland. Dhaulagiri was especially impressive at 8100m and looming just above the small villages that we peddled our way through. As we dropped further in elevation, the forests turned to jungle and the sides rose steeply from steamy ravines, blocking out the mountains above.
After a night in Tatopani, we cycled down to Beni where we were picked up by a van and taken to our hotel in Pokhara. Our bikes traveled with the staff by bus to Kathmandu. We met back up with JR here in this pleasant lake-side city and enjoyed our last dinner together with a big splurge at a local restaurant, spending the last of our group money. Farewells happened the following morning with all but two of us flying back to Kathmandu en-route to different homes around the globe. Two of us are staying here and headed trekking to Annapurna Base Camp.
One year ago I dreamed of this mountain bike adventure alongside the massive of Annapurna, inspired by Herzog’s mountaineering masterpiece, “Annapurna”, the first 8000m peak ever climbed (1950). It has been widely proclaimed throughout the years as the most beautiful trek in the world. The views are the same but the rough jeep trails have changed the experience compared to the roadless trekking areas of the Khumbu. I had trekked there last year with Lonnie Dupre and others. Taking the bikes here was a big challenge for all of us but also so rich in its rewards. It was tough having JR leave early due to elevation sickness and Rien departing after flying over his handlebars onto the rocks. We all hope his shoulder heals well. We’ll see him again on another ride somewhere.
It’s hard to believe this biking adventure is behind me. The two biggest highlights for me had to be our time in the Upper Mustang and our success in crossing the Thorung La pass at 5416m (17,800 ft). The pass was a great achievement for me by bike and the time in Mustang was an incredible experience. I feel very lucky. My bike, a Rocky Mountain Sherpa, built in Vancouver, was perfect. No mechanical problems, not even a flat tire on this whole trip. Amazing. I had read a review of the Sherpa in Adventure Cyclist magazine last spring and knew it was the bike for this trip. For those of you who are bikers, it is a 27.5 plus with 2×10 drive, full suspension and 2.8 inch tires. Eliminating my clip less pedals early on for platform pedals gave me a measure of confidence and safety that was hard to be sure of when clipped in. Our group became close, forming a tight bunch who helped each other out all along the way. We were relaxed and easy-going, having all traveled extensively in third-world countries on previous trips. No whiners.
Simply a great experience that has now become a part of me.
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