Nepal - Spring of 2021

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Quitou, Apr 20, 2021.

  1. Quitou

    Quitou Himalayan Ride Guide - Nepal

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2016
    Oddometer:
    267
    Location:
    Colorado / Nepal
    It's been a tough year for international travel for everyone, but we finally made it back to Nepal for another season of trips. We started with a few usual scouting rides, the first only two days, the second trip was a punishing three-day push with 35 hours of ride time. That was the precursor to our 10-day ride with a bunch of guys from Colorado.

    This trip included roads we have never ridden before in regions of the country no outsiders ever visit - ever.

    Kathmandu - The Gritty City
    Like most of our romps we started in Kathmandu. There are not many cities in the world with more romantic evocations. To just say the word is to transport yourself to the early days of expedition. It's a fantastic place to start a Himalayan epic. One advantage of pandemic travel, there are no tourists. Places typically overrun with foreigners were completely void of non-local faces.

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    Pandemic Tarmac - It's a thing
    I spent all of 2020 in Nepal, much of it confined to our home. I knew the authorities were busy paving many of the beat up roads in the hill country, but it wasn't until this March we started to seek out these new strips of pavement. Overall, I'm never one to long for blacktop, but Nepal's roads are brutally rough. Fresh bitumen with painted lines is rare. This road is certainly a well kept secret. Even if I told you where it was, most people would never be able to find it.

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    Diesel and Dust
    As if the pandemic wasn't challenge enough, mother nature decided the Indian subcontinent needed a drought peppered with tens of thousands of forest fires. This part of the world often suffers from fug-filled skies, but this year the sun barely burned through a sepia colored haze. It cut into our visibility, but we were able to climb out of dust and smoke into the high peaks.

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    A few days were pretty brutal with regards to dust. People frequently dismiss the capabilities of the Royal Enfield Bullet, but it punched through deep furrows of powdered dust with no problem. Even where the dust drifted to over a foot deep, the old Bullets lugged on.

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    These guys were super troopers. They wanted to embark on a legit expeditionary ride, and that's what they got. Our route took us from just shy of the Indian border (5.8 miles away) to the edge of Tibet (31 miles shy). They crossed the full width of Nepal in 12 days while taking on some of the most rugged roads in the foothill regions.

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    #1
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  2. Quitou

    Quitou Himalayan Ride Guide - Nepal

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2016
    Oddometer:
    267
    Location:
    Colorado / Nepal
    Bridges and Singletrack
    You can't take a trip to Nepal and not ride a suspension bridge. In fact, by trip's end we usually trundle across a dozen or more, sometimes in a single day. Most are quick little rips almost too short to notice. A few however will put fuzz on your peaches, particularly if you get a little crosswind.
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    Big Peaks & Ancient Monasteries
    We don't tend to travel into the Mustang Valley very often. Not because it isn't spectacular, but over the years it has become increasingly popular. In peak seasons, prior to covid, it wasn't uncommon to be stuck in traffic for hours on small shelf roads which just 20 years prior, didn't even exist. Knowing we would be the only outsiders in the Mustang, we took the opportunity to have it to ourselves.

    I think anyone to join us in the fall or spring of next year will be the last to see the unspoiled Mustang. Road work continues to widen the route which includes more buses every season. If you want to see the real Mustang as it has been for thousands of years, do it now. In just 2 years, it will be totally different.

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    We're super lucky to travel with both of the famous Sijali brothers. Vishu Sijali is our Road Captain and knows Nepal better than anyone I have ever met. An accomplished expeditionary guide and climber, he has summitted some of the world's tallest peaks including Everest. His little brother, "Bicky" Sijali, pictured below, is a legit badass. A professional climber and mountain medic, he has climbed several 8,000 meter peaks. Both of these guys are tough as nails and love to ride. It's how they get to see their country and then share it with other riders. Awesome guys. I'm thrilled to have them on our staff. (Vishu is my biz partner)
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    Always a trip highlight, our route scrapes the feet of some of the biggest summits in the world. This route not only plumbs the depths of the deepest gorge in the world at 18,500 feet deep, we slide right under the summit of Dhaulagiri Peak, the seventh tallest mountain in the world at 26,975 feet. If big mountains are your thing, this is the place to ride.
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    #2
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  3. Quitou

    Quitou Himalayan Ride Guide - Nepal

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2016
    Oddometer:
    267
    Location:
    Colorado / Nepal
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    The Mustang Valley (Lower)
    The Mustang Valley is one of only a handful of corridors permitting north/south access through the Great Himalayan Range. For more than 600 years it was used as a tributary of the Silk Road trade route, namely to move salt and silk between China and India.

    The first Westerner to visit the Mustang, also known as the Kingdom of Lo (Lo Manthang), didn't arrive until 1952. The region was not open to outsiders until 1992. Nepal's civil war restricted access again from 1996 to 2006. The road was not fully completed to the lower portion of the Mustang until 2010.

    On this trip we topped out at Muktinath (12,400ft), but rode right on the border with the boundary of Upper Mustang. To get into Upper Mustang takes some doing. Aside from the limits on who can get in, the permit for Upper Mustang is $600 for just 10 days. For this reason we stuck to Lower Mustang.

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    This is the ancient Buddhist village of Jharkot in Lower Mustang. The monastery at the center of the village is 400 years old as are most of the surrounding villages. We really work hard to provide authentic experiences for the people we travel with and on this trip we stayed in a small lodge within one of these ancient structures. It was a scene right out of a movie. This is adventure motorcycling at its best. Why do what everyone else does?

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    #3
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  4. Quitou

    Quitou Himalayan Ride Guide - Nepal

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2016
    Oddometer:
    267
    Location:
    Colorado / Nepal
    What's up with the old bikes?
    I'm a purist, or pedant depending on your perspective. I've always been a firm believer in horses for courses. When I rip the length of Baja, I do it on a long-travel adv bike. I think the passes of Europe are best done on a zippy sport tourer.

    For the Himalayas, only one bike seems fitting, the Royal Enfield Bullet. For more than 75 years, in its current form, it has been the ultimate vehicle of the world's tallest peaks. Sure, it's misplaced and has no suspension. It's small and weird. But it's also an absolute legend of Himalayan expedition travel.

    I will be the very first person to admit, charging through the Himalayas at full tilt on a KTM 790 or 500 dirtbike would be fun in it's own way, but it's not the right choice. People who feel they can only ride a full-blown adventure bike in Nepal - don't get it.

    I will say, in the coming years we will start using the Royal Enfield Himalayan more often as the reliability improves, and we may knuckle under to the pressure to ride modern steeds like a KTM 390A. I will do so only to bend to Western whim. For me the Himalayas are the turf of the Bullet. Nothing stops a Bullet.

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    #4
  5. Cyclenaut

    Cyclenaut Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2012
    Oddometer:
    167
    Location:
    Desert S.W.
    Great images & RR
    #5
  6. pedalpics

    pedalpics n00b

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2016
    Oddometer:
    7
    Spectacular images!
    #6
  7. Farioli

    Farioli "just do it" Supporter

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2004
    Oddometer:
    557
    Location:
    Escondido, CA
    Great pics and write up !
    #7
  8. jwrover

    jwrover Long timer Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2006
    Oddometer:
    1,103
    Location:
    Ouray, Colorado, USA
    As the Guy in the Black helmet; I'll be adding a Riders Perspective write-up once my wife get's done editing it! :jack

    In Short...Absolutely Spectacular!!

    In the mean time, here's a quick video teaser!

    #8
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  9. Quitou

    Quitou Himalayan Ride Guide - Nepal

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2016
    Oddometer:
    267
    Location:
    Colorado / Nepal
    I did say there would be goats on the road. :)
    #9