Nepal - "Himalayan High"
Most people know Nepal for Mt. Everest and the Himalaya Mountains, but there is a great deal more. The southern part of Nepal, the Terai, is flat plains and jungle. It includes Chitwan National Park. Chitwan National Park, established in 1973, extends for 900 square kilometers and is one of the world's great wildlife sanctuaries. It is home to 43 species of mammals including Bengal tigers, sloth bears, one-horned rhinos and wild elephants. In 1984 it became a Unesco World Heritage Site. Nepal is the only place in the world where you can traverse a few miles and go from jungle to Himalayan High.
Our tour does just that. We depart Kathmandu and head southwest though the massive foothills of the Himalayas and then descend onto the plains of the Terai. We spend a couple nights at the edge of Chitwan before going on to Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha, atmospheric Tansen and then north through the valley of the Kali Gandaki River all the way to Pokhara. Pokhara is the adventure capital of Nepal and the Gateway to the Annapurna Range. From Pokhara, we take the short flight up to Jomsom and head to Muktinath (3,800 meters) before descending on our bikes back to Pokhara. From Jomsom to Pokhara the road is rough, the air is thin and tires need to be thick. The scenery is second to none.
Day 1 and 2 - Kathmandu
We will meet at the Courthouse Hotel in Kathmandu and get ourselves and our bikes sorted out. You have the freedom to to visit Durbar Square and the other major attractions in Kathmandu on your own.
Day 3 - Kathmandu to Daman
We will get up at the crack of dawn and beat the insanity of the Kathmandu rush hour. We transfer to Naubise and then ride to Daman via the Tribhuvan "Highway". It's not a highway, as you know it though, it is only called a highway as it was the main route between India and Tibet for a long time. These days it sees very little traffic. For us on bikes, it is the perfect road. There are two big climbs, the first tops out at approximately 2,000 meters after 30 kilometers. We then descend for about 8k before climbing up to nearly 2400 meters at Daman. Distance 53k.
Day 4 - Daman to Hetauda
We still have a little bit of climb after we leave our hotel, but we soon go over the top for a dramatic descent to the river valley below. The road doubles back on itself frequently and you can see much of the road below at various points. It's impossible not to marvel at the fact that you have been biking for so long and and have made no horizontal progress whatsoever. Eventually you arrive at the Samari River, which we then follow to the town of Hetauda. Distance 54k
Day 5 - Hetauda to Sauraha
We transfer out of town in order to avoid the busiest section of the East -West Highway. Soon enough though, we are able to leave the road completely and ride our bikes on the dirt dike road at the edge of the Rapti River. We pass bright yellow fields of mustard as well as locals making their way across the shallow riverbed carrying elephant grass on their heads. The elephant grass will be dried and used to add another layer to the roofs of their homes. Very few visitors make their way along the dike. We will get glimpses of life in Nepal that very few outsiders see. Distance - 68k
Day 6 - Sauraha (Rest Day)
Sauraha is the gateway to Chitwan. We stay at a comfy place and have a full day of activities including a jungle jeep ride (if you are lucky you will see a one horned rhino for which the park is famous), a canoe paddle and jungle trek. You can do as much or little as you like. Sauraha has restaurants, cafes and stores so you can refuel and restock as well. You may not have considered Nepal as a jungle safari destination, but it is. This was a favorite hunting ground during the Raj era. Ironically, that hunting history is what saved this area and allowed it to become the wildlife treasure that it is today. No one is now allowed live within the borders of the park.
Day 7 - Sauraha to Lumbini
Siddhartha Gautama, the Lord Buddha, was born in 623 B.C. in the now famous gardens of Lumbini. It is the holiest place of one of the world's great religions and is a Unesco World Heritage Site. The site is a large monastic zone measuring 2 by 6 kilometers in which nothing other than monasteries may be built. In addition to the precise location where Buddha was born, the site includes the Holy Pond where Buddha's mother, Queen M?y?dev?, took the ritualistic bath before his birth. You will see many Buddhist monks making their pilgrimage to Lumbini. Lord Buddha spent the first 29 years of his life in Lumbini. He was born into a Hindu Royal family, abandoned the royal life to become an ascetic, wandering monk for 6 years and then achieved enlightenment and "the middle way". Distance - 168k (includes transfer)
Day 8 - Lumbini to Tansen
We head North from Lumbini and take back roads through the Terai. Here, it will strike you that people are living and farming the same way they were when Buddha was alive....with water buffalo and rough wooden plows. It does not look to be an easy life. The Terai is the most productive part of Nepal and the basis of the economy is agricultural. Crops include wheat, rice, sugarcane, jute, tobacco and corn. It's not far though and we leave the Terai and climb up to Tansen. Tansen is at the crest of the Lesser Himalaya range and overlooks the Kali Gandaki River Valley. It was the capital of one of the Magar Kingdoms. There is great architecture in Tansen and some fantastic carved windows. Distance - 85k
Day 9 - Tansen to Pokhara
The last time we tried to depart Tansen we attempted to ride the ridge road we soon learned cut through an army base. We were turned back, but some day we will do it. The public road is also spectacular. We ride up the Valley of the Kali Gandaki River. The vallev eventually widens and we descend to ride by the river past Waling and other towns. Today is a day that you can ride as far as you like. There are towns between Tansen and Pokhara and we will stop for breaks in them. However. our destination is Pokhara. It is a little too far to ride the entire distance in one day so we will transfer from Waling or some other nearby town to Pokhara. If anyone wants to remount for the final descent into Pokhara, they can. Distance - 125k
Day 10 - Pokhara (Rest Day)
Pokhara has much to offer. There is hang gliding, rafting amd mountaineering. It's the gateway to the Annapurna trail and Lower and Upper Mustang. Most of the tourist hotels are located in the Lake District. The city is in the process of building a bike path around it, but it's not there yet. We have a rest day in Pokhara so you can do as you choose. We stay at a nice hotel with a swimming pool. Given the next few days, I'd suggest relaxing.
Day 11 - Jomsom - Kagbeni - Jomsom
Today we fly to Jomsom. It's a short trip 25 minutes or so. We fly up the Kali Gandaki River Valley. Large mountains loom above on both sides during the flight. Flights are limited to the morning when the winds are light. We will take only the items we need for a few days as space on the plane is tight. Bikes go on without packing. We only need to remove the wheels and strap them together. Once in Jomsom. we ride to Kagbeni and back. It's not far, but it's not easy. You will be facing a strong headwinds on the way back. Parts of the road are on the riverbed. Distance - 20k
Day 12 - Jomsom to Marpha
We will transfer from Jomsom up to Muktinath which is at 3800 meters and then ride down to Kagbeni past Jomsom to Marpha. We will take the small road on the northern side of the canyon from Muktinath. The road is too small for vehicles. It is highly likely we will see no one. There are great views of both the snow covered mountains and the valley below. Much of it though will make you feel like you are riding on the moon. Desolate. At Kagbeni, we are once again on the Kali Gandaki River. We will ride past Jomsom and on to Marpha. Marpha is a picturesque little town. Every building in town is painted white and has wood stacked on the roof A red monastary sits on the side of the mountain above the town. Marpha is famous for its apples. Distance - 28k
Day 13 - Marpha - Tatopani
We continue from Tatopani in the shadow of Dhaulagiri. the world's 6th highest mountain (8167 meters). We pass the village of Takuche which was an important stop for salt traders from Tibet, as well as Khaobang and Larjung. This section of the Kali Gandaki is said to be the deepest gorge in the world since, in the 38k between the peaks of Dhaulagiri and Nilgiri North (7061 meters), the valley floor drops about 4,000 meters. After the small villages of Ghasa and Dana we arrive in Tatopani. Tatopani means "hot water". Not for the hot water in the guesthouses, but for the water in the hot springs down by the road.
Day 14 - Tatopani -Beni- Pokhara
The biking gets easier after Tatopani. It's also noticeably warmer. This is the home stretch. We make our way to the town of Beni. Beni means "place where two rivers meet". Here the Kali Gandaki is joined by the Myagdi River. Beni is a main transport hub. We will take advantage of that and take a lift to Pokhara to save some time and avoid some traffic. There is an option to disembark at Naudanda and take the rough ridge road back to Pokhara. This road meanders up and down for 12k or so and and then descends dramatically into Pokhara during the final 7k. On the way down there are some great views of the Himalayas. The road is too rough for vehicles so there will not be any vehicle support for those who opt to bike this section. Distance from Tatopani to Beni is 28k. It's 57k from Beni to Naudanda and then 19k from Naudanda to Pokhara.
We have a final night in Pokhara. Should you wish to extend your stay, there is plenty to do and and see. There are also plenty of transport options, including frequent buses and flights to Kathmandu.
14 Nights (combination of hotels, guesthouses)
Breakfast, lunch and dinner (except L or D while in Kathmandu and Pokhara )
Transport of baggage
Stocked Sag Vehicle(s) and Driver(s) for Kathmandu to Pokhara section. On the Annapurna trail, bags are moved for us by vehicles and porters, but there is no dedicated sag vehicle.
Entry to Chitwan National Park
Jungle Jeep Ride/Canoe Paddle/Jungle Walk in Chitwan
Nepalese Dance at Jungle Safari Lodge in Sauraha
Airfares (Pokara to Jomson - $US85; Pokara - Kathmandu $US60-110)
Nepal Visa US$25 (visa on arrival available)
Beer, wine booze
Immunizations from your doctor or travel clinic
Bike Rentals (mountain bikes)
Permit for Lower Mustang Entry ($50)
Gratuities for local help