Dainty trails, off beaten paths, curving roads and a luscious green hills under the vast blue sky that is the reality of the world that we live. There would be rocks interrupting a smooth stream flow, towering trees in the corners, a quaint settlement amidst the forest and a lone man trying to find his peace in the crowding world. That’s what calls for an adventure; see the world in its raw form with all its imperfect beauties.
Cycling has been a favourite sport for us all as kids. Some take the love for riding to a motorbike for a greater thrill; some derive the fun through the nostalgic and rugged value from cycling. Making the call for a thrill ride, Arvind Thomas ticked his bucket list goal when he rode through Nepal on a solo mountain biking trip. Here is the story of a solo mountain biking through the Himalayas, vast valleys, high altitude small towns, river streams, hanging bridges and a series of unfortunate events. Moreover, it is the story the events that aligned to make for a lovely journey.
Gorakhpur-Pokhara-Jomsom(Flight)-Muktinath(Starting point, high altitude) – Kagbeni – Jomsom – Marpha – Tukuche – Kalopani – Tatopani (trek ends) – Pokhara
For more information on the trail search for the famous Annapurna circuit. It starts at Muktinath (3800m) and terminates at Tatopani (1000m approx).
Budget: INR 15k
Trip budget breakdown:
Trek permits and TIMS card- INR 2k
Cycle rental- INR 3k
Stay- INR 500 a night
Flight- INR 5000
Food- INR 300- INR 400 for an average breakfast
Day 1: Arriving In Pokhara
What’s the fun of solo travelling if one is not making new friends? Arvind arrived at Pokhara at night and checked into Kiwi backpackers hostel for the night. Nepal has been known to attract a hundred foreign tourist to its misty mountainous scapes. Unwinding for the night, he decided to spend the rest of the night at a rooftop bar. Surrounded by travellers from around the world, Arvind recalled he felt like he had the world around him that night.
Talking about his solo mountain biking, Arvind gave us an insight into his trails of planning. Mountain biking tour packages in Nepal start around Rs 60k – Rs 70k. Moreover, Arvind feels that the trekking trails is well marked and safe, so one doesn’t need a guide if they have got a phone with google maps and amps.me installed. A good sense of direction would take one a long way! However, the trail doesn’t show up on Google maps, but Google’s current location tool was beneficial. Maps.me and a hard map of the Annapurna circuit is perfect for showing you all the trails around.
With breakfast in the hostel and sightseeing around Pokhara the next morning, he booked the flight tickets to Jomsom airport for the next day. Situated at an altitude of around 2800m, a jeep ride to Jomsom takes one through a rough and uncomfortable journey for 12-16 hours. Arvind suggests taking a flight instead, which gives one exhilarating view of the Himalayas as one flies by them. Furthermore, a jeep ride down the road also lets out the spoilers of the paths they are going to cycle down, Ruins the thrill of the experience, he says.
Day 2: In And Around Jomsom
The second day started early with just a 20 mins flight trip to Jomsom. With just Rs 350, Arvind earned a seat on a shared jeep to Muktinath village. Upon reaching, first things first, Arvind rented his MTB for the mountain biking trek at INR 3000 from Mustang Outback Run. The rumour says that Nepali hospitality is one of a kind. Arvind got his first taste of it when the owner of the bike rental, Mr Tsheten invited him for lunch and dinner for the day. Moreover, Mustang outback run has top-end bikes for rentals, and one has to drop it off at a lower altitude destination in Tatopani. Along with that, they transfer one’s luggage so that one can have a lightweight downhill ride.
Mr Tsheten suggested starting his mountain biking trek the next day instead due to the high headwind for the day. With a few words of gratitude, Arvind headed to play football instead with the local kids in the evening. Unfortunately for the Bengaluru city boy, the mountain air was thin, and the adaptation to the high altitude was taking its sweet time. Not only did he admit his defeat to the kids but felt the altitude sickness through him soon after. To avoid more strenuous activities, he called it a day.
Day 3: Mountain Biking Through Kagbeni To Marpha
As much excitement as solo travel brings one; it has its own side effects, especially when one faces altitude sickness. The planned starting point was near Thorung La Pass, which was at an altitude of 4500m. However, he decided to refrain from straining his body by going any higher. Mr Tsheten marked the trails for him on the hard map through Lubra Valley. Furthermore, the valley offered deserted and one of the best dirt trails. However, with the sickness that threatened, he decided to take a more accessible path instead.
Packing a small backpack with an extra tube, a small pump and some essential spare parts, he started his mountain biking trip. Furthermore, there were a number of small towns along the way with cafes and shops to buy food and other necessities.
It started with a smooth ride down Kagbeni. The path down is one of the steepest descents of the trail that lasts 10kms on a tarred single lane road. However, Arvind was on the lookout for side trails by the river which would take him through a thrilling ride. Although Kabeni lane would take one through a flat gravel road straight through the views, the charm of biking was to experience nature up close. With an eye on maps.me, Arvind took turns through tiny trails instead.
Even when he got a little lost, the idea was to find the river and head downstream to be back on the trail. Moreover, hanging bridges connected him to the parallel road on the other side of the river. Arvind recalled spotting two back to back bridges was the personal guilty pleasure. Cycling up and down those structures gave him the stimulation he wanted all along!
Making a stop for lunch, he gobbled the Chicken Thukpa. Then on, he took a detour from the jeep trail onto the Annapurna Circuit to Marpha via Dhumba Lake. Upon descending this trail past the lake, he arrived at a junction that guided him to take a left to reach Marpha which was somewhat questionable. Ignoring the strange placement of the signboard, he headed straight to cross a bridge.
Furthermore, a slight right from the jeep road took his way into the village of Marpha. With narrow streets passing through the green canopies of the village, it was perfect for unwinding for the day. He put a halt to his mountain biking ride to sightsee Marpha. Venturing the scenic scape on foot, he explored the quaint town and the apple farms before nightfall.
Note that food is always expensive at high altitudes. While the stay was just INR 600 a night, his next day breakfast cost him INR 400 for omelette and muesli.
Day 4: Mountain Biking To Kalopani
Fortunately for him, the effects of altitude sickness had worn off, and that called for a mountain biking adventure in the morning. Riding down from Marpha, he took the road to Tukuche. It was a quiet and pleasant ride with a gushing stream for company. Perhaps, the lone trail was not so lonely anymore.
Further on, a kilometre down, the trail had split into two with no information about it on his navigation tools. The right path led him into a river while the left, to a landslide. Instead, he took a U-turn back to the bridge to the jeep road. Taking the road to the town of Tukuche, he had a lunch stop and a treat of rain. However, it was the love of God that had transformed his dirt track into a muddy swamp. It was the call of adventure! Ten kilometres down the refreshing murky path and he had reached the village of Kalopani where he crashed for the night.
Day 5: Mountain Biking From Tatopani To Pokhara
The fifth day started afresh with a ride down from Kalopani to Tatopani. It is the second steep descent of the trek of about 20kms. Taking the advice of the locals, he took the path they recommended onto the Annapurna Circuit. That section of the trek was his definitive favourites.
The mountain biking ride was a 90% downhill track for 20 km and the charm of cutting through the cooling winds. He reminisced of the roads that he called his most loved mountain biking trail. Arriving at Tatopani, he dropped off the bike at the designated location and collected his luggage which came by bus. The journey back to Pokhara was a rough one for about 8 hours. At the point, INR 5k for the 20mins flight was very much a sweet treat.
Green hills, open sky and the sound of distant streams and your bike wheels for company, it was certainly a refreshing getaway. After a thrilling offbeat ride, Arvind did miss out much on his planned itinerary. Nevertheless, it was worth everything it could. The people he met along the way, the lone stories he shared with the hills and a bike that showed him much of the hidden pathways, it was a wishlist accomplishment.
He’d stop by a lake to hear his breath with the natural musings and sometimes in a small town where he would witness the daily lives of the locals he was least aware of. Perhaps, his love for bicycles couldn’t be more renewed, making the roads his dearest friends.
If you have similar stories of solo mountain biking trip or an inspirational travel and adventure story, click on the “Get Featured” page on the top right corner and let your stories be heard. Team Woovly will get in touch with you to get the deets!