The Big Adventure Company has travelled all around the world on off-road terrain, our voyage to the uncharted Upper Mustang Valley 'the kingdom of the Himalayas' is an absolute jewel in the crown. Read on and if you like what you see enquire for October 2019.
Pokhara to Lete
On the first morning of the ride we headed north away from civilisation, deeper into the mountains - Riders were 'clucking' to go on their Nepal Dirt Bike Adventure. Just west of Pokhara we rode across hills in the Village Sarangkot, paragliders descended into it’s beauty and soared above you. The road got progressively more rugged giving the riders a warm up before reaching Tatopani. The terrain here is exhilarating! All riders picked up the pace to endure the river crossing while surrounded by majestic waterfalls.
Fellow rider Deepak, had this to say “Out of Pokhara we hit a small amount of traffic, it got spicy as soon as that gave way to dirt and stones and crossing riverbeds flowing full with melted snow and ice. Beautiful mountain snow capped scenes surround us. But we had to keep our focus on the treacherous road directly in front of us. One mistake and you could end up on the ground...And no one wants that!”
We were losing light fast we pushed on hard to our final destination of Lete in a race against the fading daylight. A tiny lodge buzzing with atmosphere as our riders exchanged tales of their journey with smiling mountain bikers and trekkers.
Lete to Muktinath
Awaiting for The Big Adventure riders at sunrise on the roof top of their lodge, was the majesty of the mountains cradling around them. We had an eventful morning on our departure from Lete, we began on remote single track trails through dense evergreen forest, farming villages and winded through trees towards Titi Lake. Then we dropped down to the dry river beds of Kali Gandaki gorge and raced along the bottom of the deepest gorge on the planet, 8 km deep!
Riders were in need of a bite to eat, along a dusty highway we reached a Dutch bakery for lunch. We ate Dull Bhat which is the staple food all around Nepal and followed this with their speciality of dutch apple crumble. The quality of this Nepalese preparation and separation of flavour was so high, taken on with a slight western edge.
After lunch we were on route towards Jomsom, on to a very long daunting suspension bridge - Once reaching the other side, we hit some rocky mountain trails high above the treeline, the greenery gave way to dry arid almost desert like vistas.
When in Jomsom we visited a monastery and the surrounding mountain lakes before joining the road to Kagbeni. This road had recently been graded which made it nice and wide for us to zip along arriving in Muktinath an hour before sun down. A rest tonight was needed to get use to the high mountain air - Altitude has risen here to 4000m. Beginning our trip in Pokhara at 800m, to Lete at 2800m and now for the next five nights we will be sleeping above 4000m, which will be testing for the group.
Muktinath to Gilling (Restricted zone of the Upper Mustang)
On past trips this is our favourite day, travelling from Muktinath towards Kagbeni on remarkable off road trails. We wind on a footrack through small villages, hamlets and settlements and then emerge into this beautiful cauldron of mountains, a play area of hill climbs and trails.
Around lunchtime we entered the restricted zone of the Upper Mustang Valley - The reason it is restricted is because it borders with Tibet and India. The governments in this area are defending this area as it is rich in uranium and this avoids conflict. You can not fly, you can not travel as an individual, you have to be part of a group travel to enter this region. Once upon a time this region was part of Tibet and so this kingdom has always been separate from Nepal and this still remains the same today - In fact we are staying in a resort tomorrow night, which is owned by the son of the king. This is the only high quality accommodation to stay in the whole of Mustang.
The Big Adventure team leader Nick Capsey has said “The ride from Kagbeni to Gilling in the Upper Mustang is definitely in my top five all rides I have ever done. A surreal landscape, roads which have been blasted through the rock and old ancient trails part of the silk route towards China. It was steep in history, with just our small group on the remote trails, which made the route even more special. Wherever you stop you are surrounded by the most magnificent mountain ranges. Jagged dark grey mountain rocks, deep chasms & eroded limestone form a eerie "other worldly" landscape unlike anywhere I have ever seen.” Nick has travelled all around the world on off-road terrain so this is a true compliment to the area.
Simple accomodation for tonight with mud flooring and mud walls shaped into huts. The only heat source was a large dining area with a fire in the kitchen. It was superbly cold with basic bedding and the door was laid on four posts with one inch piece of foam and a blanket over the top to create installation. It was important for us to be somewhere very remote, to experience how the Nepalese live. All riders are knackered after this incredible day but were grinning from ear to ear.
Gilling to Lo Manthang
An hour and a half journey to reach the capital city Lo Manthang, the landscape around us is undulating, no veguation to be seen just rolling hills and mountains in shades of brown and green. The sun was high in the sky when we reached Lo Manthang with blustering chilled winds. This is a tough place for any trekker being one of the most uninhabitable parts of the world. We would say the Upper Mustang riding compared to southern Nepal is tough but so rewarding as it is quite simply breathtaking.
After our ride to the kingdom city we checked in to the Royal Mustang resort - This resort was built by the king's son and took about 7-9 years to build. This place is 5 star beyond anywhere around (Locals surrounding the resort live in small huts and will have two hours of electricity a day). The fixtures, bedrooms and bathrooms are absolutely gorgeous but still you realise how remote you are.
Lo Manthang (Kili La)
Today is a ride out from Lo Manthang up to Kili la, which is an unworldly area with lots of smooth sandy trails and plenty of dry riverbeds. The most enjoyable fast trail riding you could do in this environment, with a mythical shadowy landscape and surrounded by snow peaked mountains. We then took on a challenge in a natural gorge to see how far we could go and filmed this journey with the drone.
We ended the day with a ride to the nomadic people, which are shepherds who live among their livestock. The nomadics live in this hostile environment in small tents made of sheepskin. They only live of the land, an incredible life to witness. incredibly brave and tough life.
Lo Manthang (China border)
A real honour this morning, for breakfast we were joined by the prince of Mustang, he is an amazingly kind, warm, humble person. For our ride today we went up to the China border, which is policed and armied by the chinese army dividing the two countries by a barbed wire fence. While riding on the Tibetan plateau the freezing temperatures sky rocketed. Up here it is a flat arid desert, all of the mountains are far in the distance, sunny blue sky but just freezing cold - The altitude here is at 5000m, the highest point on the trip so far.
We then rode to the Chhoser sky caves, a cave complex in a large rock face which looks like a prehistoric house. They have windows in the cave and the insides have been divided out into small rooms. There are ladders to climb to each section which are made into bedrooms - This is where people would of lived and how they survived out here.
It has been nice to stay in the same place for 3 nights especially in this five star resort. Even though we are in the nicest hotel in the area it is still really tough being at this altitude. A massive success on these three days of riding in the Upper Mustang seeing and riding the very best it has to offer.
Lo Manthang to Kagbeni
Riding into lower altitudes back to Kagbeni. We did the stretch of 80 km in five hours, all riders are use to the terrain and the trip down to exit was a fast one. We are on the same trails we rode up on, stopping less to see the views and just enjoying the incredible riding. Coming down from 4800m to 2500m altitude, all riders had more energy and more light in their eyes. Tonight we enjoyed a few beers, good laughs, while playing cards and a good sleep.
We would like to congratulate all the riders for completing this exhilarating journey to the Upper Mustang Valley. See below for superb testimonials from some of our fellow riders.
"Totally blown away by Nepal and the riding can’t thank big adventure co and the guides enough for another perfect life changing trip it can’t be easy to put together but you guys nailed it !!! Well done and thanks for the opportunity " - Ian Tucker
“This is the third trip I have have been on with the TBAC and I had a brilliant time riding with my old school friend in the Himalayas - a dream come true and a real trip of a lifetime! It was so exciting to ride up the Mustang Valley to the Chinese border, an epic adventure!” - Philip Nash