Here is Part 2 of Matt Hogg's fantastic blog which he wrote whilst leading our Nepal Dirt Bike Adventure in September 2015.
In this post you can read about their adventures from Pokhara to Beni and then Tatopani, then up to the dry barren alpine of Jomsom and onwards to the Muktinath Temple which sits at about 3800m above sea level. Our favourite part of this post is Matt's opening line on Day 7 where he says 'If this trip were a meal, ride day seven would be the main course. The Christmas Turkey. And we carved it like starved beggars on 250cc dirt bikes!'. Brilliant.
Ride Day 5 – Pokhara - Beni – Tatopani
Ride Day five began on busy, narrow roads that cross a jungley mountain range on beaten up old pavement. We departed this road at Beni, stopping for a traditional Nepalese lunch, before beginning the much-anticipated road into the Himalayas. The rocky track was built in 2010 to allow four wheeled access to the valleys previously only accessible on foot, and of course entire Nepalese families on one scooter carrying their medium sized pig back from the market. There’s nothing quite like feeling on top of the world after conquering a challenging track on your dirt bike, in all your protective gear, to then see three local children putt by on their clapped out scooter.
From Beni the road climbs and climbs and climbs the wall of an epic river valley, with much of the road sporting an exciting unprotected cliff edge and thousand foot drops to the river below. Monsoon season was very evident on the road, turning the surface into a slicky, sloppy mud hole that was endlessly entertaining. Some amazing riding happens on that road, with stunning views and massive amounts of personal achievement running through the group, so some serious high fives were given out at each break. We stopped in the unique and tiny town of Tatopani, where the main street is only three feet wide at times - perfect for dirt bikes! This is where we reached the Annapurna Trekking Circuit, and we chatted with a few trekkers in the hot springs, situated beside a set of class five rapids in a raging river.
Ride Day 6 – Tatopani – Jomsom
Day six saw us climb out of the forests around Tatopani, and up to the dry barren alpine of Jomsom. Massive valleys, huge dry river beds to cross and 7000 metre mountains all around were an amazing backdrop to the constantly entertaining riding. We crossed rivers on tiny wooden briges with no handrails, on super long suspension bridges and most often we just rode the bikes right through them. The water was significantly higher in September than the last Big Adventure Co trip in April 2015, and upped the heart rate whenever the front tire disappeared into the river before you. The most significant crossing is the waterfall crossing. In April it was possible, albeit risky, but in September it was impossible, with the waterfall flow rate having increased three or four times over. It was now massive, and breath-taking. It would have cut off the remote mountain villages above it, had a new bridge not been built over the thrashing water.
Rather than head straight to Jomson, we turned off and took on possibley my favourite obstacle of the trip: the stair climb and river crossing! The challenge is to ride UP a set of about 15 stone steps, then over an adrenaline pumping suspension bridge. The kicker is that the top half of the stairs has no side railing, just an open drop to the ground below. It’s a massive dose of excitement and satisfaction to ride up the steps, and carry on out, seemingly into the sky, on the suspension bridge, over a raging river below. It makes me pumped just thinking about it!!
From the bridge we climbed a rocky trail that took us up to a ridge, where the ground fell away on both sides of the track, to massive views below. Perched on top is a quiet temple, with prayer flags flapping in the wind and it’s impossible not to be touched by this amazing scene. Enormous, snow-capped mountains loom over the valley, and you can see that you’re in a gigantic gouge in the earth. It’s one of those times you feel absolutely insignificant, as all the adrenaline from the epic day blows away in the breeze, and the beauty of the Himalayas washes cleanly and crisply over you. It’s a moment that I couldn’t get enough of, and hope comes again one day.
Ride Day 7 - Jomsom - Muktinath - Jomsom
If this trip were a meal, ride day seven would be the main course. The Chrismas Turkey. And we carved it like starved beggars on 250cc dirt bikes! With knives! Beginning at 2700m above sea level at Jomsom, the huge valley we’d seen the afternoon before to the north was our route. The trail runs up the side of the valley and back down again, to cross the very wide river bed. I was drenched from head to toe when I plowed into the river way too fast, and shreiked from the icey cold glacial water, but it was a nice cool off on an otherwise hot, dusty day. Eventually the final valley came into sight, and if you knew what you were looking for, you could see our final destination perched on the mountain side: The Muktinath Temple.
The Muktinath Temple sits at about 3800m above sea level, and it’s the point where the bikes begin to gasp and lose power, struggling to get the oxygen needed to generate the power we all love. But after seven days of riding, we were just as tired, so we slid off the bikes out the front of the temple, exhausted not only physically, but from so many days of epic adventuring. The scene from the front steps of the temple is magnificent. Magestic 7 and 8 thousand meter peaks line the edge of yet another massive valley. So massive that it’s surreal. Holy men sit on blankets on the steps, offering strange objects and herbs, their eyes red and glazed from the fat joints they constantly roll. We toured the holy temple and splashed the holy mountain water on us for good luck, then headed back to the bikes. Our local moto guides demonstrated their Hindu love by riding their bikes down the 50 steps out the front of the temple, and I thought it would be rude of me not to do the same.
After a relaxing lunch at the Bob Marley Hostel, we dragged ourselves back to the bikes for the return trip to Jomsom. That afternoon session was like a scene from Mad Max. Furious winds pulled up the dry dust from the river valley and whipped it into us, as we pushed the bikes as hard as we dared on the cliff edge trail. As fast as I could go, I couldn’t catch the others. Everyone was in the riding zone, and we made it back to Jomsom way ahead of schedule. Pasang asked a quick question to some local kids on the edge of town, then veered left and began tearing up another mountain trail. We didn’t have time to say a word, but all opened our throttles and followed in kind. The trail took us up and over another mountain, with epic scenery and highly exciting riding. We rode until the bikes ran out of fuel, then headed back to Jomsom, fuel tanks, and all of us, on reserve.