Our Nepal Dirt Bike Adventure gives daring bikers the chance to be among the few to ride in the shadow of Mount Everest. From the bustling madness of Kathmandu to the tranquillity of the Himalayas’ untouched terrain, this ten-day adventure never fails to deliver. We’ve just returned from our Oct ’16 trip and it’s safe to say it was among our most eventful yet!
Our group assembled in Kathmandu, all set for the trip of a lifetime. We kicked off by exploring jazz bars, markets, gardens and monkey temples in the pupil-dilating city.
Dirt bikes prepped and ready to go, we set off on the first leg of our journey, riding north towards the dense green hills of Shivapuri. It wasn’t long before we encountered our first challenge: a muddy, mossy single track trail with difficult technical sections.
A slick grey clay created the slippiest conditions we’d ever ridden on and we all took a tumble. Unfortunately for one of our riders – Paul – the fall was nasty, and the impact broke his collarbone. We pulled together to ensure he was taken to safety, transporting him back to the main road for medical attention.
Once Paul was safe, the team pushed forward and arrived for lunch in Chisapani – a beautiful little town, renowned among hikers for its spectacular views of the Everest mountain range. Tragically, the April 2015 earthquake reduced many of the town’s roads, hotels and restaurants to rubble and there was a sombre feeling among us as we witnessed the sheer scale of its destruction.
Because the conditions reaching Chisapani had been so tough, we were running worryingly low on fuel. To test us further, our fuel truck was unable to make it over the broken roads to reach us.
Luckily, with help from the locals, we managed to siphon about 20 litres, enabling us to push down to Nagarkot – a stunning hilltop village surrounded by terraced rice paddies, where we were due to spend the night.
After three hours of exhilarating riding in the dark through mountains, we finally reached Nagarkot at 9.45pm, exhausted. With so many challenges thrown at us, the trip so far was certainly living up to its ‘Big Adventure’ title!
The next day, we crossed the incredible Shivapuri National Park, riding alongside all sorts of wildlife, including leopards, black bears, jungle cats and wild boar.
After a tough river crossing through huge rocks and boulders, we discovered the track between the river all the way up to our accommodation – the Shivapuri Eco Lodge – was scattered with deep holes and puddles. Navigating these technical, rocky sections slowed our progress significantly and by the time we reached our lodgings, we were absolutely shattered.
With another tricky dirt trail to wake us up the next day, our efforts were rewarded by immense views as we rode around the outskirts of Kathmandu. Cruising along mountain ridges, we revelled in our surroundings of lush green forests and tiered rice paddies.
Dropping down from the ridge to the highway, we finished the day’s ride in Kurimtar, midway between Kathmandu and Pokhara. That evening we kicked back in the hot, tropical atmosphere with a hearty meal and a whisky (or two!).
Next stop, Pokhara. After three full-on days in the saddle, we were relieved to have a more restful day, with a straightforward 100km ride on tarmac to take us to our destination. We had a relaxed afternoon exploring one of Nepal’s most beautiful spots, stretched along the tranquil Phewa Lake.
Restored and ready for more adventure, we left Pokhara the following morning and began pushing up to Lete. As we climbed north towards the Annapurna mountain range, our surroundings changed dramatically from the lush, green Shangri-La valleys to the crisper atmosphere in Tatopani, where the landscape became increasingly barren.
Powering our bikes over rocky, sandy terrain, we were able to pick up our pace as the trails transitioned from single tracks to faster, more flowing roads. Along our way, we passed several Nepalese drivers using the route as their main highway up to the Mustang Valley, transporting goods like fuel, water and medicine.
Pulling into Lete at the end of the day, we all had big smiles on our faces. It had been an incredible day’s riding and as we looked out across the immense peaks of Annapurna on every side, high above the treeline, we felt we’d truly arrived in the Himalayas.
The next morning began on a high, watching the sun rise over stunning snow-capped peaks before making our way from Lete to Jomsom. Circling up through evergreen woodland, we discovered a narrow track leading higher up the mountain. In the spirit of adventure, a few of us revved our way up the tough, tight little climb, to be rewarded with fantastic views and, thanks to a couple of shepherds we met up there, two litres of yaks’ milk!
Making our way through the Mustang Valley, we enjoyed amazing riding over dried river beds, silt, gravel, rocks and boulders. After a delicious feast of noodle soup followed by Dutch chocolate cake in the High Plains Inn, we explored a Buddhist monastery before winding our way down to Jomsom.
Jomsom itself is a popular starting point for treks along the Kali Gandaki river. With daily flight connections to and from Pokhara, it has a terrifyingly tiny landing strip which our group unanimously agreed we’d never want to fly into. Saying that, it might just be worth the fear for bird’s eye views of the mighty and magnificent mountains.
Once acquainted with the village, we spent that night at the hotel Marco Polo, a lovely little guest house with incredible views of the Nilgiri mountain right in front of us. As darkness crept in, the very tops of the peaks were lit by the dying embers of the sun.
The next leg of the journey was a struggle. With multiple days’ riding, tough terrain and high altitudes catching up with us, the path from Jomsom towards Muktinath Temple really tested our riding skills. We took a brief break to explore the sacred sanctuary and its surrounding scenery, at nearly 4000 metres, before heading up into the peaks to explore new ground. High up in this tranquil space, it gave us a huge buzz to realise the terrain had probably never been ridden before.
Better still, we found some amazing trails. One led us to Lukla Point – a jaw-dropping viewpoint looking far out across the stark landscapes of the Annapurna mountain range.
We slept light that night due to the altitude, but were soon shaken from our groggy states when we rode into a remote valley packed with top-quality trails and ridges to play around on. From there, we headed down a rocky road back towards Tatopani.
In Nepali, ‘Tatopani’ literally translates as ‘hot water’. True to its name, the village is visited primarily for its thermal springs. We spent the evening soaking our sore muscles and limbs, sinking a few beers and admiring the white water of the Kali Gandaki river raging alongside us.
The roads and weather joined forces to challenge us on our way to Pokhara the following day. After facing big delays on the road in Dimuwa, we decided to tackle a new back route leading to our next lodgings. But with landslide after landslide, and a storm brewing above us, we eventually admitted defeat and got back onto a more stable road to scoot around to the Happy Heart Hotel.
The final leg of our journey was also the most dangerous. The 200km stretch from Pokhara back to Kathmandu runs along Nepal’s main highway. With heavy traffic, crazy driving, massive potholes and sections where the road just turns to dust, we knew we needed to stay cautious and keep our wits about us.
This fact was hit home even harder when we came across a very nasty motorcycle accident involving a Nepalese local. Quite shook up, we slowed right down, riding steadily through rush hour traffic, large vehicles and markets, towards Kathmandu. Our Big Adventure crew did an excellent job of guiding everybody in on the radios to ensure we all arrived into the city safely.
That evening, we headed out for drinks to celebrate an absolutely unforgettable journey. The challenges had created a tight bond between our group and, all in all, made us feel we’d truly earned our end of trip beers!
A big thank you to all our riders, guides and crew who fully embraced the spirit of adventure, making this another astonishing journey we’ll never forget.