Children of the Kathmandu Valley
Nepal: Mountain biking in the Forbidden Kingdom of Mustang Enquire Now
The concealed valleys of Mustang, nestled between Tibet and the Himalayas of Nepal, are a mountain bikers dream. This mythical land north of the 8000 metre peaks of Annapurna and Dhaulagiri still requires a special restricted area permit to enter, and numbers are limited, thus helping to preserve its unique heritage. Our challenging and breathtaking biking trip takes you through the remote and timeless Kingdom of Lo, the last bastion of traditional Tibetan Buddhism. The ancient, walled city of Lo Manthang is described by UNESCO as having no place of comparison!
This is a land of incredible sculpted canyons, spectacular rock formations with ancient and mysterious cave monasteries, fortified medieval villages offering oases of green fields of wheat buck, mustard and barley in the arid landscape of the Tibetan Plateau. Wild trails over high passes and along stark ridge-lines are set against the backdrop of the soaring snow-peaks of the Himalayas.
Lo, in the Upper Mustang region, is the ancient lost kingdom hidden away in western Nepal at the headwaters of the 'deepest river gorge in the world', the Kali Gandaki. It is a remote and starkly beautiful part of the Tibetan Plateau, the high altitude desert bordered to the south by the mighty Himalayan peaks. The people of the region have preserve their unique and fascinating Tibetan Buddhist culture and lifestyle. Intrepid travelers can now learn and experience this ancient way of life.
Our expedition into Upper Mustang takes us on some of the less travelled routes through its stunning vistas; sometimes following the Kali Gandaki river-bed, other times riding on spectacular trails to passes high above it, and descending on awesome trails through gorges, “pondering the idea of perfection – a place separate from the rest of the world and somehow better than it.” Now is the time to join Ride Away on this life changing adventure through magical, untouched Mustang, while it is still has a sense of the forbidden. These newly opened trails have to be ridden to be believed.
NOTE: The riding on this adventure is incredible. Expect some rough and ready but hugely enjoyable jeep track, as well as some simply unbelievable single track riding. The trails take us over high passes and on long sweeping descents, through crazy canyons and along wild ridgelines – all in the shadow of the Himalayan Range. It is amazing but there are some tough climbs and river sections where we do have to push/portage the bikes, or there is the option to hire ponies (at extra cost) to carry the bikes on these sections. Either way, the 'pain' is well worth it for these unbelievable trails.
Until recently, this region was forbidden to all foreigners.
30 May - 14 June
Price per person 2016:
Based on a group 4-5 people: US$3980
Based on a group 6-8 people: US$3600
Based on a group 9-11 people: US$3400
Based on a group 12-14 people: US$3050
Single supplement: US$250
• Amazing mountain biking on stunning single trails and sturdy jeep trails
• Visit the medieval villages of Upper Mustang and experience the ‘Old Tibet’
• Timeless fortresses, palaces, cave hermitages & gompas (monasteries) with their breathtakingly beautiful, ancient murals
• The classic scenery of the arid Tibetan plateau set against the backdrop of the snowy peaks of the Himalayan Range
• The Kali Gandaki gorge, ‘deepest in the world’
Day 1 - Welcome to Kathmandu!
Welcome to Tribhuvan International Airport where we will guide you through the initial culture shock of Kathmandu’s narrow, winding streets to your hotel .
In the afternoon we will take through the local bazaars of fruit, vegetables, spices and stunning wares made of brass, bronze and copper, exploring the secret alleys and courtyards of old Kathmandu that most visitors don't get to experience. We explore the old city with its small alleyways, myriad of hidden temples belonging to both Hinduism and Buddhism and the ancient Durbar Square.
In the evening we meet at the hotel for the welcome briefing and check any last minute gear requirements, before we take you out for a dinner at a traditional Nepali restaurant.
Day 2 – Exploring the Kathmandu Valley, Fly to Pokhara
After breakfast today, we embark on a full day of exploring to get to know the incredible Kathmandu Valley. We will visit three out of an incredible seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the valley.
Swoyambhunath Temple, or monkey temple, is perched on a hilltop overlooking the valley and is sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists. Then on to Boudhanath - this Buddhist Stupa is one of the biggest in the world and is ringed by houses of Lamas or Buddhist priests, monasteries and shops.
Our final exploration today takes us to Pashupatinath temple, one of the holiest temples in the Hindu religion. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva, one of the three main gods in Hinduism, as his birthplace. Situated on the banks of the sacred Bagmati River, Pashupatinath is the main cremation and pilgrimage sites for Hindus in the Kathmandu Valley.
Then a spectacular half hour flight along the face of the mighty Himalayan Range to Pokhara, passing four of the world’s fourteen highest mountains over 8000m, before landing in Pokhara. An experience not to be missed!
Meals: B, L
Day 3 - Jomsom (2720m) Mountain flight, ride to Kagbeni (2900m) (15km)
Up at sunrise for our spectacular mountain flight to the district headquarters of Mustang, Jomsom. On landing we can expect to being greeted by the sound of jingling horse bells as the Mustangi people pass by with their pony caravans. We have even seen a herd of yaks in the main street!
With bikes organised we head off for Kagbeni, riding up the windy Kali Gandaki valley. Our stony jeep trail along a sandy, saligram-filled riverbed provides views of the surrounding peaks of Dhaulagiri, Tukuche and Nilgiri, and to the south, the entire Annapurna range.
Kagbeni, spectacularly situated atop a cliff overlooking the confluence of the Kali Gandaki and the Jhong Khola rivers, is the last village in Lower Mustang and guards the entrance into Upper Mustang. It is an oasis of green fields in the midst of rocky, arid mountains, with the 7000m Nilgiri Himal towering behind it.
This ancient, partially ruined citadel town, with its narrow alleyways and tunnels, irrigation canals, green fields of barley and its massive, newly-restored 800 year old brick-red Sakya Gompa, provides us with a taste of scenes to come in upper Mustang. We’ll explore around the town, including the ancient 100-room King’s Palace before coming back through town accompanied by sheep and goat herds coming back home at dusk.
• Meals: B, L, D
Day 4 - Ride to Muktinath (3800m) and return to Kagbeni (2900m) 27km – 30km
Watch the sunrise over the stunning Himalayan peaks, over a steaming hot cup of local Nepali tea!
After a good breakfast, prepare for the mega climb up to Muktinath. This will be tough as we are at a reasonable altitude but it is a great way to make sure we are acclimatised for the altitudes of Upper Mustang. Muktinath, is a very important Hindu pilgrimage site, located high above us at 3800m.
From here we have a couple of trail options, depending on how we feel. We can descend back down the jeep trail, or we can ride single track down through the Lupra Valley (visiting a unique Bonpo Monastery on the way) and hit the main trail from Jomsom, finishing off on the jeep trail to Kagbeni. Note: this is important as an acclimatisation day.
Meals: B, L, D
Day 5 - Ride to Tsaile (3060m) 25km
This morning we enter the forbidden Kingdom, Upper Mustang. We follow a rough jeep trail north high above the river and 8km later, past the little town of Tangbe. There is plenty of time for photos and exploring the town. A few km further on we come to Chuksang on the riverbed at 2950m, dominated by a crumbling Dzong or fortress. From here, across the Kali Gandaki river, we see clusters of mysterious and ancient caves high up on the spectacular rock face. We cross the river on a narrow bridge just below a naturally-formed tunnel through which the Kali Gandaki flows and then up into Tsaile, a thriving village with several guest houses and extensive wheat , barley fields and orchards.
North of Tsaile , it becomes culturally more Tibetan; sheep horns adorn the houses, and there are protective amulets in the shape of a cross on the walls of the houses. These Zor capture evil spirits in their web and protect the family living in the household.
Meals: B, L, D
Day 6 – Bike to Ghemi (3570m) 28km
Nothing better than to get the legs working early as we climb steeply to a ridge, high above the town. Although we initially have a fair bit of portaging, due to steps on the trail, we are well rewarded with scenery that could be from another planet, as we make our way up a spectacular, steep canyon-side trail leading towards the Dajori La at 3600m.
Having mountain biked up our second pass, we contour on an awesome flowing single track down into Samar with its lovely poplar grove. Passing through the village’s charming entrance and exit chortens (stupa) we drop down on a steep, switch-back trail to the Samarkyung Khola (river). From here we portageas we ascend steeply on a rough trail until it widens out and we hit the contour, climbing up to the chorten-topped Bhena La (3840m). We follow an amazing sweeping trail past the Bhena village before dropping into a rocky stream and then climbing sharply up to the Beg La Pass skirting the deserted village of Yamda. On reaching the Yamda La, at 3985 metres, we are rewarded with a pass topped by a large cairn and a tangle of multi-coloured Tibetan prayer flags. We stop for a break here, as the panoramic view from the top is nothing short of spectacular.
We will meet up with the road that is being pushed through from Lo – which we will no doubt consider a crazy endeavour when we see the terrain! We now follow amazing jeep trails and our carrying days are behind us. Heading down into the small hamlet of Shyangmochen (3765m), we are greeted with a short climb to the Shyangmochen La, where the trail intersects a wide east-west valley, and the picturesque village of Geling. There is an old gompa above the village, ancient meditation caves in the eroded cliffs and traditional Mustangi houses surrounded by barley fields.
After Geling a trail climbs steadily up to the Nyi La (4000m) from which we descend and contour around to the Ghemi La and then descend steeply down to the large village of Ghemi (3570m), marvelling at the red oxide and silver hues of the towering cliffs across the valley. This is yet another stunning village, with tiny streets and high walled houses creating the 'fortified' feeling so characteristic of this region.
Meals: B, L, D
Day 7 - Bike into Lo Manthang, via Tsarang 25km
We need to reach the fortified village of Tsarang where we stop for lunch and explore this large village built on top of the Tsarang Khola canyon. Stone walls separate the houses and form tunnel like paths, with willow trees and an irrigation ditch. There are many shops, its own hydro-electric plant and a number of guest houses!
The village is dominated by the huge, five-story Tsarang Dzong, a Tibetan-styled fortified palace built in the late 1300’s, and the large, ochre-hued Tsarang Gompa, of the Gelugpa school, with the greatest library in Lo. The dzong has a wonderful, old prayer room with a gold-printed prayer book and a fascinating array of old statues, thankas and large Buddhist paintings. If you are in luck, the resident lama will show you the withered 500 year old hand of the master architect of the palace!
Leaving Tsarang on a trail leading down and across a small river, we climb steeply to a cairn on the opposite ridge and then follow the Thuling Khola on the new, dirt road towards Lo. We are surrounded by impressive multi-hued canyons, and in the distance we head for the huge Sungda Khola chorten. We’ll stop for tea and maybe lunch at the one small tea-houses. Continuing along the same trail, the landscape becomes very Tibetan in character, the high desert plains of the Himalayas. Snow peaks appear ahead of us as we near the Lo La at 3960 meters. The pass goes through a tunnel of rock, with Tibetan prayer flags on one side. We then climb a ridge for wonderful views down to Lo Manthang and the aptly named ‘Plain of Aspiration’, far below us.
We cruise down the trail and head across the plain into the famed city of Lo Manthang. Exploring the city and its many gompas is something you will remember for years to come. Despite a few tourist shops it is still just as mystical in the golden, yellow light as the local people bring their sheep and horses inside the city gates for the night.
Meals: B, L, D
Day 8 – Explore Lo Manthang and bike the Chosar Valley 25km
The fabled walled city of Lo Manthang, with a single entrance through which only the King, Queen and Kempo (Abbot) are allowed to ride - all others must walk, to pay their respects to Chenrezig - is a mythical city. King Lo Gyelbu, still resides in his four-story palace inside the city walls. He is an avid horseman, and keeps his own stable of horses, some of the best in Mustang which is renowned for its horse culture.
There are four majestic ancient temples and a palace within the medieval walls of Lo Manthang, including the 14th century, brick-red Jampa Lhakhang with the striking 50 foot Buddha. Many of the Lo-ba people still practice polyandry. After exploring the old city, we ride out of Lo Manthang along a wide, canyon trail, past dry gullies and an ancient, ruined fortress. We reach the village of Chosar, with its stunning deep-red Gharphu Gompa built into the rock face and an incredible 2500 year old cave-dwelling site called Jhong Cave, which you get to, up ladders and through small tunnels. In front of us to the south we can see the spectacular snow-peaks of the Himalayas and to the north the smaller peaks that mark the border with Tibet.
Meals: B, L, D
Day 9 – Bike via Lo Gekar and Dhakmar to Jhaite 30km
Sadly, we must leave magical Lo Manthang and head out the gates of Lo making our way southwest, off the main trading trails and into an area crisscrossed with herders' trails. The trail climbs steadily to a cairn on a pass at 4000m, where we can stop to have a rest and enjoy the mind blowing view southwards, back to Lo Manthang and then all the way up to the border with Tibet.
Our trail continues to climb to a ridge and a large cairn, climbing up to and cross the Chogo La, at 4325m, our highest point on our ride. A flowing trail traverses above a wide green valley, before we cross a ridge and a long rough descent in a gully to a large chorten in the valley – we can look down from here to Tsarang, where we had lunch on our way up.
We cross the Tsarang Khola and approach Lo Gekar (which means 'pure virtue of Lo') and the Ghar Gompa, built by the Guru Rinpoche, who took Buddhism to Tibet. The first Monastery was to have been Samye in modern day Tibet, however the building was disturbed by demons, so the Guru came here to subdue them. Ghar Gompa was built to pin down the demon and clear the path for what we now know as Tibetan Buddhism. It's truly humbling to visit this Gompa, knowing it was THE first Tibetan Buddhist monastery!
Our trail now climbs up to our next pass, the Mui La at 4170m before we descend gently through a wide, open landscape to the edge of the Dhakmar valley. Here we drop down steeply through an eerie but stunningly eroded landscape to the beautiful village of Dhakmar, set against cliffs said to be so red because it is the blood of an ogress conquered by Guru Rinpoche before he could build the Ghar Gompa.
From here we ride down the stunning valley to Ghemi, where we rejoin the jeep trails we rode up on, we climb to Ghemi La before an exhilarating descent to Jhaite where we spend the night.
Meals: B, L, D
Day 10 – Ride to Chuksang 2950m 25km
This morning we again get a hearty breakfast before we retrace or tracks down the valley to Chuksang. As we are now riding south we get we have great view many towering peaks including Dhaulagiri, Nilgiri, Tukche Peak, Tilicho Peak and Thorang Peak.
We have a couple of small passes between Chuksang and Sama and then the lovely downhill to Tsaile, before crossing the river and the last little stretch into Chuksang, where we spend out last night in Upper Mustang..
Meals: B, L, D
Day 11 – Bike to Jomsom 25km
Today we will bid farewell to Upper Mustang after an incredible journey into this remote Kingdom. After breakfast we are back on jeep trails again as we bike downriver for a while before climbing up to the village of Tangbe (3030m), a labyrinth of narrow alleys and white-washed houses and irrigation canals supplying the apple orchards and fields of buckwheat, barley and wheat.
From here we continue on the jeep trail with a short drop into a gully and then a good climb onto a plateau above the river, which we make our way long until we hit the ‘Nepali flat’ then a drop down and back into Kagbeni, our familiar haunt from the early days of our journey. Here we leave Upper Mustang and enjoy the seemingly huge variety of food now that we are back on the more heavily visited trekking trails of Lower Mustang. Pasta and apple pie, or maybe lunch at YakDonalds?
After lunch we head out down the familiar trail to Jomsom, covering up against the afternoon winds which are caused by the pressure difference from the high Himalayas compared with the plains of India – the Kali Gandaki gorge is a wind tunnel which channels the warmer air from the lowlands up to the heights above us.
Meals: B, L, D
Day 12 Fly to Pokhara & fly to Kathmandu
We board an early morning mountain flight from Jomsom, switching planes in Pokhara for a Kathmandu flight, and if both flights run on time, then you will arrive back in Kathmandu in time for a delicious lunch!
You have the rest of the day free to see things you have wanted to see but didn’t get to before, to shop for last minute gifts, or just to relax and take it all in. If you’d like to organise to visit a specific place or need tips on restaurants or shopping spots, then please don’t hesitate to let us know.
Meals: B, L, D
Day 13 – Farewell, for now...
We’ll enjoy our final breakfast in Nepal, telling one final round of tales about the trip, then we’ll transfer you to the airport, bid farewell and look forward to our paths crossing again.
The price includes:
• Hotel nights in the hotels specified in the itinerary; based on standard rooms on twin share, bed and breakfast plan
• Tea house accommodation in the mountains. Note: local tea houses are basic but clean and they do not often have attached bathrooms or hot showers. The price is based on twin share and does not include any extra charge that lodge owners may levy for single rooms, attached bathrooms or hot showers (if these facilities are available) or for battery charging. We can’t know in advance what they may/may not charge in different lodges you so we prefer to leave this cost out, out rather than pass along an estimated charge to you.
• Meals as per the itinerary (all meals during the ride, with boiled drinking water)
• Entrance fees and English speaking Nepali guide for sightseeing days
• Transportation as per the detailed itinerary (includes the flights Kathmandu-Pokhara-Jomsom-Pokhara-Kathmandu for you and your guide, including transfers and airport taxes)
• Your English speaking Nepali biking guide/mechanic and a helper for the luggage, with all their transport, equipment, insurance and including their meals and accommodation
• A basic first aid kit appropriate for the group size and route (note this is basic and has no medicines other than the ‘usual’ for stomach troubles, pain relief, a general antibiotic, altitude and a bandage kit. In case of serious injury an evacuation will be arranged to Kathmandu with specialist equipment coming in on the helicopter. If you have medication you need to take, please bring this with you along with spares and make sure to inform us)
• Trekking permits and registration fees, including the US$500 permit to enter Upper Mustang
• 1 Tour Leader FOC in all price brackets
Please note the lodges will boil water for you to drink which is preferable environmentally to buying mineral water, since the bottles are not recycled. We recommend that you take two x 1 litre water bottles which can take boiling water (one is nice to have at your toes on a cold night, while the other cools down for the morning!)
The price does not include:
• Services and activities not mentioned in the detailed itinerary
• Mountain bike rental
• Any gear or equipment that you may need to rent/buy - please ask us if you would like any advice about gear to bring/buy/rent
• International flights to and from Kathmandu
• Nepal visa fees and international airport taxes
• Any excess baggage charges
• Comprehensive travel insurance that includes trip cancellation and rescue evacuation should this be required for any reason (we require this as the minimum insurance cover)
• Rescue/evacuation costs (to be covered by your insurance)
• Additional nights, optional trips and sightseeing tours outside the detailed itineraries above
• Single supplement, please see single supplement charge
• Personal expenses (eg mineral water/soft drinks/bar bills, entrance/photography fees at monasteries, laundry, telephone calls, postage, donations, extra snacks etc)
• Any extra charge that tea house owners may levy for single rooms, attached bathrooms, or hot showers (if these facilities are available) and charging of batteries
• Tips for your biking crew, city guide, drivers etc (please ask if you would like guidance about appropriate tips)
• Costs incurred due to changes in programs and reservations due to unforeseen events (eg landslides, strikes, fuel shortages etc)
• Rates are in US dollars