Exploring the terrain of a land is best done on a motorcycle and Nepal is a country with innumerable types of terrain. Nepal is also where the ice – cold, mighty Himalayas meet the lush green tropical region of the Terai plains. For the past few years Nepal has become a popular destination for motorcyclist around the world as it offers views of the magnificent Himalayas, colorful and vibrant cultures, ancient temples and monasteries, jungle safari in search of the elusive tiger and more…
This ride is one of the ultimate rides in the rain shadow part of the wind-swept desert landscape of the Himalayas with views of implausible gorges, high passes and enormous vistas passing through authentic Tibetan villages, barren ridges, eroded cliffs and Moraine valleys. Its landscape is unrivaled for it has a stupendous wilderness, pristine scenery, snowcapped peaks, spectacular monasteries and caves.
Lo Manthang was the walled capital of the Kingdom of Lo from its founding in 1380 by Ame Pal who oversaw construction of the city wall and many of the still-standing structures. After the Shahs of Gorkha forged Nepal out of numerous petty kingdoms in the 18th century, Lo became a dependency but kept its hereditary rulers. This arrangement continued as long as Nepal remained a kingdom, until republican government began in 2008 and Jigme Dorje Palbar Bista (1933–2016) lost his title. His protector King Gyanendra suffered the same fate, however the Raja or gyelpo of Mustang was 25th in a direct line of rulers dating back to 1380 A.D. Gyanendra was only the eleventh Shah ruler since Prithvi Narayan Shah conquered Kathmandu in 1768.
Lo is culturally and linguistically Tibetan in the north (two-thirds) of Mustang District, while the southern third is called Thak, the homeland of Thakali people who speak a different language and have a synthesis of Tibetan and Nepalese culture.
Recently a series of at least twelve caves were discovered north of Annapurna and near the village, decorated with ancient Buddhist paintings and set in sheer cliffs at 14,000 feet (4,300 m) elevation. The paintings show Newari influence, dating to approximately the 13th century, and also contain Tibetan scripts executed in ink, silver and gold and pre-Christian era pottery shards. Explorers found stupas, decorative art and paintings depicting various forms of the Buddha, often with disciples, supplicants and attendants, with some mural paintings showing sub-tropical themes containing palm trees, billowing Indian textiles and birds.
The village is noted for its tall whitewashed mud-brick walls, gompas and the Raja’s or Royal or King’s Palace, a nine-cornered, five-story structure built around 1400. There are four major temples: Jampa Lhakhang or Jampa Gompa, the oldest, built in the early 15th century and also known as the “God house”; Thubchen Gompa, a huge, red assembly hall and gompa built in the late 15th century and located just southwest of Jampa Gompa; Chodey Gompa, now the main city gompa; and the Choprang Gompa, which is popularly known as the “New Gompa”.
Day 01: Welcome to Kathmandu (1370m)
Upon arrival met by representative at the airport and later board the waiting vehicle and drive to Hotel.
15:00 Hrs: Met by the Road captain and introduction to the Royal Enfield Motorcycles. There will be a short briefing about the safety and the proper speed to ride on the roads of Nepal followed by a question and answer session.
18:00 Hrs: Board the waiting vehicle and proceed for a welcome dinner at typical Nepali Restaurant.
After dinner, board the waiting vehicle and drive to Hotel.
Overnight at Hotel
Day 02: Ride around Kathmandu (50kms)
08:00 HRS: After breakfast, met by the Road Captain and Mechanic at the hotel lobby and start a ride to Sankhu.
Sankhu is approximately 16 kilometers north east of Katmandu which takes about 45 minutes, through the hustle and bustle of the city. It is Newari town rich in social, cultural as well as religious values and the town has been planned in a gridiron pattern, in the shape of Shankha (conch shell), thus its name. Sankhu is an old town started predominantly as a Newar community and even today, almost all people in Sankhu are Newars. Sankhu (‘sakwo’ called by the locals) was established in the Kaligat era in 1801. The legend has it that it was formed based on the ideas of goddess Bajrayogini – a tantric goddess and one of the four yoginis of the Kathmandu Valley. Note: Sankhu as with other areas of Sindhupalchowk district was badly affected by the earthquake of 25th April, 2015 and is now under restoration and renovation.
After a short break, continue our ride to Nagarkot which takes about 1 ½ – 2 hours with short breaks in between to relax, enjoy the views of the valley on one side and mountains on the other. Occasionally mingling with local people is fun and a great way to explore and experience rural Nepal and its culture.
Nagarkot is a small hilltop town and lies on the ridge on the valleys northeast rim overlooking a big chunk of the Western, Central and the Eastern Himalayas, including five of the world’s 10 highest Peaks- Mt. Everest (8848 M), Mt. Lhotse 8516 M), Mt. Cho-Oyu (8201M), Mt. Makalu (8463 M), and Mt. Encounter (8163 M). Beside magnificent views of the Himalayas, Nagarkot also offers one of the best sunrise and sunset over the horizon.
After spending some time, we continue our ride and descend on a winding road for another 13 kms to the ancient Bhaktapur City or the “City of Devotees” situated at an altitude of 1,401 m. The city covers an area of 4 square miles and is shaped like a conch shell. Pottery and weavings are its traditional industries.
Before starting our sightseeing we will halt for lunch.
The sightseeing tour of Bhaktapur includes the Durbar Square, which is the main square of the city and contains innumerable temples and other architectural showpieces like Lion Gate, the statue of Bhupatindra Malla the Picture Galley, the Golden Gate, the Palace of 55 windows, the Bastille temple and the Bell of barking dogs, etc. The statue of Bhupatindra Malla in the act of worship is placed on a column facing the palace. Of the many statues available in Nepal, this is considered to be the most magnificent.
Also visit The Golden Gate, the entrance to the main counter of the Palace of 55 windows. Built by King Ranjit Malla, the gate is one of the most beautiful and richly carved specimens of its kind in the entire world. This gate is embellished with deities and monsters of marvelous intricacy.
The Palace of 55 Windows was built in the seventeenth century by King Bhupatindra Malla. Among the brick walls with their gracious settings and sculptural design, is a balcony of 55 windows. This balcony is the masterpiece of wood carving.
Continue to Natyapola Temple through a narrow street. This five storey pagoda was built in 1702 A.D. by King Bhupatindra Malla. It stands on a five-terraced platform and on each of the terraces, squat a pair of figures, two famous wrestlers, two elephants, two lions, two griffins, Baghiani, Singini – the tiger and the lion goddesses. This is one of the tallest pagodas and is famous for its massive structure and subtle workmanship.
After Sightseeing tour of Bhaktapur city, return to Kathmandu and check into the hotel.
LATE PM: FREE FOR PREPARATION FOR THE RIDE
Overnight at the Hotel
Day 03: Ride Kathmandu to Bandipur (1030m/4.45Hrs/150km)
After breakfast, we negotiate the traffic out of the Kathmandu city and ride out of the valley at the cross section of the ring road at Kalanki, continue south towards check post at Nagdhunga, just past Thankot. From here, the road ascends twisting and turning as we negotiate the traffic to Naubise, 26 kilometer marker (about 17 kilometers from Nagdhunga). Then the road becomes much wider and smoother. We continue riding and arrive at Mugling, the junction where the highway bifurcates, south to Chitwan and west to Pokhara. Head west crossing the bridge and follow the Marshyangdi River for about 25 kilometers to Dumre town. Continue for another ½ kilometer and then take the left turn to Bandipur Township.
This 8 kilometer ride is a pleasant one as we continue to ascend on a winding path. Upon arrival check into the hotel and rest of the afternoon is free to relax and explore around the Bandipur village.
Bandipur is a picturesque town nestled in the himalayan foothills of Nepal, a land as famous for its natural beauty as for the hospitality of its people. Bandipur has been described as a natural view tower as one can view the spectacular panorama of the entire Annapurna range including the peaks of Dhaulagiri, Manaslu and Langtang from here. Apart from the stunning views of the Himalaya and the Marsyangdi Valley, a visit to the town is an opportunity to get a close look at Newar cultural life.
Overnight at Hotel
Day 04: Ride from Bandipur to Tatopani (6.14Hrs/175km/1190m)
Firstly, descend to the main highway near Dumre and then head west following the Marshyangdi River for a while and then slowly ascend through terraced agricultural lands and small road side villages. At the outskirts of Pokhara, we are greeted with views of the Annapurna Mountain range including the famous Fish Tail Mountain.
Pokhara stands at 827 meters above sea level and is an ideal vacationer’s paradise. With its crystal clear lakes, magnificent views of the Annapurna Mountain Range and its bustling but quaint lake side bazaar, it is a major tourist attraction. From here most of the treks starts for the western region and is a haven for people who wants to relax in this serene mountain beauty. The Annapurna mountain range is impressive by any standard and looming ahead to take the center stage is Machapucchre or “Fish Tail Mountain”, which gets its name from the shape of its summit and flanking it from either side are the great mountains of the range including Annapurna I (8091 m), the first 8000 m peak to be scaled in 1950. The range continues to meet the Lamjung Himal in the east while to its west looms the massive dome of Dhaulagiri (8161 m).
Leave Pokhara and ride towards Beni (approx. 83 Kilometers) on the Baglung Highway. This section of the ride provides fantastic mountain vistas, picturesque terraced farmlands and an opportunity to walk on one of Nepal’s famous suspension bridges. At Mal Dhunga, leave the main highway by taking the right trail and follow a dusty graveled path all the way to Beni, the district headquarters of Myagdi District in Dhaulagiri Zone. It is located on the confluence of Kali Ghandaki and Myagdi rivers at an altitude of 799 meters and is a bustling town lined with stores, restaurants, hotels and various government offices.
From here, the road is unpaved and dusty with potholes in several places. Unpaved, graveled rough road poses a real challenge for riders and makes it more difficult with the occasional river crossings.
Ascend gradually through the Kali Gandaki gorge, the deepest gorge in the world. There is a continuous change in the topography with every twist and turn until our arrival at Tatopani.
Tato” means ‘hot’ and “Pani” means ‘water’, a name earned courtesy of the hot springs and is a popular place for trekker’s to relax and dip their weary bodies in the natural hot springs.
Upon arrival at Tatopani, check into Hotel
Overnight at Hotel
Day 05: Ride from Tatopani to Muktinath (5Hrs/64km/3800m)
After Breakfast, set out on the trail by following the Kali Gandaki River and passing the Thakali and Magar Villages to Dana (4750 ft. / 1446 m.) famous for its beautiful cascading waterfall. Steeply ascend to Ghasa (6600 ft./ 2012m) and continue the ride on a dusty and one of the difficult section of the road towards Jomsom via the Thakali villages of Tukuche and Kalopani. Enroute, there are fantastic views of the Mt. Dhaulagiri (8167 m), Tukuche (6920m), and Nilgiri (7061m).As we pass between the Dhaulagiri and the Annapurna mountain range, a dramatic change in vegetation is witnessed from green forests, to dry arid desert. It takes gradual acclimatizing with the surrounding. The Thakali’s are the dominant tribe of the valley, related to the Gurung and Magars of the southern slopes.
As soon as we pass Ghasa we will come to a place known as Dhaiku where we have to cross the bridge. After riding approximately for 10 kilometers via Lete we will come to our today’s destination Kalapani. Kalapani is scaled to be at 2530 meters. One can enjoy a very beautiful view of Mt. Nilgiri and Mt. Tukuche
This day’s journey is a tough one but the scenic views of the rugged landscape, beautiful cascading waterfalls, orange and apple orchards, scattered roadside villages, ancient Buddhist monasteries all make it ‘One Hell of a Ride”.
Jomsom (2700 m) is more correctly known as Dzongsam or New Fort. It spreads over both the banks of the Kali Ghandaki. The towering peaks of Dhaulagiri and Nilgiri form an attractive backdrop. Being the district headquarters, it is primarily an administrative and commercial center with government officials and merchants rubbing shoulders with the local inhabitants of the region, known as the Thakalis. Jomsom is the Administrative center of the Mustang region and the gateway to the Annapurna region. A land of mystique, the rugged peaks of the Annapurna, Nilgiri and Dhaulagari gaze down in their awesome splendor at weathered landscapes that contrast with the deep river ravines over noisy riverbeds. Jomsom is a mixture of hard work, social frivolity tempered by culture founded on deep religious traditions. It has the only airport that operates daily scheduled flights to Pokhara in the early mornings before the winds build up.
From here continue ride passing through the village, past the High Altitude Mountain Warfare School of the Royal Nepal Army and through several restaurants, bhattis and a hospital. We pass through the old Jomsom village which boasts of several lodges, restaurants school and government offices. At the end of the village the valley opens wide, take the left side of the trail just after crossing the three ruined chorten and continue on the east bank of the Kali Ghandaki River. After about 20 minutes, arrive at Ekklaibhatti a small village with few lodges. There are two trails here. The left will lead to Kagbeni while the right one leads to Muktinath. We take the right trail and continue to ascend slowly to the settlement of Jharkot, which has a fort “Kot”.
Kagbeni at an altitude of 2800m is a fascinating medieval village with closely packed mud brick houses, dark alleys and imposing chortens lies along the Around Annapurna Trekking route and is the gateway to Upper Mustang. The village stands in a little green oasis dominated by its red monastery. Though the village has a very medieval look, it can provide all the modern amenities that a traveler requires. This is the only village after Jomsom where there is an internet facility for communication with the outside world. This village also boasts of a Monastery. The monks here are of the yellow hat or the Gelukpa Sect and have only recently opened their monastery to visitors with a legitimate entrance fee of Rs 100, which they collect for the maintenance of their school.
From here, another 15 minutes of an ascent on the desert plateau with fantastic views of the Himalayan high desert landscape which finally brings us to Muktinath.
Upon arrival at Muktinath, check into Hotel.
Late PM: Visit Muktinath Temple
The Muktinath Temple is a sacred place both for Hindus and Buddhists and is located at an altitude of 3,710 meters at the foot of the Thorong La (5416 m Pass), Mustang district, Nepal. The site is close to the village of Ranipauwa, which sometimes mistakenly is called Muktinath as well.
The Hindus call this sacred place MuktiKshetra, which literally means “Place of Salvation”. This temple is considered to be the 105thamong the available 108 Divya Desam. The ancient name of this place, before the Buddhist origin was known as Thiru Saligram.
In Muktinath-Chumig Gyatsa all the elements are represented and for this and reasons unseen, yogis from both religions do their meditation at Muktinath. For Tibetan Buddhists, Muktinath (Chumig Gyatsa) is a place of Dakinis (goddess known as Sky Dancers). It is of great importance for Buddhists as Chumig Gyatsa is one of the 24 Tantric places.
For Hindus, beside the natural fire representing Brahman and the holy waters, the central meaning of the Muktinath area is veneration of the god Vishnu in the form of ammonites (shilas) called Salagrama – Shilas.
There are many stories which tell of Vishnu turning into stone and all of them are closely connected to the holy Kali Ghandaki River. According to contemporary geologists, the Salagrama – silas (found at the banks and river bed of the holy river Kali Ghandaki) are fossils of a prehistoric insect. This insect is mentioned in the Bhavisya Purana. Therein, Tulasi, the sacred plant so dear to Vishnu, cursed Vishnu to become a stone during one act of their eternal lila. Vishnu said, “To fulfill your curse, I will become a stone (Salagrama-sila) and will always live on the banks of the Ghandaki River. The millions of Vajrakita worms that live at that place will adorn those stones with the signs of my chakra by carving them with their sharp teeth”.
After the sightseeing tour of Muktinath Temple descend down to the Ranipauwa (Main Bazaar of Muktinath).
Overnight at Hotel
Day 06: Ride from Muktinath to Lomanthang (7Hrs/89km/3840m)
After breakfast met by the rest of the team and continue the ride to Lo-Manthang. We will ride through Charang village today, the only decent size settlement before we reach Lo-manthang.
Lo-Manthang is a medieval walled city on the Tibetan Plateau north of the main Himalayas range. Lo-Manthang served as the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Mustang, which survives as the Kingdom of Lo or “Upper Mustang”. Lo Manthang was founded in 1380 by Ame Pal, who oversaw construction of the city wall and many of the still-standing structures in the early 15th century. The monarchy officially ceased to exist on October 7, 2008 by Nepali Government order. The last king (Raja or gyelpo) is Jigme Dorje Palbar Bista (born c. 1933), in the direct line of the historic monarchy dating back 25 generations to 1380. The population includes ethnic Lhobas.
Upon arrival at Lo-Manthang check in to the lodge and rest of the evening is free to relax
Overnight at Hotel
Day 07: Ride to Chosser caves (4460m/50kms)
The major Temples inside the walls are Champa Lakhang (God House) which houses the massive 45 ft. statue of Maitreva, the future Buddha, The red Thugchen Gompa with several large images of Sakyamuni, Avalokitesvara and Maitreya, and the Chyodi Gompa of the Sakya sect which has several monks in residence and is the site of the annual Mani Rimdu festival in many which is referred to as ‘tegi’ in Lomanthang. They are all supposed to have been built in 1420. Despite the apparent squalor of Lo Manthang, the city is prosperous and maintains a strong sense of community. Though the people call themselves Lobas- people from Lo, they are very much Tibetan and practice a sophisticated culture and economy.
The King’s palace is an imposing 4 – storey building in the center of the city. It is the home of the present king – Jigme Parbal Bista. The Honorary title “Bist – a high caste title in Nepali” was conferred by the King of Nepal. Though his duties are largely ceremonial, he is respected by the people and consulted about many issues by villagers throughout Lo.
Ride from Lo-Manthang to neighboring village for the sightseeing tour. However, everyone is required to mount and dismount outside the city gates as only the King may ride a horse within the city walls.
After breakfast, ride out of the walled city heading further north to Chosser village and the high caves on the cliffs, which we will visit on our way back.
The journey begins from the main walled city of Lo-Manthang and descends at the northeast end of the village to the river and then climbs to the other side of the valley. As you leave the walled city behind, the landscape and vista slowly changes and become more beautiful and open in the aired high altitude desert. The journey on motorcycles takes you through the sparsely scattered settlement and agricultural farm lands and the never ending horizons of the rolling hills of the southern Tibetan plateau.
As you approach the Chhoser village, you can see numerous caves in the front of the cliff that once use to be the home of the pre historic Loba’s and the monks. Cross the river and ride a little further towards the village where the horse / horseman will come to a stop. From here it’s time to walk towards the Cave, make sure you carry some money with you as they charge roughly about two hundred fifty Nepalese rupees. The Cave keeper, usually a monk, will come with the keys to assist the guest who have come to visit the caves.
Return to Lo-manthang for lunch and rest of the afternoon is free to roam the alleys of the ancient walled city.
Overnight at Hotel
Day 08: Ride Lomanthang to Samar (4Hrs/50km/3660m)
After Breakfast Downhill ride towards the Samar. From here you leave Upper Mustang and head back into the Annapurna region.
Samar is the next village after Ghyakar which is popular for lunch place. The landscape here is different from other villages. The new road skips the village and head toward the mountain in the west. From Samar there are two trekking routes to Sangbochen, the upper route lead to Bhena and Yamda and lower one will take you to Chungshi Rangjung Cave.
Overnight at Hotel
Day 09: Ride from Samar to Kalopani (6Hrs/80km/2480m)
After Breakfast, ride out of Samar towards Kalopani.
(Note: The Kaligandaki Valley becomes increasingly windy during the day as the winds blows south to north and makes it difficult for travelers.
After spending some time at Kagbeni continue ride to Jomsom (approx. 11 Km) but we continue further 25 kilometers, about 1 ½ hour slow ride to Kalopani via Marpha Village.
Here we stop for Lunch.
Marpha at an elevation of 2670 meters. Marpha is famous for its apple orchards and apple products. This large Thakali village exhibits the typical Thak Khola architecture of flat roofs and narrow paved alleys and passageways. It also has a monastery.
After lunch ride another 1 to 1 ½ hour to Kalopani. Upon arrival at Kalopani, check in to the lodge.
Overnight at Lodge
Day 10: Ride Kalopani to Pokhara via Beni (810m/124kms/5hrs)
After breakfast retrace the route till Pokhara Lunch at Beni / Nayapul.
Upon arrival at Pokhara check in to the hotel and rest of the day is free to relax and explore around the lake Bazaar.
Overnight at Hotel
Day 11: Free day in Pokhara
Free day to relax and explore around the lake bazaar for the souvenir shopping or sightseeing tour around city. Adventure activities like paragliding, bungee, ultra-light; zip flyer etc. can be performed in Pokhara.
Overnight at the Hotel
Day 12: Ride Pokhara to Kathmandu (210kms/8hrs)
After breakfast met by the road captain at the hotel lobby and later ride 210 kms to Kathmandu. Today the ride is mostly on the Pokhara/Kathmandu highway and we ride 100Kms to Mugling. Here we stop for lunch break.
After Lunch we continue our ride towards Kathmandu for another 110 kilometer.
EVE: Free on own
Overnight at Hotel
Day 13: Final Departure
After breakfast, met by representative and transferred to the airport for the onward flight home. (Reporting time is at least 3hrs before flight time)
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