Mustang Magic - The Call of the Himalayas

Jun 20, 2015
by Epic Rides Nepal  
In the beginning of 2015, our guests from Canada and the United States were ready to roll in for two weeks of mountain biking in and around Kathmandu Valley, Pokhara and around the foot of Annapurna. We had organised a fabulous friendly guided tour for them. The trip all went well and our guest returned to their homes with great memories from Nepal. Then a week after, an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8Mw struck in the heart of Nepal with thousand of aftershocks. In reaction, David Lauzon and his friends set up a fund raising page, including a photostory, to help provide humanitarian aid to the area. Below is a snippet from his story of his adventure with us.

INTRODUCTION

We usually do a mountain bike trip each spring but this year we had instead opted to focus our time (and especially money) on an upcoming Sprinter van conversion project. That was until we heard from my friend Bill from the Lake Placid crew: “Dude, you want to go biking in Nepal?” How could we pass on this opportunity? We told Bill that we would think about it… but resistance was futile, we knew we were in!

DAY 1-2:

On the first morning we enjoyed our first breakfast with the whole crew; there were 10 of us in total. In a couple of days we will be flying to the Northern side of the Annapurna massif to the small town of Jomson. Since we were 10 instead of eight, we weren't able to fit all our bikes on the small plane; the steeds would need to remain in their transport boxes for the full days drive by Jeep to Jomsom.

Mustang Magic - The Call of the Himalayas Nepal

Since our bikes were travelling by themselves, our tour company Epic Rides Nepal let us use their fleet of Commencal hardtails for our first rides. We headed off by foot to the Epic Rides offices/Bike shop to be sized up on the rigs and get ready to ride.

Mustang Magic - The Call of the Himalayas Nepal

DAY 3-4:

After our warm up ride, we had one and half days of travel to do before reaching the major destination of our trip: the Annapurna massif. We left Kathmandu in our bus and experienced a bit more of what is like to drive around the area. After getting some fruit we headed back on the road and again witnessed the everyday lives of Nepalis. The next morning we got up at 5:30am to catch the flight to Jomson. The flight to Jomson is a spectacular one. We traversed the Annapurna massif and as we were in a small plane, we could fly very low and get a incredible feel of the looming mountains. So far during the trip it’s been pretty warm, normally between 20 - 30C, but it was forecasted to be a chilly 1C in Jomson due to its higher elevation. The sun was very warm, however, so it was quite comfortable building up the bikes and getting ready to ride. The view from Jomson is breathtaking. We were so excited about being in the beautiful Mustang region.

Mustang Magic - The Call of the Himalayas Nepal

Our plan today was to ride along the Kali Gandaki river to get to Kagbeni. We alternated between riding on Jeep trail and scenic singletracks. Even though we did not have to cross the river at this point, some of us could not resist the adrenaline rush of riding over the bridge. We also found some great rocks with great traditional graffiti to play on.

Mustang Magic - The Call of the Himalayas Nepal

Our destination for the night was Kagbeni, and we could see it far in the distance, sitting next to large river delta. After dropping off our gear at the hotel, we set out again to visit the medieval village of Kagbeni. Kagbeni is an incredible place. We all agreed that we could easily spend weeks here. It’s peaceful, the scenery is amazing, we are surrounded on all sides by 7000 and 8000m peaks, and the people are amazingly friendly– as seems to be the norm throughout Nepal. The streets of Kagbeni form an elaborate maze of ancient corridors, flanked by rock walls. Roaming between these walls almost had us convinced that we were back among the medieval times. Back at the hotel, we enjoyed the incredible view from our room. I love this place. Tomorrow we go high in the mountains.

DAY 5:

The plan for today was to take a shuttle up to the sacred place of Muktinath, sitting at an elevation just shy of 4000m, hike up a bit more, and ride all the way down to Kagbeni. The village of Muktinath sits just below the actual pilgrimage site of the same name. We stopped in the Bob Marley café to get some incredible food: Pizza with fresh yak steak and yak cheese, and Yak Fajitas– it was simply delicious, and the terrace offered an unforgettable view.

Mustang Magic - The Call of the Himalayas Nepal

We then hike-a-biked to the temple. The trail was surrounded by snow and huge white mountains, we couldn’t be mistaken, we were in the Himalayas. We then hiked up to approximately 4200m, at the base of the highest pass of the Annapurna hiking circuit at 5400m. Climbing up at this altitude is quite hard - your legs are fine but you just can’t seem to get enough air into your lungs. Minutes after stopping you are still gasping for air. We felt much better on the 1400m descent back to Kagbeni.

Mustang Magic - The Call of the Himalayas Nepal

Like most of the trails we would be doing on this trip it was a challenging mix of singletracks and jeep roads. The singletracks are always gnar with crazy slippery loose stuff and exposure. Even though jeep road riding is nobody’s favorite, when you have a scenery like this it’s a different story.

Mustang Magic - The Call of the Himalayas Nepal
When we reached Kagbeni we again did some spectacular urban riding. We zoomed down tight corridors where herds of yak, cows or goats could be lurking behind every corner.

DAY 6-7:

Today we would leave our favorite place of the trip so far: Kagbeni. We said goodbye to the people we met and headed out to ride down to Jomson. There is a still quite a bit of snow in the mountains here, especially on the north faces. The trail we were supposed to hit today were covered in snow so we had to opt for plan B. We climbed on the road to Muktinath to hit another singletrack still facing north, but at a lower elevation. Again, we felt the altitude as we strained up the first couples of switchbacks we had comfortably ‘climbed’ in the shuttle the day before.We came down screaming the super fast and loose singletrack. The skills obtained this winter on fat bikes were very useful in this type of terrain. This trails built into the mountain side and had an amazing amount of work put into them. This was probably a well traveled path at some point before the road was put in down in the valley below.

Mustang Magic - The Call of the Himalayas Nepal

After this first singletrack section up and down the north side of the valley we crossed the large Kali Gandaki river delta and began a 1000 m climb to a mountain pass. The descent back down the other side was insane. The route consisted of an exposed, narrow trail where yak hooves left big rut in the now solid mud. We felt that at any moment, one of these curving ruts could send us down to the valley floor. The trail was scary and challenging, but it was a blast.

Mustang Magic - The Call of the Himalayas Nepal

The last part was a different kind of scary and challenging: a long technical downhill on very loose stuff. We very well could have been snowboarding! The next day, our ride was to take us from Jomson to the small hamlet of Kalopani. The weather promised a spectacular day. I know I put a lot of pictures of suspension bridges, but they’re something so foreign and spectacular to us!

Mustang Magic - The Call of the Himalayas Nepal

Mustang Magic - The Call of the Himalayas Nepal
Sometimes though the bridges are little more primitive.

Mustang Magic - The Call of the Himalayas Nepal
We climbed all the way up to a mountain lake. The lake was deep and the water crystal clear.

After a nice singletrack descent (I know we don’t take enough pictures of the descents but it’s hard to stop when you are flying down), we finally reached the tiny, scenic village of Marpha. The Marpha region is known for growing apples and they make a terrific apple brandy. We got one to drink on the highest point of the ride today. We saw many orchards as we climbed towards a small village up high. After Marpha, with the lower elevation, the scenery changed completely. Actual rich soil replaced the rocks, and pine trees were now everywhere. We rode a nice gradual singletrack with a couple of technical switchbacks at the bottom.

Mustang Magic - The Call of the Himalayas Nepal

Back at the bottom of the valley we briefly rode alongside the river delta and then pointed upward again to find some singletrack carved into the steep walls of the valley.

Mustang Magic - The Call of the Himalayas Nepal

After a long series of stairs, we popped out into a beautiful opening at the base of towering rock cliffs where we had to cross the remains of a once mighty glacier. The route down from the plateau was the best section so far: a long straight stretch which we bombed down at high velocity while passing several buffalo herds. At the end of the downhill was, you guessed it, a series of very tight switchbacks with pine needles that left the surface a bit slippery. We all reached Kalopani very pleased with our day of riding.

DAY 8-9-10:

The lodge we stayed in Kalopani was quite nice and the views of the mountains on the next morning were extraordinary.

Mustang Magic - The Call of the Himalayas Nepal

Today we had a long ride of 55 km of jeep roads to reach the town of Beni. The road was so rocky that everyone, whether that had 6” of travel, 29in wheels or carbon bikes, all wondered why our over priced suspension did not work. We have tried dialing air pressure, compression damping and rebound without success. It was just going to be one bumpy ride!

Mustang Magic - The Call of the Himalayas Nepal

After reaching Beni, we hopped on a bus to spend the night in Pokhara. We had such a deluxe service with Epic Ride Nepal it’s unbelievable. The guides are not only very friendly they are also great bike mechanics. Every night they cleaned and adjusted our bikes even thruing wheels in the process. We were spoiled.

Mustang Magic - The Call of the Himalayas Nepal

The next day it was pouring rain for the first time. The group divided itself in two and some of us set out to do a dh run from the world peace pagoda down to the Pokhara lake. The vegetation around Pokhara is almost sub-tropical, it was a totally different feeling to ride in the humid jungle. Somehow it seemed totally appropriate that is was raining. The drive from Pokhara to Kathmandu is a long and stressful drive. We were very happy to break that drive in half and do some dh runs at the cable car in Kurintar. The only cable car in Nepal leads to an important temple for the Hindus where they give offerings. Our ride started at the top with an exciting stroll through the busy town.

Mustang Magic - The Call of the Himalayas Nepal

The path that we used to come down from the top was steep, exposed and technical. We had a blast choosing the best line of this walking trails.

Mustang Magic - The Call of the Himalayas Nepal

Sometimes the best line was the inside line and sometimes it was safer to slowly turn the complete switchback. The middle section of the trail gave us time to breathe a little bit and enjoy the scenery.

Mustang Magic - The Call of the Himalayas Nepal

The last section of the trail was something that we would always remember. We descended the rest of the elevation on very very thigh switchbacks. We were not sure how many switchbacks but our estimate is well over 100 switchbacks. We went down around 500m in one straight shot using not more than 30m wide. The succession of switchback had more to do with a staircase than a trail with only a few meters between the switchbacks. To our surprise what looked impossible to ride from the cable car was actually a blast to come down as our technique improved from turn to turn. We did more switchback that day then years of regulars ridding in the north east.

Mustang Magic - The Call of the Himalayas Nepal
At the bottom we used some farm trails to cross rice paddies to reach a fancy resort where we had the best chow mein we ever had.

DAY 10-11:

Back to Kathmandu we had 2 last days to ride the trails around the capital city. Our first stop was the Shivapuri - Nagarjuna National park which sits high in the hills around Kathmandu.

Mustang Magic - The Call of the Himalayas Nepal

The first part of the ride was to ride a beautiful and peaceful double track that contoured the forested hill side of the park.The descent itself started with some eroded gullies down steep clay chutes but with the prayer flags everywhere around us we knew we were safe. Sometimes the gully was so deep that both pedals were grinding in the clay. At one point I got a little scared and then I though what can happen? I am not going anywhere!

Mustang Magic - The Call of the Himalayas Nepal
We then reached the Heli Pad and the rest of the ride was a flowy descent trough the pines.

Mustang Magic - The Call of the Himalayas Nepal

Mustang Magic - The Call of the Himalayas Nepal
But you still had to be alert because sometimes some tricky parts are waiting around the next corner. This one had many many lines to it.

After a short rest at the hotel we were back on our bikes for a Kathmandu night alley ride. It was like riding trough a maze using secret narrow passages in the city. what a awesome experience.

Mustang Magic - The Call of the Himalayas Nepal

Here’s a video of the night ride thanks to Jeff. For our last ride of the trip we had some shuttles planned on a different set of hills around Kathmandu. We had a new Local rider to guide us around, Buntay, that knew very well the area. Our first downhill of the day was called Witches. Apparently this trail is avoided by locals because it is cursed and I can say it’s totally true. Since I did not believe it at first, the witches sent me to eat dirt after just a few corners, now I am a believer! We did a total of 3 shuttles and we had a awesome time thanks to Buntay that knew all the good trails. He says that there is a lot more so we know who to call if we are ever in the area again!

Mustang Magic - The Call of the Himalayas Nepal
Photos by David Lauzon and Taylor Phillips

After the riding we were not done yet, Epic ride Nepal had planned a big day for our last full day in Nepal. After hours of riding we got to visit the ancient city of Bhaktapur. For our last day Epic Ride Nepal prepared a nice surprise for us, I am not going to tell you what it is, you need to go over there and find out for yourself. After the surprise all the crew of Epic Rides was there for our goodbye dinner. We had such a good time riding in Nepal. Nepal is amazing, it’s as beautiful as the people are friendly. The trip was a great mix of breath taking scenery, interesting culture and religion and awesome people. Our group of 10 persons was perfect, everyone was laid-back, interested and interesting. We could not think of better travelling partners. A big thumbs up to Epic Rides Nepal, the company and guides are top notch. Their attention to details is extraordinary. Thank you for a awesome trip. See you next time!

Thank you very much for your support David and all friends together...and this is not the end; Your Ride of a Lifetime begins right here. Visit our Website or Facebook Page and write to us for booking.

One of our Best-selling, Favorite Trip as Below done by David/Bill Group:

Trip Name: Mustang Magic
Trip Area: MUSTANG, ANNAPURNA REGION
Trip Duration: 10 - 12 days (can be customised)
Trip Dates: 30th October, 2015
26th November, 2015
25th April, 2015
Trip Video: click here

EPIC HELP NEPAL: FUND RAISING AND TRIP REPORT PRESENTATION.

Promoting Tourism of Nepal through Mountain Biking...


MENTIONS: @Epicridesnepal




Author Info:
Epicridesnepal avatar

Member since Dec 29, 2013
4 articles

17 Comments
  • 22 0
 Now the bucket list is too long to continue working. Time to quit and roll. Thanks PB.
  • 6 0
 Comment of the year. Now lets all go pack.
  • 7 2
 Was this pre or post huge devastating earth quake? I don't know about going to a place where people are struggling with the most basic daily needs and having a huge grin on my face because it's fun to ride.
  • 6 0
 IronYETi, This is pre-EQ tour on Mid March...
  • 6 0
 IronYETi,

that is a fair point to make, but there is another argument. Nepal is a very poor country and has only two real sources of external income: foreign aid and tourism. Without people coming to visit, the Nepali's ability to rebuild their town and cities will be even more limited. IMO they need all the help they can get.

If I were to go I'd avoid the badly hit areas and as always treat your hosts with respect, but my understanding is that much of the country is in good shape and you would be made welcome. I discussed this at length with a good friend who has just returned from a six week stint working as a medico post the earthquake.

The people, by the way, are just as friendly and helpful as stated in the story. Also, they are real mechanics. They don't have access to spare parts in the way other places do, so are trained to find a way to fix what is broken, rather than just swap out a part.
  • 2 0
 The sport of mountain biking brings revenue into Nepal with out the inherent danger of ferrying supplies to the summit of a mountain. i used to dream about hitting the peaks. Shredding some trails and soaking in the Nepalese culture is more tangible. And much safer.
  • 3 0
 Well, I did my first wheelie this week, so I have that going for me.
  • 4 1
 so beautiful! what a dreamy article too
  • 3 0
 Damn. Well, I went to work this past week. Smh...
  • 3 1
 Sorry just noticed the first paragraph, just skimmed by it. But my comment still stands.
  • 3 0
 IronYETI, I appreciate the concern and respect that you are giving the people of Nepal. I was one of the guys on this trip and have been involved with the crisis relief effort after the Earthquake.... www.operationnamaste.org At this point the best thing you can do for the people of Nepal is to support their local economy. Currently the crisis is over and the rebuilding has begun. The Mustang valley was not hit hard, so the accommodations are in tack. Please go to Nepal and experience this amazing country. Epic Rides is Nepali owned and operated so you can rest assured that they will respect the local people and not put you or the people in an awkward position. The people of Nepal love nothing more than to show off their amazing country so go for it. Namaste
  • 2 0
 Totally. We were riding there during the quake - and the best thing anyone can do is go to Nepal and enjoy it, right now. The country needs your business, and its a totally fantastic place, with the most accommodating and resilient people on Earth.
  • 3 0
 I loved it!!! HAHHHHHHHHHH
  • 2 0
 much respect to the mountain bikers of Nepal
www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-33221594
  • 3 0
 epic
  • 2 0
 Great write up. Riding Nepal is on the list now.
  • 2 0
 Looks like an epic trip







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