Nepal Diaries

Jan 29, 2014 at 13:44
by Big Mountain  
This is a photography essay of a recent trip to Nepal with Whistler-based global tour operator, Big Mountain Bike Adventures. Photography Leslie Kehmeier & Chris Winter.

A moment captured in time in Kathmandu. Kathmandu is a very vibrant city and a feast for the senses.

The riding around the Kathmandu Valley is a perfect warm-up for the big mountains to come. It’s at significantly lower altitudes; the city sits at 1,400 meters (4,600 feet) and is surrounded by smaller mountains with lush forested pockets a world away from the city.

Nepal is famous for its colourful rectangular cloth prayer flags that are often found strung along mountain ridges and peaks in the Himalayas. Their significance? To bless the surrounding countryside. Jerome Lacote is definitely feeling the blessedness.

Riding into a village on a mountain not far from the city.

The tail end of a super fun and remote ride on the outskirts of Kathmandu where we encountered just a few other people all day, and no other bikes. We descended for another ten minutes after this photograph was taken and emerged to our waiting vans and drivers and the hectic city.

Big Mountain Bike Adventures owner Chris Winter negotiating a spectacular section of trail.

This trip brought together an interesting group of riders from all over the globe: Indonesia, France, Denmark, South Africa, Ireland, Canada and the United States. As it is with mountain bikers, by day two we became a tight group.

Part I in moving pictures:
Views: 8,283    Faves: 10    Comments: 0

Nepal has a number of busy domestic airlines that shuttle people to small runways in the Himalayas. We were very lucky to have gotten off the ground on this day, the weather was not cooperating. Fortunately the skies parted and we were able to fly between two of the world's biggest mountains, Annapurna I (8,091 meters/26,545 ft) and Dhaulagiri I (8,167/26,795 ft).

Guide Mangal, relaxing at the Muktinath temple. This site, high in the Himalaya, is a sacred place for both Hindus and Buddhists and a popular pilgramage for Nepalis and Indians. Mangal, is a super-guide; selfless, kind and made of steel, he’s a top contender in the annual Yak-Attack multiday Himalaya adventure race.

This is downtown Kagbeni at rush hour. A remote village located in the Upper Mustang district, if there was an actual place that was on the edge of the earth, this could be it. Walking out the door of our tea house every morning was a another glimpse into an incredible and different world.

Seven years ago the government extended the road up the Kali Gandaki river valley to remote regions that were forever only accessed by plane or foot. This road has disappointed many trekkers who come to Nepal to hike the Annapura Circuit, but it’s helped bring more income for the local communities who scrape by with very little. The new road is also handy for shuttling.

Leslie Kehmeier dropping in from the highest point of our trip, the 4577 meter (15,016 ft) Gyu La pass. Going down was sure a whole lot easier than going up.

More Kagbeni alleyways. Buildings are made of mud and rocks, and houses have stacks of firewood pilled on their roofs. The significance as it turns out is that the more wood you have, the weathier you are. Kinda like having a fancy car in your driveway, but...really different.

Jerome Lacote working his brakes with surgical precision while drifting his bike like champ, and maintaining a relaxed and focused appearance. He stomped the corner perfectly if you’re wondering.

Beginning the multiday ride down the Kali Gandaki river valley on our way out of the big mountains. This river basin contains three of the world's 14 mountains over 8,000 meters. Annapurna is seen in the distance.

Further down the Kali Gandaki valley, our trail would climb and descend the flanks of the massive mountains which gave us great views.

Danish rider Robin Peters spinning Tibetan Buddhist prayer wheels on our route through a small village. According to tradition, spinning these wheels has much the same effect as reciting Buddhist prayers.

This photo was taken a minute into our ride as we left a comfortable teahouse, our accommodation the night before. The next photograph was taken while crossing the valley far below in this one.

The bridge to nowhere. Actually that’s not really true. We did eventually make it somewhere, across the river, and to a trail that awaited us on the other side, the best singletrack of the trip. 20 kilometers of it.

8167-meter Dhaulagiri in all its glory, the seventh highest mountain among the Earth’s fourteen peaks over eight thousand meters. On the ridge below the peak is the town that we stayed the night before.

Riding suspension bridges is common in Nepal. We must have ridden over a dozen different bridges over seven days. Without them access to towns and valleys would be treacherous.

More Kali Gandaki river valley further down the valley as we dropped out of the big mountains to lower altitudes and lusher landscapes. Interestingly, the Kali Gandaki is a tributary to the famous Ganges river in India.

Washing our bikes at a car wash before packing them up for flights home to reality, a new perspective and even maybe a greater appreciation of a few things.

Part II in moving pictures:
Views: 4,006    Faves: 13    Comments: 1

Would you like to see more images from this amazing journey? Click here for a 10-minute slideshow. Enjoy!

Interested in doing this trip yourself? Give Big Mountain Bike Adventures a call and they can talk to you about their Himalaya Heights all-mountain trip. Next departure is March 28. Namaste!


  • 15 4
 Bikegreece, its only a video and pictures. They are only showing their diary of a once in a lifetime trip. Its actually the mountains and the culture they are showing. Go back to bed and get out the right side.
  • 4 19
flag bikegreece (Feb 1, 2014 at 4:34) (Below Threshold)
 A few years ago I was travelling to a W. African country. I wanted to take some pictures from their day to day street life. My "subjects" raised their hands in a refusal gesture and turned their heads the other side. I can imagine a couple of reasons why... Allow me to see more than you do.
  • 12 3
 Heh pal, I'm not dumb. I've been all over and I know what you're saying and I can understand your sentiment, but why sour an inspirational look at a fantastic journey across Nepal, on mountainbikes? No one is exploiting locals here, other than showing life as it is. Chill.
  • 6 2
 In my experience most of what we see there is relative prosperity. I have seen so much worse. Also, I see a lot of happy people. People with more perspective than you think. I see that prosperity in the buildings that are sound, and in the industry all around them and in the how clean and orderly it is. There is progress. Where you see the poverty is when children sick naked in the dust in the street, and drunks and prostitutes in the streets, and not much good going on. You also see a lot of violence and sickness. You see a lot of garbage. That was a beautiful place, best seen from a bike.
  • 4 7
 @rolandpoland, not sour, I liked the trip and the images and everything, what I didn't like was focusing on people. This I found insulting in my original comment. And not exactly an inspirational/cultural video; this is a promo video from a profit making company.
Children could have been exempted - should have been. There are so many other things to show and not the child with the down-syndrome at 1:38 of part one.
@taletotell, that's an interesting approach, True, everyone is eventualy prosperous within his own limits of living otherwise life would have been unbearable. Glad you are optimistic and see prosperity instead of misery since at #157 in ranking, Nepal is one of the least developed nations of the entire world.
I've done with this.
  • 2 0
 Aaaaaaaand, there you have it. With all that aside, great vid, beautiful people and a lot of different perspectives.
  • 2 1
 Is "I've done with this" the verbal equivalent of "no hit backs"? I've never bought into the "no hit backs" rule.
Under developed is different from impoverished. Shangrila had no crime or poverty until it began to "develop".
  • 7 2
 If I lived there I'd build so many lines
  • 3 1
 The guide Mangal that is mentioned is the man. He showed me around the local trails when I was there in 2012. Great guide, awesome rider and a good dude to hang out with.
  • 3 3
 How does it fell to be in a superpoor citie with expensive bikes and equipment, Im asking because i got a 2011 kona wich is garbage compare to real bikes, but when I go ride around or travel I fell realy bad, I live in Brasil, wich is a big slum with a few dots of richness. I wonder how someone can admire the view and forget about poverty.
  • 4 0
 Sport transcends class. I ride and live in Ethiopia. I have spent over a decade working in emerging economies and riding mountain bikes in them, and most of my riding buddies have too, or are from those countries. In my experience, wherever I have ridden, poor or affluent people smile when they see an adult foreigner riding a bike, enjoying their country. Here in Ethiopia, severely poor kids cheer when we ride through on the donkey trails. Moms and dads smile. Same in Bolivia, Peru, Indonesia, and West Virginia.... Most people, poor or affluent, are proud of their culture and their land. They love it when you join in that. A bike is a low cost item, even an expensive bike, compared to a car. Do you feel really bad when driving around your city or is it only on the bike? (Actually kids don't cheer bicyclists in W Virginia, what was I thinking).
  • 1 0
 In many poor countries you can buy brand new car models (not found in 1st world country's) that cost about half as much as many of the bikes reviewed on this web site.
Poverty is all over the world just because you are not there does not mean it goes away. So you might as well enjoy the geological marvels/biking while you are there. And think about all the world issues you choose to help with after you get some MTB inspiration.
  • 1 1
 I like this style of photo essay, with short captions telling the story behind the pictures. Nepal is an incredible place and this just further fuelled my fire to go back. The Nepalese rely massively on tourism and are the friendliest people on earth, so plan a trip and go see it. It will drag you out of our world of privilege and show you what is great about life on this wonderous planet. Not to mention make you feel pretty small surround by mountains of a scale you must see to understand.
  • 1 0
 Nepal MTB scene is amazing! Traveling through Mustang blew my mind. Kagbeni and Muktinath, Lupra Pass, all simply beyond words. Nepal is a fantastic place and I will be back to visit again!
  • 1 0
 I'm actually booked onto this trip on the 26th march. Can't wait. Anyone else fancying it?
  • 2 0
 Ha, nipple
  • 1 1
 Beautiful country and amazing scenery! Not somewhere I'll ever probably go so thanks for the writeup!
  • 2 1
 What a fantastic experience.
  • 1 1
 Great essay.. great video. Loved it. The video shows lot of local stuff and true mountain biking style.
  • 2 2
 Heh bikegreece! I didn't see a kid with downs, I just saw a happy kid, laughing. Seriously go for a ride and chill out.
  • 2 1
 who else noticed the big clay balls and wiener?
  • 2 1
 Life in Nepal - A little bit up, a little bit down
  • 1 0
 Thanks for the nice posting about mountain biking in the himalayas
  • 2 2
 Is this a tuned land rover defender in the picture?
  • 2 1
 Looks so beautiful!
  • 2 1
 Breathtakingly beautiful
  • 2 2
 looks like a kid pees himself in video part 1? @ 2:31.
  • 1 0
  • 1 1
 i love the smell of nepal in the morning.
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