Nepal Pt. 1

I touched down in Kathmandu at 10 PM on the 7th of April. The fastest airport turnaround I’ve ever had. I was out of the airport by 10:20 with a visa and everything. My immigration officer even followed me on Instagram.

My taxi dropped me off at the Airbnb at 11 where I met Kaili and a sleeping Tai. I met Tai and Kaili back in Thailand and spent a few weeks with them so we decided to share an Airbnb for my first week and their last in Nepal.

We spent the week just exploring the huge city and getting organized for travel. We loved spending our nights in the Thamel neighborhood which was the center for getting outfitted for treks and buying local goods.

On my second day I got outfitted for the Annapurna Circuit which I was getting ready to embark on. I bought a warm sleeping bag, a fleece, a down jacket, gloves, warm socks and a gas can. The general necessities to keep warm up in the mountains.

We spent the rest of the week visiting landmarks around Kathmandu like the Monkey temple and the site where they burn the dead and we went rock climbing at the Thamel wall a few times, resulting in some nasty belay blisters.

On the 14th I left Kathmandu started riding towards Besisahar where I was set to start the circuit on the 21st.

My first day out of Kathmandu was intense. Kathmandu is in a valley so you have to climb a mountain to get away from the city in any direction. I decided not to take the main road since all the busses take it and it’d probably be busy. Big mistake. The road I ended up on was a tiny dirt/rock road that went straight up then straight down. I had no control at all and my breaks were about to melt by the end. I settled down to camp along a river just outside a small town and decided I’d try the main road tomorrow.

When I was making dinner a local came up and told me it was dangerous to camp where I was because of tigers, so he took me about 10 meters away to a different spot on the river and said I was okay there. I’m not sure why he had me move such a small distance but I won’t argue if it’ll potentially keep me from getting devoured.

I woke up Tiger-Free and made my way to the main road to see if it was better than climbing over mountains on loose rocks. I started my ride with a beautiful view of rice fields and mountains as I wound my way down the riverside road towards the highway.

When I rolled onto the main road around 8am I was more than delighted to find a perfectly paved road with very minimal traffic. Of course as the day progressed the busses started to go by, but the road remained rideable all day traffic or not.

All the roads follow rivers to avoid mountain climbs. Thankfully

I spent the day in awe by all the beauty around me. Riding rivers all day surrounded by mountains is the ideal setting for me, I love the easy windy-ness of the roads that reveal new scenes around every turn. My head was turning all day just trying to grasp the new landscapes.

I finished the day at another river stop outside a small town maybe 60km still from Besisahar. I had an amazing sunset behind the mountains and a peaceful evening on a rocky river bed.

I love the river camping because you can bathe and wash your clothes right at camp. The water of these rivers is FREEZING because it all comes from snowmelt way up in the mountains. This part of the river was more bearable but as I got closer to the mountains the water was so cold that I could only dip and leave.

I gave myself 7 days to ride from Kathmandu to Besisahar. It’s only ~350km between the two cities but I figured with the mountains I’d be going a lot slower. I ended up making it in 3.5 days to Besisahar so I was a bit early for my trekking permit which started on April 21.

The last half day up to Besisahar was all uphill and all dirt. Which was very hard at the time but it’s something to laugh about now after finishing the circuit which was 100x harder than that day.

I got to Besisahar absolutely beat from the final climb into town. I bought some dinner at the grocery store and asked the police, who were also shopping, if there was a place to camp in town. They just laughed at me in response. So I biked down to the river and found one of the best camp spots of the trip. I had my bike and tent hidden behind a boulder out of view and the whole camp was hard packed sand beach with one huge rock in the middle where I spent the evening watching the river and the sun setting over my first view of snowpeaks.

The first view of the Himilayas
Filthy feat from dirt riding all day

I decided I’d go into the Annapurna Conservation Area before my permit was valid. I figured it wouldn’t matter because I heard there’s no checkpoints until 3 days into the trek

In the morning before I left I went to the local police station to drop some weight off my bike while I went into the mountains. I ended up staying for an hour because no one could figure out what I wanted. I kept getting referred to higher ranking officers until one spoke English while being followed by a woman with a machine gun that was barely smaller than the woman herself. He gave me some dal baat (National meal of Nepal) and told me I could leave my stuff there, then he referred me to the highest officer who told me I couldn’t leave my stuff, but somehow I convinced him to let me leave it. Then this officer gave me tea and told me to wait. About 5 minutes later a woman officer arrived and he introduced me to her as his daughter then looked at me and said “You like?” I had no idea what to say in front of this man and his daughter and the lady with the huge gun. Luckily the conversation subject was changed and I was out of the police gates in the next ten minutes.

Then I was finally off on the Annapurna Circuit, my dream route since I read about it back in Croatia six months ago. The first day was on a fairly well travelled road and I ended up making it to a town called Tal, which was the first permit checkpoint on the route. I handed the policeman my invalid permit fully expecting to be sent back, but as he handed it back stamped and approved I remembered that they do not care at all if my permit is two days early or not.

I set up my tent in a soccer field behind the town and then went into for some soup and tea, warm food choices because I was starting to gain elevation and get a bit colder. I got to break out my fleece and my hat against the cold air and I was so happy in that moment, realizing that I was actually there- at the base of the Himalayas in a tiny mountain set next to a river in a valley with mountains towering over me, my favorite part was the grey, cloudy sky and the smell of smoke in the air from fires keeping the houses warm. It was such a cozy, homey vibe in the air of this town.

On that first day it was a mix of pavement and rock/dirt roads and my bike was not happy with me for taking it on so many rough rocky roads. After my lunch stop I noticed my bike fighting me back when I looked down and saw my front wheel wobbling out of control. I put my bike on it’s side and lightly shook my wheel to see what was wrong. It was pivoting at the hub from side to side so I first tried taking it on and off to see if the skewer was loose maybe, but the problem persisted. Then I took the queen off and saw that I could shake the hub so I spent the next 15 min on the side of the road trying to get the perfect tension on it while periodically looking at the sky to check the rain clouds rolling in above me. The rain ended up holding out for several hours but the gray clouds were a heavy motivation. MapsMe said it would take 14hrs to ride the last 6 miles into Tal because of climbs so I was fully expecting to be camping in the middle of nowhere in a rainstorm that night, but to my surprise it took an hour and fifteen minutes to make it to Tal.

I set off the next morning around 6:30 towards Chame. This was the first day I started feeling the effects of altitude gain, when I passed over the 8,000ft mark I started feeling a bit confused so I took a lunch stop in a small town to let my body adjust. From there I only had 4km to go to reach Chame. Easy, right? Nope. On the way to Chame I was riding down the road and hit a rock, all of the sudden I heard air releasing from my front tire. I stopped to refill the air, thinking it was an easy fix, but then I saw tubeless fluid leaking from the sidewall of my tire and noticed the cm long tear in the tire. After a few minutes of trying to find a solution I glued a wrapper to the inside of the tire where it tore and threw a tube in. After cleaning everything up and filling my tire again I was a back on the road heading up towards Chame.

When I arrived in Chame in was cold and rainy so I parked at a tea house and got a nice rustic room with a view of the river out my window.

The next stop on the route was Upper Pisang, the ride from Chame to Pusan was a wonderful. I had full sun all day and got my first views of snowfall off the trail. The halfway point of the day was a town surrounded by blossoming apple farms. The town smelled AMAZING with all the blossoms around. I stopped there for an hour drinking apple juice and eating apple donuts.

I got to Upper Pisang at 10am, the last half hour was spent pushing my bike up the hill to town. I was beat from pushing so I stopped at the first tea house and got some food and a room. After eating I dropped my stuff in my room and went hiking up the mountain to get some views of the town and the mountains. Upper Pisang is situated at the base of Annapurna II which was an amazing sight.

I spent two days in Pisang because I felt I needed an extra day to admire Annapurna II. On day two I met the group that I’d spend the rest of the circuit leapfrogging. There was Adnan- a digital nomad and a fellow cycle tourist, Enzo- a Chilean high school principal, Khalil and Nubia- a Swiss couple who were both teachers, Lorenzo- an Italian traveler, Leo- an Italian dentist, Ram- a Korean MC, Yuval- a 23 y/o Israeli traveler and Soraya- a Spanish traveler.

Next stop for the circuit is Manang. The last town before the road ends and turns to trail. The road to Manang was a great flat valley ride through the mountains, I even got a km of pavement on the road instead of dirt and it felt like I was flying.

I spent four days in Manang hiking the mountains, exploring the town and taking some time off the saddle to rest my legs before heading towards the pass.

After four relaxing and beautiful days below and in the mountains it was time to head for Thorang Phedi, the last stop before the pass. Going between Manang and Phedi took me a good 10 hours of pushing and riding my bike. Now that the road had ended and I needed to ride the trail it was a lot harder. I climbed the whole day, with one section being a landslide zone with a very very narrow trail with horses trying to walk around me and my bike.

After 10 hours of pushing, I arrived at Thorang Phedi, AKA Thorang La Pass Base Camp, situated at 4,880m/16,010ft above sea level. I showed up at 4PM to find the big crew I had befriended back in Pisang, they cheerfully invited me into the tea house for dinner, surprised I had actually made it that far down the trail. I had a nice evening catching up with the group again before heading to bed at 7 to get a good rest in before the pass the next day.

I woke up at 4 and made a pot of oatmeal for some good energy in the morning, then I met Adnan in the mess hall. Adnan had offered to help push my bike up the pass with me while at dinner the night before, so we set out together at 5:20 to start up the trail. The hardest part of the day was just the 1km between base camp and high camp which was a 500m elevation gain in just over a km. Switch backs all the way up with Adnan pushing my tail and me pushing by the handlebars.

We reached the pass at 10:30 that morning crossing over at 5416m/17,770ft! The greatest accomplishment of my entire trip was finally reaching that pass after months of dreaming, and people telling me it was impossible throughout the whole circuit, including sherpa’s.

After finishing the pass, I dropped 3 miles in elevation in two days. The roads were basically just going straight down forever. They were so steep that I had to walk my bike for the majority of the hills.

At the end of the day after the pass I arrived in Muktinath, where I was shocked to find a town full of people. After just less that two weeks in the mountains I was not expecting to find a town with so much civilization on the other side of the pass.

The group was all waiting at the Dream Hotel down in Mukthinath for Adnan and I to celebrate the completion of the Annapurna circuit.We all split the next morning to make our way to Pokhara, I biked there in two days while everyone else either bussed or hiked there. I spent on enlightening in a town called Tatopani with an amazing hot spring. The road to Pokhara was a quick one because it was 90% downhill, dropping from 5400m to 800m in two days. All of the sudden I was back in shorts and t-shirt weather.

I checked into Pokhara Backpackers Hostel where unbeknownst to me I’d be staying for a long time. I’m still here and its been nearly two weeks. The first few days was just relaxation after the circuit, then I spent a few days at a nearby lake where I got food poisoning and went back puking to the hostel, then I went back to Besisahar by bus to collect the stuff I left at the police station. I think I caught something on that bus because the next day (two days after the food poisoning) I was sick and puking again.

As a closing note I’d like to acknowledge the sheer joy and beauty I experienced while up in the mountains. I spent every moment in awe of the beauty of the area around me. Everyday I’d have times where I would just think how lucky I am to have this opportunity in life and how happy I am from these experiences. This world is an amazing place.

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