28 Oct - 3 Nov 2016 #831

Vroom Vroom

Motorbiking in Mustang: the beauty of the place with the fresh air rushing past your face is a dream
Samriddhi Rai

all Pics: Ronish Raut

Late October may not be the best time to go to Mustang, but despite the freezing nights and mornings in this cold high-altitude desert region of Nepal, the days are sunny and bright.

Above the pollution and dust, the post-monsoon sky is the deepest shade of blue. Unlike the rest of Nepal, the Himalayan peaks are to the south. After an eight-hour minibus ride from Mugling we reach Ghasa where we spot a motorcycle that belonged to a friend’s brother. After a few test rides around the block, we decided to bike it up the Kali Gandaki Valley.

We didn’t know what we were getting into with this spontaneous decision to undertake a 100km off-road motorbike adventure. Ghasa to Muktinath is a rough road that is not for the inexperienced or faint-hearted. The journey can be done in two hours by locals, but it took us double the time.

The delays had less to do with falling off the bike frequently than with us stopping to admire the numerous waterfalls along the way and Nilgiri and Dhaulagiri towering over the deepest gorge in the world. Who would believe that there is such a view just a few hours away from Kathmandu. The beauty of the place with the fresh air rushing past your face is a dream.

Pit stops

Riding trips all the way up to Lo Manthang or even Chhosar of Upper Mustang is a biking adventure at a whole new level. The ride to Muktinath is more do-able and popular. Here is the route:

Beni: Bus terminal that connects travellers to Pokhara, Kathmandu, or Jomsom.

Ghasa: This is the entry point to Mustang, where there are still forests and the start-off point for the bike adventure.

Marpha: Famous for its brandy, this is a must-stop. Caution: don't drink and ride.

Jomsom: The airport town that has cafes with wifi, fancy hotels and restaurants.

Kagbeni: This is where you take off for Lo Manthang. Keep right to go up to Muktinath.

Muktinath: Our destination, and important pilgrimage sites for Hindus and Buddhists.

Before you rev up

Riders ordinarily start their biking adventure from Beni onwards. But if you really want to extend your adventure, zoom off from Pokhara or even Kathmandu.

The road from Beni up till Ghasa is the real challenge with narrow roads, dangerous cliffs and pesky pebbles on the roads that can trip up the bike. During rainy season, scenic waterfalls also means that the trail will be hilo. From Ghasa up to Muktinath the trail is pleasant, with only the uphill turns that are tricky.

Mustang is a desert so expect a lot of dhulo, which means wear gear that protects you from the sun, sand, wind and dust. Neck buffs, gloves, sun shades, boots and a full helmet—pack them all. In the mid-morning, the Kali Gandhi becomes a wind tunnel with hurricane-force wind blowing up the Valley carrying sand with it. Best to start the ride early in the morning and return to base by noon.

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