Ride Nepal: Kathmandu Valley Rim,
the Himalayan Annapurna, and Lower Mustang

with Santosh Rai and Jock Montgomery

  • Wednesday April 6 – Saturday April 17, 2016 (during Thailand’s Wan Chakra and Songkran holidays)

Introduction

Cycling on route to Kagbeni village in lower Mustang

Join Jock Montgomery and Santosh Rai on an exhilarating mountain biking tour on single track trails with awe-inspiring Himalayan scenery.

We start with rides across the colorful northern rim of the Kathmandu valley, and then fly into the Annapurna mountain range, and cycle through lower Mustang beside giant Himalayan peaks.

Along the way, we will visit ancient trading villages, traditional Buddhist monasteries, and local artisans. The entire trip will offer countless spectacular vistas of a pristine environment that still echoes with history and new adventure.

 

Trip Highlights

  • Ride with Santosh Rai, one of Nepal’s most accomplished (and fun loving!), mountain biking guides. Another highly qualified guide will accompany Santosh as well.
  • Stay on the rim of the Kathmandu valley and spend two days riding on exciting single track trails
  • Visit the Tibetan Buddhist community and the monasteries beside Boudhanath Stupa
  • Enjoy Pokhara Lakeside with it classic views of the Annapurna Range
  • Optional tandem paragliding ride or whitewater rafting trip (on day 4)
  • Spectacular mountain flight over the Annapurna range to the village of Jomsom on the north side of the Himalaya
  • Ride for six days on outstanding trails through Lower Mustang with the Annapurna range as your panoramic backdrop
  • Ride support is always available from our warm and friendly Nepali staff
  • Stay in the heart of Kathmandu, tour the back streets and stock up on outdoor gear for your next adventure!

Riding trails along the rim of the Kathmandu valley

Single track trails with fresh snow on the mountains in upper Mustang

Our 2014 mountain biking group near Jomsom, with Nigiri Peak behind

Recommended Reading

Nepal (general)

Annapurna a Woman’s Place

Annapurna Region

Everest region

Himalayas

Compass Rose Expeditions’ Reading Lists

Trip Detail

Riding single track trails with the Annapurna range behind

Being flexible and open to new opportunities is the cornerstone to seeking out and shooting compelling photographs. We will make every effort to keep our plans flexible so we can take full advantage of photographic opportunities as they arise.

Please note: three meals a day are included in the cost except for first and last days as noted in the itinerary.

Map of our Journey

Day 1: Fly to Kathmandu, transfer to Shivapuri Mountain, warm-up ride

Our local guide Santosh and I meet you at the airport. We drive up into the mountains north of Kathmandu to start in lovely resort with extensive gardens and a swimming pool. We assemble our bikes and go on a short warm-up ride.

Day 2: Ride 42k to Sundarijal, visit Boudhanath’s Stupa and Monasteries

We mount our steeds and begin with a 6k ride on a small road that takes us into the forests of Shivapuri National Park. We spend the morning making our way back down into the Kathmandu valley riding on a combination of fire roads and technical single track that wind through wooded forests and past charming villages that border lush rice-paddy fields. The ride ends in the town of Sundarijal.

We have a late lunch at the Stupa View restaurant overlooking the monasteries enormous Buddhist stupa of Boudhanath, an ancient 5th-century trading hub that connected Tibet and Nepal. Nearby are more than twenty monasteries and extensive Tibetan communities. Every day hundreds of Buddhist pilgrims come to Boudhanath’s massive stupa to worship. We spend the afternoon poking around the back alleys and then head back up to our hideaway at Shivapuri.

Day 3: Ride 20k to Tokha and Jhor Village, fly to Pokhara

We spend the morning riding on a fun single-track loop amongst rice fields and through Tokha and Jhor villages. We visit the Hindu Chandeswori Temple and return to our hotel for lunch and to check out of our hotel.

In the afternoon we take the 3pm flight to Pokhara and check into our hotel located beside a lake, Phewa Tal where we spend time exploring local shops before having dinner at a local lakeside restaurant.

Day 4: Pokhara Lakeside exploration paragliding and rafting options

This is a non-riding day in order for our bikes to be transported overland from Kathmandu to Pokhara and up into the mountains at Jomsom.

Around Pokhara there are many outdoor activities. I highly recommend going on a tandem paragliding ride with mind boggling views of the entire Annapurna range, and or on an exciting half-day rafting trip on the Seti River (contact me for recommendations and to book and pay for this). Our hotel is right beside Phewa Tal Lake and you can rent canoes or hang out at a lakeside bar. Pokhara offers very good shopping. Our hotel offers an excellent massage.

Day 5: Himalayan mountain flight to Jomsom, ride 14k to Kagbeni

We take a spectacular half-hour long Himalayan mountain flight into the heart of the Himalaya and the region of Mustang. We are now on the north side of the Annapurna range at 2800m. We meet up with our driving crew, mount our steeds and hit the mountain trails with enthusiasm. Due to the altitude, we won’t push hard today!

The scenery here is vastly different from what we’ve been experiencing. We are now near tree line and are in the rain shadow of the Himalayan monsoon. Rain here is infrequent and villagers rely mainly on irrigation water for their crops. The valleys are colored with infinite shades of ochre and amber, punctuated by irrigated lush green fields of wheat and potatoes. We pass through ancient Tibetan settlements and make our way to our guesthouse beside the Kaligandaki River gorge in the village of Kagbeni.

Day 6: Ride 30k Phallyak pass Kagbeni Loop

Today we are rewarded with incredible mountain views. We cross a suspension bridge over the Kaligandaki River and ride uphill on a rough dirt road to Phallyak village. From here we head further uphill on more dirt trails to a high mountain pass at around 4000m. You will definitely be feeling the altitude, but fear not we’ve got all day to cover 35k, and there’s an option to turn back with a guide at any point. In any case, the panoramic Himalayan views will help take your mind off your heavy breathing!

Throughout the day there are amazing views of Niligiri Peak and the Annapurna range. After this challenging climb we are rewarded with a fabulous 18k downhill trail that takes us back to Kagbeni.

Day 7: Ride 18 or 36k Muktinath and Kagbeni

We depart early this morning via Jeep to the high mountain village of Muktinath at 3680m. Hindu pilgrims from all over South Asia come to Muktinath’s holiest of holy sites, known as Sri Murthi. The site is considered to be the only place in the world where the five sacred elements (earth, wind, fire, water, and sky) are found in one place. A natural spring and a burning flame emerge from the ground. There are also 108 sacred water taps fed by a local spring where pilgrims take a cleansing bath—even in the dead of winter!

From here we first ride to Jhong monastery where we can share tea with the monks. We then descend 17k and 1000m on fantastic dirt roads and single-track trails back to Kagbeni. At Muktinath, at Jhong and along the entire route there are more spectacular views: to the south the Annapurna range, to the north the border with upper Mustang.

We have lunch in Kagbeni and check out of our hotel. In the afternoon, we return to Muktinath. You might choose to ride the 1000m ascent on your mountain bike, or call it a day and go by Jeep.

Day 8: Ride 32k Lubrak Valley, Marpha, Tukche

From Muktinath we ride south to a small pass and then descend on technical narrow trails into the Lubrak Valley. This is my favorite day of riding as we are on a remote trail and are now very close to Annapurna I, and Annapurna South. Along the hillsides we’ll see sheep and goats tended by herders. In Lubrak we will visit a school designed and built by a close friend Thomas Schrom, and a monastery that Thomas restored for Bonpo monks. (The Bon religion is similar to, but pre-dates, Tibetan Buddhism).

We stop for lunch in the stunning village of Marpha. Here the wooden doors and window frames are hand hewn, the alley walls are whitewashed, the ground is covered with huge slate flagstones. Below flows a small stream providing water for the village. If it weren’t for the yaks you might think you are in a European village!

We are now riding through lower Mustang proper and are following trails adjacent to Kaligandaki River. These are ancient trails that have been used for centuries by the indigenous Thakali traders who moved goods between Nepal and Tibet. They brought wool and salt from Tibet to trade for rice and other grains from Nepal.

We stay in Tukche village at the Dutch bakery owned and operated by my friends Purna Prabha, (a local Thakli) and her Dutch husband Patrick Maas. Marpha and Tukche are the apple capital of Nepal, and tonight perhaps you’d care to sample the local apple pie and brandy!

Day 9: Ride 36k to Tatopani

This morning it’s particularly important to pack your camera as we descend some 1700m and the change in the scenery is dramatic. We ride from the spectacular high altitude trails of Tukche to the tropical landscapes of Tatopani. We also pass by two of the world’s 14 peaks that are over 8,000m. Off of your left should you’ll have 8091m Annapurna I, and beside your right shoulder 8167m Dhauligiri.

Two of the finest books about climbing were written about Annapurna and you should consider picking them up Annapurna a Woman’s Place by Arlene Blum and Annapurna by Maurice Herzog, which has sold more than any other mountaineering book and there’s a good reason for it—you won’t be able to put it down.

Thanks to the raging Kaligandaki River, which predates these mountains, we are passing through one of the deepest valleys in the world. If the weather today is clear–and it’s very likely–our ride will most certainly be one of the most memorable of the trip!

Day 10: Ride 30k to Beni / Drive to Pokhara

Alas today is our last day of riding, but fear not there are still plenty of narrow trails to keep you focused and grinning! We follow a dirt trail through small riverside villages and after lunch end up in the village of Beni. Here we load up the bikes and drive back to Pokhara. If time allows we will offer an afternoon ride that descends all the way to Phewa Tal and our lakeside resort.

Onward adventures in Nepal: From here, you might consider spending a few days doing something on your own. Since you’ll be acclimatized you could easily make your way into the Annapurna sanctuary where you’ll be surrounded by Himalayan peaks. I can help and advise you on everything you’ll need. There’s some great river rafting available. (I’ve got lots of ideas about this, as I was a river guide in Nepal for many years, and still lead river trips in Nepal and around the world.). You could also spend a couple of days at Lakeside doing some tandem paragliding or perhaps learning how to paraglide on your own. This area is one of the premiere sites in the world for paragliding.

Day 11: Flight to Kathmandu

We catch a morning flight back to Kathmandu. We’ll have the rest of the day to shop for souvenirs and perhaps some sightseeing via rickshaw. I can give you advice on the best places to buy gifts, a good place to have a cappuccino, or where to buy new or used outdoor gear etc. We will meet again in the evening for a celebratory final dinner.

Day 12: International Departure

We head to the airport, say one final goodbye to our wonderful Nepalese staff and hop on our homeward bound flights.

Leaders

Jock Montgomery

Jock Montgomery

Jock Montgomery

In 1983 Jock moved to Nepal to train raft guides and lead river expeditions and treks across much of the Himalayas. He was based in Kathmandu for twelve years and now makes his home in Bangkok, Thailand.

He has been leading trips in the United States since he was a teenager. He now leads river running, sea kayaking, trekking and mountain biking trips and expeditions across the Himalayas, and throughout Southeast Asia, North America, Greenland, Patagonia and Ecuador/Galapagos.

He is in demand as a commercial and editorial assignment photographer. He teaches and leads private photography workshops throughout Asia.

More about Jock Montgomery …

Santosh Rai

Santosh Rai

Santosh Rai is a Nepali mountain biking guide who is a fun-loving and outgoing cyclist and leader. He has eight years experience leading mountain biking tours both in Nepal and Internationally. He has qualifications in Wilderness First Aid, Red Cross First Aid Training and holds a current MBLA (Mountain Bike Leadership Award) Certificate.

Santosh is also a keen racer and an adept mechanic. Santosh has competed four times in Nepal’s formidable Yak Attack race. He won eleven races on the Israeli Pro Circuit and has represented Nepal at two Asian Mountain Bike Championships.

“To me it feels like I have been riding a bike since before I could walk, and I can not imagine life without two wheels!”

More about Santosh Rai …

Mountain Bike Tour 2014

A slideshow of photographs from Compass Rose Expedition’s Nepal mtn biking tour in April of 2014

Santosh Rai Riding

A slide show of our amazing guide Santosh Rai riding on some very challenging trails and more. He’s never had a serious injury, but I definitely don’t recommend trying to follow him!

Dates

April 6 – April 17, 2016

Prices (in US$)

  • $2,850/person (This includes four domestic flights.)
  • $400/single supplement
  • Bicycle hire (subject to availability) $450.00 (Excellent quality, never-the-less I strongly recommend you to bring your own full-suspension mountain bike.)
  • Trip will have  10 – 12 participants.

Payment Schedule

  • Deposit due by April 1st: $500 (non-refundable)
  • Balance due 90 days prior to departure

What is Included

  • Expert leadership, instruction and support staff (including 2 highly skilled Nepali mtn biking guides).
  • Airport and other transfers
  • Ground transportation, for passengers and bicycles
  • Transportation fees and taxes
  • All national parks and protected area permits
  • All heritage area permits
  • All meals breakfast lunch, dinner
  • Bottled water, and tea and coffee with meals
  • Accommodation as specified
  • Group first aid kit

What is not included

  • Travel insurance is required for health and cancellation
  • International air-fare and accommodation on route from home to Bangkok
  • Customary but optional tips for local guides
  • Visa and Immunization
  • Personal expenses including laundry, snacks, drinks, alcohol, etc
  • Overweight luggage charges

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