December 12, 2014 by Jordan Rouse
After our defeat by the elements and subsequent bone-shaking downhill back to Besisahar, we took a few days R&R in Pokhara before attempting the western side of the Annapurna cicrcuit.
Throwing our bikes on the roof of a bus, we had a very bumpy and slightly terrifying journey to Tatopani, where we started our ride from. The plan was to ride right up to Mukninath at 3800m, where we would have been days earlier had we made it over Thorung La.
We were pleasantly surprised by the riding as we left Tatopani. The quality of the jeep track was leagues ahead of what we experienced on the Manang road, and we ended up riding 100% of the way to Muktinath, rather than constantly having to push and carry.
After a days hard climbing, the deep gully of the Kali Gandaki river suddenly opened out into an immense wide valley. Amazing views of Dhaulagiri (the first 8000m peak to be measured) and the Nilgiri ridgeline put to rest any ideas that the scenery in this area couldn’t match what we’d seen in the Manang valley.
We arrived in the beautiful old village of Marpha and decided to make it an easy day and stop for the night so we could explore the cobbled alleys and monasteries. Pushing on the next morning towards Jomsom, the geography suddenly evolved into a dry, desert like valley edged with huge sandstone cliffs. By 11am, the famous winds the valley experiences daily were literally pushing up the gentle gradient towards Kagbeni.
After a day off the bikes in Kagbeni to explore the area on foot, we pedalled the 1000m of ascent up to Muktinath via the Jhong Road. The fine gravel surfaced track was so steep our back wheels were constantly skidding out, struggling for traction. This climb could have been contender for the hardest of the entire trip. Epic views of the descent off Thorung La pass were ahead of us as we approached Jhong, more than making up for the effort of the ride. Stopping for a rest we realised how eerily silent the mountains were before the morning wind arrived. We both felt this was one of the best rides we had ever done, and the quiet peacefulness of the early morning really topped off the experience….but the downhill would hopefully be better!
We spent a few nights in Muktinath to soak up the last of our time in the high mountains, and visit the famous Hindu temple. Descending via crazily steep single track through the Lubra valley didn’t quite give us the care free super fast downhill we hoped for, but the remoteness made it feel like a real adventure. The exit from the valley along the river bed was good fun, with no paths to follow it was a properly technical ride to find your own line through the boulder strewn valley.
We hit the Jomsom road again, then spent a night in Jomsom town. A tip from a trekker gave us the opportunity to ride the trekking route part of the way back down from Marpha. This turned out to be a beautiful single track ride through pine forest, before hitting the jeep road again for a fast downhill back to Tatopani. Himalayan adventures over for now, but we’ll certainly be back!
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