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Biking the Annapurna Circuit (Part 2)

2

December 12, 2014 by Jordan Rouse

Katie rolling on some high altitude singletrack. Dhaulagiri (8167m) in the background.

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.

Road to somewhere...

Road to somewhere…

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.

Nice riding along the Kali Gandaki valley

Nice riding along the Kali Gandaki valley

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.

High and dry

High and dry

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.

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Prayer flags at Marpha monastery

Prayer flags at Marpha monastery

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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!

Above Kagbeni. Road to Jhong on the left, Thorung La centre.

Above Kagbeni. Road to Jhong on the left, Thorung La centre.

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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.

Buddhist scriptures hidden in the wall of a stupa at Muktinath temple

Buddhist scriptures hidden in the wall of a stupa at Muktinath temple

Singletrack out of Muktinath towards Lubra valley

Singletrack out of Muktinath towards Lubra valley

Katie rolling on some high altitude singletrack. Dhaulagiri (8167m) in the background.

Katie rolling on some high altitude singletrack. Dhaulagiri (8167m) in the background.

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!


2 comments »

  1. Dan says:

    WOW! Katie that’s amazing! You’ve got some fantastic pictures but one in particular is stunning as can be! OMG you should win an award! x

  2. Carrie Condon says:

    Thanks for the blog and the stunning photos, what a place!

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