Samir Thapa took a bicycle ride in the Himalayas in Nepal. He recounts every boulder and turn of the journey. It was 08:15 am and the helicopter had left us high in the Himalayas. We put together our bikes. The delicate air at 3.800 meter blended with the anticipation of the 35 kilometers of mule tracks and steep rock gardens that lied in wait of us. It would be a session of tough riding and maneuvers. Descents that would tax us, to heights that would be dizzy. Langtang, which lies north of Kathmandu, is a territory that is rarely biked through. Blame it on the remoteness and highly technical trails. Either one drives for a day and carries ones bikesfor another three to reach the starting point, or one accumulates all of the savings and splash out on a helicopter.
We opted for the helicopter. It took a brief 27 minutes that we found ourselves landed in the barren but beautiful landscape of upper Langtang valley, which also is the Buddhist settlement of Kyanjin Gumpa.
Talk about being larger than life. The harmony forged between the tough terrain and the beautiful landscape was fragile. A harmony that would be enchanting in the early morning sun but could be surprisingly harsh when a thunderstorm starts to roll in. The scenery is delightful as long as one stayed on track, but alarmingly critical if one loses the balance and would then fall into the ice cold river over 100 meters below. The setting was perfect for a true adventure.
The first seven kilometers to Langtang village are exceptionally smooth. But don’t be deceived, it was the clam before the storm. A few close encounters with the Himalayan yaks, a couple of perplexed trekkers and then the medieval stone walls of Langtang lead us to our first chai stop.
Some traditional Tibetan bread accompanied by milk tea was eaten in the quiet company of Langtang Lirung a sun-glazed 7246 meter high mountain, which is also the highest peak in the region.
After another three hours on the bike, the trail suddenly changed from an easy mule track to that of horrid rock gardens and dense rhododendron forests. We just concentrated on keeping up the speed, and spotting the perfect flow lines, for, the wicked stairs and switchbacks in the lush forests took us by a complete surprise. We bounced around until we were mentally adjusted to the new terrain and the serious technical downhill it offered. The forests brought to the fore, extremely challenging sections, which had steep descents, drops, some climbs and also rocky trails. Four crashes and three punctures later, we reached Rimche, physically battered and exhausted. The lodge owner looked at us as if we came from a different planet. However as it was off season, he eagerly offered us food, beer and accommodation. He even provided a separate room for our bikes. Knowing too well that tomorrow will bring in more beastly stairs and inevitable crashes; we enjoyed his hospitality and settled in comfortably amidst the spiritually rich atmosphere. Dawn arrived. Post a light breakfast; we had some 1400 meters of descent ahead of us. It was steeper than the first day, with loose rocks scattered around. The trail follows the Langtang Khola river, which lead us downhill for hours.
After crossing the river, we altered between half carrying and half pushing our bikes up the steeper sections. Tired, sunburned and longing for cold water we reached our final destination, SyabruBesi, around noon.
We got back to Kathmandu late Sunday evening. Mere two days felt like a week. What more can you possibly want from a weekend ride? It had everything from epic scenery, terrifying rock gardens, welcoming hosts, great company and the mesmerizing Himalayas thrown in for good measure.
Written by: Axel Revheim Photographs by: Samir Jung Thapa