VAEGABOND - The Annapurna Circut in Nepal - our hardest stage in 3,5 years of bike tour
One year ago in the small Caucasus we thought, that we had now reached our physical and mental limit with our bikes. Because there we went over the 2.182m high Zekari Pass in Georgia while it there were freezing winds, rain and snow. As if that hadn't already been exhausting enough, our entire equipment gave up on us, became leaky and got us completely wet down to our underpants. Coming to our rescue was only an abandoned windy shepherd's hut, that we found fleeing from the merciless weather. Back then we really thought, that that was the hardest stage on our entire bike world tour up to that point. Yea, so we thought...
Now, we've arrived in Nepal, the 22nd country on our tour to Japan. We got enlightend there. We've now repaired and partly replaced our equipment. We're especially proud of our new Velotraum wheels that make cycling so easy, especially offroad with its broad tires and the components, that we chose. Therefore full of excitement we entered the country, which is about half the size of Germany. What's so special about Nepal is the breathtaking mountain backdrop of the Himalaya, which is also known as the „roof of the world“. The highest mountains of the world are here and many travelers (yes, a couple of them also by bike) rave about the Annapurna Circut, the most famous trekking route of the country.
We met a young suckat in Pokhara, who had just completed his training as a guide. Over at his house we could get a glance of the everyday life of a nepalese family and load a big part of our luggage. Fully energized, we then went on to Annapurna. It didn't take long until the paved way turned into just a dirt road, here and there lots of boulders and rocks just for the fun. The first day there was already heavy rain again, that turned the dirt into mud. No problem for the bikes, it was actually quite fun cycling through the deep puddles and the mud. The motivation started to sink by day three. The bad road conditions and the absolute muderous rise from up to 40% made cycling almost impossible. From then on we mostly pushed our bikes. But the higher we came, the more the beauty and the magic of the Himalaya moutains developed around us.
We saw rice fields and mountain terraces, where they grew vegetables. Many colorful flags, that fluttered in the wind on small temples or on the roofs of small villages. We turned prayer wheels and listened to the slight rattle. Most of the time there were between 3 and 15 of these wheels on both sides of the road or they were attached to the side of a gate. Up here we met many herds of yaks and goats, that really love these barren and rough conditions.
To even be able to do the Annapurna Circut by bike, we really saved on weight, and only packed the most important things like e.g. sleeping bag, tooth brush, tools to repair anything, or the travel drugstore. To keep the expenses during our 5 year tour from Germany to Japan as low as possible, we ususally only sleep in our tent. Because of the extra weight, we cut out our mobile home and the kettle. We're now doing something, that we haven't done on our entire tour. We bit the bullet and entrusted the local inns with us. Sometimes we could luckily negotiate the prive and the night was „free“, as long as we ordered dinner and breakfast. That got more expensive though, because the price for the night just went into the food. It also got more and more expensive, the higher up we got. For example gas or groceries are rare and have to be brought up by a Jeep or mules into the small villages. While a Dahl Bat costs 150 NPR (ca. 1,07€) in Pokhara, the price increases over the course of the path to 400 NPR, 600 NPR, 850 NPR (ca. 6,07€) per person. So we happened to be already completely exhausted after a couple of days and countless altimeters. So we decided to add another 5km and 400 altimeters, to find a place to rest in the next village. Absolutely drained, we would only find a single guesthouse, that would charge astronomically high prices for a room because of the monopoly. Unfortunately, we could not negotiate, the food wasn't cheap either (Dahl Bat 900 NPR) and had to be paid for seperately. That was so beyond our budget, that we took, as done as we were, another 4km and 500 altimeters upon us. The clock had already passed 6pm and the sun started to set, the temperature fell down to 1°C. It was pitch black, our teeth chattering, when we finally reached the next village. We warmed ourselves on the oven in the common room of the next best guesthouse and stayed there for 2 days. On average, we had to pay much less money here (room was free, Dahl Bat 400 NPR), than if we would've stayed in the overpriced accomodation. The snow had now caught up to us and our journey to the roof of the world was continued through a winter wonderland.
On the 7th day, we reached the camp Thorong Pedi, that was approximately 1.000 altimeters underneath Thorong La Pass. We looked for a room there, left our luggage there, to go the apparent worst part of the pass, by our bare bikes. The rumor was true. The path was steeper and rockier than ever before with an over 40% rise. Just before the High Camp, we got a support pushing the bikes for a few meters by a couple of energetic nepalee, that couldn't believe we were up there with our bikes. We locked our bikes at the High Camp and went right back down to the Thorong Pedi Camp, where we spent a rather short night. This was due to a second rumor making its rounds among the trekkers: one should've reached the Thorong La Pass before 10 in the morning, because it would get way too stormy and windy after that. A few very tough ones already got on their way at 4 in the morning, we had breakfast and therefore got going at about 5:30am. The snow made getting on even harder with the bikes. We were lucky, the hikers in front of us had left a small trail behind them. In the end we reached the 5.416m Thorong La Pass at 2.30pm, with a sunburn and much herpes, overwhelmed by our emotions - In the Himaya mountains, on top of the roof of the world! An incredible feeling of shivers, a breathtaking mountain world covered in snow around us.
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Best wishes from on the way Melli & Dani
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