Mustang and the Lha Phewa Festival

“Dai, I would like to do some biking in Nepal” I say to Ashim Dai. A few days later he introduces me to Rabi Dai, the pioneer in biking in Nepal and the first from Nepal to operate biking tours to Everest Base camp from Tibet. Rabi dai a very friendly gentleman says “There is the La Phewa Festival coming up Mustang. It’s a once in 12 years festival, why don’t you join my guys for the trip?” Two weeks later, a few days after New Years Im sitting on the bike outside their office (Moto Himalaya) and ready to embark on the adventure. I had always wanted to go to Mustang, the cold deserts had been attracting me for a while now and here I was ready to go.

Prajwal, Arjun Dai, Rikesh and Khurshid were my fellow riders. Around 8am we leave office embarking on one hell of a journey. Prajwal was our ride captain and we followed behind him with Khurshid being our technical support who swept all of us. We rode through the city and heading towards the edge of Kathmandu Valley itself was a huge challenge. The dust and traffic with the constant blaring of the horn makes it hard to leave the valley. I didn’t know the short cut which the rest of them took and by the time I reached Nagdhunga, they were already chilling and waiting for me. They all quickly saddled and we rode down the valley.

Now this was my first time riding in Kathmandu and frankly I was pretty scared. Trucks and busses passed us all doing pretty good speed on the 2 lane road exiting Kathmandu. It took me a while to get used to that kind of driving and road skills even then not fully.

Our first stop was Naubise for breakfast, we quickly grabbed a bite to eat and rode downhill to our lunch stop Mugling. Mugling is pretty famous for its rice and dal (Dal Bhat). We stopped at their favorite restaurant Rupsi. Rupsi has some really good food. I don’t know what all they serve there coz the only thing we eat is the Thakali Meal Set that consists of rice, dal two different kinds of vegetables pickle and chicken/mutton curry. A sumptuous meal and a short break later we were on our way towards Pokhara. Two roads divelged and we took the right one to Pokhara. Pokhara was ~105kms more from Mugling and we rode on stopping for tea break at a restaurant called Akala Highway Restaurant 35kms before Pokhara. Around 5pm we reached Pokhara but that was not our final stop. Our final stop was Beni another 90kms from Pokhara. We didn’t want to enter Beni after it was too dark hence after a quick stop for refreshments at Pokhara we quickly went on our way. Around 8pm  we reached Beni, found ourselves a quiet small lodge and called it a night.

Bright and early next morning we saddled up and were on our way uphill. The tarmac disappeared and we were gravel which too disappeared and we were almost on no road. I mean the hill was dug out to build a road but it hadn’t started yet. We were riding on stones and rocks and around boulders. Somewhere around Tatopani (hot spring) we stopped for lunch after which we went up to rest at Kalopani. The temperature had dropped significantly and we could feel the cold on our fingers and toes. We reached Kalopani around 4 in the evening. A 55km ride took us almost the entire day. At Kalopani we stayed at the Kalopani Guest house and even in the rush of the oncoming festival the host, Yogesh Gauchan was kind enough to spare us a room for the cold winter night. A sumptuous meal and some liquid warmth we called it a night.

Next morning right after breakfast we were on our way to the La Phewa festival, 10 kms away. When we reached the venue we were told that the gods will be taken out only the next day. Not wanting to waste any time we headed on towards Jomsom. The landscape had started to change drastically. From climbing only uphill we were riding on valleys and river beds (as the river had dried up) A quick lunch stop at Marpha we were back on our bikes. Around midday we reached Jomsom and as the song rightly said “12o’clock wind in Jomsom Bazar) we were caught in the wind. Jomsom was really windy and the flags fluttering were making a lot of noise. I felt that it would tear the flag apart. Even while crossing the suspension bridge, the bridge was shaking quiet a bit. From Jomsom we rode to Muktinath a holy place for both Hindus and Buddhists.

So as we were riding on the river bed we came across a small stream. Me being in the front decided to cross it first. Little did I know the stream was pretty deep and the rocks uneven. Halfway crossing the stream, I started losing balance. Unfortunately I couldn’t balance anymore and had to put my left foot down. Splash! The freezing water entered my shoes and my feet were all wet. My socks and my trekking boot too. Oh it was cold. Too damn cold.  We stopped at Kagbeni a few kilometers away where I opened my shoes and socks to dry out but that didn’t help much. I had to wear the wet boots and ride on. As we rode up to Muktinath the temperature started to drop drastically. The wind chills were also a factor. We were riding at around 0deg Celsius, with high winds. At times the wind threatened to throw us off balance. But the view, amazing. The valleys, the mountains, the river bed and the cold desert provided a splendid view which made it worth the effort. We finally reached Muktinath and took a tour around the temple. There is this “108 taps” where you walk under and the pool where you take a dip. None of us had the guts to do so. We didn’t even have the guts to sleep in -18deg cel at Muktinath so we went down to Jomsom to sleep in -12deg Celsius. The sun had already set on our way down and everytime we stopped we put our hands around the engine to get some warmth. Out gloves were of no use. Our fingers and feet numb from the cold. My dipped leg didn’t have sensation until next morning.

From Jomsom we went down to attend the La Phewa festival. We spent some time there and after a long and easy lunch at Kalopani we went straight down to Beni and off to Pokhara to call it a day.

We spent a day in Pokhara to relax and do some sight seeing but the evening that we were supposed to chill and unwind was spent helping douse a fire that engulfed one of the restaurants from where we stayed.

The next day, we rode off back to Kathmandu.

Well im a little to lazy to write so why don’t you watch the video instead.

Thanks

 

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