Cycling southeast from Taplejung on a combination of dirt and paved roads, down to the Indian border town of Charali, our route climbs, descends, twists and turns its way through a part of Nepal seen by very few tourists, and even fewer have seen it the way we are doing it.
After flying from Kathmandu to Taplejung via Biratnagar, the first four days are spent making our way south through picturesque villages and golden fields of rice and wheat to our highest camp on the Pauwa Pass, from where there are spectacular views stretching from Kanchenjunga to Mt Everest. From the pass, it’s a two-day ride through the tea plantations of Ilam [Nepal’s tea growing capital] to the warm plains of the Terai. We spend a day in Ilam to relax or to go exploring in the tea garden on and off the bike. The Terai with its colourful bazaars, fields of tea, fruits and vegetables and the ever smiling faces of the Nepalese. This area is completely unspoiled, with hardly any Westerners passing through – let alone mountain bikers. In only the first five days we cover around 240 km, with an awesome 5000m of ascent and even more awesome 7800m of descent.
We will take the 40-minute flight along the Himalaya to Biratnagar in eastern Nepal; hopefully we have a clear day so we get to see the world's highest peeks. Biratnagar is Nepal's second largest city, lying amongst the lowland paddy fields of the Indian plains. In complete contrast to Kathmandu, it does not cater for tourism at all. We stay in the centre of town in Hotel Eastern Star, with plenty of time to explore the colourful market nearby..
Flying to Kathmandu along the northern border of Nepal on a clear day is itself an unforgettable experience, with the entire Nepalese Himalaya sprawling out below you. You will be met at the Airport by company representative to escort you to your hotel so, look out for Explore Himalaya signboard with your name on it..
Kathmandu is a strange mixture of Tibetan Buddhism, Hinduism and Western influence. There will be a half day guided tour to Famous & biggest Hindu shrine PASUPATHINATH, largest Buddhist stupa in town BOUDHANATH, 15th century palace of 55 windows and & durbar Square at BHAKTAPUR..
Immediately after breakfast, we catch the morning flight to the mountain airstrip at Taplejung. This is an unforgettable experience - flying directly towards the Kanchenjunga massif. Taplejung airport must rank amongst the top five most spectacular runways in the world. It is perched right on the crest of a precipitous ridge at 2150m with stunning views from Sikkim to Makalu. It is here that we will start our bike journey. Once we have our bikes ready, we will go exploring in Taplejung, it is one of the biggest and most idyllic "villages" in Nepal. We camp overnight just above the main village..
What a start to a trip! We roll down a mind-blowing 40 km descent, dropping nearly 2000 metres along a graded jeep track, which now connects Taplejung with the outside world. Once we have finished the descent we have another 10 kilometres of pretty easy riding before we reach the Kabeli River, where we camp for the night. These last ten kilometres gives us a chance to take a good look at the beautiful landscape of this region..
If yesterday was all about descent, today is all about ascent. It is the 'big climb'! From the river we climb 1500m, over a distance of 32 km, to the top of the ridge, before contouring around to another superb camp at Jor Pokhari. All day, we follow a superbly graded road, which is used by just a few vehicles each day. This means that on this section we have our full back-up support and, should you fancy a rest, you can hitch a ride for any part of the ascent that you want..
The day starts out with us flying downhill, and losing all the height that we gained yesterday! We blast through terraced fields down into a dense jungle, which grows on the lower slopes of the valley. It's downhill for the first half of the morning and then it is back onto another perfectly graded climb up to the local market town of Phidim, which is also the centre for the local Gurkha regiment. After lunch at Phidim, the fitter members of the party can carry on cycling a further 30 km, to the top of the Pauwa Pass, at 2560m the highest point on our route. Those who like more of a relaxing holiday can catch a lift in the support vehicle to our magnificent ridge-top campsite, which offers stunning sunset views. As we get higher, Kanchenjunga reappears above the intervening ridges and for the first time we can also see Everest, Lhotse and Makalu in the distant Khumbu region..
From the Pauwa Pass to Ilam is around 55 km, at first involving a descent before contouring around a ridge. This is followed by a blast down to the river and then a short climb. Finally, we cruise into town and set up camp amongst the sea of tea plantations. Another superb day's riding, full of contrasts and surprises. Ilam is Nepal's most famous tea centre where the tealeaf is cured before being transported to Kathmandu..
Today is dedicated to tea and relaxation. For those who relax best sitting on the mountain bike this is a fantastic place to ride some single trails. The tea gardens are full of small tracks and trails we can ride. However if, for once you prefer just to walk around at your own pace, looking at life in this tranquil town, fell free to do so this is our "holiday"..
Yet another downhill, as far as the river, before another big uphill on our roller coaster route. We hitch a ride on the vehicles for the 40 km climb to the top of the pass at Ficcal, though if there are any hard-core climbers who would like to take on this ascent, we are on tarmac for the first time during the trip. The fish curry at the top of the pass is worth the trip alone, but we are now on the very last crest of the Himalayan foothills, looking down across neatly cropped tea bushes onto the Indian plains. Our trip ends with an 1800m descent, on smooth tarmac for a change, but with enough pot holes to keep it interesting! It is switchbacks all the way to the town of Charali. From here we pack our bikes for a drive back along the Terai to a well-earned shower at our hotel in Biratnagar..
A leisurely morning is spent exploring Biratnagar before we take the return flight across the foothills of the Himalayas to the luxuries of a hot shower in our hotel in Kathmandu..
Transfer to the airport in time to catch you flight home..
We work with the motto "Tourism for Development". Explore Himalaya Community Service Project was conceived to empower underprivileged segments of Nepal.