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 Kanchanjungha 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 Nepali people. 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.
Day 1 Arrival in Kathmandu
Day 2 Sightseeing in Kathmandu
Day 3 Flight to Bhadrapur and transfer to Ilam
Day 4 Transfer to Taplejung and explore around Village
Day 5 Taplejung to Kabeli
Day 6 Kabeli to Jor Pokhari
Day 7 Jor Pokhari to Pauwa Pass
Day 8 Pauwa Pass to Ilam
Day 9 Ilam and around
Day 10 Transfer to Bhadrapur airport and fly to Kathmandu
Day 11 Free Day in Kathmandu
Day 12 Depart Kathmandu
Arrival in Kathmandu
Flying to Kathmandu along the northern border of Nepal on a clear day is itself an unforgettable experience, with the entire Nepali Himalaya sprawling below you. You will be met at airport by our company representative to escort you to your hotel. Look out for Explore Himalaya signboard with your name on it.
Sightseeing in Kathmandu (Boudhanath, Pashupatinath & Patan)
Kathmandu is the historical and cultural heart of Nepal and has been a popular destination for tourists ever since Nepal opened its doors to visitors. The city presents a wonderful mix of Hinduism, Tibetan Buddhism and Western influence. There will be a guided tour to Boudhnath, the largest Buddhist stupa in Nepal and after that to Pashupatinath, the most popular Hindu shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva. We take a tour to Patan also called as Lalitpur (the City of Artisans), which is 5km away from Kathmandu. We walk through Patan Durbar Square, and delight in the architectural wonders of Malla era. Mahaboudha Temple, Kumbeshwor Temple, Krishna Temple and Golden Temple are the major attractions at the square.
Flight to Bhadrapur and transfer to Ilam
We will take the 40-minute flight along the Himalaya to Bhadrapur in eastern Nepal; hopefully we have a clear day so we get to see the world's highest peaks. Bhadrapur is a town and municipality in Jhapa District in the Mechi Zone of southeastern Nepal. It lies on the right bank of Mechi River, Nepal's eastern border with Bihar state, India. In complete contrast to Kathmandu, it does not cater for tourism at all. Once we land in the Bhadrapur airport, we will be transferred to Ilam for overnight. Ilam is one of the major places in Nepal for tea-production. It is famous for natural scenery and landscapes, tea production, and diverse agricultural economy. It is one of the major horticultural crop production districts of Nepal.
Transfer to Taplejung and explore around Village
Immediately after breakfast, our jeep will be standby to take us to Taplejung. It takes around 6-7 hrs by drive from Ilam to reach Taplejung. With stunning views from Sikkim to Makalu, we will start our bike journey from nearby local village in Taplejung.
Taplejung to Kabeli
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 give us a chance to take a good look at the beautiful landscape of this region.
Kabeli to Jor Pokhari
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.
Jor Pokhari to Pauwa Pass
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, Kanchanjungha reappears above the intervening ridges and for the first time we can also see Everest, Lhotse and Makalu in the distant Khumbu region.
Pauwa Pass to Ilam
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.
Ilam and around
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, feel free to do so - this is our "holiday".
Drive to Bhadrapur
Bhadrapur airport is around 94 Km from Ilam which takes around 3 – 4 hrs. After breakfast, we will check out from the hotel and move towards Bhadrapur airport for Kathmandu flight. Once we land at Kathmandu airport, one of the office representatives will meet you and take you to your hotel.
Free Day in Kathmandu
Today is free for independent activities to let go off your exhaustion.
Transfer to the airport in time to catch you flight home.
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Overall we have thoroughly enjoyed our stay and experience with Explore Himalaya. The country and views have been incredible.