No Mountain High Enough
The magical kingdom of Nepal is, without a doubt, one of the most storied destina- tions in the world, and a mecca for adven- ture travelers of every stripe. What better way to see this exotic land than on a mountain bike? Well, actually, there is a better way—on a mountain bike that’s transported by helicopter to a highland pass, allowing you to cruise downhill through some of the most spectacular ter- rain on earth. You can now ride through Nepal’s magnificent scenery while avoid- ing the lung-busting uphill rides that would make the trip impossible for all but a hand- ful of oxygen-carrying elite athletes.
Most trips to Nepal begin in Kathmandu, the country’s capital and largest (and noisiest) city. Heli-cycling programs organized by qualified tour operators who know the terrain are definitely the way to experi- ence this activity; some operators have relatively short 1-day packages, while oth- ers offer longer excursions of several days. Thrill-seekers opting for longer tours are able to stop in remote teahouses for breaks, and stay overnight in lodges nes- tled in isolated villages.
If what you seek is adventure on the road less traveled, you’ll find it here. Many of the spots visited by heli-cyclers are tiny hamlets, difficult to reach even by four- wheel-drive vehicles. The landscape is rich and varied: Icy, snow-capped mountain ranges give way to dense alpine forests,semi-arid steppes, surging rivers, lush farmland, and golden rice paddies. And for sheer death-defying thrills, try crossing a swinging suspension bridge on a windy day with a full pack and a mountain bike— not for the faint of heart.
It’s not all hard work and sweat, how- ever. Bikers make frequent stops to sam- ple local foods and teas, including the region’s apple ciders and brandies. In addition, there are hot spring pools along some routes that allow bone-weary riders a chance to soothe their aching bodies. And at the end of your journey, the sights and sounds of Kathmandu are yours to explore. —ML