It is as if someone had pulled the plug. Out of a sudden it is quiet on the road. Although the West-East-Highway is one of the most important in the country, there is only little traffic. Nepal is mainly known for its high mountains and it is also the main reason why I came here. But for a week I ride across the flat Terai. It is very green and along the road are only small villages. The friendly and open kind of the Nepali is instantly infectious. In Butwal I turn north, the climbs towards Pokhara start and soon I can see the first mountains.
At first I have difficulty deciding whether to walk the Annapurna Circuit or go by bicycle. Finally the temptation to ride the Thorong La by bike wins. I leave almost all of my stuff back in Pokhara and only take warm cloth and a sleeping bag with me. All along the Annapurna Circuit there are plenty of lodges where food and accommodation is available.
But first I need some warm cloth. Fortunately I am just at the right place for that, as Nepal is the capital of ‚genuine fake‘ outdoor cloth.
The first 2 days I still follow the road to Besisahar where the actual trek starts. The trail is from the very beginning challenging with lots of steep climbs and rough sections. In some parts the track is simply blasted out of the sheer rock face. As if that were not enough already, the weather is very bad and it rains all through the first day transforming the track in a very messy mud bath.
The rain continues all through the night. When then sun is back next morning and I can see the snow covered mountains I fear for the worst: the snow line has come down very low.
When I reach the 2000m height the next day I hit the first snow. For a day I drag my bicycle though the deep snow and slush until I finally have to admit that it is pointless. I have not even reached half the height of the Thorong La and already everything is covered in 30-50cm of snow. Already here I cannot cycle a 100m in one go. Reluctantly I leave the bike behind and continue on foot.
Now in the off season it is pleasantly quiet here. I only meet about 5 other trekkers per day. The ever changing views of the peaks of the Annapurna and Manaslu are spectacular and always worth a break.
When I leave Manag in a light snowfall, another 15cm of fresh snow have fallen the night before. But the good weather is soon back and on the way to the foot of the pass I walk through a beautifully snowed in winter wonderland.
-20ºC it is, when I get up a High Camp in 4800m and I don’t mind waiting for the first sun rays before heading off. Because I am the first on this day I can make the trail through the fresh snow up tp the pass. In the past days I always had to slow down because I needed to acclimatize for the altitude. But now nothing is holding me back anymore and so I almost run through the deep snow to the Thorong La at 5416m that I reach in less then 90minutes. Simply fantastic here: everything is covered in snow and other then my own tracks, a sign and some prayer flags just snow, glacier, mountains and absolute silence.
Because I have to go back to my bicycle I go back the same way I came and don’t complete the circuit. Back in Pokhara I take some days rest and get rid of some very persistent bacterias that I picked up on the way. This has now almost become a tradition: in the three times that I have already been to Nepal my stomach always gets in trouble.
I am glad when I am finally better and can eat something else then porridge and noodle soup.
South of Kathmandu I ride over another a mountain range. In a great, long climb I reach Daman from where there are some of the best views of the Himalaya in all of Nepal. From Dhaulagiri in the west all the way to Mt. Everest they are all lined up on the horizon.
After that I descend in a long downhill back to the flat Terai where I continue to the east all the way to the border.