Ride to Muktinath, Nepal - a journey that changed our lives

Sayantan.geo

TRAVELER BABA
A few lines before we start...

It was 2013 when we visited Muktinath, Nepal, but the travelogue gone lost under many files and professional deadlines. After four years in 2017, it was a treat to find it in my old external drive. So here it is. More than a regular travelogue, it’s a story which changed our lives. I am uploading it all in one go. Take your time to read and I hope you’ll like it.

Cover.jpg



Let’s roll...

“We think we are the first bikers from Kolkata to reach Muktinath, Nepal ... or are we?” – Anirban said. Who cares! See, people have travelled to this pilgrimage by all means for hundreds of years and although we might rode there first from the city of ‘rasogollas’, but it was never about making a record – I replied. The trip to Nepal is forever engraved in our hearts for its thrilling and more importantly, life changing experiences. It still scares us and provides confidence at the same time, whenever we remember the voyage and quite literally, we go back to those odd thirteen days of 2013.

Chased by cyclone- what a start !

If you happen to be meteorologist, may be, you could explain the reason. None of us are, so we still cannot understand ‘why on earth’ the cyclone ‘Pillin’ started from the Bay of Bengal, scheduled to dissolve in Andharapradesh, changed its course and entered into Nepal! But the consequences were not so pleasing. The first four days, five of us used to start and end our journey in rain. The progress was extremely slow, as it was not just the rain, but the wind as well, which made us to stop and experience the fury of Mother Nature, several times a day. However, as we are ‘bikers’, we had no option but to ride. No hideouts, no dry cover of a car...nothing. We rode with the cyclone from Kolkata to Nepal border and a few hundred kilometres inside without seeing the sun for a single time. However, finally, Mother Nature became kind on us and we got our first glimpse of sunlight on the fifth day when we reached Bharatpur, Nepal. It was October 15th and we were already running behind schedule.
1.jpg


Pokhara- relax or ride?

On the sixth day, we rode to Pokhara. It was the first day in our journey, when we got an entire day of sunlight, vistas of amazing lower Himalayan valleys and a chance to relax by the lake Pokhara. There are plenty of attractions for regular tourists; e.g., shopping, body massage, trying out different cuisines; or, if you are adventurous, you could try paragliding, river rafting, rock climbing and so forth. To be honest, we were in a real dilemma, whether to ride forward or enjoy our time there after past few days of exhaustive and soaking ride. Me, Prosenjit and Arka wanted to stick to the plan of reaching Muktinath, whereas Sourav and Anirban wanted to explore Pokhara more. On the next morning however, all got ready, as we became wise and thought- ‘well, Pokhara is not going anywhere, but we might get too old to ride to Muktinath next time’. The desire to gain ‘mosksha’ in Muktinath won at last and we started our journey towards the ‘place of liberation’ (meaning of Muktinath) by saying ‘hasta la vista’ (see you) to Pokhara; and the real adventure unfolded.

2.jpg

Pokhara lake.


Road, off road to no road until you create your own –

The journey from Pokhara to Beni, a small village, was smooth and we reached there in no time, had breakfast and set off to Jomsom, a tourist village with an airport, at an altitude of 2800mts in the Mustang valley. Initially, I was excited to see the first patches of off-roads and thought to practice my ‘off road skills’. However, soon the excitement vanished when we realized that the level of difficulty is beyond our wildest imaginations. From road to off road to mud, slush and small pebbles, to big rocks and water crossings to waters flowing through the path... we could not even name them all! The average speed dropped to barely 10kms per hour.

3.jpg



Interestingly, for the first time, we experienced mud-crossings, usually a 1-3 ft deep pool of slimy mud. Go slow, you will swim there and halt the engine. Go fast and it will paint you with dark back mud with residues from the burnt engine oil. Go steady-it will scare you for sure. So, we did the way it should be done (perhaps) - without knowing it. We just jumped into it as we had no ideas what it was. Sourav suffered the most, as he was riding a sports bike (Honda CBR250). However, all were determined to move forward and suddenly, the rain started once again. The mud mixed with water started to flow down from the rocks and we found a shelter under an exposed rock. Prosenjeet lighted a cigarette and looked at me with a smiling face! I was scared as we were literally standing in a landslide zone while the chances of it happening was the highest. “what will happen if it happens?”- I murmured. “We’ll die. Do you have a better plan? No.. so relax” – Prosen replied calmly. I realized one thing, its okay to be scared, but not okay to panic. So I focused on enjoying the devastating nature. We stood there for 40 minutes as the rain was getting stronger and stronger until it stopped. To be honest, our passions were challenged by practicality and we decided to call it a day in Ghasha, a bus terminus 35km before Jomsom. It took us 6 hours to cover that mere 35km. We were exhausted and to some extent, scared. We decided to go back the next day.

4.jpg
 

Sayantan.geo

TRAVELER BABA
Muktinath, at last, but not the least

The morning was full of sunshine. The dark cloud was gone and we started to pack our bags to return to Pokhara. It was the manager of the hotel, who came with the news- there was a landslide and the road is closed! For us, it was both good and bad news. Good, because we escaped the landslide and bad because now we don’t know when we can return as fixing a landslide could take days. Nevertheless, we could not sit at the hotel idle and hence started our journey from Ghasa towards Muktinath, via Jomsom around 8 am.

The distance was merely 80kms, but the road condition did not improve since that of yesterday. However, this time, the landscape changed drastically, from forest to small bushes to rugged barren mountains. We crossed the lower mustang valley in a few hours. Then the river Koshi accompanied us a long way until we entered the upper part of the lower mustang valley. We had lunch at Jomsom and checked our permits. The landscape in this part is somewhat similar to that of Ladakh region, but it is more rugged as at some places, there are no conventional roads, rather plenty of meandering paths to choose from and all of them were equally challenging. We soldiered on and finally reached the tiny village of Muktinath at an altitude of 3780mts.

It was like a colourful heaven in the middle of naked, lifeless mountains! We crossed passed that, rode a bit higher and entered the Muktinath temple, around 5pm. Yes, we were late, very late; but the view of the setting sun, the tranquillity of the mighty Himalaya did not make us to realize any of these. We were probably mesmerized until someone reminded that we have to return and quoted the saying, famous among mountaineers- ‘the summit is only halfway’.

However, before we started our journey back to the hotel, we had a chat with the temple administration and some local police, guarding the place. They told us that only a few Indian bikers visit until Muktinath (although Jomsom is becoming a popular destination these days) and they cannot remember any group riding straight from Kolkata until there. Suddenly, we became the ‘record holders’. True or not, most probably not, but we did not know then. However, it certainly made us proud and happy.

Finally, we started our descend journey and rode-passed the last village, Kagbeni, around 25kms before Jomsom. However, it went dark very fast and was too late to reach Jomsom safely, let alone Ghasha. Unfortunately then, we were too far from any known village and did not have any choice rather than to continue.
Extra 2.jpg

Saurav on his Honda en route Muktinath.


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A glimpse of the lower Mustang valley.

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view from Muktinath!

5.jpg

The unrealistic Muktinath village from the valley!

Middle of Nowhere and beyond

Finally, we saw some lights coming from a house, far down in the valley. It was literally the light of hope and we knew that we had to convince them to host us.

It was a bit difficult in the beginning, but finally, they agreed. After dumping our luggage, we went out for a walk. It was full moon and the mountains and valleys were all shining along with the countless shining stars above us. It was magical! We also realized that it was an almost abandoned village due to flash floods in the past. We were quite literally, ‘in the middle of nowhere’. That night, we spend long hours talking about the unexpected delay that brought us there and felt- well, ‘lucky’.

7.jpg




Money talks, and when it doesn’t, you are in trouble

No matter how lucky we were last night, we still had to pay for the food and stay, which of course, was not a problem, since we thought that we would withdraw some more cash from the nearest town Jomsom. However, when we reached there, all the ATMs (only 2 in total) were closed due to the power cut. We decided not to wait further as we were already late and running short of money. The most logical decision was to ride until Ghasha, pay the bill in the hotel and move on, so that by the same night, we could reach Pokhara. However, Himalaya had other plans for us.

We faced a terrible storm on our way back and finally when we reached to Ghasha, it was raining like hell. It was neither the sudden mountain rain, nor the monsoon. It was something else and locals told us that if we are lucky, it could stop in one or two days! ‘What!’ and what if we are unlucky, then? We did not dare to ask the question, even to ourselves. However, the main question remained, how could we pay for the food and hotel for the extra days to come. We had to do something, and we did not know what.

9.jpg



God saved us, or money, or both!

Suddenly, we overheard something – a bus! It happened to be the last bus, back to Jomson, and perhaps our last hope. Me and Prosenjeet took whatever little money we had and hopped on. Last morning, I was the one who thought that people are crazy to ride these busses in this worst off roads and now it was the same me, riding the bus, at night, in heavy rain!

The journey was almost unending. We saw tiny mountain rivers flooded with muddy water. And the main river was roaring with water mud, floating woods and so forth. The slippery mud mixed with stones made driving almost impossible and even the experienced driver was worried of sudden landslides. Finally, it took us nearly five hours to reach Jomsom, but when we got off there, it was a dead town!

Not dead really, it was sleepy. Everything was closed, even the police station! We were standing there like ghosts, without money and no food or place to stay. Finally, at the airport, we saw a police officer and he advised us to go to the Ganesh Temple, 1.5 km walk from there. Tired, worried and starved, we took the final walk down the dark roads outside the town. After walking for a while, we saw a dimed light. This must be it and thank god, it was the temple! We explained everything and the priests provided us with warm water, blankets and whatever little food they had. We shivered all night of cold, even after putting two blankets on, but we knew, we would survive. This time, god saved us.

We had only Rs.100 left and decided to give half of it to the temple. Nothing was enough to pay back for saving our lives, but still we decided to let go of our precious half. We realized by then, that ‘what does not kill you, makes you stronger’, and we will – yes we will survive with whatever money we had.

However, as some said, ‘if money is not god, it is no less than that’ and even God could not help much there either. We desperately needed money and became furious when we found out that one of those two ATMs was permanently out of order and the other one is down with low voltage. There was no option but to wait and pray. Eventually, we spent the last Rs. 50 note to buy a bowl of noodles and shared it.

Returned to our final hope, the bank. The manager was trying to fix the ATM. He tried many times but succeeded not even once. At least three times, I was inch close to getting the money as I could hear the machine counting to finally release it– but it stopped there and shut down. Over and over again! It was frustrating but there was nothing we could do. However, we did not lose hope, nor did the bank manager. At last, after waiting for six long hours, the ATM worked and we ran towards the bus immediately. I even waved the money to Prosenjeet and as far as I remember, I almost cried. This time, we were going back with optimum confidence and we knew where it was coming from- pure hard cash!

Even when I am writing it today, I am having goose bumps. That 24 hours was probably the longest and most challenging in our lives, but it was a great learning experience for sure.

Extra 1.jpg



The final flare- those two eyes

Normally, this could have been the end of the exiting part of any story and to some extent; it was, but not totally. The predictable part was that we returned to the hotel with money, cleared the unpaid bills and saddled up. We were determined to ride and reach to the next village, ‘Tatopani’, with a hot water spring. But, actually, we continued more and took the challenge to ride back to Beni, the village at the foothill. It was the same road, which scared us many times on the way up. This time though, it was dark all around and we had no option but to ride. However, although it was somewhat ‘daring’ but still, it was not the unexpected part I am talking about. It happened a bit after.

We were nearing Beni and the half-metalled road signed that clearly. I was leading the group. In a tight bend, I saw a dog in the road-side bush, so decided to use the headlight to scare it away. I used the dipper and fog together. All of a sudden, I realized that it was not a dog- rather a Himalayan leopard! It took me a while to believe that – it is actually a wild leopard just 10ft away, crossing the street and looking straight to me! Obviously, none of us had this experience before. So, we did what we were doing. We continued riding, partly because those two glowing eyes made us a little hypnotized or it could be that our brains simply did not know how to freak-out in this kind of situation! Nevertheless, it was a reminder that we were invading their territory.

10.jpg

## It is not a real picture- rather an illustration of our experience

Come I may, but go I must

That night, we did not stop to Beni and continued until Pokhara with adrenaline rushing into our bloodstreams. However, the onward journey to Pokhara and back to Kolkata was rather eventless. Unfortunately, this time, we could not visit Kathmandu, due to all the hazards we faced. Finally, on the thirteenth day, we returned to Kolkata after a long 18hrs ride from Nepal-Bihar border (Raxaul-Birganj).

On my way back, while I was riding further away from Muktinath, I realized something. Although it was the most challenging, most painful and daunting ride ever in our lives and we initially decided not to venture there again, but now we think differently. We do not really know or care whether we made a record or not. However, what we know for sure is that, we are now skilled to take roads that are even more difficult as our confidences are high, the bonding is tight and the courage is solid. So, come we may, but go back we must... to the call of the roads, the open sky and thundering engines, beating faster than ever, with our every heartbeat.

11.jpg

From left- Saurav, Arko, Prosenjeet, Sayantan (me) and Anirban.

Additional Info-

Riders – Sayantan (me) – Honda Uncorn 150

Saurav – Honda CBR 250

Anirban – Royal Enfield Bullet Electra- 350

Arka – Pulsar 150

Prosenjeet – TVS Flame 125

Total distance covered- 2700kms

Time- 13 days

Places visited- Pokhara, Jomsom, Muktinath
 
Last edited:

SJM1214

Well-Known Member
Eye to eye with a leopard...waiting at ATM for six hours...last 50/- a bowl of noodles...temple's blanket...40 minutes in landslide zone...and what not?

What an experience u had. This kind of things make u stronger...amazing write up...
 

Sayantan.geo

TRAVELER BABA
Thanks a lot for your amazing comment. Yes it was truly the most epic ride of my life. Since then, we compare all the rides with our Nepal ride and so far none has been that thrilling.. Spiti being the second.
 

flaxman12

Well-Known Member
A few lines before we start...

It was 2013 when we visited Muktinath, Nepal, but the travelogue gone lost under many files and professional deadlines. After four years in 2017, it was a treat to find it in my old external drive. So here it is. More than a regular travelogue, it’s a story which changed our lives. I am uploading it all in one go. Take your time to read and I hope you’ll like it.

View attachment 733520


Let’s roll...

“We think we are the first bikers from Kolkata to reach Muktinath, Nepal ... or are we?” – Anirban said. Who cares! See, people have travelled to this pilgrimage by all means for hundreds of years and although we might rode there first from the city of ‘rasogollas’, but it was never about making a record – I replied. The trip to Nepal is forever engraved in our hearts for its thrilling and more importantly, life changing experiences. It still scares us and provides confidence at the same time, whenever we remember the voyage and quite literally, we go back to those odd thirteen days of 2013.

Chased by cyclone- what a start !

If you happen to be meteorologist, may be, you could explain the reason. None of us are, so we still cannot understand ‘why on earth’ the cyclone ‘Pillin’ started from the Bay of Bengal, scheduled to dissolve in Andharapradesh, changed its course and entered into Nepal! But the consequences were not so pleasing. The first four days, five of us used to start and end our journey in rain. The progress was extremely slow, as it was not just the rain, but the wind as well, which made us to stop and experience the fury of Mother Nature, several times a day. However, as we are ‘bikers’, we had no option but to ride. No hideouts, no dry cover of a car...nothing. We rode with the cyclone from Kolkata to Nepal border and a few hundred kilometres inside without seeing the sun for a single time. However, finally, Mother Nature became kind on us and we got our first glimpse of sunlight on the fifth day when we reached Bharatpur, Nepal. It was October 15th and we were already running behind schedule.
View attachment 733521

Pokhara- relax or ride?

On the sixth day, we rode to Pokhara. It was the first day in our journey, when we got an entire day of sunlight, vistas of amazing lower Himalayan valleys and a chance to relax by the lake Pokhara. There are plenty of attractions for regular tourists; e.g., shopping, body massage, trying out different cuisines; or, if you are adventurous, you could try paragliding, river rafting, rock climbing and so forth. To be honest, we were in a real dilemma, whether to ride forward or enjoy our time there after past few days of exhaustive and soaking ride. Me, Prosenjit and Arka wanted to stick to the plan of reaching Muktinath, whereas Sourav and Anirban wanted to explore Pokhara more. On the next morning however, all got ready, as we became wise and thought- ‘well, Pokhara is not going anywhere, but we might get too old to ride to Muktinath next time’. The desire to gain ‘mosksha’ in Muktinath won at last and we started our journey towards the ‘place of liberation’ (meaning of Muktinath) by saying ‘hasta la vista’ (see you) to Pokhara; and the real adventure unfolded.

View attachment 733522
Pokhara lake.


Road, off road to no road until you create your own –

The journey from Pokhara to Beni, a small village, was smooth and we reached there in no time, had breakfast and set off to Jomsom, a tourist village with an airport, at an altitude of 2800mts in the Mustang valley. Initially, I was excited to see the first patches of off-roads and thought to practice my ‘off road skills’. However, soon the excitement vanished when we realized that the level of difficulty is beyond our wildest imaginations. From road to off road to mud, slush and small pebbles, to big rocks and water crossings to waters flowing through the path... we could not even name them all! The average speed dropped to barely 10kms per hour.

View attachment 733523


Interestingly, for the first time, we experienced mud-crossings, usually a 1-3 ft deep pool of slimy mud. Go slow, you will swim there and halt the engine. Go fast and it will paint you with dark back mud with residues from the burnt engine oil. Go steady-it will scare you for sure. So, we did the way it should be done (perhaps) - without knowing it. We just jumped into it as we had no ideas what it was. Sourav suffered the most, as he was riding a sports bike (Honda CBR250). However, all were determined to move forward and suddenly, the rain started once again. The mud mixed with water started to flow down from the rocks and we found a shelter under an exposed rock. Prosenjeet lighted a cigarette and looked at me with a smiling face! I was scared as we were literally standing in a landslide zone while the chances of it happening was the highest. “what will happen if it happens?”- I murmured. “We’ll die. Do you have a better plan? No.. so relax” – Prosen replied calmly. I realized one thing, its okay to be scared, but not okay to panic. So I focused on enjoying the devastating nature. We stood there for 40 minutes as the rain was getting stronger and stronger until it stopped. To be honest, our passions were challenged by practicality and we decided to call it a day in Ghasha, a bus terminus 35km before Jomsom. It took us 6 hours to cover that mere 35km. We were exhausted and to some extent, scared. We decided to go back the next day.

View attachment 733524
https://www.bcmtouring.com/forums/threads/delhi-to-mustang-nepal-by-platina-100cc.59502/ i went to lower mustang alone on my platina 100 cc
 

Shivanshu

RX Rider
This is what is said you find treasure in your closet... after 4 yrs you did dig it up and presented here.... and its simply amazing. Kudos to you all for enduring the situations and not giving up.... Keep it up
 
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