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Unipal: Day 6 Manang rest day

It was great day for sleeping in, washing clothes, doing some shopping, except for those of us who were sick!  Several of our party, including myself (Ken) come down with a tummy bug.

After breakfast, a small group went for a 3-4 hour hike up to an old glacier.   The others explored the village, which was a good place for buying clothes, shoes, hats and other trekking supplies.

In the afternoon we headed to see a movie at the local theatre, which was showing “Seven Years in Tibet”.  It was a cosy little theatre complete with fireplace and popcorn!

Some of the medically inclined went to a lecture by the Himalayan Rescue Association, which covered aspects of mountain medicine including altitude sickness, gastro-illness, frostbite and other general health issues in the mountains. It was a very interesting talk presented by the US doctors who were working there at the time.

Unipal: Day 5 Pisang to Manang 3540m

Another beautiful days riding…the track was relatively smooth ‘Nepali Flat’, framed by gorgeous Himalayan peaks.

We stopped for a break at Humbe, which has one of the highest airports in the world.

Manang is a bustling village complete with it’s own movie theatres, plenty of trekking shops, hotels, and a medical centre.  Those of us who arrived early were busy tucking into chocolate cake, apple pies and other delicious fare at the hotel tea shop.

We were pleasantly surprised to bump into unicyclist Steve Colligan, who, unbeknownst to us, was in Nepal with his family!

Unipal: Day 4 Chame to Pisang 3300m

After a hearty breakfast we were very much looking forward to todays ride. It was described by our guide Dawa as ‘Nepali flat’, which roughly translates to hilly, with ups and downs, but probably more up than down.

Many of us had found yesterdays riding a little challenging, with a lot of hiking up steep sections. Todays ride, in contrast, was on much smoother trail. Notwithstanding that it was ‘Nepali flat’, it was also much more rideable.

There was some snow on the road as we crossed some forests along a little valley, and various swing bridges to cross.  We arrived in Pisang just before 3pm, which gave us plenty of time to explore the village before dinner.  We were staying in lower Pisang, but upper Pisang was across the river and up  a very steep mountain overlooking the valley.

A group of us made the hike up to upper Pisang, with it’s gorgeous  views of the village and river below.  When we arrived at the monastery perched at the top, we were offered hot lemon tea by the monks…absolute bliss!

Unipal: Day 3 Bagarchap to Chame 2630m

After the exhausting ride the day before, our riders were raring to go.  All our unicycles were intact, despite the rough transfer the day before.

We had our group photo with some of the Annapurna peaks in the background, and then headed off up the trail.  It was a beautiful day with amazing views of the mountains rising up to the sky.  The riding was, however, quite difficult, with a lot of steep climbs littered with boulders.  Our route along the Marshyangi river led us across some amazing waterfalls along the way, and the rhododendrons were out in bloom.

Unipal Day 2: Kathmandu to Bagarchap

Today was our transfer day, so were were up for a bright early 6am breakfast.

Because the trip started in the Annapurna region, we had to do a road transfer to our starting village of Bagarchap.  Jason and Blair had warned us it would be long day, with about 9hrs driving, but we weren’t counting on a general strike across the country.

Due to some difficult to understand local politics, most the Nepal had shut down for general strike action. This meant that travel was restricted and most shops were closed.  Luckily, the army which set up roadblocks at every town were still letting tourist buses through. However, we had a mandatory stop at all road blocks, which meant that travel was slow and tedious.  On the other hand, it gave us a chance to stretch the legs, and some riders even getting involved in a cricket match with the locals.

It was well past mid-day by the time our bus rolled into the lunch stop.  We hungrily wolfed down the buffet, enjoying the magnificent splendour of the Himalayas now rising before us.

After lunch, our tour bus could no longer take us further, as it was a rough 30km jeep track to our starting village of Bagarchap.  After a furter delay, we got into our convoy of 4WD jeeps.  It was fun for about an hour, as the jeeps negotiated the impossibly steep road into the Annapurnas, negotiating boulder sized rocks with steep drop offs along the way.  The novelty soon wore off, however, as our backsides and spines felt the effects of the trail.  It was getting dark, so we would be arriving rather late to Bagarchap.

At least two of our jeeps fell to pieces, with one losing the driveshaft and requiring roadside repair.  At one stage, all the riders had to get out of the jeep to walk across a dangerous section of the track with our flashlights. We were told there was a cliff on the side and only the drivers would put their lives at risk!

By the time we arrived in Bagarchap, were were exhausted and ready for bed. We had been travelling for 16 hours! Our hosts did have a hot meal waiting, but after wolfing it down, we headed to bed, covered in soot from the 4WD adventure.

Unipal: Day 1 Kathmandu

The tour officially starts today.  We were to meet up at Hotel Manaslu, for the tour briefing at 5pm.  Some of our riders had already been there for several days, but many of us were arriving in the afternoon/evening, or transferring from elsewhere in Kathmandu.  Hotel Manaslu was quite a nice hotel, a couple of kilometers from the tourist district of Thamel.

Tour briefing was an enormous affair.  Our tour leaders were Blair Coburn and Jason Williams from Grasshopper Adventures; but we also had local Nepali guides- Ankit, Dawa and Mingma; as well as 15 porters who would join us at the start of the trek. In total, we would have 50 riders and support crew on tour!

Jason and Blair gave us a rundown on the route, riding conditions, health and safety and other logistical issues.  Ken distributed the Unipal T-shirts (much to his relief), and we then headed to a restaurant down the road for our first meal together.

Dinner was entertaining, with some Nepali dances and music to liven up the atmosphere.  Our last riders to arrive- Chris and Tom, finally made it after flight delays, just in time for their Dhal Bhat.

We were all set for the tour!

Unipal: ride to Bhaktapur

We set out to the historic town of Bakhtapur, one of Kathmandu Valley’s three Malla Kingdoms before they were conquered and united by Prithvi Narayan Shah in 1768.

It was an interesting ride, winding through the streets of Kathmandu. From chicken and livestock, to a noisy Easter parade, to men carrying leather sofa chairs and assorted loungeroom furniture in busy traffic , you are never quite sure what you will see on the road.

When we finally arrived in Bhaktapur we were instant celebrities, with a crowd of a dozen or so kids (and adults) following us everywhere.  It made sightseeing somewhat challenging but we gave them all a demonstration before we left. Anna brought out Johnny, her little boy puppet, and gave the locals an impromptu puppet show. Bhaktapur is famous for puppet making, and Anna walked away with not one, not two, but three Nepali puppets!

After getting back to the hotel, we were met by Ramesh Chandra, probably Nepals only mountain unicyclist. Ramesh works as a bicycle tour guide, and heard about our tour from his friend who had seen us riding out to Patan yesterday.  He unicycled for an hour an a half just to meet us!  Hopefully we will meet up again on the Annapurna Circuit as he sets off tomorrow to guide a small bicycle tour group through the area.

—Anna and Ken

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Unipal: ride to Patan

Sean, Anna and Ken rode out to Kathmandu’s neighbouring city, Patan, today. Following the ‘scenic’ route, we find ourselves riding through thick gloopy mud, dusty dirt roads, and negotiating crazy traffic intent on seeing who can beep the loudest. We got lost on more than several occasions, but luckily had the GPS handy.

We made it to Durbar (Palace) square in Patan, marveling at all the intricately carved wooded pillars and doorways.  On the way back we weaved our way through quaint little backstreets leading to Kathmandu’s own Durbar square. There are several Durbar squares in Kathmandu Valley, as neighbouring Kingdoms competed with one another before they were amalgamated.

After the ride, Anna and Ken headed over to Dilibazaar to meet up with Ken’s host family from his time as an elective medical student at Kanti Children’s Hospital back in 2002. It was fantastic to catch up after so many years and enjoy Rama’s cooking again!

—Anna and Ken

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Unipal: Anna and Ken’s Kathmandu Adventures

We arrived yesterday in Kathmandu, and checked in to our hotel in Thamel before exploring on foot. Nepalese traffic is even crazier than I remember,  but we managed to make our way to dinner before heading to the Garden of Dreams…a very picturesque garden in the middle of Kathmandu.

This morning was spent riding up yo Swayambunath…the Monkey Temple, which overlooks the city. After a few nervous starts in the Anna was able to negotiate the narrow windy streets and busy traffic up to the temple.  As its name implied…it is full of monkeys. Hold on to your valuables, we saw one monkey steal candy from a baby girl, leaving her in tears.  That aside, it was well worth the effort,  with a sweeping panorama of the city, framed by prayer flags.

We spent an epic afternoon walking to Pashupatinath. ..one of the holiest sites in Kathmandu,  where many families cremate their dead on open pyres along the banks of the Bagmati River.

We have more exploring tomorrow before meeting up with my host family from 2002, who I stayed with as a medical student.

–Ken and Anna

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Unipal: Scott’s Pile of Gear

This is just about everything that I’m taking to Nepal, as well as for my trip to India after the tour. You can check out the gear list here.

Scott's Gear

—Scott Wilton