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Archive for April, 2015

Unipal: Day 12 Pokhara

The extended tour flew out of Pokhara early in the morning, while most of us were still asleep.   For those who stayed, Pokhara is a great place for picking up last minute shopping, enjoying the lake views, good food, and walking along the lake shore.  We had transferred to another hotel which, whilst not as flash as the one we had stayed in, was on the waterfront and had beautiful views across Lake Phewa, with buffalos in foreground.

Anna and I hired a boat and paddled out on the Lake with a very small paddle!

The next morning our group of Italians- Natascia, Nicola, Gaetano, Margherita, as well as Anna hike up the hill to watch the sunrise.  It took much longer than expected but they made it back to the hotel just in nick of time for breakfast.

After packing, we would be flying to Kathmandu to spend a few hours with the Joshi family before heading back to New Zealand.

Unipal: Day 11 Tal to Pokhara

We were told we could ‘ride as much as we liked’ today.  It was 30km to the start of the jeep trail, where we had lunch on our very first day.  The idea was that we would leave a couple of hours before the Jeeps, which would pick us up one by one as they caught us. If we rode fast enough, we could make it all the way to the end without pick up.  That was enough motivation for many, just to avoid repeating the not so memorable bouncy jeep ride.

The trail meandered through steep cliffs along a river, which offered some incredible scenery.  It was very rough riding, with big rocks and ruts to plough our way through.  Most of us were picked up along the way, when we’d had enough riding.  Corbin, Scott and Tomas were the only riders to complete the ride, meeting us at the finish.

After lunch, we would say our goodbyes to Sean and Antoine, who were heading to Kathmandu, whilst the rest of us would transfer to Pokhara.  It was a fun journey, with our vehicle alternately playing Nepalese folk music, Britney Spears, and some random pop music, whilst we sped through the countryside.

When we arrived at Lake Phewa in Pokhara, we were taken to a boat ramp and ferried across to an island.  It turned out that Nicola and Natascia were getting married, Nepalese style, at the island temple.  It was one of the fastest wedding ceremonies on record, as it was getting dark and we had to get back to shore!

After a hot shower at one of the fanciest hotels on tour, we proceeded to finish our celebrations at a local restaurant.  It was time for more farewells.  We said goodbye to our guides, Ankit and Dawa, as well as the group who would be leaving on the extended tour with Blair.  They would fly out to Jomsom the next morning, where their tour would have finished had we managed to get over Thorung La pass.

For Jason Williams, it may be his last unicycle tour as our tour leader, after selling Grasshopper Adventures to his business partner last year.  It has been an incredible partnership over the last decade: it included The Laos Unitour 2006, Uninam 2008, Induni 2009, Monguni 2010, Yunnanuni 2011, Unistan 2013 and now Unipal 2015.  We have had 7 successful unicycle tours thanks to my chance meeting with Jason back in 2004 (Vietnam to Cambodia), when I joined his OXFAM charity cycle challenge on a unicycle.  We wish you all the best and hope you can join us on a future tour (as a rider)!

Unipal: Day 10 Chame to Tal

It would be another tough day or riding, without any of our scheduled rest days, as we had to head to Tal, which was slightly beyond our starting point of Bagarchap.  However, being downhill, it was also incredibly fun.  We had lunch at our first guesthouse in Bagarchap- then followed the river all the way to Tal. There was a large swingbridge to cross, followed by an incredible sets of rock steps carved into the side of the cliff.

We arrived in Tal, which is a village in a secluded little valley by the river.  It was time to say goodbye to our Porters and their leader Mingma Sherpa.  They had been an incredible team, never complaining whilst each carrying 30kg of gear, not to mention evacuating Bruce in the middle of the night during a snowstorm.

It was Nepalese New Year, and the locals in the village partied well into the night, with loud music that resonated through the whole valley.

Unipal: Day 9 Manang to Chame

It would be mostly downhill today, but we were heading straight to Chame, which was two villages prior to Manang on the way up.  Because of this, we got up extra early for a 6.30am start.

It was a beautiful ride with much of the hillsides covered in snow, quite different to how they looked on the way up.  We had lunch in Pisang, where we stayed a few days previously, and then continued downhill. There was a massive landslide in the middle of the track, with large bulldozers at work clearing the fallen trees. They allowed our group to proceed over the slippery logs, but it was not was no easy feat with dozens of fallen trees and unstable rock underfoot.

When we got in to Chame, we had hot food, and for many of us, hot showers for the first time in 3 days. Bliss!

Bruce had been discharged from the local clinic and looked very bright considering his medical emergency only a couple days prior.

Unipal: Day 8 Yak Kharka, back to Manang!!!

What turned out to be a pleasant sprinkling of snow the day before, turned out to be about 20cm of snow the next day! We woke up, looking forward to heading to the last stop before Thorung La pass, our highest point of the tour.  Instead, we were greeted by a white landscape completely blanketed in snow.

It was unseasonably cold and snowing (this is normally the time when climbers summit the peak because of good weather). Unfortunately this meant that our attempt to cross the pass would be too dangerous. If we waited out our rest day at Yak Kharka, we risked being snowed in completely and unable to descend.  Either way, it meant that we had to abandon the pass and head back down to Manang.

Despite the disappointment among the riders, we still had some good riding ahead of us- DOWNHILL!

The singletrack that we climbed up the day before was now covered in snow, which allowed many of us to practice our snow unicycling skills. It made quite a different experience compared to the day before. Eric shows off his crazy Canadian temperature regulation by stripping off to ride in the snow (it’s warm and sunny!)

There were also many Yaks on the trail, who were befuddled by these weird one wheeled creatures riding in the snow.

Unipal: Day 7 Manang to Yak Kharka 4000m

Todays ride would take us up to 4000m, which is higher than most people in the group had been to before.  We started by weaking through the backstreets of the old village in Manang, with many alleyways, before heading up the hill towards Yak Kharka.  There were several ‘Stupa’ stops, where we had a chance to take in the views.

We stopped a beautiful teahouse that looked out at the mountains, before proceeding along the trail.  It was all singletrack riding from Manang, which was not overly technical but a lot of fun riding.  We crossed one of the longest swing bridges on the tour so far, which was slightly disconcerting on a unicycle.

When we arrived in Yak Kharka we took huddled into the teahouse with hot soup, lemon tea and other beverages.  It started snowing when we arrived, but an intrepid group decided to go for a walk up the hill with our guide Dawa.

Later in the evening, one our group members, Bruce, developed quite severe acute mountain sickness, so we had to send him down with 6 porters taking turns carrying him to Manang in the middle of the night (whilst it was snowing!).

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.