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In the far west of Tibet, in the province of Ngari and the land of the ‘drokpas’ or nomads of the high plateaus, sits the legendary Mount Kailash, or Kang Rimpoche (‘precious snow-peak’, as known by the Tibetans). Kailash, on 'the roof of the world', is the most sacred mountain in Asia, venerated by Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, and followers of the ancient Bon religion. Tibetan and Hindu pilgrims have been making the 53km kora, or circuit, of Kailash for centuries. This circumambulation, clockwise for Buddhists and Hindus, and anti-clockwise followers of the ancient Bon religion, is said to erase the sins of a lifetime.

Departure:
 Kathmandu
Duration:  28 Days
Best season: August
Grade: Strenuous

To complete the Kailash pilgrimage one should bath in the sacred Lake Manasarovar, stunningly set on the Tibetan plateau bordered by the majestic Gurla Mandata. Mount Kailash itself is 6714m high, and with its four sheer walls, distinctive snow-capped peak, and valleys peppered with brightly-clad Tibetan pilgrims, is an awe-inspiring sight. From it flow four great rivers of Asia: the Karnali, the Indus, the Sutlej and the Brahmaputra, all of which drain the vast Tibetan Plateau.

The journey to Kailash begins with a five-day trek to the Tibetan border from Simikot, in the fabled region of Humla in far west Nepal, where the people are Bhotias of Tibetan descent. This wild trek through Humla takes us deep into the most remote region of Nepal where the culture is still distinct and traditional, the scenery is spectacular, and the ancient trade routes are still in use.

From the Tibetan border we will mount our trusted metal steeds and cycle towards the Holy Mountain and the almost equally important Holy lake of Manasarovar.

The Kailash Kora itself is one of the best short treks in the Himalaya, crossing a pass of 5,600 meters, with campsites under the north face of Kailash and in other spectacular sites, all done with the Tibetan pilgrims, who have come as far as eastern Tibet for this once-in-a-lifetime trip to erase their sins, and acquire merit for humanity. 2013 is the year of the Horse so we will gather even greater merit!

With plenty of trekking, a bit of exploring and some good karma under our belts, we embark on an epic cross-Tibet cycle expedition back to Kathmandu. Forget the Friendship Highway and all its traffic out here we are almost on our own in the wild scenery of Western Tibet. It takes us 11 amazing days to reach the border with Nepal and a shower at The Last Resort. A day later we make the surprisingly tough climb back into the Kathmandu Valley and celebrate the completion of this truly epic journey.

BRIEF ITINERARY  

Day 01 Arrive Kathmandu (1400m)
Day 02 Sightseeing in Kathmandu
Day 03 Free day in Kathmandu

Day 04 Fly to Nepalganj
Day 05 Fly to Simikot - trek to Yakba Khola (2250m)
Day 06 Trek to Sale Khola (2830m)
Day 07 Trek to Thumkot Khola (2900m)
Day 08 Trek and (maybe) bike to Sip Sip (4300m)
Day 09 Across the Nara Lagna La to Hilsa and Cross the Border - Drive to Purang (Tibet)
Day 10 Ride to Manasarovar Lake (Chui Gompa) (4550m)

Day 11 Cycle to Darchen 4560m and relax
Day 12 Trek past Chuku Gompa 4750m to Dira-phuk
Day 13 Trek over the Drolma La to Meadow Camp
Day 14 Trek to Darchen, Drive to Hor (4550m)
Day 15 Bike to Base of Mayun La
Day 16 Cross Mayun La
Day 17 Through Paryang and Across Soge La (4750m)
Day 18 Through Old Donba to base of Sing La (4900m)
Day 19 Across Sing La into Niugu valley
Day 20 Ride to Saga
Day 21 Ride to Kiyrong turnoff
Day 22 Ride to Sagur (Shaku turnoff)
Day 23 Back to Friendship Highway
Day 24 Ride to Nyalam
Day 25 Ride to Last Resort
Day 26 Ride to Kathmandu
Day 27 Free in Kathmandu
Day 28 Depart Kathmandu

DETAILED ITINERARY

Day 01 - Arrive Kathmandu (1400m)
We will meet you at the airport and escort you to your comfortable hotel in the centre of Kathmandu where you will meet the other members of your expedition.

If you arrive in the morning or early afternoon, then we can take you on a bazaar walk exploring the secret alleys and courtyards that most visitors don't get to experience. Add to this a visit to the ancient Kathmandu Durbar (palace) Square with its recently opened courtyards and palace squares and this is a great introduction (or welcome back) to Kathmandu! Please note: this is a walking tour from the hotel.

Tonight we’ll treat you to a traditional Newari dinner (Newars are the original inhabitants of the Kathmandu Valley) at one of the capital’s tastiest restaurants and prepare you for the adventure ahead. At dinner we will check your insurance details and equipment and we will collect your passport so that we can complete the Chinese visa formalities. Then we can relax and get to know each other.

Day 02 Sightseeing in Kathmandu
As we realise this is not the first time to Kathmandu for most of you, we will do some sightseeing today which is a little different to the normal “rush around Kathmandu in a day trying to see it all tour”. We will mount some trusty old-school Indian “boneshakers” and cycle through the bazaars of Kathmandu and Patan to some of the lesser known sights of the valley, taking our time to stop and really get under the skin of Kathmandu life.


Day 03 Free day in Kathmandu

Today is free for more exploring or to just take it easy before the epic journey ahead of us. Relax at the hotel or head out and enjoy your last good coffee for some time in a streetside cafe, just taking it all in...of course we can help you with any last minute gear requirements today as well, so don’t be shy to ask. Also if it is your first time to this unique city, then please let us know if we can arrange some more exploring for you!

Day 04 Fly to Nepalganj
We have the morning to pack, relax and maybe take a stroll through the age old bazaars of Kathmandu before we head to the airport for the afternoon flight to Nepalganj in the western part of Nepal’s lowlands, the Terai. This time of year the lowlands are very hot so we will be glad to head straight to our hotel and check in, spending the rest of the afternoon relaxing with a good book and cold drink.

Day 05 Fly to Simikot - trek to Yakba Khola 2250m
We return to the small airport at Nepalgunj and fly by Twin Otter plane up to the village of Simikot (3170m) in Nepal's far north-western corner. This remote spot is about as far away from Kathmandu as it is possible to get, without actually leaving Nepal. Simikot is the administrative centre of the beautiful Humla district and it is here that we will meet our trekking crew. Hitting the trail, we climb out of the Simikot valley to a little ridge above town and from there it is all downhill to the Humla Karnali River and the little village of Masigaon (2600m). We continue hiking along the river to Yakba Khola (2250m), where we camp just above some nice swimming holes in the stream.

Day 06 Trek to Sale Khola 2830m
Beyond Simikot the villages are inhabited by an increasing proportion of Bhotias, the Nepali name for people of Tibetan ancestry. The Humla Valley becomes increasingly narrow and the occasional villages we pass through have to make the best use of the limited land available. There is actually rice grown up here, which makes it the highest elevation rice grown anywhere in the world. We will see if we can get some of the local red Humla rice for our Dal Bhat tonight. Eventually we reach the village of Kermi where Tibetan prayer flags flutter over the houses, whilst the trails are dotted with chortens and mani stones, testament to the rich Buddhist influence. We continue from Kermi on a gradual climb to Kermi Dhara (ridgline) and from there it is down all the way to camp at Sale Khola.

Day 07 Trek to Thumkot Khola 2900m
We cross Sale Khola, a small tributary stream to the Humla Karnali and trek through pristine forest to the pleasant village of Yalbang (2890m). From here we follow a community irrigation canal northwards to the neighbouring village of Yangar (2850m). There is a small hydroelectric project on the Humla river and these two villages of Yalbang and Yangar both benefit from this. Yangar is an extremely compact village on a steep hillside and in places narrow tunnels have been built beneath the houses.

We return back to the edge of the river and follow an increasingly precipitous trail, and in places there is nothing more than a narrow wooden walkway propped up with posts. Some sections of the trail have been blasted out of the sheer cliffs. The path wends its way along this rickety trail for a couple of hours until finally we reach a new suspension bridge across the river. We cross this and trek more easily through delightful apricot orchards to the stone houses of Muchu village. Just beyond this lies the police check post which functions as the Nepalese border control. We have our trekking permits and passports checked here. We then continue along the river to Tumkot Khola, we camp here in a pleasant clearing by the fast flowing waters of a mountain stream.

Day 08 Trek and (maybe) bike to Sip Sip 4300m
First thing in the morning we cross the Bumachiya Khola on a small wooden bridge. The Humla Karnali now disappears into a steep cleft to the north, and we leave it behind. After we hike for 2 hours, we shall reach above Healing La; there you will see the new road build up -    heading steeply uphill to the isolated tea houses at Pani Palbang (3380m).  Here we will encounter the first bit of the “Humla Highway” even wider -  a World Food Program project where local people get food in exchange for labour to build the road. It is nothing more than a little trail- it's much wider road now- possible for riding.. but we might try to -we can ride our bikes from here. The trail then climbs steeply to a ridge where we have great views north to the fields of Yari. We may stop here for the night but if possible we will continue a little further to the meadows at Sip Sip, a pleasant camp site situated at 4300m at the foot of the Nara Lagna Pass.

Day 09 Across the Nara Lagna La to Hilsa; Cross the border and drive to Purang
Depending on how the “road” conditions are we might try to ride our bikes across the Nara Lagna La (4600m).- The road condition is perfect now so we can easily ride from Sip Sip- to Hilsa. ( I think in 2 hours you will reach Hilsa by biking)  to  The crest of the pass is marked by a large pile of stones and a colourful collection of prayer flags. The views are superb and we can see some of the remotest of Nepal's 7000 metre peaks including Api (7132m) and Saipal (7031m) as well as a range of mountains heading west to the border with India. Looking north the landscape is arid and almost totally lacking in vegetation. The irrigated green fields of Sher appear in the distance like an oasis in the otherwise brown desert landscape. We descend down the road for over 1000 metres and re-join the Humla Karnali which has snaked its way around the mountains, we may have to walk sections as the road has little landslides each year. We will have to wait for our horses and baggage to make it down to Hilsa before we cross the Humla Kanarli on a small bridge over the river and enter Tibet. This area is quite sensitive an Chinese Army won’t allow to ride our bike so, after crossing the border we will jump on the jeeps and drive for around 30km to Taklakot which is also called Purang in the Tibetan language. It is a typical Tibetan village - dusty roads and flat-roofed houses. - Now it's a big border city.  It has a couple of interesting bazaars, The Humli bazaar with traders from Humla in Nepal and the Darchula bazaar which is where the people from the Darchula region of Nepal come and trade their goods, mainly from India. Tibetan wool is also traded here and the Darchula people take this back to Nepal and India to sell.

We have the morning to pack, relax and maybe take a stroll through the age old bazaars of Kathmandu before we head to the airport for the afternoon flight to Nepalganj in the western part of Nepal’s lowlands, the Terai. This time of year the lowlands are very hot so we will be glad to head straight to our hotel and check in, spending the rest of the afternoon relaxing with a good book and cold drink.

Day 10 Ride to Manasarovar Lake (Chui Gompa) (4550m)
From Taklakot first we drive around 10km then we will start our ride towards Manasarovar lake. All the way to camp we should have views of Gurla Mandata (7728m) on our right and watch out for Marmots and wild asses (Kiang) as there is a good chance of seeing them here. After having our lunch we will start climbing towards the Gurla pass (4590m) with great views of Gurla Mandata still to our right. From Gurla pass we get good views of Rakshas Lake with Mount Kailash in the back ground and we will also be able to see Lake Manasarovar. We continue on to have lunch either on the stunning shores of Rakshas or Manasarovar lakes. From here we ride between the lakes all the way to Chui Gompa where we will camp after a long day on the bike.


Day 11 Cycle to Darchen 4560m and relax
We spend the morning cycling into Darchen over the Barka plains and a few hills. Darchen was formerly a centre of the wool trade prior to the collapse of cross border commerce between Tibet and India in the 1940's. Now the village is only inhabited in the summer months when it becomes a key staging post for pilgrims making the ritual circumambulation of Mount Kailash. A sprawling tent city can then develop here with Hindus from India and Buddhists from Nepal and Tibet all living cheek by jowl. Only the very top of Kailash is visible from Darchen, as a low range of foothills north of the village partially obscures the view. In the afternoon we can take a walk up the ridge just to the north of Darchen Gompa for spectacular views of Kailash. We need this afternoon here in Darchen to get our yaks organised for the trek around the mountain and we will also appreciate the rest and time for a wash (tonight we will stay in a local guest house).

Day 12 Trek past Chuku Gompa 4750m to Dira-phuk - The 'kora trek' around Mount Kailash begins
This morning we head to Darchen for formalities before the Kora. Darchen is marked by tall poles adorned with prayer flags (charchok) and the starting point for the 53 km sacred kora of the mountain, a holy circumambulation done by Buddhist, Hindus, Bon Po and Jains. Early in the morning, we meet our team of yaks and Tibetan yak drivers who will escort us around the kora, yak bells ringing. We start trekking to Tarboche which, much like Darchen, is marked by a tall flagpole adorned with thousands of multi-colored prayer flags and kata scarves strung out in radiating lines from the pole. To the west of Tarboche is the Chorten Kangnyi, an auspicious but somewhat repulsively-decorated archway (you’ll see...) to walk through. Perched above Tarboche is the Sky Burial Site of 84 Mahasiddhas, a spot revered for once having been the burial site for lamas, and containing numerous sacred springs, cairns, and power places.

From Tarboche, we follow the Lha Chu river through a serene and beautiful meadow-lined valley, hopping over small streams, the west face of Mount Kailash towering above us. The river enters a narrow canyon with high, steep cliffs and spectacular waterfalls. Midway along the trek the secret entranceway to the Inner Kora is visible to the right. One must complete 13 koras to enter here. Instead, we will continue up the valley and the north face of Kailash comes into view just as we reach the 13th century monastery at Dira-phuk. We camp opposite the river from the gompa, below the massive north face of Kailash. A sunset walk up to the ridge overlooking the north face is a must!


Day 13 Trek over the Drolma La to Meadow Camp

We now leave the Lha Chu Valley and enter the Drolma Chu Valley, heading up towards a 5,630 meter pass, the Drolma La. Although the altitude makes the trekking arduous, we will be continuously amazed by the pilgrims performing their acts of devotion along the way. Devout pilgrims prostrate themselves the entire way around Kailash, kneeling down and extending their bodies and hands in front of them in prayer (and marking the beginning of the next prostration). Tough going!

The trail is lined with sacred sites: butter, coin & flag-covered rocks, rocks with footprints of saints, rocks to climb over, under or through, hillsides of discarded clothes as offerings and other significant sites. It's a tough climb to the prayer-flag festooned summit, but it’s all worth it from the top as juniper incense burns and thousands of colourful prayer flags send prayers out into the surrounding valleys. From here we pass above the Lake of Compassion, Thukpe Dzingbu, one of the highest lakes in the world. We will camp in the valley below the pass near the Zutul-puk Gompa, 4790m, where there are several meditation caves and a cave containing an image of Milarepa.

Day 14 Trek to Darchen, Drive to Hor (4550m)
From here, it’s an easy walk along some impressive gorges and around many mani stones (stones carved with the mantra Om mani pad me hum) and mani walls (made of the mani stones) back to the Bharka Plains and dusty Darchen where our jeeps await us. The kora is finished - we’ve erased our sins, endured cold nights and mornings, crossed one of the highest passes in the world, met countless pilgrims, sent prayers of peace out to the world. Congratulations!

Sins cleansed, we drive the short distance to our camp a little beyond Hor village. From here we will set out on the epic journey by bike back to Kathmandu tomorrow morning.

Day 15 Bike to Base of Mayun La
As we cycle the first part of this long journey back to Kathmandu we soon come to the top of a little pass from where we get our last view of Kailash. We then head across grassy plains along the Konggyo (Tso) Lake, towards the base of the Mayun La (5216m). We will camp as close to the pass as possible and tackle the last bit of the climb in the morning. Approx 80 km cycling.

Day 16 Cross Mayun La
We start the morning climbing to the top of Mayun La (5180m), pretty high pass but as we start climbing only a few hundred meters below the pass it won’t be too hard. We then descend for a few kilometres and about mid day get to a big river where there is usually a tented city of summer herders and people selling food for travellers. We will camp near a little lake; will someone be brave enough for a wash in the cold water? Approx 90 km cycling

Day 17 Through Paryang and Across Soge La (4750m)
In the morning we cross the plains to Paryang the biggest town since Kathmandu. From Paryang it is 22 km to the top of the first of the two Soge La passes, we camp 15 km from the top and only 3 km from the top of the next little pass. Near our camp the landscape changes with sand dunes in the foreground. Approx 70 km cycling

Day 18 Through Old Donba to base of Sing La (4900m)
We cross the second pass in the morning then descend into a valley with sand dunes and desert like landscape, we will occasionally see the Yarlung Tsangpo (Bramaputra) river in the distance. This is a place where it is good to stick together because there is a maze of roads leading off in all directions to Gold mines and also to New Donba, a Chinese town which services the mining camps in the area, we avoid all this and cycle on to Old Donba, the old nomad trading centre of the area. From Old Donba we cycle towards our next big challenge the Sing La which we will camp just below. We will pass a sacred place with many prayer flags and a large painted rock on the way and will stop to check it out. Approx 70 km cycling

Day 19 Across Sing La into Niugu valley
We start the day with a climb to the top of Sing La which has great views of the Himalayan range. We descend and follow little rivers through the beautiful Niugu valley to the small town of Nuigu. We follow another little river to its headwaters near another little pass and then down to the Dargye Tsangpo river where we will camp for the night. Approx 75 km cycling

Day 20 Ride to Saga
This morning we ride along the Dargye Tsangpo river and through the little Dargyeling village before we start the climb to Torkyo La (4880m) which is just before Saga, quite a centre these days with more and more new Chinese style buildings and administrative offices. We make our way to the Yarlung Tsangpo (Bramaputra) river where we might be able to have a go at crossing the river on a cable drawn ferry, good fun to end the day with! Tonight we will stay in a local guest house. Approx 65 km cycling

Day 21 Ride to Kiyrong turnoff
We have a couple of smaller passes but with some rough steep climbs to conquer this morning before we come into some beautiful open country where we will have lunch near the Drolung Tso salt lake. After lunch we have another little pass to cross before we reach camp a little before the turnoff to Kiyrong an old trading post on the border with Nepal near the Langtang trekking area in Nepal. We camp 3 km before the turnoff to Kiyrong Approx 60 km cycling

Day 22 Ride to Sagur (Shaku turnoff)
We cross a small ridge this morning and then descend into a gorge. When then climb back out of the gorge and suddenly we have great views of Paiku Tso the biggest lake since Manasarova and also the last of Tibet’s big lakes that we will see. We cycle around the southern shores and have lunch at a little bridge, before we start the 32 km ride across the Digur Tang plains to camp. Our campsite here has great views of the holy mountain Kambachen to the north and Shishapengma (8013m, the ‘smallest’ of the world’s 14 peaks over 8000m) to the south. Approx 75 km cycling

Day 23 Back to Friendship Highway
The views of the only 8000 metre peak entirely inside Tibet, Shishapengma, only get better as we ride the first few kilometres this morning. It seems we cycle right below its northern wall and in fact we almost cycle right past the Northern Base camp of the mountain. As we get closer to the Friendship Highway there are quite a few trails going off in all directions, so we stick together as a group and take the track which leads us to the main road just where the climb to Lalung La starts. The next 11 km to the top of the pass some of you might remember as being quite hard but it is actually surprisingly easier the second time around... We camp at the little stream in between the two passes and get ready for the last Tibetan pass tomorrow morning. Approx 55 km cycling

Day 24 Ride to Nyalam
Many of you will have tried this pass before and know that even in our current shape these last 8km to the top are still some of the hardest of our trip. We get up at daybreak to get up to the top for sunrise, which will truly reward us for the pain with one of the Himalaya's best panoramic views - from Everest and Makalu in the east to Shishapengma, just on our right! We cross the Pass and start our epic descent towards Nepal. We get as close as 40km before the border of Nepal, but are still 2000m above it! Tonight we will stay in a local guest house.

Day 25 Ride to The Last Resort
We're on the big one - the longest downhill ride in the world! From Nyalam to the lowest point of our ride, across the border in Nepal, is a descent of 3200 metres and we stop only for the border regulations to be completed at Khasa, before we continue into Nepal to The Last Resort. Here we sleep in lush green surroundings for the first time in a long while and we can wash three weeks of dirt off us in the best hot shower you'll ever get!

Day 26 Ride to Kathmandu
It's a long day's ride through Nepal's lush green valleys to Kathmandu. Even with the supercharged lungs we now have and the abundance of oxygen in the air at this elevation, we may still find that last big climb up to Dhulikhel surprisingly tough so prepare your mind for it. We check into our hotel dump our gear and head out to enjoy the delights of town!

Day 27 Free in Kathmandu
A free day in Kathmandu to relax and do some last minute shopping. There are some great massage places and even some good spas in Kathmandu these days for some well deserved post-trip pampering. In the evening we will go out to one of the best restaurants in town and have a great dinner with tall tales of our journey being told, no doubt!

Day 28 Depart Kathmandu
We take you to the airport for your flight home. We hope you've had a fantastic adventure and look forward to seeing you back in the Himalaya soon!

 

               ”kimkim