cycling the Annapurna Circuit

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles – day 1 | 2 | 3/4

My best ride EVER.

Jeeps and buses now shuttle up and down the valley all the way to Muktinath, causing some trekkers to dismiss this section of the Annapurna Circuit as ‘over’.

It’s not over. Most who do it still enjoy the hike down.

Still … cycling is better.

Cycling Annapurna is getting increasingly popular. But it is dangerous.

One guide I cycled alongside had 3 clients: all 3 fell over two days, one evacuated back to the U.K. with a broken collar bone.

Here’s the best easy & inexpensive option, in my opinion.

I did the Muktinath to Tatopani ride in 2014. Enjoyed it so much that I repeated exactly the same trip in 2019.

First you have to make your way to Muktinath (3800m) and be acclimatized to that altitude.

Many offer to rent you a bike. I went again with Mustang, as I like their professionalism. For this trip and 6 years ago the cost was $60 — and you could do the trip in 1, 2, 3, or 4 days for that price. Most do 2 days. They shuttle your luggage to Tatopani.

  1. Muktinath to Marpha (2650m descent)
  2. Marpha to Tatopani (1130m descent)

There are several ways down to Kagbeni, all interesting. This time I took the high route via Jhong (Dzong; 3580m) on the other side of the valley from the motor vehicle traffic. Loved it.

All day long you are staring at impressive Dhaulagiri (8167m).

Day 1 is dry, arid Tibetan landscape.

You definitely need protection from wind and dust.

You reach fantastic Kagbeni without passing any traffic. But road building is ongoing in the so-called Annapurna Conservation Area.

Riding through Jomsom is ugly and un-fun. But there’s no alternative to the busy main road.

Almost everyone stops in lovely Marpha. I followed the guide and her clients to this Guest House. In fact, I got the room of her injured rider.

Next morning I toured Marpha, the apple capital of Nepal.

… a pretty stone lined village which has survived the transition to the current time, by catering to trekkers and tourists. …

Dominating the village is the Nyingma monastery …

Day 2 you can often choose between the main road (bad), the river (hike-a-bike) or the new Annapurna trekking trail (single track with plenty of ups-and-downs).

I enjoyed it much better than 6 years ago.

The final ride down to Tatopani (hot water) is very, very rough. I’ll post video of that section later.

😕

BUT … it is great to hit the hot springs after 2 long, dusty days.

There’s no easy way out of Tatopani. My first time here I continued trekking to Annapurna Base Camp, a serious commitment. This time I got on the local bus … $5.50 for a 7 hour, very bumpy ride back to Pokhara.

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles – day 1 | 2 | 3/4

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