Reportaje de Mateo Bueno
I’ve ridden through the Andes and part of the Rockies. I’ve seen mountains in the past. The Himalaya are in a league of their own. There are multiple moments when you are riding your bike, minding your own biking business, and you happen to look up to the mountain. You tilt your neck up to see how high it goes and you stop when you see the clouds covering the top. But then you keep tilting your neck up just to see the sky above you, and suddenly, through a small cloudless window, you see that the mountain hides behind the sky. These mountains speak to you and help you realize that your standing among giants, you are a guest here, and they’ll be sticking around long after we all leave.
During the monsoon season you can’t expect to get many views of the peaks. But on a couple occasions, the clouds open up, let me peek through and I can imagine what the view may be like with full clear skies. I see the Gangapurna Glacier and bits of snow on Annapurna 1 – the highest in the range. I’m satisfied with that.
From Manang, trekkers can continue on a 3 day hike to go to Tilicho Lake – the highest lake in the world and the one that brought me here. When I was asking Nepali moto tour guides in Kathmandu what ride to do if I had 6 days, a pro guide said: there is one that is a must – ride as far as you can in the direction of Tilicho Tal.
Thanks Nikhil for the recommendation!
Khangsar is as far as I can go.
The road turns to trail and at 3900 meters above seal level, the Himalayan surrenders to the Himalayas.
It loses steam and can’t go uphill very much. An Australian trekker stops me with envy and shares that he left his Himalayan in Pokorah to walk for a bit. He opened up the jets in the carburetor to adjust for high altitude. That’s beyond by mechanical abilities and this is probably the last place to learn. Best to let go of the ego, avoid singletrack, tell Tilicho that another day we’ll meet and turn around.
I head to Julu – a town of 3 homes off the main circuit. I meet one of two women who still live in the town and host travelers. We can barely communicate but I now know enough Nepali now to connect a bit better with some.
“Namaste. Tapaiko nam ke ho?” (Hi. What’s your name?)
“Mero nam Palma Gurung”
The last name is usually the cast. The Gurung are the most popular in this part of the Annapurnas.
“Mero nam, Mateo”
She laughs. I know why. Someone already explained that “mateu” translates to “let’s drink!!”
“Yes, yes. I know. Let’s drink.”
“Masala tea, dinus?” – that’s as far as I go, but I can get a tea, a warm smile, an OK for photos, and just witness her existence. This 60 year old woman is made of steal. She survives the harshest winters with her sister and some locals from Manang maybe bring her some goods in exchange for dried spices, herbs, and straw-made goods she has to trade. Her home is absolutely stunning. Everything seems to be in its right place, and flowers bloom from every pot she has planted. I watch her pack what looks like sun-dehydrated chard or kale into large buckets for storage.
I stay for an hour taking in the view and continue to Pissang – a town 30 minutes down the mountains. From there, I talk to a guesthouse owner to park the bike overnight for a few Ruppies. Upper Pissang is a 30 minute hike uphill (inaccessible any other way but foot) and it seems like a favorite spot to stay to get the view of the peaks and the valley.
The guesthouse in upper Pissang is operated by Lalu and his wife. She works the kitchen with her 6 month baby strapped to her back and he brings in the guests, takes food orders, and charges the night fee. In the middle of the night, the two wake up the four other guests with a glass breaking house fight. I’ve heard that the women here hold their ground more than in other Asian cultures. Since they are so essential in the livelihood of the family and village politics, they are able to stand up for their fair share. And Lalu’s wife seems to be doing that. You can’t understand anything, but from tone, you know she is pissed and he is on D. Reminds me of Santander, Colombia.
Lalu leaves and can’t be found the next day. She cooks my breakfast, with baby hanging, serves the food, charges me, and off I go.
From Pissang to Besisahar on day 4.