The rising interest on Mountain Biking Trips over the Himalaya for last couple of years, has given birth to itinerary named as Trans-Himalayan Mountain Biking Adventure, which traverses a distance over more than 1300 kilometers from Lhasa the Capital of Tibet to Kathmandu in the heart of Nepal. This trip has been made more adventurous and at the same time challenging, by incorporating a four day round trip away from the main Lhasa – Kathmandu road, to visit Rongbuk Monastery and the North base camp area of Mt. Everest.
There are six major Passes to be negotiated on the main Lhasa to Kathmandu route as it runs westwards, parallel to the Great Himalaya Chain which forms the border with the territories of Bhutan, Sikkim and Nepal to the South. Throughout, the road traverses a high and dry plateau-land, which is punctuated, by the spectacular monastery towns of Gyantse, Shigatse and Shegar, and also by several smaller settlements and nomadic Drogpa encampments. On the detour away fr om the main route towards the Rongbuk Monastery, the road climbs through almost fifty hairpin bends to reach the Pang La, which affords splendid views of the arrayed Himalaya, and of Mt. Everest itself.
Everest Base Camp is the main attraction of this tour as one can view the North Face of Chomolungma [Mt. Everest] at 5500m [18044ft] from here which is an indelible experience for all. A night is spent at Everest Base Camp before retracing our steps to the main Kathmandu route. Back on the main road, we reach the edge of the Tibetan Plateau as we cross the 5200 metre high Thang La, and begin a mind-blowing descent of 4600 metres, [15000 ft.] via the border town of Zhangmu, to the valley of the Sun Kosi River in Nepal. A final, easy day’s cycling brings us back to civilization in the form of Kathmandu. All along the way we have the support of our Sherpa staff, our 4WD land cruisers and our support truck. This tour guarantees to be a high point [in more ways than one] in any mountain biker’s life.
On arrival at Kathmandu, you will be picked up at the airport and escorted to your hotel. The next day we will be taking you on a Kathmandu sightseeing tour, a good day for getting to know each other before we fly to Lhasa the next day. In Lhasa, we will check in at the hotel and spend our first couple of days being acclimatized. While we are getting used to the high elevation we will do some sightseeing in Lhasa, the heart and soul of Tibet and an object of devout pilgrimage, it is still a city of wonders. After our first two days in Lhasa, we will jump on the bikes and do a short ride out to the Drepung monastery. Then by now we should be ready to start out on what will be an adventure of a lifetime. We will ride on the friendship highway for the first nine days, passing fascinating places like Gyantse and Shigatse. On our tenth day out of Lhasa we will turn off the Lhasa – Kathmandu road and start our detour towards the Rongbuk Monastery, this part of the ride will be the hardest. The rides towards top of Pang la pass is tough, but the mountain views we will get, makes up for the hardness of the ride. After four days with Everest in sight, we return to the friendship highway and continue towards Kathmandu. After returning to the main route we only have one more pass to negotiate, but we will be rewarded with the world’s longest downhill ride once we are at the top of Gando la.
After breakfast proceeds for a sightseeing tour Swayambhunath Stupa situated atop a hill from where you could get a bird’s eye view of Kathmandu Valley. The Swayambhunath Stupa is also known as the “Monkey Temple”!! and listed in a world heritage site.
Later proceed for sightseeing tour of Kathmandu city. It includes visit to the Hanuman Dhoka (Kathmandu DurbarSquare) – an ancient durbar (palace) with its numerous old palaces, temples and pagodas, the Temple of Living Goddess “Kumari”, and the Kasthamandap Temple, which is believed to be constructed from the wood of a single tree from which Kathmandu derives its name.
Lunch on your own in Kathmandu Durbar Square. After lunch proceed for a sightseeing tour of the ancient Patan City, this ancient city of Patan also known as Lalitpur or the city of fine arts is about five Kilometers southeast of Kathmandu. The city is full of Hindu temples and Buddhist monuments.
After breakfast proceed for a tour of Bouddhanath Stupa – an ancient colossal stupa and the center of Tibetan Buddhism in the world which is also listed in UNISCO world heritage site.
After the tour of Bouddhanath, proceed for a tour of Pashupatinath Temple – the Temple of Lord Shiva situated on the bank of the holy Bagmati River. The temple is listed on a UNISCO World Heritage Site.
Later drive to Bhaktapur City, literally the “City of Devotees”, is renowned for its elegant art, fabulous culture, colorful festivals, traditional dances and the typical Newari lifestyle. Here explore the Royal Palace, the Golden Gate, the entrance to the Palace of 55 Windows, known as the most significant piece of art in Nepal. Then visit the highest temple in the entire Kathmandu Valley- the Nyatapola Temple. This is also listed on a UNISCO world heritage site. After sightseeing tour transfer back to hotel.
Overnight at hotel.
Note: On day 02 & day 03, we will process your Chinese Visa at Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu.
Morning transfer to the airport for the hour-long flight to Lhasa. The Spectacular flight on Air China which. Crosses the main Himalayan range and the mountain views are magnificent. After arriving at Gonggar Airport in Tibet, It’s an hour drive to Lhasa. It’s advisable to rest and take an easy for the remainder of the day, due to Lhasa’s altitude.
Am: Potala Palace.This morning we will visit the Potala Palace, which dominates the city of Lhasa. A spectacular building, it contains the private quarters of the Dalai Lama as well as numerous grand staterooms and many important chapels. There has been a palace on this site since the 5th or 6th century, but the present palace was constructed in the 17th century. A visit to the Drepung Monastery this afternoon will complete a truly awe- inspiring day. Founded in the 14th century, this monastery was once the largest in the world with a population of around 10,000 monks. These days that figure is down to several hundred, but there is still much here of interest as it was left relatively unscathed during the Cultural Revolution.
Jokhang Temple: Situated in the heart of old Lhasa houses Tibet’s most precious religious relic, a golden Sakyamuni Buddha that was brought as a gift by the Chinese princess Wen Cheng on her wedding to the Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo. Devout pilgrims prostrate themselves at the entrance of the temple and make the inner holy circuit to offer yak butter to the gods and pay homage to the golden statue of Sakyamuni. Surrounding the Jokhang Temple is the busy bustling Barkhor Bazaar. A marketplace, which is the religious and social focus of Lhasa. This is the Spiritual Center of Tibet and is also the heart of Lhasa.
Barkhor, a circular street at the center of Old Lhasa, is the oldest street in a very traditional city in Tibet. It is a place where Tibetan culture, economy, religion and arts assemble and a place to which a visit must be paid.
It has been said that in the seventh century Songtsen Gampo, the first Tibetan King (617 – 650) who unified Tibet, married Chinese Princess Wencheng and Nepal princess Tritsun. Later Princess Tritsun built Jokhang Temple to accommodate the twelve-year-old Jowo Sakyamuni, brought to Tibet by Princess Wencheng.
Barkhor is the road, where pilgrims tramped out around Jokhang Temple through centuries. Buddhist pilgrims walk or progress by body-lengths along the street clockwise every day into deep night. Most of Lhasa’s floating population is comprised of these pilgrims. The pilgrims walk outside four columns on which colorful scripture streamers are hung, a custom, which began in the Tubo period (633-877) as a way to show respect.
Am: Visit the SERA Monastery: 5 Km (3 miles) north of Lhasa. Sera’s setting is one of the prettiest Once a community of more than 5,000 monks, it was virtually extinguished by the Chinese invasion. The restored monastery sits below the brow of the hill on which Tsongkhapa built a hermitage and spent several years in meditation. One of the monk’s disciples started building the Sera in 1419 AD”. 2nd floor was Chinese and the 3rd floor Indian.
PM: Visit the Norbulingkha: The ‘Jewel Park’ as it is known in Tibetan, was built in the 18th century and served as the Summer Palace of the Dalai Lamas. This colorful garden landscape was the site of picnic and public gatherings. The place is richly decorated, creating an atmosphere of peaceful repose.
Another easy day, we will ride out to the Sera Monastery or to the Drepung Monastery, either of which is no more than a twenty minutes ride. Founded in the 14th century, Drepung monastery was once the largest in the world, with a population of around 10,000 monks. These days that figure is down to several hundred, but there is still much here of interest as it was left relatively unscathed during the Cultural Revolution.
A tough climb across the first of six high passes of the trip. If you find it too tough peddling up 4794 meter high pass you can always get on the support 4WD Land cruiser. Once you are on the top of the pass you have a glittering view of Yamdrop tso (lake) and stunning summit of Nanzin Kangsa (7252m). A descent to deep turquoise Yamdrok Tso Lake amidst its exquisite mesmerizing views further accentuates the biking thrill. Nomadic herders and grazing yaks make interesting picture-perfect view en route. After lunch, you will ride along the shore of the lake on sandy roads for about 40km. The trail further continues along ridges in the valley wall with breath-taking views of towering snow-capped peaks as the backdrop. Sooner sheep pastures come into sight. Resting your cycling journey for the day, you set a camp after riding for 72 km up to Nagartse village at an elevation of 4475m.
Cycling of this day away from Nagartse, the trail progresses towards a valley and to the top of Karo La the first 5,000-meter pass of your trip crossing Karo La (5050m) you descend to the foot of Simi La at an elevation of 4330m through several interesting Tibetan villages. Basking in the grandeur of surrounding natural exoticism, you will overnight at a superb locale.
This day is a easy and short ride to the top of Simi La at 4375m and then downhill ride into a wide sandy valley towards Gyantse. The trail crisscrosses barley field along the flowing river. Here, you will spot several military and religious sites. You can bask in the sheer pleasure of visiting Pelkor Chode Monastery, and Gyantse Dzong. Pelkor Chode Monastery has ancient murals, thangkas, chapels, mandala and paintings of 84 mahasidhhas in yogic posture. Gyantse Dzong was constructed in the 14th century and offers majestic view of both Gyantse and Nyang Chu Valley. Gyantse Kumbum is one of the major attractions of cultural interest in Gyantse. It houses several chapels and Tibetan Buddhist murals.
In order to reach Shigatse today, so that we can have a sightseeing day on Day 11, we may have to get on the support vehicle for some of today’s 94-kilometre stage. We will make sure that we, bike the most interesting sections of the road.
Shigatse is Tibet’s second largest city, and capital of the province of Tsang. We spend a rest day here. The most interesting of its many sights, are probably the Tashi Lhunpo monastic complex, and also the ruined fortress, which dominates the city’s skyline. A high wall surrounds the red and gold buildings, which make up the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, and around this wall there is an important circumambulation route, which includes small shrines, significant rock inscriptions and many prayer wheels. The circuit takes less than an hour, but much longer if you stop regularly to watch the going on of the Tibetan pilgrims. Little remains of the Shigatse fortress, but the view from the top is spectacular.
The next Pass, which we have to negotiate, is the Tso La, which lies some 106 kilometers from Shigatse. It is a long day’s ride, with several uphill sections until we reach our campsite before the Pass. We leave the crossing of the Pass until tomorrow.
A fairly easy eight kilometers ride brings you to the top of the Tso La from where you will have a clear view of the main Himalayan range. A brief stoppage at the top of the pass follows a thrilling downhill ride to the small town of Lhatse. After lunch at riverside the biking trail gains gradual climb to the foot of Gyamtso La at 4630 meter where you camp for the night.
Another Pass crossing today, the Gyamtso La, during the course of a long stage to Shegar. This small settlement is situated a few kilometres to the North of the main road, and is also known as New Tingri [Tingri is further 65 kilometres to the West]. It is from here that we will set off on our detour to the Rongbuk Valley.
Today we will avoid the main road to Everest Base Camp. The major difficulty of today’s ride is Pang La at 5,150 meter. Approximately 2-3 hrs peddling along the dirt road into the north base camp of Everest brings you to the top of Pang La. The road zigzags across the back wall of the valley overlooking dramatic view of the pass. The view from the top of the pass is spectacular with the whole Himalaya range gleaming right before you. The tough climb to the pass follows an excellent downhill ride to small Tibetan settlement where we will camp for the night.
At Phadhruchi, the first Sizeable village after the Pass, the road divides, with the Eastern fork going to Kharta and the Kangshung side of Everest, whilst our route continues South-Westerly and then Southerly towards Rongbuk. The route is relatively flat as far as Chhosang, and then steeping considerably for the final 10 kilometres to the Rongbuk Monastery. Mt. Everest only comes into view during the last hour of this of the day. After lunch in Rongbuk you can either take a bus or walk to Everest Base Camp, which is only 7 Km Rongbuk.
Cycle to Tingri via the new route from Everest BC, we have to get into the Jeep and truck to cross a big river in one place, otherwise we will try our best to cycle all the way to Tingri and beyond. Tingri is an unsheltered and windy settlement, directly underneath the imposing Cho – Oyu. We cycle a bit beyond Tingri to a little village that has natural hot springs where we can take a bath.
Today is the very scenic day ride towards one of the most stunning beautiful Lake Pigu Tso. You can also get to see the view of smallest 8000m peak Mt. Shisapangma and other snowcapped Mountian during the ride. We can camp somewhere near to Lake Pigu Tso.
Continue down Hill to Kyrong Border. After bid farewell to Tibetan Driver and Guide proceed to Chinese Immigration control to complete the exit formalities. After completing the immigration formalities, exit to Nepal (Timure). Upon arrival in Nepal meet waiting vehicle and drive to Sybrubesi.