Every race should end with a party and rest day in Pokhara, the chill lakeside town situated under the Annapurna range. It’s one of the world’s most beautiful places and a stark contrast to the madness of Kathmandu.
Last night we celebrated in a style fitting our adventure. We didn’t just close down the bar, we kept it open until nearly morning. As I’ve noted many times, Nepalis are cool. What began with our crew roaming into an otherwise crowded bar for a drink culminated with us pretty much running the place. At one point in the evening, Andy was tending bar, Steve DJ-ing, and Sonya was on stage singing. Try this in New York and see what happens.
Today, so far, has been nothing but lounging. I feel like I should get on my bike but it’s on a bus en route to Kathmandu. Some of the crew is paragliding, others have rented motorcycles and are touring. Since I’ve done this in Pokhara before I think I’ll order another beer and sit here looking out over the lake and reflect on what we just did. To check the entire report, click here to start at the beginning.
Not only is the Yak Attack the hardest race I’ve done, it’s the best. It’s an almost perfect mixture of really fast racing, really hard riding, hiking, and culture. I mean, in how many races are heat exhaustion and frostbite real dangers only a couple of day apart? It’s brilliant!
Along with geographic change you also get culture. You start in the cosmopolitan craziness of Kathmandu, travel through the both rural and frenetic towns of the Nepali lowlands, which feel much like India, then climb into the Buddhist mountain villages. The vibe of the race changes daily.
Kathmandu is a massive, polluted city. Famous Farm isn’t in a village at all. Then we move through open countryside and small, bustling cities choked with heat and dust. By Chame we’re in an alpine village, very trekker oriented. Manang feels more historical, a dry landscape nestled under monasteries and 8,000 meter peaks. Phedi is nothing but an alpine outpost, gateways to one of the highest trade routes in the world. Over Thorong La there’s Kagbeni, a beautiful town at the entrance to the ancient kingdom of Upper Mustang. Tatopani, where we officially finish racing, is situated at the bottom of a cleft in the Himalaya, very green and lush, under the awesome west face of Niligiri. Finally we arrive in the hippie enclave of Pokhara, the perfect place to celebrate and relax.
back in kathmandu, with sonya and the medical team – sonya looney pic
It’s my last day in Kathmandu. Each night I wake up dreaming that I’m carrying my bike. I’m pretty hammered and my Kathmandu cough has returned full force. I’m sad to leave but, as Steve put it, “excited about catching the big bird home” as well.
The dwindling crew’s been going out for rides, daily (including Pete’s who’s a little battle scarred but more or less fully recovered). Jonzing for some upper body exercise, I talked the Kiwis, Kerry and Andy, into climbing for a day (they had some calories to burn off), which turned into some serendipitous touring as we climbed in a beautiful location on the outskirts of Kathmandu above one of the largest monasteries in Nepal.
My immediate thoughts on returning:
I would love to come back. It is, however, logistically tricky for me with my job. There are also many other adventures to experience. So while I won’t be here next year it will be on the radar again soon.
It would be nice to try and race faster but I also can’t help think about doing this on a single speed. What a challenge that would be! It’s been done before but the race has evolved to more and more riding and less hiking. Next year, stages 2 and 3 and 5 and 6, all hard on their own, will be combined. These two long stages will add another element of hurt to the race. Yes, at some point, I’ll have to come see how things have evolved, meet another crew of intrepid adventurers, and hang out with the local people I’ve become quite fond of.
If these journals have peaked (typo/pun intended) your interest for more, here ya go:
I bid you farewell with Rob Burnett’s compilation video of the 2013 Yak Attack. Enjoy!
We will now return to The Straight Dope’s regularly-scheduled programming. Thanks for tuning in.
HERE is Stage 11