Into thin air
The air is thin up here. I hike up the last steep slope to around 4500 metres and try to extract everything that my legs and lungs have to give. I’m right on the limit and about to start the last descent of my time here in Nepal, on the Lubra Trail deep in the Upper Mustang and surrounded by some of the highest peaks in the world. Annapurna (8091 m), Dhaulagiri (8167 m) and the Nilgiri (7061 m) are just a few of the summits I can see. Surrounding these giants are several “smaller” six-thousanders that haven’t even been named yet, our guide Mandil tells us as that there are simply too many of them. How many undiscovered trails and lines are still out there? How much can still be ridden? The possibilities appear endless. They are. Before dropping in and riding the trail down to the riverbed of the mighty Kali Gandaki for the last time, I spy an enormous ammergeyer floating on the thermals, majestically soaring across this ancient kingdom without a single beat of its wings.
This is what it’s all about. At these moments, right in the here and now, time stands still. For the next thirty minutes I have the whole trail to myself. You ride yourself into a trance, the senses become hyper-alert, reading what lies ahead so that each movement flows seamlessly into the next. The trail’s a high-speed mix of loose corners interspersed with steep, exposed sections all the way down to the bottom. Make a mistake riding this fast and you’re in serious trouble, but thoughts of “what if?” have no place in the mind right now. I’m utterly consumed by the experience.
The perfect ride? It’s definitely one of the best trails I’ve ever ridden. The crowning glory of my time in Nepal.
This journey was so much more than just another trip into the backcountry to go and ride. There were points when it felt like we’d gone on a journey back through time, to an era when old values still counted for something, an existence we all too often seem to have lost touch with in the western world. Up in Mustang, people still live their lives as they have been doing for centuries, perfectly in time with nature’s rhythm. This entire area has only recently become accessible to outsiders, meaning modern influences have yet to take a hold, people do things as they always have done. Everything is made by hand. Whatever they undertake, they do it with full dedication and take their time until every last detail is perfect. It’s like they go beyond Buddhism. Nothing gets rushed. All actions are carried out with a constant, unwavering attachment to their religion.
This will not be the last time I travel to Nepal. The terrain has so much more to offer, it’s just waiting to be discovered. I also want to learn more about the people here and their rich culture. And when I do come back, I’m going to take my time. It’ll be worth it. Especially when the stifling effect of modern life’s stress, pressure and imbalance makes our air too
thin to breathe.