Sunday, March 8, 2020

A Texan in ??? - Itinerary Alternatives

"Only the really young are fearless, have the optimism, the romanticism to take unimaginable risks."
- Olivia Wilde

What If???

I'm far from young, fearless, and very far from romantic, but I am optimistic about this trip.

I wrote in a previous entry that Everest may be out of reach because of the possibility that the entire country of China will be locked down from (or by) the outside world.  This sucks, but it's not the end of the least where my trip is concerned.  According to some, it could be really the end of the world. But I digress.

When I first started researching a riding trip in the region way back in June of 2019, there were a few locations on a short list that I knew I wanted to explore.  First and foremost was obviously Everest.  

Another is Khardung La Pass in India; known as the world's highest motorable road at nearly 18,400 feet. If there's a commemorative sign there, a pic of my bike in front of it would be awesome and the altitude conditioning I've been doing would still be beneficial.  Getting to and from the pass would be great because India has some of the most challenging and breathtaking riding in the world and the people are said to be gracious and welcoming to Americans.  The primary obstacle for the Khardung La Pass option is that it would likely be a one-way route and returning a rental motorcycle would be a logistical and financial challenge.

One if By Air. Two if By Motorcycle.
The third route/destination on my list was the Mustang region in Nepal.  Formerly known as Kingdom of Lo, Mustang is a remote and isolated region of the Nepalese Himalayas with few real roads in or out.  To get there, I could ride "roads" northeast out of Kathmandu for about 300 km, but then I would be following yak trails and ancient military supply routes that meander over and between mountain ranges and grassy plateaus for the remainder of the journey.  Most tourists get to Mustang via aircraft, arriving at a small airport there.  Where there's an airport, there's fuel, food, and lodging, so those logistical challenges are checked off.

Royal Palace Lo-Manthang - Built circa 1400
Forbidden Kingdom
The Mustang area was a tightly restricted demilitarized zone until 1992 and as a result, remains one of the most pristine regions in Nepal, if not the world. Mustang kept its "kingdom" status until 2008 and is said to have been preserved from most outside worldly influences by its isolation and lack of access by most four-wheeled vehicles.  Some of the locals like to say "The land is so barren and the passes so high that only our fiercest enemies or our best friends would want to visit us."  I may be fiercely motivated and driven, but I like to think I am no one's enemy.  Maybe I'll make a friend instead.

Rest assured, riding to Everest remains number one on my list. But me not being one to leave anything important to chance, I'll probably spend countless hours plotting out alternative routes, places to sleep, locating fuel, and many other ancillary details - all the while losing sleep over it.  Even after all that thought, hope, and stress, I could still find myself grounded and canceled.

I Can Envision Myself Riding Across This Bridge
If Mustang becomes my only option, that obviously still beats canceling altogether.  Despite my careful planning and efforts to be self-reliant, I will likely have to depend on my in-country fixer to help me sort out the logistics.  I loathe depending on others for important personal matters, but compromises will have to be made.

My cursory review of locations and potential routes to the Mustang region indicates that the highest pass I'll have to negotiate would only be about 12,000 feet.  My oxygen saturation conditioning has been going swimmingly and it would be a shame to waste all that preparation.  The good news is that training with the mask provides an anaerobic workout that yields better weight loss results than training without it.  I'll continue training with the mask irrespective of my final chosen itinerary.

Whichever route becomes the route, I will remain cautiously optimistic that there will be a route..