the dan milner photography blog: tales of an adventuring photo chimp

December 20, 2009

Dusty sensors and big mountains.. very big mountains: Nepal.

Filed under: bike, outdoors, photography — Tags: , , — danmilner @ 9:53 pm

Dust.. anybody? I just spent most of today editing and processing the one thousand images that fill the memory cards from my latest trip.. well, processing is more of a diplomatic way of saying “spotting out dust” on the images. A couple of days ago I got back from Nepal, one of the windiest and dustiest locations I have ever shot, and as you guess, wind and dust and interchangeable camera lenses don’t make the best bed fellows. 

For a small country (about the size of the UK), Nepal packs some big punches in terms of scenery. It’s a place that has been on my hot list for riding bikes, shooting pictures and eating curries for years, and so with the country now at (relative) peace again after several years of civil conflict, this November-December seemed a good moment to go and see what this Himalayan country is all about.

With a feature commission from MBUK in hand and a couple of vaccinations in the arm, we landed in Nepal with a Yeti 575 and a Trek Ex 8.5 but very little plan of what to do next. Well, at least “wing it” seemed like as good a plan as any, after all the whole country is cross-hatched by trails. Of course many are perilous, vertical helter-skelters of stone steps, both up and down, with drops of several hundred metres straight down to certain death in raging torrents below, so ideally in Nepal you need at least a little heads up on where to find good trails. The beauty of the global bike culture though means if you have a bike in tow, you’re not left out in the cold for long. Meeting up (and riding) with local riders like Santaram at the Nirvana Cafe (and Commencal bike centre) in Pokhara soon set us straight and before long we were immersed in the incredible scenery of the Mustang region, an area that sits West of the 7000m Annapurnas and stretches North to the Tibetan border. Mule and yak trails score the landscape here, making for epic singletrack riding if you can handle the altitude… the secret of that is to hitch a bumpy ride in one of the local jeeps to cover the climb up to places like Muktinath at 3800m.  High and dry, Mustang is treeless, making for one of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen (and thats coming from someone who likes trees a lot) but the absence of trees  however means little protection from the wind and dust storms that rage daily, and inevitably many hours to be spent spotting out dust that has found its way onto my Leica M8’s sensor (you’d think for the price, the M8 would have some kind of dust removal device on its sensor, but no… why make it easy. In fact there was so much dust-spot healing going on in my Adobe Camera Raw program today, the images had adopted a very “snowy” seasonal look).

Tibetan culture, buddhist monasteries and stupas and great autumn light made off-bike shooting as rewarding as the riding, while on the bike, we found that the more trails we rode, the more we saw sitting just out of reach to be ridden another time. Damn there are a lot of trails there; a revisit is on the cards for sure. But the riding in Nepal is changing, albeit slowly. While the tourism industry of Nepal gathers momentum once more, new 4×4 roads are being forged through much of the country, replacing many of the age-old singletrack mule trails that connect remote villages. While this is a spanner in the works for many of the trail-trekking-tourists (most of whom seem to welcome the hot showers that the jeep-transported gas cylinders supply) and mountain bikers, it comes as a blessing for the locals, tired of lugging provisions for days up vertiginous mountainsides. And while our own experiences included many sections of broken 4×4 tracks, we were never short of epic rides with a huge helping of adventure to boot. The MBUK story is penned to come out around April, but in the meantime here’s a taster…

Nepal: great trails, great people.

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1 Comment »

  1. […] In my experiences over the last few years -in Morocco, Argentina, New Zealand and most recently Nepal to name a few- I’ve learnt a lot about what you can do to make sure your bike gets to B from […]

    Pingback by Don’t leave home without: adventure biking’s top 12 essentials « Dan Milner photography: the Blog — January 10, 2010 @ 6:28 pm


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