Head In The Sky
BBC TopGear India|July 2019

There are things that you need to tick off your bucket list. But, there are places that still haven’t made it to most lists yet. Lo Manthang is that, amongst many other things, and that just makes this big tick sweeter.

Debabrata Sarkar

Sitting outside a coffee shop in the ancient walled city of Lo Manthang, at a rather dizzying twelve-and-a-half thousand feet above mean sea level, a slice of apple pie was the last thing I expected to be see at the store window. Especially given the fact that the last couple of hours, on the road to Lo Manthang, had everything from water crossings, to deep sand, with a few steep inclines thrown in. My riding suit is far from presentable in this spotless little village and there are distinctly crunchy bits stuck between my teeth. While I do my best to contain my surprise about the apple pie, a piping hot cup of espresso was being shot out of a very elaborate Italian machine. There isn’t a drop of tarmac for days, in the direction of Nepal, and cellphone coverage can be termed sketchy at best, but the people of Lo have the good life sorted out. This spotless kingdom has streets lined with slate and mudhouses painted a brilliant white. A tall wall keeps the palace and the city protected. You may want to imagine it does so from advancing armies, but my guess is, it keeps them out of the far more treacherous wind.

It has taken us the better part of a week, while we maintained a casual pace, to ride up from Pokhara. That’s five days of slush, rocks, water and sand, all dealt with from the saddle, and sometimes off it, a Royal Enfield Himalayan. There weren’t necessarily showers after each of those days and the comfort of four walls had also been missing for the last couple of days. Am I glad I replied to that email, it’s been every bit of the Mustang Adventure that was promised.

Five days ago, sitting by the poolside at a sprawling hotel in Nepal’s second largest city, Pokhara, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Google maps failed to find a motorable road into Mustang (pronounced Mushtaang, unlike the Ford), and YouTube wasn’t very helpful either, with every other video captioned ‘World’s most dangerous road’. But then again, we couldn’t wait to leave the balmy city behind. It didn’t take long for the roads to disintegrate and gradually disappear, allowing the Himalayan to come into its own. The final petrol pump, where we’d hoped to fill up, was shut for business. There still was lemon tea to save the day, while the scenery swapped houses for trees, the mountains climbed towards the sky and the river grew wider.

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