Text by Ankita Jain
Cycling enthusiasts across the globe will get to witness and experience mountain biking in the world’s deepest gorge, Kali Gandaki. Being organised as part of the Visit Nepal 2020 campaign, the launch will witness a mountain biking festival which will run for a week. “Our efforts will be visible during the launch which we are planning in December 2020,” says Raj Gyawali, Founder and Director of Socialtours. For VNY 2020, Gyawali is leading a team which is working towards developing a lifetime experience in mountain biking in Kali Gandaki.
The festival is named Kali X. Kali denoting Kali Gandaki Valley and X signifying extreme. The weeklong festival will have various types of mountain biking events on offer: trail riding, enduro, downhill, uphill, freeride, dirt jumping and more. “It will draw a good number of mountain bikers from across the world including the big names. We are trying to bring the mountain biking community together,” he claims.
The mountain biking experience in Kali Gandaki already exists. “It is happening as a great ride but it isn’t marketed as a tourism product,” he shares. He wants to focus on repackaging of the tourism product and continue the festival for years to come, That’s why, his team is working on essential elements. This involves mapping proper trails, guidelines, equipment, signage and more. Hence, they have taken up the huge challenge to take this forward and develop the Kali Gandaki rally as one of the world-class mountain biking experiences.
“With Dhaulagiri on one side and Annapurna on the other, the trail is breathtaking,” he shares. Also, the road is being pitched which is good for biking as the safety levels go higher. Talking about the existing trails, there are many natural trails. “Since the natural trail is not mapped, graded and lacks signage, it isn’t appropriate keeping safety standards at par. And this is what we are working on,” he explains.
The festival will also create jobs for the locals in various ways as biking in Kali Gandaki is possible any time of the year. “Getting there might become challenging during the monsoon because of road conditions. However, recent developments in transportation might solve this problem to a greater extent,” he highlights. Overall, it is a year-round biking destination in different conditions at different levels. “The higher regions may be better now but the lower regions will improve a little later in the year,” he informs.
Further, Gyawali claims that the mountain biking community currently runs various packages there. “The Mustang area is already in use for mountain biking with packages for seven days, five days and three days. For longer mountain biking experience, the Annapurna serves the purpose. Besides, there are a lot of activities which are already taking shape,” he explains.
He further throws light on the Yak Attack which is the highest mountain bike race on the earth. “The 2019 edition will have even more single tracks than ever before and includes more Enduro sections – including the highest timed enduro section from 5416m down to 2800m above sea level,” he informs. The other is the Yak Ru Enduro – an event that is equal parts big-mountain competition, alpine adventure, and exploration through the heart of the Nepali backcountry. The best trails and scenic views of the rugged and amazing Annapurna Circuit – known primarily for its trekking routes – are showcased in this remarkable high-altitude event.
On the Kali Gandaki mountain biking trail, he states, “Once we start redefining it, the packages will fall in place and people will have more options to choose from.” The packages are designed in such a way that even amateurs can find a package which would suit them. “Anybody who likes mountain biking in the world is our target audience,” he adds. Further, people who want to experience mountain biking can give a shot at it as well. Also, novices will get a good chance to practice. If the plan works out, there will be training programmes conducted by the local community,” he shares. In a way what they are trying to do is organise an event for 2020 but also repackage the destination for mountain biking.
Once the system is ready, it will offer a variety of experiences through mountain bikes. “For the event in 2020, we are going to host multiple days of different activities. Some will be as short as probably a day,” he says. The other activities will be enduro, cycling for all, family rides, mass ride, etc. Moreover, an uphill race is also on the list which will be named ‘King of Mountains’ or ‘King of Mustang’. “Essentially, the idea is to retain people as long as we can since that means money for the locals,” he briefs. About the pricing, it will depend on the equipment, access, etc. The team will set the standards and the pricing factor will be taken care of by the private industry providing the services.