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In Pursuit Of Snow : A Road Trip To Kalinchowk

I have never witnessed snowfall in my life. It’s an odd desire, but I have always wanted my first encounter with those fresh pouring snowflakes to happen when I am either driving or riding. Obviously, expecting to be blessed with snowfall while navigating through the alleys of Kathmandu would be like waiting for Megan Fox to come and marry me. It will never happen. So I have actually made efforts to let my first rendezvous with snowfall happen when I am on a set of wheels, on occasions more than once. I have driven to Jomsom in the peak of winter, been to Kalinchowk twice already, and waited at Nagarkot on several occasions. But tough luck!

 

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So there I was, riding to Kalinchowk for the third time in mid-February 2013. Yes, in pursuit of some snowfall. It had rained in Kathmandu a couple of days back and I was informed that it was snowing up there. So I packed by bags and as soon as the weekend arrived, I set out for the quest yet again on my KTM 200 Duke. Kalinchowk is a fascinating hill station situated at an altitude of 3700m above sea level and at a distance of just 135km from Kathmandu. It’s one of those tourist destinations in the country that is yet to lose its raw beauty to rapid commercialization and home to the revered Kalinchowk Bhagwati Temple.

Enjoying the serene and beautiful greenery by the roadsides, Banepa and Dhulikhel passed by pretty soon and in no time I found myself in Dolalghat. A quick brunch was in order with some of the fresh fishes baited in from the nearby Sun Koshi River. Since I was still full from the breakfast at home, I had to skip the alluring thought of another round of the delicious fishes and continued the ride ahead. Then began the ride through one of the most well paved stretches in the country with race inspiring corners towards Khadichour. With the brisk acceleration and sporty handling characteristics of the KTM 200 Duke, the ride was a pure joy.

After Khadichour, I took the detour towards Charikot and began the steep uphill climb. The road from Khadichour till Charikot boasts of some of the most infamous winding uphill roads in the country. Here too, the KTM comfortably tip toed ahead effortlessly. The roads though had deteriorated in some of the sections with potholes popping up at frequent intervals. Finally the foggy town of Mudhey arrived and I stopped by for a delicious lunch at the local eatery that I frequent every time I am up here. As I moved towards Kharidunga after lunch, light showers started leaking from the mystic sky. I usually don’t like it when it rains during a ride. But this time, I was quite excited as this increased my chances of witnessing some snowfall up there.

 

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Kharidunga is home to one of the best Magnesite deposits in the world and with all those burned Magnesite lying around the limestone surfaced field, the place provides a visual treat to any passer-by. At roughly 2700m above sea level, this is one of the highest road passes in Nepal. But the nearly 5km off road passing across the site was in bad condition as always and with the hard set up of the suspensions on the KTM, the ride was quite a bumpy affair. Anyways, sitting up on the pegs in motocross style helped to dampen the jerks and speed through the stretch. I finally made it to Charikot by 3pm and only a 15km extreme uphill off-road stretch remained for Kalinchowk. The KTM did pull through the steep climb easily, but the slick tyres would easily give away in the mud and slushy sections. Trying my best to still stay upright and not fall down, I finally neared Kuri at Kalinchowk. Seeing some snow from the previous day’s snowfall by the roadsides made me more excited about finally witnessing fresh snowfall this time around. But instead of snowing, the scant drizzle rather turned into a crazy rainfall. Ironically, it began to rain like hell and was one of the coldest rain I had so far witnessed.

 

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The mud road had already turned into a slush fest. The hotels for Kalinchowk are all located at the base point in Kuri and the Kalinchowk Temple is another one hour walk from there. But the last 1km to Kuri had literally turned into a slush pit and was impossible to navigate through. Many other bikers had shown up and all the bikes were parked by the roadside. So I too duly left my bike safely parked among the pack and stormed towards the hotel downhill. Not a flake of snow dropped from the sky, and it continued to rain cats and dogs the entire night. My expectation for snowfall was already looking bleak. But I still remained positive and hoped to wake up the next morning to a vista covered in snow and white flakes lightly falling from the skies.

Funny enough, the next morning was no different. It was still drizzling and rather than hoping for snowfall, I now had more reasons to worry about the deteriorated road conditions from the crazy mad rain last night. After the tiring walk to the Kalinchowk Temple, I returned to the hotel and packed up for the journey back home. As I approached the road, the riding scenario had completely changed. There was hardly a stretch which had not turned into slush and the red mud had made it worse. Traction was impossible to find and I made the tough ride back trying my best to find whatever little grip the slick tires of my KTM offered. To add to my misery, it was mostly a downhill stretch where the brakes seemed redundant and the roads had zero visibility with dense fog covering up the view ahead. It was a crazy ride all the way and after riding at a snail’s pace for more than an hour, I finally found myself standing in tarmac at Charikot. I had never felt luckier and blessed for having not fallen down face down in the slush. It was probably the sincere prayers to the Gods at the temple that did the trick. After having gone through all that torture, the ride back home seemed like a piece of cake. Highly disappointed, I raced back and just before nearing home I found myself in another rendezvous with the spattering rain.

So that was it. Another attempt to witness snowfall on wheels and still unlucky!

EXTRA BITS ON DRIVING/RIDING TO KALINCHOWK

TRIPMETER:

Bhaktapur- 0km

Dolalghat- 45km

Khadichour- 65km

Mudhey- 95km

Charikot- 120km

Kuri Kalinchowk- 135km

HIGHEST POINT:

Kalinchowk Bhagwati Temple – 3700m

WHEN TO GO BEST:

CLEAR WEATHER:

March-May or October-December

SNOWFALL: January-February

ON WHAT:

Most two-wheelers will easily make it up to Kuri from Charikot. But we highly recommend at least a 150cc+ motorcycle and try to avoid pillion riding for good off road riding fun. A proper off road bike or a rugged and reliable 4×4 Jeep should make the journey more exciting.

WHAT ALL TO TAKE:

-Sufficient warm clothing top to bottom and a proper windcheater jacket.

-All necessary spares for your vehicle.

-Required medicines especially for Altitude Mountain Sickness.

-Lots of ready to eat packet foods, dry fruits and chocolates.

HOW MUCH TO TAKE:

Rs. 1500 per day per person excluding fuel costs.

RECOMMENDED HOTELS AT KURI:

Kalinchowk Country Villa Pvt. Ltd

Contact: 049691096 | 9813502598 | 9851075515

Kuri Yulsa Hotel & Lodge

Contact: 049691176 | 9818962966

MP Hotel & Guest House

Contact: 049690114 | 9744000872

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