What do you need for a trip to Manang – TIMS
You really don’t need that much for a motorcycle tour to Manang in the Annapurna’s. Basically it comes down to three things. Permits, motorcycle and enough driving experience. A bit of guts and strength can help you too. The two permits are exactly the same ones needed for a trekking through the Annapurna. A trekking permit and a TIMS card (Trekkers’ Information Management System). People who manage a trekking by some agency need just one of those two permits but people who manage all on their own are obliged to have both permits.
The TIMS card can be obtained at Brikuthimandap inside the Nepal Tourism Board building next to the old buspark. Bring two passport size photo’s and a copy of your passport. The fee is 2000 rupees for individual trekkers. When you go with two motorcycles, doesn’t make you a group. Groups fee is 1000 rupees and SAARC members pay even less than that. Opening times are 10 am to 5 pm.
Having an international driver’s license with you can save you from fines but even at the checkposts where you have to register your name, they only ask for the TIMS card and passport but not a driving license. In case you have to pay a fine, that shouldn’t be more than $6. When you have all of the mentioned in this post, you’re ready to roll.
It’s good to know what type of motorcycle you need to get over a rough and steep Annapurna mountain road. When you immediately think about a powerful Enfield, forget it. The minimum 300 – 500 cc power could be useful, but the Enfield models are quite low to the ground which will hit or get stuck to big chunks of rocks on that road. Another maybe more important issue is that an Enfield is a heavy motorcycle to handle. Heavy means slow. You need to be able to do quick handling with steering, acceleration and changing gear in order to get pass an avalanche part, knee deep water streams, curves, rocks, animals or not to end up in a ravine.
Recommendable is a motorcycle with a minimum of 180 cc. A 150 cc motorcycle hasn’t enough power to get pass some of the real steep parts of road and rocks. You can’t bring your own motorcycle over the border from India. This means that you have to rent one in Kathmandu or Pokhara. The Bajaj Pulsar available in 180 – 200 – 220 cc is one option. The Yamaha with the same power will do too. Those types of motorcycles cost around $10 a day rent. If you can find an offroad motorcycle Honda brand, take it. Here too counts the minimum of 180 cc you need to keep into account. Make sure you’re tall enough to be able to touch the ground with most part of your feet. Not just your toes.
Unfortunately the offroad Honda’s are hard to find for rent. In case you do find, they are usually more expensive to rent. There are Chinese offroad motorcycles to be found. The brand is Jaoling and whatever the power or rent shop owner tells you, don’t even think about it. Crap quality that you just can’t have under the circumstances of the Himalayas. Broken tubes on a normal black top highway indicates enough. Any brand you choose, make sure you can tie your luggage properly.
There are some important things to consider even before you get a TIMS and motorcycle. If you have none or hardly any experience with driving motorcycles, don’t go or take a jeep tour or an organized trekking tour. Scooters and none gear motorbikes experience should not be counted for this tour. It’s still a challenge if you are an experienced driver on blacktop roads. Some off-road skills will be in your advantage. It’s not recommendable to have two persons on one motorcycle. If so, you need a 220 cc the least but still it makes it at times real hard and tiring for the driver to control the motorcycle when having a passenger.
Route to Manang
Manang is about 270km from Kathmandu and about 200km from Pokhara. The minimum for this trip is 4 days, where you spend most of the time on the bike. Better take a couple of days extra to have some rest and to enjoy the places you visit. A week should be fine. Manang is the end point you can reach by motorbike. If you are interested in trekking, you can go further uphill from Manang to Thorung Pedi and the Thorung La Pass. Local tour guides can help. You already have the permits.
Coming from Kathmandu, your first stay overnight might be Besisahar at about 175km. Travel time is at least 5 hours plus traffic jam and breaks. Driving out of Kathmandu valley takes quite some extra time due to the many trucks going uphill. Wear a mask and sunglasses to protect your lungs and eyes and be carefull with overtaking the trucks. A nice place for lunch is Riverside Springs Resort, at about 100km on the route from Kathmandu. Just a few km before the cable car to Manakamana, one of the holiest places of Nepal. For visiting Manakamana you could easily add a day in your planning.
Coming from Pokhara it’s about 110 km 3 hour drive to Besisahar, so you have more time to drive already partly uphill for your first stay overnight.
From Besisahar to Manang at a height of 3600m requires another overnight stay. In distance, time and guesthouse availability, Chame is the best location for that. The next day it’s easy to reach Manang and enjoy the stunning scenery.
To Besisahar is an easy drive on blacktop roads. At the beginning from Besisahar to Bulbhule the roads are mostly easy parts through woods. Also at the end the roads are quite easy on the plains towards Manang. The challenging parts are from Bulbhule uphill. Rocky steep roads ask a lot of the bike and driver. Slippery mud near ravines requires carefull driving. Some steep parts have slippery mud, and are therefore difficult to get up.
The way down goes quite a bit faster. Stay very alert, because there is quite some danger in rocky and slippery roads next to deep ravines. At parts you will be pushing your brake continuously but just keep slipping down because of the steep angle. Stop from time to time to enjoy the surroundings. Don’t get distracted while driving.
In the rainy season you can expect landslides blocking the road. A bulldozer will make the road free again, but that takes time, sometimes even a couple of days.
What to expect
What you can expect is a lot of dust from the road. The many Jeeps on the road make sure that the dust will be more than a cloud. Wear a mask and sunglasses. You can expect simple, basic, small overnight lodges for a price of $2 a night. You might get punctures or damage on your motorcycle. Don’t panic, there are workshops at certain places and ways to get you help. Make enough breaks to refresh yourself, enjoy the environment and to make the engine cool down. One full tank of petrol should bring you up from Besisahar to Manang and back down. This depends on which motorcycle you have. You can opt to bring a plastic bottle with 1 liter petrol. There are places on the way that sell bottles petrol.
All mentioned are things that you have control over. The things you don’t have control over are of unimaginable beauty. Big and small waterfalls. The river at the bottom of the ravine. Forest and snow covered peaks. Water streams and hanging walk bridges. Hydro projects and Yaks. The list goes on and on. The motorcycle tour to Manang is at times hard work. Bumping from rock to rock. Slipping through mud. Don’t look around to the scenery while riding. Keep your eyes on the road and stop when you want to enjoy the surroundings and take pics. However hard working it might be, you can count on an experience that is both overwhelming and spectacular.
A video impression can be seen here https://youtu.be/tIOh0_C3xVY