Infinite Mountain Adventure, a tour operator based in Brisbane, recently signed up with Cycle Tours Global (CTG) in order to promote their cycling tours to a new and worldwide audience of ardent travellers and cyclists. Director Tony Olejnicki (TO) met up with Bruce Robertson from CTG at Atélier de Velo in Sydney.
CTG: So what is Infinite Mountain Adventure all about?
TO: Our main purpose is mountaineering and we are one of the largest providers at Everest Base Camp. I use my exercise physiology background to help people get the most out of their high altitude adventure. We only opened our doors in 2009 and added cycling tours in 2010, concentrated on the Annapurna region.
CTG: Do you use local or international guides?
TO: We use all local staff both to keep costs down and to provide our clients with the most authentic Nepalese experience possible. However we invest a lot into training our guides to the highest standards to give clients what they hope for and expect. This also helps the local people and economy.
CTG: Why did you start cycle tours in Nepal and why should someone go on one?
TO: You can cover much more ground than on a trek and in a shorter period – good for people with only limited time available. Cycling also gives you a different perspective and is more dynamic – particularly downhill! They are also building more roads, which opens up more areas to bikes.
CTG: What is included and what do you need to bring with you?
TO: We pick up our bikes in Kathmandu. All accommodation is included – B&B in Kathmandu and Pokhara, all meals on the track. You should bring trekking shoes as we do put down the bikes every now and again to explore the scenery – no SPD’s or cleats!
CTG: Is it mainly about the scenery and the descents, or what cultural or historical aspects of the tour can people expect?
TO: Well everyone loves going downhill and the scenery is spectacular. However the guide will show and explain plenty of culture on the way – including the ancient salt route, the Muktinath temple complex and the many monasteries on and off the beaten track as well as vestiges of the recent royal past in Nepal. Take time to look at the ammonite fossils in the Kali Gandaki valley – they’re also sacred to Hindus.
CTG: Is the cycling all on-road and what are the surfaces like? Is there anything for people who prefer to ride on the flat?
TO: Most of the riding is on-road – mainly dirt roads. However there are plenty of opportunities for more technical or single-track alternatives. But nothing is flat in Nepal - even the Kathmandu Valley rides.
CTG: What’s your most popular tour and why?
TO: The Annapurna Fun Ride for all the reasons above. The fun is the downhill (although you do have to do some uphill as well!). You need to be fit and comfortable on a mountain bike – the altitude is only from 2,800m and distances per day are relatively low with plenty of stops. At only 10 days it’s ideal for anyone with limited holiday time. The Upper Mustang Ride is very rewarding but less accessible – as well as being at a higher altitude, the Kingdom of Mustang is a restricted area requiring a permit.
CTG: Finally, outside of Nepal where are your favourite cycling routes Tony?
TO: The Australian outback is hard to beat – I love Cairns to Bamaga in Cape York. However one of my most memorable trips was an unsupported 4-week tour from Santiago in Chile down to Tierra del Fuego.