Last month, five friends set out from Pokhara, Nepal with mini-paragliders and 1950’s Royal Enfield motorcycles on a ten-day mission to the once forbidden Kingdom of Mustang in Tibet. The group of seasoned athletes and travelers made up of Nick Greece, Jamie and Isabella Messenger, and Cody and Cherise Tuttle, didn’t finalize their plans until a week out, which was kind of of the point. They wanted an adventure and a good ol’ figure-it-out style trip. Half the group was relatively new to paragliding—the other half was new to motorcycling. The table was set for some memorable experiences.
Here, photographer Cody Tuttle shares a few of their favorites shots from the road.
Photo: Jamie Messenger, exploring the endless possibilities of flight with his new 5 pound Ozone mini-wing paraglider, which will be released this year.Blue Eyed Betty, Royal Enfield #1, breaks down 45 minutes into day one of our ten-day trip into the Mustang. One of countless mechanical problems we would encounter on this trip—from fouled plugs, broken fuel injectors, flat tires, broken gear shifters, lost mufflers, broken rock guards, bent brake levers, and leaking gaskets, just to name a few.Nick Greece, Jamie Messenger, and Cody Tuttle getting acclimatized to their bikes after a first push on day one. This was the last gas station and paved road we would encounter. Beyond here, gas was sold along the dirt road in 1-liter soda bottles.The roads to Mustang were incredibly challenging on these 1950’s-era Royal Enfield motorcycles. With no real suspension and no planned itinerary, we set our sights on the Tibetan border with high hopes that our bikes would make it all the way. We faced a lot of disappointment but also redemption along the way.Who doesn’t want to race through the desert on a motorcycle? When we rolled into town, these kids were in hog heaven! We would later realize that these lovely children utilizing the bikes as jungle-gyms broke the shifting linkage and left us with only first gear on the black Enfield.The Tiji festival in Mustang commemorates the victory of Buddha’s incarnation, Dhorji Sonam, over a demon called Ma Tam Ru Ta, who caused storms and droughts to destroy people’s houses and livestock. The dance performed by the monks of Lo Manthang, Mustand during the three day festival reenacts the evils perpetrated by Ma Tam Ru Ta, the birth of Dhorji the demon’s son, and an attempt by Dhorji to return the demon to the Buddha realm.
It’s worth seeing the festival, but only as part of a larger trip to the region as the tourists outnumber the monks at this point. This is great for the economy, but leaves one feeling a bit like a spectator at a staged event.Monks in the walled city of Lo Manthang in Mustang, once a forbidden kingdom of Nepal, take part in the Tiji festival.A young monk is caught off guard by the sound of an explosion during the Tiji Festival’s final evening.Large mani wheels surround the king’s palace in Lo Manthang. Each spin of the wheel is believed to release good Karma onto the community.Isabella Messenger watches as a local lama hangs a new string of prayer flags above the city of Lo Manthang. This became the site of our first flight in the Mustang at 3900 meters in elevation.Nick Greece kites his ultralight mini-wing in front of an ancient Stupa outside of Lo Manthang. We stopped at numerous spots along the route like this where history attempted to withstand the constant abuse that the harsh environments of Upper Mustang pelted at these structures daily.Jamie Messenger carves his way through the rugged terrain and thin air after launching from the ruins of an ancient castle that watched over the village of Lo Manthang.Messenger and Tuttle on their first flights in the Mustang outside the walled city of Lo Manthang.Tuttle and Jamie Messenger soaring the sandstone ridges that surround the small farming villages outside of Samar. The green farm fields are the only spots of color in a barren landscape that is the Upper Mustang.Greece approaching the high roads of the Tibetan Plateau as the clouds break and reveal the majestic Annapurna Range. The first three days were overcast with 60 mph winds obscuring our view to ten feet in front of the bikes. Once the weather broke, the route revealed was nothing short of a religious experience.Isabella Messenger prepares her wing as our team pioneered a new flying site near Samar, overlooking the Annapurna Range. Isabella and her husband, Jamie, live in Pokhara, Nepal where they fly tandems, and help run Karma Flights, which is a grassroots nonprofit working in education and, now, earthquake relief in the Gorkha region.Messenger taking in the view of 8,091-meter Annapurna 1. Launching at 4,200 meters poses challenges as the air is quite thin, and the landing speeds are much higher. In the Mustang region the flying window lasts from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. at which point the wind picked up to catastrophic speeds. We made sure that we were on the ground well before this happened as getting hurt that far from any hospital was not an option.Cody Tuttle checking out one of the many cave dwellings that once served as the homes to the Tibetan people north of Lo Manthang.Tuttle pushing the last running Royal Enfield all the way to the Tibetan border.Nick Greece and Jamie Messenger taking in the view of the rugged Himalaya and leaving the earth behind.
The group is also making a short film on their trip, check out the trailer here.