Voyage de Bhutan
17th Oct 2012 – 31st Oct 2012
Karna Vijay Fulzele & Bindoo
So it was promised to the mountain gods during my pilgrimage to the glens of Ladakh that i shall be doing Bhutan next. Ladakh was done with a group of friends and had an enlightening experience. It is correctly said by the riders that you return to be a different person. I did. So got back in the grind of the city and not knowing the plan will or will not get materialize, one moves on. And one fine day it just happened. The Trip to Bhutan which was not even seen in the closest horizon came to life.
To start of the things got Bindoo (that is what i call my Motorcycle) sorted and changed all possible things which could have caused problems on the trip. Got new Tyres and checked all the ticks on the checklist for spares. So, Bindoo was ready and waiting to go. I took extra precautions as wanted to add a tinge of spice to the ride. I wanted to do it Solo.
Planning a solo ride in itself is quite easy and challenging in its own unique ways. One has to be extra careful about the safety and at the same time you have luxury of doing things your own way. One thing i have learnt from my ladakh trip is to travel as lite as possible. So, as per the plan packed minimum basic clothing and bunched in lot of warm stuff that shall surfice my riding conditions in Bhutan as it shall be relatively warm during the time i was visiting Bhutan.
Riding gear is mandatory for such rides as one shall be riding in unknown terrains which have water-crossings, slush, gravel roads and sometimes no roads. So one has to be prepared and assess the risk well before the ride starts itself. So one has to correctly select the spares one is carrying as it’s a trade off between weight and safety.
As everything is set I get ready to ride and the following are my experience though the days :
DAY 1 : Mumbai-Kolkotta-Bagdogra
Early start to the day where I have to catch an REALLY early flight, had everything already packed so just had to get on the riding gear as there wasn’t enough place in bags to keep the riding jacket and helmate. So walked into the airplane wearing raiding jacket and helmate in one hand, expression on the crews face was priceless. As the flight was from delhi there wasn’t enough place to keep my helmate so had to keep it in my hand all the while till kolkotta. Had a sweet sleep in my warm jacket and helmate provided a good support for sleeping. Reached kolkotta and had a connecting flight in 4 hours so decided to chill outside the airport. Observing trippy old school Yellow taxis going to and fro was fun. Got into the Baddogra flight which has a military Airbase which is available for civilians airplanes was a quick ride and in no time I reached Bagdogra. Took a rickshaw ride to the hotel where I dropped my stuff and was soon off to collect my bike which was at New Jalpaiguri Station. Took a sharing rick from the hirgway and reached the station in 6 rs. Got the paperwork sorted and unpacked my Bindoo with only one thought in my mind, nothing should break. It was a pleasant feeling that nothing was damaged apart from the side stand. Fired her and she started in the 3rd kick itself. I Had a big smile on the face. Went to sleep early as I start riding early the next day.
DAY 2: Silliguri-Gangtok
Got up relatively late and started quickly. The roads were breathtaking as I ride through the military areas with tall trees on both the sides. I could see a strip of sky above my head which is brodered by the tree on either side of road and when I look down the blue sky is reflected in tar roads. It was a pleasant start to my voyage. One has to be really careful while riding through villages as there can be animals appearing on the road from nowhere. So, one has to be really careful when you see animals and approach them slowly and cautiously. So as I crossed Teesta river which was one of the most charismatic view shear because of the size of the river I get onto a patch which is hardcore off road. The roads were BAD and if not done properly one can easily damage the motorcycle. So after a not so smooth ride I reach Gangtok I stay with a friend as an house guest. People in Gangtok are simple and sweet. Helpful by nature and friendly. Soon I got accustomed to the local greetings. Had good dinner and went off to sleep as I was tired.
DAY 3 : Gangtok – Around the City
Had to really start early as I had to get my passes sorted for nathula. Getting a pass for Nathula Pass for a motorcycle is a difficult task and if you are riding solo it can get tricky. Still, got my pass sorted and was off to submit the copies to respective departments, I had half day to spare. Went for local site seeing Rumtek Monestary, Ranka Monestry are the places one should vist near about gangtok. The city is small and surrounded by the mountains. So one could do a 360 degree de tour of the city. Being part of eastern side of india its dark be 6 PM and I was halfway my entire de tour. Afetr crossing Ranka Monestary I could just see road and nothing as the roads are covered with densely placed trees. There is a crazy noise about the Jungle when its dark, all the reptiles, insects and animals make a peculiar sound which results into jungle noise. Reached Gangtok after a small day on the bike and had to hit the bed as I have to prepare for the big day tomorrow.
DAY 4 : Gangtok – Tsongmo Lake – Nathu La – Gangtok
Now this day starts early and soon I cross the 1st check post for Nathu La where I become the center of attraction as I was on a motorcycle and with a Maharashtra registration which was unusual. When you riding to such remote places one has to be very careful about the time as people shall come and talk to you every now and then, but the trade off is the daylight that you loose even for 15 minutes for every 15 minutes chat with people. So if you are OK with riding in the night you can chat around and take your time. So at the first check point met a family from Mumbai and had a chat with them about the ride plan and off i was in no time. Road to Nathu La is crazy, only patch that is comparable to the Tanglang La in ladakh. Motorcycle was taking a toll because of the crazy road conditions. After riding for couple of hours i reach Tsongmo Lake (Changu Lake) where i was welcomed with a pair of Yak. The sight was breath taking where you see a big patch of green water in brown background and below blue skies. Had to stop for the essential break and clicked few picture and hydrated myself and was back on the seat. So from here the ride was just getting better and better. Came the point from where one has to take a left after submitting the documents towards Nathu la which is just 7kms. And from here the roads become big and turns become sharper. Once you reach Nathu La you just forget all the pain you took to reach that place as you see a BIG tricolor fluttering in the air. Its beyond picture and words what you feel at this place. Rode back y kms and took a left again for Baba Mandir which was a similar patch of road. Reaching Baba Mandir was a sigh of relief as i was hungry and saw a canteen operated by Indian Army serving hot coffee and magi. It was a great lunch and i was soon putting on my helmate to ride back home. As i was riding the sun started setting and it became colder and darker. Now i stop for a break and enjoy clouds covering my bike and sunrays next minute. So again the last leg of the day when i reach the point where i have to submit my last document suggesting that i came back alive from the border, i decide to take a 5 kms detour to hanuman Tok which is a hanuman mandir. Clicked few here aswell and procedded my ride back to the comfy bed of Gangtok.
Day 5 : Gangtok-Darjelling
Good and warm start to the day had some breakfast and went packing. Sorted my bike and met 2 riders from wardhaman. Abhik Saha riding a 220, teacher by profession and for fews days off for pujo so decided to ride. Chatted with him for a while and thn off I left for Darjelling.Highway was packed due to landslides and stuff and cars were stuck. I zipped thru traffic and started climbing for Darjelling.In no time the the roads became glens and got steeper and steeper..what climbs.. Must be around 30 degrees on scale.After climbin for about 5 kms stopped at lovers point. The meeting point for rangit and teesta and what a view.Lovely to the core. Met around 5 guys from Darjelling and yes they were exactly similar to our group do back home. Makin fun of one guy who was like dodo head and who lost his stuff.Had laughs and left for Darjelling. And now had the best roads ever to ride in my lifetime yet.Loops that don’t end.. And by tht I really mean that they don’t end. 40 kms of the loop..right and left and right and left and right and left and left and left and left and left.. Sharp turns..And to add to tht 10 mts visibility as clouds have taken over and as a sweetener tea gardens with blue skies and yellow sun. It was the best route so far.. Loved it..
Day 6 : Darjelling _ Phuntsholing
– Got up early. Motorcycle saddled up. And first “issue” of the ride, Saw a crack in welding. Will get it sorted on the way. Kaventers for breakfast cheese toast baked bean and coffee.Started riding. Approx a n hour of riding and got a welding guy and got her sorted. Started riding and kept asking for siliguri insted of teesta. And thats the blunder I did.People guided me to siliguri and tht was a route directly to city not via teesta.So from ghuum I got diverted and got to kno this after 10 kms. Anyways kept riding. Saw 3 kids on avenger and asked them route.They were going to siliguri. So was following them. But they were cutting my speed. Hardly a km with them and their bike front discs stopped working.. Asked them to stop. Did some jugad and they were ready to go.. I flyed by. Man now I can say when u r lost the unknown brings the best.. Such steep roads.. Sharp turns.. Green jungle.. Crazy..tea garden parallel on other side of road.. Unknown did bring the best in me.. I was screaming with joy.. Roads were amazing.. I was zipping pass. Saw an enfield in rear view, didn’t bother as many locals have the enfields.. I stopped for pics and saw a karnataka number, asked him where was he goin.. So patna was the answer..asked him to stop for cup of tea.. Shared few notes and got to kno he was returning from bhutan.. As per him its damn neat place.. Bid adieu to him and off I was. Crossed the same junction as I did on day 1.. And ripped passed the 20 kms stretch before Coronation Bridge. And what roads I had after that.. 1st time on ride I must have touched 100+ kmph.. Nice roads wid scenic view. It was 20 odd kms from the bridge and had to stop for food. Had 4 samosas at a local joint and back on track. On the road met a fmaily from chandigarh who were doing bhutan. His name was parminder and was laughin my ass off as I was riding as parminder reminded me of something (khichdi). After this heavenly ride the hell began..8 kms of HARDCORE no road situation till jaigaon. it tested me , motorcycle and the will to not stop. Last song to play on that was rise from dark knight returns..Did that and stopped for few snaps at hashimira. 18 kms more and I was on border, clicked few at the gate and went in to sort out things..and I met the person for the things. Got myself a nice hotel room and had nice food. Now can’t wait to ride tomorrow to timphu, but before that I will sort out all passes..
Day 7 : Phuntsholing- Paro
Again an early start and wait for things to happen, a early morning ride to India(nice to say tht even though its 100 mtrs away) to take photocopy..Had puri bhaji which was yumm..and back to hotel room to sort out things. Reached the immigration office at 9 and got clicked for paperwork. As I was alone I did 501 of travelling with a group which went ahead as I had problem on road. A local officer helped me as I did use 501 to the core..It works everywhere.. 501 roxx.. Got my permit at least 2 hrs early and went to RTO for bike permit.. It got sorted in 5 mins.. Now back to hotel to pack stuff and off to thimpu.. Man what a ride. Only curves.172 kms of clouds covering road where visibility was less than 10 meters sometimes. It was crazy. Had a lunch stop after 70 odd kms and had lovely samosa and dosa. Now continuous ride for next 100 kms where darkness took over. Stopped at a place to click few and herd some noise. Was shit scared. Started riding and riding and riding. Reached paro and did 501 for hotel room which I got and how.. nice place.. Had food and off to sleep. Back hurting like mad.
Day 8 : Paro – Paro
Start of the lazy day with puri bhaji. And then was sorting the night stay in hotel paro. Hotel Paro guys were sweet enough to set me in a special room for guides. Then went to Ta museum and paro dzong and clicked lovely pics of the buildings and landscape. Met few students who were exited to see my bike and they ask to click few pics on my motorcycle. And crazy 19 year olds were as stupid as the 19 year old from Mumbai or anyother place. Went to dazeul dzong and did a hike. When i saw Tiger nest monastery I promised my self to hike to tiger nest as a personal target. Came bac to hotel shifted stuff and went for a stroll around paro. Full moon on a dark night is something to roam aroung aimlessly in Paro. Did some little shopping. Came back to hotel and got talking to manager who is a national level champ in tycondo. He offered me the local stuff ehich was indeed pretty good. Met a family from colaba and few from Calcutta. Agroup from Calcutta is having a cooking staff travelling with them. Royalty bloody. One should experience stuff locally when travelling.
Day 9 : Paro – Chalela Pass – Thimpu
Started early, really early and rode to chalela pass. And man it was cold. Really cold and how. Had no breakfast good I had choc and a family from assam helped me with few biscuits. Was really sweet of them. Then met a couple from Belgium and clicked them a pic and they returned the favour. Then met few ladies frm Switzerland and exchanged few notes on Bombay. Left from there and in no time I was on the way to thimpu. What a great ride. Loved it. As I entered thimpu straight went to immigration to extend my stay. And the ladies did help me. Ppl were waiting from one day but she got me sorted in an hour.. Sweet of her.. Then was off to ratc(RTO) to sort bike permit..and the guys were sweet enough to help me in 10 mins and arrange for my route to hotel as my phone was off. He was even ready to drop me. I asked him to tell me the route and I was near the hotel parked and figured out the place. In the mean while I found a 7 month old RE showroom and stamped that place with Inddiethumpers sticker. And made a new friend in tashi who has invited me for a party next night. Now chilling in hotel and ll go around town in a while to see around. I don’t understand that i am in bhutan or Calcutta, only Bangla in my ears..
Day 10 : Thimpu – Thimpu
Had a lazy start to the day which was followed by site seeing. Buddha point was amazing. Went to thimpu dzong and figured out it was closed, so was chilling and met a guy from ministry who is the project coordinator for GNH(Gross National Happiness).. Great concept.. exchanged cards with him. Tomorrow I start descending home and evening had a crazy party (cant write much about it for obvious reasons).
Day 11 : Thimpu – Bhumtang
Heavy head for obvious reasons, got up and got ready lo leave. Had a good breakfast and was ready to roll. Rode for an hour for the 1st stop and clicked few snaps..post which it was a non stop 4 hour of riding.. It was going on and on and on and on.. Had to stop for lunch and did stop at a small but lovely place..Stamped that place with Inddiethumper sticker and was off for round 2.. Man the roads were never ending and it got pitch dark.. Got lost.. Saw a board which says welcome to bumthang but post tht didn’t find a single soul on road.. So rode in pitch darkness and alone for an hour.. Man this was some experience, finally saw some lights so went to the house to ask directions, guy said 30 kms away. Saw few cars coming and I rushed to them to ask if I was on right track. Then started following them and did that for 30 odd kms. It was longest ride of the ride and the longer one is yet to come. Found a lovely place in Kaila guest house and did put at the place.. It also has a ackuri which is pretty good. Off to bed off to sleep as I had a decent dinner..
Day 12 : Bhumtang – Mongar
Started late. Had heavy breakfast and had myself stuffed.. Went to jakar dzong and had a quick look and started riding.. Was riding non stop for 90 mins and stopped for a snap and again back on road.. Now was the time of the ride.. Had a flirty moment with the road and had few bumps but bindoo held on the road.. Had water and started. Saw an amazingly huge waterfall and was getting psychedelic mountain moment with every look mountains were breathing and going inwards..was crazy.. Now was the time of the fall.. A steep gravel track where I left accel and had a little fall.. Nothing happened but picked up bindoo instantly. But gear shifting gave a little problem for a while ..then front break gave an issue so fixed it in middle of a jungle..Had a moment and started riding.. Roads wew gettin bigger and with less curves.. Reached mongar in daylight and got checked in a good place.. Had a local dinner and back to hotel to look forward to the real climax tomorrow.. Longest distance to cover..godspeed..
Day 13 : Mongar- Samdrup Jhonkar
Awesome early start to the day with an early breakfast.. And soon off to the road. Pretty much did ride for an hour to stop for the first snap. And yes the road was amazing.. In couple of hours was at tarshigang dzong where the natives were practicing for the mask dance which is in November. While coming back saw the offering to the gods and which was smelling like heaven.. Made of fermented wheat..BEER.. Soon left from there and had to check the air pressure.. So stopped at couple of places to do that.. Got it sorted.. Now it was the time for perfect climax to the ride..50 kms of literally no roads.. kept riding.. So patch ended and for few kms good roads.. Again bad patches.. it was a perfect off roading track with my fully loaded motorcycle. Then came the road to hell. It was at a very radical inclination and I have to ride up.. It was crazy.. But bindoo did damn well.. As the off road got over started a patch of well matted road and ride was smooth.. Playing hide and seek with the setting sun and got close to samdrup jhonkar and wow what a view few kms away from city.. Got checked in to a place called hotel park which is a lavish name but a basic place.. Had lovely mutton and chapati and off to sleep.. Last riding day of my journey tomorrow..godspeed..
Day 14 : Samdrup Jhonkar – Guwahati
Usual and normal start to the day.. Took my time to saddle up.. Met a guy from Ladakh who was tryin to get into bhutan as he was alone he was having problem.. Had a word wid him and locals and was off.. Went to samdrup jhonkar gate and back to bhutan after getting out just for fun.. Nothing much to see in that dzong. Again came back to gate and did 501 to get bhutan currency converted to Indian.. Police guys helped.. Was off on road to get 100 kms done for day.. Road were nice so stopped for samosa and got a new bell which says ramos wid red for bindoo as old one got lil fucked.. Soon hit the road and welcoming me was a 15 kms of fucked up patch.. Rode through n got a nice patch soon and ripped the road for 1st time.. Reached guwahati.. Stopped for a while and met a BABA who has done it all.. No wonder he is a baba now.. Full of confidence.. Got to learn few things frm him.. Checked in hotel got my boot sorted which gave way on last day.. Such a cliché.. Had biryani at roadside stall..and had a word wid few.. Chilling at hotel and now came for dinner at sunflower in pan bazar..
Day 15 : Guwahati – Delhi – Mumbai
Indeed the last day of my lovely ride.. I donno why i am feeling tired and wish I spent 5 mins extra at every point.. Went and got bike packed and did paperwork and came to hotel, had food and now packed and sitting in hotel loBby for the time.. So a crazy driving session to airport and made friends with spice jet guys at counter.. Now waiting for flight.. Wonder how its over.. Man I donno wht m feeling..
So the ride to bhutan is over.. Or I can say I am BHUTANNED (as suggested by Amey Morye).. What I take back home is tonnes of memories and new way of looking at things..doing any ride solo gives u different perspective abt things..amazing learnin experience..got lost in jungles..got scared..made new frnds..learned new things..got lil disciplined..got to kno when to push oneself harder..whn not to..whn to keep calm..when to enjoy..so the ride is over but the sprit to ride remains..next is runn of kutch..Godspeed.