Gurudongmar

This is an attempt to take you readers to the land of the lamas, the Northern part of the state of Sikkim. Here people still welcome strangers with a warm smile that has kindness and trust. Yes, trust is something which we have lost, a gift of rapid urbanisation, where one has to lock up every prized possession or use an electronic alarm system or even better a 24×7 security guard. North Sikkim is a land where belongings of people need no protection may be because here people belong to the land. Everything is protected by the wind, water, earth, fire and the sound echoing from the mountains emitted by blowing of the Dungchen (Tibetan horn) from the distant monastery. Bikes and belongings can be kept on the road unguarded for hours or even days and no one would even touch it. The only risk would be the tourists visiting the place from the so called Civilized & Modern cities.

Through this write-up I have tried to provide the readers with a sneak peek into the beautiful and serene world of North Sikkim. But one has to be present to smell the flowers and forests, hear the rivers flowing freely as if singing to celebrate the essence of life, the wind blowing through the green leaves of the forest acts as a percussionist to the song of life. When surrounded by mountains the mighty Himalayas would make you realise no matter how much you have achieved there is a lot to be done, you have only touched the foot of the mountain called LIFE.

After months of calculations, numerous meetings and some last minute decisions we were able to begin this ride. We the members of Rolling Wheels Bikers Club were finally able to kick off to explore the Northern part of Sikkim which shares its borders with China, Bhutan and Nepal. The kick off time was scheduled at 9pm & ‘Team Caravan’, a reputed Motorcycle riders club of Kolkata was there to see us off and after all last minute checkups, we were able to kick off at 11:45 pm 20th April 2012 with the following team & their Motorcycles.

The riders and their machines:-

Name / Alias

Motorcycle

Colour

Motorcycle Name

Ankan Bajaj Avenger 200 DTSI

RED

Not Yet Decided

Bhaskar Bajaj Avenger 220 DTSI

SILVER

Not Yet Decided

Bijit Bajaj Discover 135 DTSI

BLACK

Not Yet Decided

Biswaroop Bajaj Avenger 220 DTSI

BLACK

Not Yet Decided

Preetam Bajaj Pulsar 220 DTSI

BLACK

Not Yet Decided

Sanjoy Hero Honda CBZ Extreme

BLACK

Not Yet Decided

Shantanu / Bapi Royal Enfield Bullet 350 STD

BLACK

816

Soumendra / Sammy Honda Unicorn Dazzler

BLACK

Not Yet Decided

Swarnadip / Swarna Yamaha Fazer

BLUE

Not Yet Decided

Somjeet / Bobo Bajaj Pulsar 180 DTSI

SILVER

WHISTLER

Krishnendu / Krish Royal Enfield Bullet 350 STD

RED & SILVER

1052

Tirthendu / Tirtho Bajaj Avenger 220 DTSI

BLUE

BUDDY

After filling all the tanks to their limit from RW’s trusted Indian Oil petrol pump in Dakhineswar, we were able to flag off at around midnight. With Gurudongmar lake in our minds it was time for some vvrrooom vvrroooom.

The planned route was to take NH34 and reach Siliguri, then Gangtok and explore further, but soon we had to use the clutch and brakes more than the accelerator, thanks to the crater rich roads of national highway 34. There is nothing much a rider can do about it except putting the shock absorbers to test and subjecting the motorcycle to extreme riding conditions that manufacturing companies can’t even imagine. These craters are so well camouflaged at night that spotting a stingray buried under sand becomes easier and thats not the end of it………accompanied by their siblings small potholes wait eagerly to grow into craters with each passing vehicle, making our progress even slower.

This is my first ever Travelogue and hopefully not my last. I have tried to capture the essence of motorcycle touring in words, which are next to impossible, especially by a half educated out of work guy like me who has only written incomplete answer scripts at school and college. I am Bobo.

So, after crossing Barasat all 9 of us had our first quick stop to re-group and ride on ahead as Swarna, Ankan and Bhaskar would join us later. This is the point after which we came across some really bad roads. Our next stop was Krishna Nagar where most of us had our post dinner ‘dinner’. Swarna and Ankan were waiting for us there for hours. They were two new members who few of us knew and no one had ridden with. Later on these two became the most integral part of Rolling Wheels. We were in for a surprise as Swarna showed some exceptional riding skills and proved to be one of the best upcoming lead riders of Rolling Wheels. Ankan showed some outstanding team man spirit about which I will tell later on. The team size grew to 11 & with the two new members we started to move ahead negotiating potholes every now and then. Due to poor lights very few were missed and after horse riding for hours and just before reaching Behrampur Sammy announced “hawa berachhe?? Tyre pressure is leaking!!!” This is one of the cons of using a tubeless tyre. Sammy another rookie rider never showed any signs of being on his first group ride. Later on in the ride Swarna, Sammy, Ankan and I bonded so deeply that we knew our friendship would last a lifetime.

Anyways….after close inspection of Sammy’s bike it was discovered that his front wheel was out of shape and the rim had a bad dent on it. The bad roads had done their job, even his rear wheel was not spared but the damage was not as bad as the other. We were in need of a pumper and the club’s pumper was left back in Kolkata. This where Swarna surprised us again, pulling out an air pumper from his luggage, something rare from someone on his first ride. We somehow managed to ride on with air pumping breaks every now and then, after a few kilometres ahead we found a tyre repairing shop and woke up the guy who was a bit annoyed because it was very early in the morning. He tried to bend the metal with his hammer but no result, all of us tried our hands at the hammering but it proved to be futile attempt. It was in a place just before Dhulian & Krish announced he was feeling sleepy and it would be dangerous for him and the team to ride on ahead, as most of us started the ride just after returning from their respective offices & businesses. Krish, a very experienced rider with a cool head has great decision making ability under pressure and a very important part of Rolling Wheels from day one. Krish instantly received support from Swarna, Ankan, Tirtho, Bijit and Sammy. They decided to take a break while the others would ride on. Just before Malda, Sanjoy, Biswaroop and Preetam decided to take a break. Preetam another new rider on his first group ride proved to be a very fast learner and completed the ride making hardly any mistakes. Preetam not only survived the bad roads, harsh weather and the back breaking off roads but also the non-stop leg pulling by me, Swarna, Sammy, Ankan and Tirtho. The assaults were continuous at every quick stop and night stays & he was not even allowed to attend the nature’s call peacefully but he always used to enjoy it with a smile. A nice friend and partner he is.

Bapi and I(Bobo) continued to ride on towards Siliguri, it was in Malda I found out that there was something wrong with the fuel supply of my bike. I found a Bajaj service centre and got my bike checked and the carburettor cleaned. The team was now divided in three groups, Group 1 Bapi and Bobo, Group 2 Sanjoy, Biswaroop and Preetam, Group 3  Krish, Swarna, Ankan, Gama, Bijit and Sammy. All three groups decided to meet up at Siliguri.

By this time Group 3 had a power nap of two hours and with this partial charge they managed to reach Malda with lots of air filling breaks. In Malda Sammy found a Honda service centre, but as usual they were unable to provide any service. Instead, they informed that there was a mechanic specialised in this kind of repair beneath the hotel Kalinga. Sammy & the others rushed to the mechanic who proved to be a true specialist and repaired the rim within a couple of hours. The team booked a room at hotel Kalinga for bath and freshen up. Soon five of them started snoring on the bed meant for two, so Krish dozed off on a chair. The kick off time was set at 3pm but the team started off at 5pm thanks Krish who woke up the others. By this time Group 1 of Bapi and Bobo reached Siliguri, and Bapi got his bike serviced. In siliguri I realised that my bike was feeding on the engine oil too fast. I went on to buy 2 bottles of engine oil just to be on the safer side. This decision proved to be right as my bike performed very well but demanded engine oil top ups every morning. Had I not carried the extra engine oil I surely would have ended up with a seized engine.

In the mean time Bapi arranged a hotel with A.C rooms and group 2 joined us at around 8pm. While entering Siliguri we came across some fallen trees, blocked traffic and some rain, we came to know that there was a storm and heavy rainfall was expected. Bapi immediately called up Krish of group 3 to convey the message. Bapi, a veteran rider of Rolling Wheels & riding partner of Krish since day one of the formation of the club has infinite knowledge of routes and great time and distance calculation, the best hill riding skills that I have come across. With the message conveyed group3 decided for a night stay at hotel Embassy in Raigunj. The kick off for next day was fixed at 6am by Krish but as usual the team kicked off at 7am to meet with us at Siliguri. The delay occurred since the entire team could not sleep the whole night due the everlasting attacks of mosquitoes. It was at 4 am that Swarna discovered that his Android phone had some software that produces a sound wave inaudible by human ears but acts as an insect repellent. The late discovery resulted in a lot of curses which quickly converted to Cheers & thanks and the team could catch some sleep. Moral of the story is, always carry mosquito repellents no matter where you ride in India & do not rely on budget hotels to provide this service. After a sound sleep and good weather group 3 reached Dalkhola at around 11am and had a 2hrs breakfast followed up by a refuelling session. Dalkhola express way is considered the best part of the route where the team could open up the throttle for some high speed riding.

At around 12 noon Bhaskar joined us at Siliguri and I was surprised. Bhaskar, an amazing man in his early 60’s is full of energy and never hesitated to crack jokes with guys younger than his son. With his riding skills and experience he can easily out run any young biker full on adrenaline. At around 2 pm the entire team was united for the first time…. All Twelve of us…………… The Dirty Dozen.

 

1

 

Our next destination was Mirik, where I have a cousin posted & arrangement of fooding and lodging would not be an issue. Shortly after leaving Siliguri the team decided to grab a quick group lunch at Rangoli hotel. This is where disaster struck. At such an early stage of our journey suddenly Bijit had a seizure just after having lunch. It was Tirtho’s quick thinking that saved Bijit’s tongue from being sliced into two; he shoved the spoon with which he was having lunch into Bijit’s mouth in order to prevent him from biting it & also  administering CPR alongwith. All of us were worried dead about what was to happen next. Krish’s cool nerves kicked in, phone calls and enquires were made about local doctors and nearest medical facilities and Bijit was taken to the nearest hospital for full check up. After going through Bijit’s medical history and thorough check-up it was found that Bijit had a similar attack 18 years ago. After multiple opinions,discussions & debates, consultation with the doctors Bijit was declared fit to continue the ride. Krish made the call and the team was asked to ride on towards Mirik but few of us stayed back to accompany Krish & Bijit who would start after an hours rest. Bijit can be best described as a man always wearing a smile, no matter how bad a situation is. Later he proved himself to be among the fittest riders when it came to high altitude riding. Relieved and excited the team started off to have the taste of hill riding for the first time on this journey, but it was dark soon and the young team members with no prior hill riding experience managed to navigate through the dark mountain curves cautiously. The entire team reached Mirik and reunited at around 8pm where an awesome dinner of chicken and roti was consumed in no time and warm beds greeted us at the hotel arranged by my cousin.

Mirik is a small hill station with relatively small tourist footfall. Its main attraction is the Mirik lake which is home of thousands of carps (fish species). Fishing is not allowed here, instead the tourists along with locals feed the fishes from a bridge on the lake with puffed rice and bread sold by local vendors on the side of the road. Feeding fishes is considered as an act of holy deed in the Buddhist religion. Post dinner I got separated from the group as I joined my cousin in his room for some chit-chat and we ended up drinking a lot of vodka. My body was tired and in no time I fell like a log of TIMBER and I was out of the game. Next morning I woke up to a loud noise, someone was beating on the door as if trying to break it down. It was the boy from the hotel where we had dinner last night. To my horror he announced the team had left towards Gangtok without me. I checked my mobile and it had 28 missed calls and I slept over it. My team waited for me for a long time and then left with utter disgust at my negligence. While the team was waiting most of the new members went around Mirik Lake spending some quality time and finally kicked off at around 8:20am and reached Peshak way side inn at 11:45 am for a quick lunch on Peshak road after Ghoom Junction. It was not before 11:00 am that I could kickoff after calling up Sanjoy for the team’s whereabouts & I was riding crazy through the twists and turns of the mountain. Thankfully there was nearly no traffic except the one army truck and a couple of local vehicles. The road was in great condition and I let loose my hill riding skills. This was the best ride I had through the entire trip. At 12:30pm I reunited with my team and everyone was happy to see me, most of them had finished their food by then but everyone waited till I had my fill and we started rolling at 1:15pm after a brief photosession at the request of the Restaurant owner. Our next stop was Gangtok.

On the way towards Gangtok we rode through some very beautiful forests and good roads. Just as we crossed into Sikkim border I realised that the rear tyre of my bike suffered a puncture. Tirtho stayed back to fix the tube while the rest of the team continued towards Gangtok. Tirtho a man of more words and less hair (receding hair line), a great team man, an experienced rider, a great lead and on top of it he is fun both on and off the bike.

We reached Gangtok at 4:45pm. It took us some time to find a hotel with a parking space large enough to park 12 motorcycles. By then it was too late to get necessary documents/permission for North Sikkim as the office closes by 4 pm. One needs to get special permission to travel to the remote parts of North Sikkim as it shares its boundary with China and military presence is everywhere. This was bad news as the next day was Sunday and the office remains closed the entire day, this meant that we had to stay an extra day at Gangtok. For most of us this Sunday was probably the most boring and frustrating day of our entire life, there was nothing to do except to stare at the bikes and the luggage eagerly waiting to rip the road. Finally with all the paper work done we managed to start rolling on Monday at around 9 am. The team was making good progress given the fact that this was fairly a new team consisting of riders with no hill riding experience but our progress was stopped by rain and the team had to make a quick stop near Mangan in order to get into their water proof gear. With innumerable photography stops the team finally managed to reach the Seven Sisters water fall at around noon. Krish realised that everyone stopped at about every turn to take a quick snap and it was this realisation that prompted him to take up the role of a cowboy. He did not allow anyone to stop & drove us ahead like a herd of cattle & it was not before Mangan that we could stop & that too was a quickie.

We reached Tung check post & were stopped for papers verification. Suddenly we were informed that we would not be allowed to go any further as the road was closed due to land slide which happened just moments before we reached Tung. After some persuasion & convincing by Krish,Bapi & Tirtho we were allowed to cross the check post but we had to take an alternate route not used by regular vehicles. This route is actually a 6 feet wide road which is meant for villagers to travel on foot to bring wood & rations from the forest. This road directly ascends to the top of the mountain and descends to the other side which is Chungthang. The road was made of stones & pebbles & in one stage we were actually riding on a slide zone where portions of the road had slid off. In some places thick layers of mud made us slide towards the cliff due to the extraordinary steepness. Considering it a walking route is fun & healthy but to consider it as a motorable road makes us feel sick. In my opinion this was the toughest part of our entire trip. This is one rare place where I saw a Maruti Gypsy & another reputed 4X4 vehicle revving, jumping & skidding at their limits to make their way up. The adventure ended Just after crossing Chungthang where we were stopped by an army patrolling team waiting for us with medical aid. The check post at Tung had sent a wireless message about our risky accent and the patrolling team was amazed to see all of us in one piece and unhurt. They offered us honorary dinner and night stay as recognition to the task of crossing the wretched road but we could not accept the offer as we had to reach Lachung if we were to reach Zero point the next day. After lots of handshakes, congratulations and best of lucks from the Army Jawans the team continued towards Lachung.

 

3 4

Sanjay could not ride at his full potential due to poor lights of his bike. Sanjay, a teacher who has the passion of motorcycle touring shows great temperament when it comes to riding long, a very good singer and great with accounts. His money management and accountancy skills have earned him the post of accountant of every event of Rolling Wheels, a great guy to hang out with. With darkness descending on the mountains very quickly it was pitch dark very soon, myself and Krish escorted Sanjay to Lachung providing extra lights. When we finally reached Lachung at 8pm everyone was wet, cold, hungry and shivering due to the strong winds. To add to our woes it was pitch dark and there was nothing open but luckily we found a hotel and it turned out to be a good one. The team took no time in getting out of their riding gear and reaching the bar and I downed a few drinks in no time and the party began. The team started to gel up for the first time which resulted in some strong bonds and friendships that would last a lifetime. I let myself go with the flow of rum which is very cheap in Sikkim and in no time my shivering was gone. All of us enjoyed a lot singing to karaoke tracks and some outdoor dancing and after dinner everyone was fast asleep.

The next morning rum showed its magic, when everyone was shivering but I was outside in a half pant and vest brushing my teeth. The team started at 8am for Yumthang & Zero point. The team started to climb up some beautiful mountains and all around us were bunches of beautiful flowers growing into the wild. Suddenly, a few Kilometres before Yumthang valley there was an unending queue of tourist vehicles. There was no road since it was all washed away by a sudden land slide and the reminiscent of the road was a bolder strewn uphill climb with streams of water gushing through them from the melting ice that was all around us. Not all vehicles were able to go up, only the 4X4’s made it but we had only one wheel drive that too chain driven. Tirtho & Krish walked the path to inspect the condition and came up with a plan.

One rider at a time would climb up. When he climbs three other riders shall be walking beside him and support the bike in case he tends to fall. The rest of the riders shall place small boulders in the gaps of the large boulders and try to make create a road for the climber. When the climber crossed the road, he shall park his Bike and come to help while the next rider shall climb. Soon, the plan started to work and after putting a little collective effort the riders one by one crossed the road and reached the top. It’s rightly said in RW, “Where the is a Wheel, there is a way!!”

The collective team work of RW overcame the obstacle. With the entire team up we took a little rest to catch our breath but we were constantly questioned by the amazed & curious tourists about our journey and other details so we left in a hurry. It was time for a tea break at Yumthung before heading towards Zero point. After tea few of the members took their bikes and rode off into the valley and the rest of the members waited at the side of the road, it was then we came to know vehicles are not allowed into the valley and there was a huge fine if caught. Everyone started to shout in order to alert the guys exploring the valley on their machines, the shouting did prove to be effective as everyone managed to get back on the road without paying any fines, I always wondered that the shouting did save our team mates but would have surely alerted any official had there been one nearby. With all the bikes back on the road all of us started to climb up towards Zero point. The density of beautiful flowers was increasing with the increase in altitude, we made frequent stops to enjoy the beauty of the place and suddenly we spotted an entire valley on the other side was pink with flowers covering every inch of the ground. At 12800ft we spotted a deserted Shiv mandir and had a quick stop and continued heading towards Zero point. The team reached a point where a few tourists were stranded with 4×4 vehicles just a few kilometres away from Zero point. The road was blocked with a foot of snow, somehow we managed to push past the first phase of snow but after a turn the snow was more than 3 feet deep. The team stopped and started having fun in the snow and it was declared that this is our Zero point. After spending an hour there we started descending towards Lachung. On our way back two local ladies asked for a lift and Swarna and Biswaroop were more than eager to help. Biwsaroop a guy who has never gone on a motorcycle trip made it to the top without any complaints a good rider given that it was his first trip. With two local ladies as pillion we bid good bye to Yumthang valley. The over excitement of Biswaroop got the best of him, he somehow managed to lose control of his bike at a very slow speed and fell down while taking a turn with the native lady as his pillion. Luckily no one was hurt at all and the entire team made it back to Lachung by 12 noon. We had pre ordered our lunch and it was ready and in no time all the food had disappeared in our empty bellies. By 1:30 pm we kicked off towards Lachen. By now the team was familiar with hill riding and with very few stops and some good riding we managed to reach Lachen by 7 pm.

 

8 7

 

Everyone was dead tired and after a quick dinner the dumping process started, all of us were loaded with photographs of Yumthang and the memory cards of our cameras needed some data management. We dozed off quickly after the dumping session and slept late, thus the team started very late for the ultimate destination of this tour Gurudongmar lake.

The lake is named after Padmasambhava, the Indian tantric Buddhist who conducted rituals here. It is said that this is why, even at the height of winter, one portion of the lake never freezes.

Guru Nanak, founder of Sikhism religion, visited many of the places where Padmasambhava prayed at, including this lake in North Sikkim. At the local people’s request for water, Guru Nanak, with his ‘dang’ (a long stick) broke upper layer of ice & said, “Water of this lake will never freeze”. People named this lake ‘guru dang mar’ meaning created with the dang of Guru Nanak.

The scheduled time was 5am but the team stared at around 9am which is not recommended at all. The team made good time and covered tough terrains with relative ease. On our way up the last settlement named Thangu had a few shops which served various foods but we gorged on hot Maggie. Meanwhile Sammy’s bike was low on air pressure but we discovered that the air pumper was left at the hotel in Lachen. An Army Truck let us use their equipment in order to pump up the tyre of Sammy’s bike. It was some sort of air machine that was connected to the army truck and could start pumping air ones the truck is started up. It was during this amazing experience I saw an anti air craft gun and other weapons of whose name I do not know. Soon, we started again towards our ultimate destination Gurudongmar lake. We overcame some serious uphill climbing swiftly and reached the final check post at 11:45 am before Gurudongmar lake. We were the last group of civilians to be allowed to go any further as the climate gets very rough in the afternoon. The ideal time to visit the lake is early in the morning. We were briefed with some very important and life saving information by a jawan who sported a “veerappan” like moustache. We came to know that the oxygen level was 8% and declining and we were advised not to stop anywhere and start our return within 10 minutes of reaching Gurudongmar lake. The other strict instruction was not to venture off the dirt track as there were hundreds of active land mines scattered in the area. These mines were planted by the Indian army during the 1962 Indo-China war, the map containing the location of the mines was lost and no one knew where the mines were. After thorough inspection of our documents we were allowed to start the final leg of our journey at around 12:15 pm. After a few kilometres we came across a team of bikers from Siliguri who were unable to ride on as their under powered bikes refused to run on such terrain. There was no road and not a tree in sight. It was dry, dusty, sandy and a cold desert with rocks and pebbles all along the way, the nonstop wind blast kept us busy as we had to concentrate very hard to be able to stay on the road. The road, well there was no road all we saw was a dirt track made by the army’s huge trucks which constantly patrol the route searching for stranded tourists. The bikes of the other club which broke down were picked up by these trucks and were dropped off to Lachen. Unfortunately we had to avail this service too. Just 4 kms before Gurudongmar lake Bijit’s bike suffered a puncture and we discovered that the air pumper was left out at the hotel in Lachen. Bijit and his bike were carried off to the check post & there was nothing no one could do since as per rule he must accompany his bike until the checkpost. Meanwhile we kept rolling on towards Gurudongmar Lake, everyone was exhausted and so were the bikes & it was during this time that I was separated from the group. Instead of following the main dirt track I decided to follow the thin dirt track made by the hooves of yaks. These animals are very tough beasts covered in thick fur, completely equipped for survival at high altitude and extreme temperature, they are also known to eat snow and survive when there is no food and they travel in a herd and graze on the dry hard grass that grows near the lake or any other water source. Not a biker in sight I was all alone.  I decided to stick to the dirt track and not venture off too far due to the mine factor and the presence of caution signs every now and then warning us about the mines these made me bit more weary of the situation. I stopped my bike and killed the ignition, took off my helmet and gloves (kept on flying due to the strong winds) and realised I was ALIVE and life is all about going places and completing the journey and I had my bike (whistler) to take me where ever I wanted. I somehow managed to get back to my team following the yak path. It was the final accent to the lake where both the rider the machine could feel the lack of oxygen, it was here that the bikes of Swarna and Sammy proved what they are capable of. The 150cc Fazer and Dazzler went up with relative ease. I guess in a terrain like this the rider matters more than the machine where one has to literally make the bike climb up. We made it up to the top in small groups. Gurudongmar lake 17800ft was now among the list of achievements of team Rolling Wheels. Some of the bikes had to be pushed up the last few meters as there was very little oxygen for the bikes to burn the fuel and with every passing the oxygen levels depleted even more. Upon reaching the lake the sight was heavenly. The lake-The mountain-The snow washed away all the tiredness of our bodies and soul & renewed the energy levels of each and every biker. Here we came across a shrine like structure it was Sarvadharmasthal. A building constructed by the Indian army to pay its respect to all the religions of India, inside it there were symbols and idols of every major religion. In my opinion it symbolises the unity and diversity both at the same time that can be seen everywhere throughout our nation. It has a very clear message if the Gods can exist under one roof without any problems then so can we the people of India irrespective of their caste and religion.

 

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Earlier at the check post we were advised not to spend more than 10 minutes at the lake but we ended up spending nearly an hour. As a result some of the members felt the effects of AMS including me. I was down with severe head ache, but the worst hit was Ankan, the brainless soul with a huge heart. The bikers of the other club from Siliguri were not able to cover the last 200 meters, they lacked co-ordination and discipline. After observing this Ankan decided to help them and started to push their bikes up the rough incline. After pushing 10 odd bikes he collapsed due to lack of oxygen, it took him some time to regain his breath, he simply laid down on the face of the mountain for some time. By the time he could stand the damage was done, he had severe AMS and he could not see properly. With the help of Sammy and Swarna he somehow managed to ride back to Thangu. This is a very good example of the fact that under extreme conditions we should never cross the limits of our bodies, no matter how much our heart wants to push it a bit more. The last team of Rolling Wheels made it back to the check post safely but were angry to see no one waiting, they later came to know that the army did not allow anyone to stay at the check post. In the mean time Bijit was there at the check post with his bike where he had a lot of fun interacting with the army men. He also brought for us a handful of dry fruits which was offered by the army, he was waiting for another army truck to provide him and his bike a lift to Lachen. The entire team regrouped at the road side stall where everyone had hot water and hot food, the two most important things used to reverse the effects of AMS. This place served the best Maggie that I ever had in my life and I ended up consuming two plates, though my head ache was still there. Every rider rejuvenated with hot food made their way back to Lachen’s hotel where Bijit was waiting for us. Everyone was dead tired and dozed off to sleep very early. With some sound sleep the next morning was very refreshing. It was only the next morning that we realised that Bijit could have been easily taken up to the lake as a pillion. But I guess it is the low oxygen levels which prevents the mind from thinking the most obvious things. After a quick and light breakfast we had to start repairing the punctured tube of Bijit’s bike. Luckily I had a spare tube which was quickly replaced with the help of Swarna. From Lachen we started our way back home and our first stop was Mangan, we decided to a crash down at a hotel named Tashi view point was the best hotel of our entire ride, both in terms of living standard and food quality. The staffs were very efficient and the lady who owned the place ensured that everything was done perfectly. Due to shortage of time old Silk route was cancelled and the team started to roll towards Siliguri. Ankan, Swarna and myself stayed back to complete old Silk route. The next morning the team left for the next destination Birpara- Bhaskar’s home. We had a super heavy breakfast in our bed at Tashi view point. I went for a last minute toilet and had a bathroom accident. I twisted my ankle and fell, the pain was excruciating, I could not see for a couple of seconds, the ankle swelled up immediately. After an hour’s rest and massage from Swarna and Ankan I was able to stand up, but putting on the gumboots presented a challenge that proved to be more difficult than concurring Gurudongmar. As a result old Silk route had to be cancelled. We came back to Gangtok where taking off the boots posed an even bigger challenge because by then my right foot was swollen even more. The three of us decided for a night stay at Gangtok, in the mean time the other team reached Birpara Bhaskar’s house, where they had a detailed royal dinner comprising of different Bengali delicacies, about which we talk till this day. The three of us taking rest at Gangtok decided to take a break from the boring meals which consisted of eggs only, starting from the day when we first reached Gangtok and throughout the entire tour. I could not walk much but with Swarna’s help I managed to drag my right leg to a restaurant named Chopstick. We tasted meat for the first time in days our taste buds became alive, the food was hot tasty and fresh and thankfully had no eggs in them. After gorging on meat like carnivorous animals we suddenly realised Ankan was there in the hotel missing out all the action. After satisfying the animal inside us we became human once again thinking beyond food. We ordered a take away meal for Ankan and went to the hotel to find Ankan sleeping, without wasting a second we pounced on him with the excitement of a dinner beyond eggs. After Ankan’s dinner we went to sleep asap.

We started from Gangtok at around 9.30 am and covered distance swiftly. We had our breakfast at a roadside hotel and reached Siliguri. It was hot but we ensured to take enough water at regular but quick intervals. Our rested bodies were munching mile after mile with ease, the only thing that bothered us was the Sun. Everyone was amazed as we caught up with the entire team at around 3.30 pm at hotel Embassy, Raigunj. We had a light lunch and rolled towards our next destination Malda. The entire team was back together but not for long as Sanjay, Bijit and Biswaroop decided to keep on riding and reach Kolkata. The team crashed for the night at a hotel in Malda which had A.C rooms, with chicken sandwiches and fruit juice as dinner sleep was the next thing to come. The next morning we started early at around 7.30 am, destination Rolling Wheels club room. The Sun got hotter at every passing minute. A de-tour through NH-2B was a relief as the road was in very good condition and there was no traffic at all. We connected to NH-2 at Burdwan from there it was the high speed ride to our club.

Throughout the entire ride nothing was on time, everything was done at the last possible minute yet we managed to complete this challenge with team work, discipline and brotherhood. Even this write up took more than a month to complete.

 

10

 

Better late than never. What do you say  mate….!!

Happy Rolling……….

 

Hooray

Travelogue by Somjeet Saha Roy

Edited by Tirthendu Dey