Sikkim

Day – 1 (Kolkata – Malda)

It was 17th May 2013 and the time has come for the great achievement, probably the best memorable motorcycle journey of my lifetime, The Great Motorcycle Ride to Gurudongmar, the 2nd highest lake of India and world’s 15th highest at 17100 ft.

We at Rolling Wheels Biker’s Club were planning for a 7-8 days trip to somewhere in North Bengal. But as we already have a grand trip to Arunachal Pradesh for 28 days, coming up at november this year, many of our members are focused on the same and banking to make the trip. Obviously the turn around for this small trip is very less. Initially we planned to make the trip to Old Silk RouteSikkim. Later we found another member of our club (Bijit Laha) can join us if we make it to Gurudongmar. Bijits interest in this tour is because he had to come back just 4 kms away from the Lake in his previous attempt. (Refer to Gurudongmar: 2nd Highest Lake in India). This time he wants to finished his unfinished ride of 2012. We finalized the same with joy. Now the team became of 3 members Bijit Da, Shiladitya and myself (Arup).

Glimpse of Gurudongmar:

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”. Thus people named this lake ‘guru dang mar’ meaning created with the dang of Guru Nanak.

As per our plan we gathered in front of our club premises before 5:30 pm and waiting for our friends to come and bid us. It was cloudy and soon it started raining heavily and continues till 8:15 pm. By that time our very well known friend and best rider I have seen so far, Bobo (Somjeet) came. He was totally wet and we are amazed to find that, though he is not going for the trip, he purchased one big plastic sheet so that we can cover our luggage’s. It is really a blessing to have this kind of mentality in any organization I believe J. This not only helps to build a team rather it helps much more building the forum / organization.

Around 8:30 pm it started sprinkling and we planned to leave at earliest. We checked the packing of our luggage once again. Now its time to bid our well wisher’s and start for the great achievement. We bid Krishnendu Da, Bapi Da, Tirthendu, Biswa, Atreyi and Rajdeep and headed towards NH 34. Bobo was leading our team till airport where 2 members of Rolling Wheels is waiting to bid us. Soon, we reached Airport and found Sammy and Tanumoy waiting for us. We had a chat for sometime and started for Fulia, few kms before Krishnanagar, where Swarnadip and Ankan were waiting for us to have the dinner.

We drove pretty well on the rainy weather and reached Fulia at 10:30 pm. Swarnadip took us to a hotel, belongs to Ankan’s brother and he went with my bike to call Ankan. Soon, he came and we enjoyed the Tandoori Roti, Special Tarka, Egg Bhurji etc. along with the lovely chat and gossips among ourselves. We completed our dinner around 11:30 pm and now its time for a serious night ride on NH34 (as condition of the road is not at all good). We bid Ankan and started for our destination at 11:45 pm. On the way we stopped for 5 minutes at Swarna’s home and he gave his raincoat to me, because mine’s zip got broken somehow. I collect the same and started for our long journey bidding Swarnadip & his family.

Formation of the ride was finalized by Krishnendu Da (one of the founder and President of Rolling Wheels Biker’s club) as Arup (Head) – Shiladitya – Bijit (Tail) and we started following the same. Ride was going on smooth but not that much comfortable as it was drizzling all the time. We took some break whenever we thought necessary and I continued to SMS our family, RW member’s and well wishers. Suddenly got an unexpected call from Bapi Da. It seems he was missing the ride more than us.

We drove well all the night and have our early morning tea somewhere near Ragunathganj. Once we are done, started for next stop at Farakka. But this time the ride did not go smooth. There was huge traffic (don’t know why) and we crossed next 100 kms approximately in 5 hrs. We were feeling too much drowsy and to overcome the same we planned for a small photo session on the very early morning.

Halt at MorningOnce photo session is over, we started driving once again. Crossing the Farakka Dam in the early morning is a fabulous experience. The barrage was built to divert water from the Ganges River into the Hooghly River during the dry season, from January to June, in order to flush out the accumulating slit which in the 1950s and 1960s was a problem at the Port of Kolkata . As the whole night ride was through bad road condition along with monsoon, we started feeling sleepy near Farakka and decided to stop immediately for a tea break. After having the tea we found that due to riding whole night in monsoon we got tired too much and thought of taking a break at Malda. On our way we found a hotel with lovely parking area and immediately opted for enquiry and took shelter there for that day. We were enjoying sleeping and suddenly got a call from Tirthendu, GS of RWBC. He confirmed me about a new joinee from the same place and soon he came to our hotel room to welcome us. We had chat with him for sometime and he mentioned his willingness for coming with us on our next tour. Bijit Da and Shiladitya went with him to a local mechanic shop to fix Bijit Da’s Discover’s issue and I decided to stay and enjoy sleeping to get charged up for next day. Once they came back we had beautiful dinner with Roti – Chicken Curry and went to sleep.

Day – 2 (Malda – Silliguri – Gangtok)

We woke up early morning at 3 am. on 19-May-2013 to start our journey for Gangtok. We are already lagging by a day due to bad road and weather condition. So, this time we can not waste any time unless it is really necessary. We started our journey at 4:15 am. and we were driving very well. Suddenly because of bad road condition near Dalkhola, my front number plate got broken due to repetitive heavy jerking. We immediately stopped and I collected my buddy’s number plate and continue our journey. Soon we reached Dalkhola.

Halt at Azad Hind Dalkhola

Now we were on NH31, butter smooth road. After driving few kms. we stopped at a roadside restaurant to get freshened and have a heavy breakfast. During breakfast Bhaskar Da called me and we came to know that he, a 63+ yrs old rider, our most senior member and recently appointed as President of Rolling Wheels Biker’s Clubcould not join us as his father-in-law had a heart attack. We felt very sad but anyways we have to go for our destination. He conveyed best wishes to us and informed that he will try to join if his father-in-law recovers within next day. We understood his love & passion for riding on 2 wheels but sometimes we can’t do anything if it is not ours time. Soon, we are done with the breakfast and left for our next halt at Silligury after 131 kms. We reached there and I went to a bike décor shop to paste the number of my vehicle on the visor. The guy at the shop got amazed to listen that we are expediting to 17100 ft. from Kolkata on motorcycle. He immediately managed to prepare a sticker with my buddy’s number written on it and now we all are ready to go for Gangtok.

Our seniors Bapi Da and Krishnendu Da instructed us to take a halt near Teesta Bazar before riding on hills. We did the same and took a halt at Gautam’s Restaurant. We three shared a plate of mixed chow mein (as we had a very heavy breakfast as suggested by Krishnendu da) and had some cold drinks. Now, its time to starts our journey on hills.

It was 2 pm, we took a deep breath and started our ride on hills. Initially it was not a easy start, but after sometime we got familiar with the twists & turns of hills and started driving much better. We didn’t took a halt and directly reached Gangtok around 5:30 pm. We all were happy to complete the 1st stage of our journey.

It took time to find a good hotel where we could park our buddy’s for the next day as we have to take the entire permit for our ride. Finally we managed to do the same and went to our hotel room. We enjoyed the evening a lot through chats and gossips. But surprisingly we found ‘Bijit Da’ was not in a mood to ride till the destination. We were not sure about his plans and have not asked him anything as we thought better to ask next day. So, we had our dinner and went to sleep.

Day – 3 (Gangtok)

Today is 20th May 2013, Monday and we have to take all the permissions to reach our destination. I found some of my luggage got wet probably due to rain and went outside to make them dry. Once I came back I got surprised to listen to ‘Bijit Da’s’ plan of going to Gurudongmar by car with some tour operator. He asked me about my plan. I immediately replied that I will go only on my buddy and will go till that point up to which my buddy can go. Shiladitya was also confused after listening from ‘Bijit Da’ that there were landslide and will be very tough to ride on motorcycle. It was a horrible moment for me to imagine that probably it will be a solo ride for me to Gurudongmar. I was waiting outside home ministry building since 9:45 am for a phone call if someone will join me but didn’t get any response before 11:45 am. Not sure why it took almost 2 hrs. for Bijit Da to confirm me that he will go by car. Shiladitya also confirmed that he will also go with Bijit Da, as he was confused, I understand. It was 12:15 pm and I spent almost 2.5 hrs. in front of the gate of home ministry building. I thought of coming back as I could not take the risk of traveling alone to a place where no one lives within the vicinity of 30 kms. near the lake at 17100 ft. and if my tire-tube got punctured somehow, I will be in big trouble. It was also not because of if I will be in trouble, but I have fixed days to return to my hometown, Kolkata. Hence, I could not waste a single day by any means.

It is the rule to come back from Gurudongmar before 12 pm as there is turbulent storm and snowfall everyday after 11 pm. So, imagining a situation of getting into trouble on that high altitude, where no one could help me, not sure for how long and if there is any alternate way to survive if I was in trouble. I informed about this to Krishnendu Da and because of his intervention I found Shiladitya will be joining myself. Now, I can at least take a deep breath and go ahead. We immediately knocked the door of ministry department and managed to get the permit. But certain procedures are still due which we have to do next day before we leave for Lachen.

We came back to hotel and now its time to purchase a gumboot for Shiladitya as he had not purchased any. We went to M.G Road Market and managed to get one with exceptional foot size of 11, blessed too much by god only on feet. We gathered our necessary things and came back to hotel with 3 of ours dinner packed. I was feeling so tired that I fell asleep.

Day – 4 (Gangtok – Lachen)

I woke up next day morning at 7:30 AM, without having dinner last night. I found my dinner was still packed but I could not have the same and have to leave for taking the permit from police. It was a very hectic morning and finally we 2 managed to get all the permissions at 9:40 am.

I didn’t have anything since last night and was feeling too much hungry and went to a small restaurant to have the breakfast. It took 20 mins approx. to have the breakfast and talking over phone with seniors of our club. Finally I managed to get into the hotel around 10:30 am. Now its time to clean our buddy’s (to take smiley pictures) and pack our luggage.

Finally we managed to start at 11:15 am. Still one very important job we have to do, to change the engine oil as we are heading for a very tough ride. We stopped at a roadside mechanic shop to do the same and left at 11:40 am from there.

Halt for Mechanic

Our next halt will be at Mangan, 70 kms. approx. from Gangtok. Our enthralling Journey continues through water falls, muddy road, landslide zone etc. We came across landslide, small or large, every now and then, due to rain for last 2 days, and took a halt as my partner Shiladitya was feeling too much ache on his leg. I thought to utilize the time taking snaps.

After 15 mins. we started for our destination. Riding a few kms, we found the road is blocked once again as two of the trees fell down on the road due to continuous rain. It took 30+ mins. to get out of the situation once army clears the road. Soon we reach near Tung check post and have to show the permissions. It didn’t take much time, but now the road ahead of us is a fully landslide zone.

On this stretch you even should not honk as it may lead to landslide. We started driving steadily. But it was a horrible experience as every now and then buddy’s are skidding. Finally we managed to be at Chungthang around 6 pm. Army understood that we are on expedition and its too late to drive till Lachen, still it was raining. So, they even didn’t check any of the permissions. But as Shiladitya was feeling pain on his leg so we took a halt for 5 mins and started for the final destination for today, Lachen.

It was 26 kms. approx. from Chungthang to Lachen but road condition was horrible. We started driving and soon it got dark. It was kind of driving in awe through lying stones where we 2 are the living things in the darkness and ferocious sound of the river and waterfalls are coming sometimes. In addition large dogs are chasing us sometimes as they are unfamiliar of such vehicles that too driving at night. We kept our patience and finally managed to enter our hotel at Lachen at 8:25 pm.

The hotel owner was known to me and he immediately welcomes us with hot tea. We 2 were in pathetic state as we were wet and shivering in cold, driving through the rough roads where we could see only that much where our buddy’s are throwing light. Soon, we had our dinner and went to sleep. Our plan was to start the journey to Gurudongmar as early as possible before 4 am.

Day – 5 (Lachen – Gurudongmar – Lachen)

It needs to be mentioned that my target was not to reach Gurudongmar only rather go ahead further and reachDonkiala Pass at 18400 ft. to take a view of Tibet Plateau and Tso Lhamo Lakeorigin of river Teesta. This zone is fully restricted and no one gets permission to reach this zone. However, I managed to get it done J. Now everything depends on weather.

As per plan we woke up at 3 am and served with hot tea by the owner as they were more curious than us J. Having tea, we found it was raining profusely outside. The 4 wheeler’s are even not starting. Shiladitya told once that he think we will not be able to make it. But I was determined to ride as much as my buddy can and conveyed the same to him. Around 5:10 am finally it started drizzling and we immediately left for our destination at 5:20 am. Driving through the wet road was an enthralling experience and almost everywhere we were skidding. After driving a while finally rain stopped but still weather was very bad.

We took a break to take some snaps …

Halt for Snaps

By that time we got best wishes from some of the tourists for making the trip a success. Soon we wrapped up and headed towards destination. I have visited the same place 2 months back and could remember a place called Thangu where we could have maggie as our breakfast. I also could remember the big wild dogs, basically hybrid of wolf and dog and my photo session with them. So, we drove well and soon reached the same place. But alas !!! due to bad weather could not found any of them. We went to a shop to have some hot food like Maggie – Egg – Tea etc. During the break I also dried up my gloves as it was totally wet due to rain. After approximately 30 mins. we started once again for our destination. This time there will be no halt before the final check post. We drove well and reached the check post around 9:15 am.

We provided our documents and shown them the copy of our special permission. But we came to know that due to some … reason they can not allow us to reach Donkiala Pass, at Tibet border as it was a fully restricted zone and took the original copy of our permission. They also warned us not to get into the road to the pass and come back before 12 pm as there can be storm at any time due to bad weather.

It’s a very sad moment for me L as I can not think about visiting Gurudongmar only and decided that I will take a try with the copy of the permission I have. We immediately left for final destination. Now the point that’s needs to be taken care of is that there will be nothing within the next 30 kms. So, we have to complete the round trip of 60 kms. approx.  ASAP and return to this check post no matter in what condition we would be.

We started for our journey and it was terrific. We are not equipped with too much powerful machine, only 150 cc motorcycle. But what we have is the ultimate passion of reaching the destination with our favorite buddy’s. Without stopping at anywhere we reached near the destination.

Gurudongmar

Now it is only 4.5 kms and the road is going to be inclined from 20 degree to 80 degree. This is the distance where most vehicles fails to go up due to very tough inclined angle & lack of oxygen at 17000 ft. including big machines sometimes like SUV’s and we were really underpowered compared to them.

We gathered all our courage and went ahead for the final 4.5 kms. After crossing 2 kms. approx. suddenly the weather became very rough. There were blustery air waves pushing us from left to right on the dusty way to reach Gurudongmar. But I am not someone to quit. We both tried hard and climbed almost to the lake.

We were now at a distance from where we could see the “Sarv Dharm Sthal” (cohesion of all religion) just in front of the lake probably 50 ft. from the temple. But due to the turbulent wave at that high altitude along with very low level of O2, our buddy’s were not performing up to their mark. We were trying our best but rpm of our machine are coming down from 8.5 to 1 in 1st lever within fraction of second after releasing the clutch. It was 11:15 am and I could understand that it will be very very tough to reach to that place. On the other hand we could see the huge dark cloud behind us along with the turbulent waves.

I thought I should at least try to push Shiladitya’s buddy so that he could at least reach. I did the same and managed to push Shiladitya & his buddy for next 20 ft. Now no more I could push due to oxygen deficiency neither the buddy could make it. I just took a look behind and decided to go back with too much sadness inside. I managed to hold my vehicle somehow and took some snaps.

Gurudongmar2

Before starting the trip I promised to my buddy to be till that place up to which my buddy will be able to reach. So, I decided not to walk for 5 minutes and take any snaps of the lake as buddy could not reach there. Shiladitya also accompanied me on the same decision. We then headed towards the pass but keeping in mind about the consequences we might face, not from Army as we have the permission but we do not want to play with nature. So, we took a halt to take snaps of the bunker’s at Tibet Border.

Tibetean Bunker

 

It was horrible to drive against the blustery wave. We were trying to be on the left side of the so called road, full of small stones along with dust, but the stormy wave was trying to throw us off the road. In addition my rear tyre got punctured somehow while coming from Mangan, because the air pressure was 10 ps instead of 32 ps. But as it was raining and we were too late due to the permit procedure, I didn’t told the mechanic to open the tire and check, neither he has informed us. I could realize that my buddy is giving too much pressure to pull itself. It was one of my loves who never behave rudely or betrayed me in last 5.5 yrs in any trip. I have faith on my buddy and know that he could manage to overcome any situation.

We both drove our best through dusty twits and turns and came back to that check post around 12:20 pm. We found the Army personnel’s came to greet us. They took us to their shelter and served with hot water, tea & biscuits. One of them came and asked us if there is anyone behind us. We told we have not seen anyone and he immediately pointed us the black cloud we left behind. They informed us that if you were there right now you would have not survived. We both understood that we could have been in big trouble if took a try for Donkiala Pass and Tso-Lhamo Lake, Origin of River Teesta.

We took rest for 30 mins. and started for Lachen around 1 pm bidding all our well wisher’s. We took break for couple of minutes while returning to take some snaps. It took time to reach Lachen and we were in at 5:15 pm after 12 hrs. of rigorous riding.

Initially my plan was to drive till Lachung and complete the Zero Point. But weather was so worst that, while returning in many places especially in turns and sharp downfalls, buddy’s brakes were not working and we were skidding as there were only wet stones in front of the front wheel. So, I told my partner to stay back in Lachen and left for Gangtok next morning. After listening he also understood and agreed to me.

We conveyed the same to the owner and now a friend to me. We took our lunch and went to sleep as feeling fatigued. It was very nice sleep until I wake up to Atreyi’s call at 11:30 pm. She requested us to have our dinner. Now I could remember that someone was knocking our door sometimes back probably calling us to have the dinner. But now it was too late. I know that our food is still there for us but may be icy. So, we decide to have some biscuits and continue with our sleep.

Day – 6 (Lachen – Gangtok – Silligury)

It was 7 am and I woke up hungry as we were sleeping since yesterday 6 pm approx. I make my partner wake up as I didn’t find snacks I left last night. He smiles and informed that he ate all J. Soon, he has arranged for some snacks as I was feeling hungry and we started packing our luggage as we have to reach Gangtok or may be up to Siliguri. Once we got ready we found still it was raining, horrible. We were packing our saddle bags and suddenly I remembered my buddy’s rear tire is punctured. There is no way to fix it until Gangtok and we have to travel 130 kms. from that pathetic road to reach Gangtok. There were 2 ways. Either I have to open the tire & tube and change the tube or put some amount of air and left for the destiny. I decided to choose the 2nd one as I may open the tire from chassis but could not remove the tube. Immediately I started pumping in air and started the journey.

As we move on the weather becomes a bit clear and we stopped to take some snaps we missed while going.

I was checking every now and then if there is any way to fill in some amount of air on the rear tube even entering Army camp but everything went in vain.  Soon we reached Thang and found the road is blocked due to landslide at Tung. What a mess we are going through but we were enjoying every bit of it as it was making us stronger. I tried to find if there is any way to pump in air and with my utter surprise the police personal arranged for the same. What a moment for me. Now at least I can drive easily to Gangtok. We waited there for 1 hr 30 mins after pumping air on rear tube and during this time I came across so many tourist who got astonished to listen to our ride.

Soon we started for Gangtok at 12:30 pm. Once reached Mangan we have a beautiful lunch with chicken meal and then goes on …

On our way again it started raining heavily and we have to stop. Then suddenly I planned to take the bypass to reach Silliguri directly avoiding Gangtok as we do not want to waste time anymore and we approached accordingly.

Our journey continued for next couple of hours through rain getting totally wet and taking halt whenever it was profuse in nature. Finally we reached Silliguri around 10 pm. We searched for a hotel which have parking for our 2 wheelers and found one soon. It was a nightmare to stay in a room where there is no light but we didn’t have any other option. We were riding since 8:30 am and it is now 10:30 pm and do not have any energy left to search for a good one.

We parked our buddy’s and got fresh and went to have dinner outside. It was almost 12 am and at last found a roadside hotel to full our stomach. We did the same with mutton and rice only and came back to hotel.

Day – 7 (Silligury – Kolkata)

Today is our last day of the trip and my target is to reach Kolkata by any means. But we will follow a different route this time. We were tired and woke up late at 9 am, thanks to the hotel owner for arranging a room with no entry for sunlight. We got ready without wasting any time, packed our luggage and left for Dalkhola. Once we reached Dalkhola I found once again my tire pressure was low and went to a roadside tire repairing shop. The guy was taking rest at 1:30 pm but was so much enthusiastic to change the tube. He fixed my buddy’s next tyre and we are now ready to Vrrrrooooommmm…. On any road.

I called up Bapi Da while having lunch at Dalkhola and he instructed me to follow the following route: Purnia – Bhagalpur – Dumka – Massanjore – Bolpur – Kolkata. We started following the same route and believe me it was butter smooth through Bihar and Jharkhand.

We started from Dalkhola at 2:45 pm and reached Bolpur at 12 am. Whenever we were confused we called up Bapi da and he instructed us like a GPS Navigation with providing details in kms.

We had our dinner at a roadside dhaba in Guskara and Shiladitya was feeling sleepy. I checked with him and he confirmed he could ride. I know that he is tired as we were driving since morning and already covered 540 kms and still 100 kms to go. So, I decided to help him as usual in any means.

I started driving like a mentor to him creating passes for him if he is not making it and reached near Dakshineshwar around 3:30 am. We had a small chat and I bid him for his home. I drive as usual and reached home at 4:05 am and found my better half was waiting for me.

She immediately opened up the door and I found all our beloved street dogs are there to welcome me home. It was a kind of ride which taught us to be focused all the time and made us 100% stronger than before.

Thanks to Rolling Wheels once again for arranging, managing and helping us every way for this Grand Tour to Gurudongmar.

 

Hooray

 

Travelogue by Arup Bhattarcharya

Edited by Tirthendu Dey