Rolling through Daringbadi,Odisha(November 2015)

Location :

 

Popularly known as “Kashmir of Odisha”, Darigbadi is situated at an altitude of 3000 ft in Kandhamal District of Odisha. Why is it compared to Kashmir? Localites claim that about 50 years ago this hilltop used to receive snowfall. Whether it was a truth or a grave vine, it did not affect us or will affect anyone from enjoying the beauty of nature out in this place. The hill station is also gifted with natural bounties such as pine jungles, Coffee gardens and beautiful valleys. This place is just 100 km away from Phulbani and 50 kms away from Balliguda.

 

Daringbadi being the ultimate destination, the team’s plan was to cover maximum parts and terrains of Odisha.

 

 

About Odisha in a glimpse :

 

It is surrounded by the states of West Bengal to the north-east, Jharkhand to the north, Chhattisgarh to the west and north-west, and Andhra Pradesh to the south and south-east. Odisha has 485 kilometres (301 mi) of coastline along the Bay of Bengalon its east, from Balasore to Ganjam .

 

The ancient kingdom of Kalinga, which was invaded by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka in 261 BCE resulting in the Kalinga War, coincides with the borders of modern-day Odisha.[11] The modern state of Orissa was established on 1 April 1936, as a province in British India, and consisted predominantly of Oriya-speaking regions.[11] April 1 is celebrated as Odisha Day.[12] The region is also known as Utkala and is mentioned in India’s national anthem, “Jana Gana Mana“.[13] Cuttack was made the capital of the region by Anantavarman Chodaganga in c. 1135,[14] after which the city was used as the capital by many rulers, through the British era, until 1948, when Bhubaneswar replaced it as the capital.

 

 

The state is full of temples which is popular all around the country and hence known as TEMPLE STATE as well. But this time our team has decided to unfold the unknown areas of Odisha which is full of natural beauties such as Falls, Rivers, Hills, Sea, Lakes etc. Hence the team planned the route from Kolkata -> Keonjhar -> Angul -> Daringbadi -> Paradeep -> Chandipur -> Back to Kolkata. And we also touched the Lake of Chilka on the way from Daringbadi to Paradeep. Oh, by the way I am Subhadip and I will take you through our 7 days tour of November trip to Daringbari.

 

 

About the Team :

 

The team is very small in nature with efficient Avijit in the lead, me (Subhadip) in the middle and and Sourav at the tail.

 

 

Day : 1 :

 

We started at 5:30 am in the morning from my flat at Garia. it was still dark outside.That day our plan was to cover a distance of around 460 KM from Garia, Kolkata to keonjhar via Bhadrak. So we filled our tanks to the minimum to reach to balasore which is the border district of West Bengal and Odisha. The reason being petrol at Bengal is ₹69 per litre whereas in Odisha it is ₹60 per litre. So we opted for the economic option.

Once the tanks filled up, our engines started to roar. We left Kolkata through 2nd Hooghly bridge and reached NH6. We continued our journey through NH 6 and it is a breeze to ride on that road as the road is wide and smooth. We switched ourselves into power cruising mode. Thanks to NHAI(national highway authority of India) for such a beautiful roads, we rode through Kolaghat till

Kharagpur on the NH6 (approx 140km). And then we bid goodbye to NH6 and got into AH45 till Bhadrak. We maintained a speed of 80 to 90 kmph on our speedo (though the displayed speed is more than the actual speed of the vehicle) as we planned to reach our destination well before the sunset. But considering the road condition, it was again a breeze to ride at such high speeds and other vehicles were also passing at a high speeds on the butter smooth road. Hence we could keep the momentum to reach our destination within time.

It was our first group tour from our club RWMC (In my case, it is my first bike tour ever and hopefully not the last one), but the group showed a great bonding amongst each other throughout the tour. Be it at extremely bad roads or heavenly roads like the NH6, the team members were always there to ride alongside at every situation.

We left NH6 and took AH45/NH60 at around 8 am in the morning. We had our breakfast at around 8:25 AM at Debaloke A1 dhaba, which is just 15 mnts after our start on AH45/NH60, the food quality was too good. Adding to that the weather was just perfect on that chilly morning. We enjoyed the hot puri sabji and aloo ka paratha to its every bit. We were so delighted that we planned to stop here again for lunch or snacks break on the way back to Kolkata. We took some snaps and after a halt of around 30 mnts we started again through AH45 at 9 o’clock. And this time we planned to continue the run till Bhadrak. But we had to refuel our machines when we reached  Balasore. And we were happy that the petrol price was just ₹60.18 per litre.

 

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balasore

We passed balasore and reached Bhadrak at around 1 o’clock. No complaints about the road again, even the bikes were happily cruising ahead. But we had to leave AH45 there at Bhadrak and we took the pocket root which directs us directly to Keonjhar. So with the help of some local truck drivers we confirmed the entry point from where we need to take the root to keonjhar(SH53). It was only 1 pm so we planned to break for lunch after a little ahead at the place called Anandapur. Riding that road was a mixed feeling. The road SH53 was good at some places and broken most of the places (because it is on a construction mode, and the road has two lanes, one is functional and the other is getting constructed and hopefully by 1 year the road will be fully operational and will be having a better road to ride on by then) and the places the road is good it is filled with bumps everywhere. After Anandapur, the SH53 splits into 3 sections and every route goes to Keonjhar ultimately. We opted to stay on the SH53 main road. But it was time to fill up our biological fuel tanks and we first stopped at a sweet shop. We ate sweets at the shop called Calcutta Sweets. Though the shop owner is not from Kolkata and neither the sweets were as tasty as the likes of the sweets from Kolkata, we managed to get the delight out of the name of the shop. And then we rode for 3 km more and stopped aside a hotel (hotel gunjan) and had our lunch. It was around 2:50 pm we ordered our lunch, veg thaali and paneer butter masala and shahee paneer. The food was very tasty, but we did not expect we had to pay so much for our luscious tongues. So we paid the bills quickly and left for our quest once again. The root was not in its best condition as some road construction work was going on, but it was OK for us as we were well ahead of our scheduled time. So we broke for some photo shoot of the natural beauty

 

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starting ah 45

of Odisha in the midway. This route was mostly covered with woods and rural part of the state and we kept on being delighted by the scenic beauties on our way. It was 4:30 pm, we took the last stop before reaching keonjhar. The Sun was going down and in the deeming light, the surrounding was so majestic that I felt like riding on thisroad in this situation forever. But alas, the road ended as we reached Keonjhar. Everyone was very tired. We booked a double room at Hotel India and parked our mean machines at the hotel’s parking spot. (Just to say a few things about the hotel, it has a shaded parking lot which was very helpful for us to keep our bikes away from the open sky under the hotel’s own shaded parking space. We booked a non AC double bedroom at Rs 650 plus Rs 150 extra for an extra person. The room was very cozy with the facility of hot water in the bathroom which was helpful in this winter season. The hotel has its own restaurant and they served food in the room as well.)

After freshen up, me and Sourav came out of the room to explore the city a little bit. Keonjhar or now named as Kendujhar is the northern district of Odisha,surrounded by land. The city is bisected by NH215(the route through which we enteredinto Keonjhar) in exactly 2 natural parts. One side is mainly the plane land beside Anandapur and the other side is the hill areas comprised of some of the highest mountains of Odisha such as Gandhamardan  , Machakandana , Gonasika , Thakurani . The river Baitarani also originates from the Gonasika hills and gives birth to some waterfalls such as Badaghagra, San ghagra etc.

Returning from the half an hour tour of the city we jumped into the blankets after completing the dinner. And then I could not recollect a thing happened in the room till the next morning.

 

Day : 2 :

 

Day 2 was the sight seeing of Keonjhar and reaching to angul as we wanted to move forward towards daringbari. The places to be visited at Keonjhar was badaghagra waterfalls, sanghagra waterfalls and khanda dhara waterfalls.

 

I was the first to come out of sleep and quickly rapping things up to start early for the day. We got ready quickly and checked out from the hotel. When we were tying our bags onto our bikes, Sourav discovered that his engine oil is leaking and soon became the first priority of the team to mend it.

 

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So we had to cover lots of ground on that day but first it was urgent to repair Sourav’s bike which was leaking engine oil. We came out of the hotel and it was very early in the morning ticking 7:30 am on the clock. Out on the highway, most of the garages were closed. Somehow we found a trucking garage which was partly open. So we ran into the garage and the mechanic was just awake. We asked him for solution (ohh, by the way the problem was with the Mobil chamber. It has a cap which is bolted with the main engine by 3 long but thin screws. Out of that three one was missing. And while riding when the bike jerks, mobil used to leak from that hole. We intended to lodge an FIR of that missing screw, but on request of the local people we barred from that.). He immediately came out with a couple of screws of different width and length. But none of them fitted the bike. Again he goes inside and kept on his searching and after a while he comes out with a long bolt, tries to fit it in. After trying for a while he declares “thread kete gecche” (means the thread inside the engine body is rubbed off and hence unable to hold the screw). Without any solution we decide that we will go to the TVS service center which opens at around 9 am. So we carry on our ride towards Badaghagra waterfalls. 5 km from the city and then a left turn on a small road. This road directly goes till the birth place of baitarani river. the place is full of scenic beauty. The river flows towards the highway and the first pit stop is the Badaghagra waterfalls. It used to flow in such a high intensity that later on a dam has been built to control the flow. Its a 200 ft high falls and also a turbine has been set there to generate electricity though at a small capacity. We visited the quarter below and met Mr Radha Madhob Soren, the turbine station in charge. He speaks very good Bengali as well.

 

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After that, team moved towards San ghagra waterfalls which is on the way back to Keonjhar city. Govt has refurbished the place and made a park out of it. Its a nice place to be at and though the waterfalls is not so high, they have presented the place in such a way it will feel and look nice. From the waterfalls the river flows through the hills and its a nice view from the park. Govt has put some entry fee of Rs 15 each but its worth viewing the place. The only negative side is that the people come and litter here and there ruining and polluting the place, but as Rolling Wheels member we were conscious we littered all the chips packet and bottles in the litter bin kept outside the park.

 

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The time we left Sanghagra falls, it was already 10 AM. So we came back to Keonjhar city TVS service center as we needed to mend Sourav’s Darling. When team reached the service center, it was open. But on approaching them about the problem they said, on Monday all the service center s are closed. Some bike delivery came that’s why they had to open the shop. So we got lucky that day.     Since the inner thread was damaged, they could only hammer a bolt inside. Avijit also called our club engineer Mr Hafiz who also came up with the same solution( by taking a bolt and hammering the lose end so that it spreads on its width a little bit only and then tighten it inside the whole as a temporary solution)

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Once the wound is mended, without any delay we start for Khandadhar falls which is also known as horsetail falls. Its all through woods and hills village road. I will not say the roads are creamy smooth, but the road condition is not that bad either. At Suakati, we left NH6 and turn right towards khandadhara waterfalls. The road condition is modest, wide enough for a bus and in critical conditions while two big vehicles are coming from other sides, one can get down to the land beside the road. Only the worries are bumps are everywhere and one might not notice the same but to ride through it on a moderate speed. we reached khandadhara waterfalls at around 12:30 PM. Its a 500 ft high falls and the bottom where the water is falling is at such an intensity that it is creating sparkles on which sunbeam is getting reflected and creating a rainbow. A beautiful rainbow. There is also a staircase to reach right at the bottom of the falls without any hassle. we went to the bottom and we all got wet by the sparkles. We enjoyed the beauty of the place for an hour.

 

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Now we turned back towards Angul. We took a snacks break there. But Avijit told us not to wait there for long and to have the snacks a little ahead. The reason is still a mystery which is not yet revealed. So we left that village and moved a little ahead and halted near a river bank. The weather was so soothing that it wasn’t feeling like 1 PM on the clock. And it was only 170 km left till Angul, a step forward towards daringbari. While we were having our snacks, a gentle wind came and threw my helmet out of the bike’s seat. It fell down to the road and the glass got scratched. It was not a problem when I am riding in daylight but at night, the lights coming from the cars coming from the other side is quite distracting. Anyways we completed our snack break and continue our journey towards Angul again. From Suakati, we took NH6 and it directs us till Pallahara. But in a short while Avijit said that we will break for lunch as it is almost 2 o’clock on the watch. So we got into a dhaba on NH6. After completion of lunch Avijit declares that he will be taking a power nap, minimum for 30 mints. There wasn’t anyone else to have lunch at that time and no khatia was there either. So Avijit jumps onto a table at the corner place and starts snoring. The owner was also very reluctant about this thing happening. So I too got hold of a chair and loosened up a bit to get some quick nap and so did Sourav. After taking the nap, we started our ride again towards Angul. It was around 3:30 pm on the clock so we moved faster. But soon it was a hill road though one of the longest ghats in our whole journey. I was feeling kind of riding on the hills of Darjeeling. The road was wide enough to pass two trucks alongside. And too many trucks were passing by. Our team reached Pallahara at around 4 pm. We took some tea and left NH6 aside. We took NH200 from there. It was getting dark by that time and Avijit who was leading our team declares that he is facing difficulties with his bike’s light as it was not too strong in that pitch dark road to see the things at a distance. We then changed our positions by taking Sourav and his darling in front and Avijit at the tail. soon we crossed the river brahmani and the dam and reached towards the Angul city. Before reaching there about 15 km back the road was shadowed by dust and we could hardly see anything. It was like a dusty mist all around the road.

We reached Angul at 7 pm and we called the day off by checking into hotel Durga, Angul.

 

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The Angul District is surrounded by Cuttack & Dhenkanal on the east, Sambalpur & Deogarh on the west, Sundargarh & Keonjhar on the north and Phulbani on the south. Covering an area of 6232 sq.km,

 

Day : 3 :

Next day we had to reach Daringbari which was around 260 km from hotel Durga, Angul where we were staying. The road to daringbari was through forests and hills mostly and due to which team didn’t want to ride through them at night or at least after sunset. Considering the sunset timing at that time which was quite early within 4:45 pm we scheduled an early start from our hotel at around 6 am in the morning. We left the hotel and again our machines started to roar through the roads of Odisha. The roads were an absolute pleasure to ride if one can consider the bumps. The first light of the rising sun was coming out through the hills and it was an amazing view at the horizon. we poured more fuel into the bike tank and geared up once again to run through the heart throbbing picture perfect greeneries and butter smooth roads. We reached Redhakhol at around 8:30 am, had our breakfast there at a roadside shop. Every food was tasted and nothing was left untouched by the team. With full tank and full stomach the team was ready to eat miles after miles without any stop. So munching miles began once again. Soon we crossed Mahanadi river and quickly Boudh and then Puranakatak. And soon we reached phulbani forest and hills area. The forest was so dense and the road condition was so good that we were feeling riding through those roads and those hairpin bends of the hill all day long. it was only 11 am and hence we broke for some memories to get captured. Phulbani is a hill town of Odisha surrounded by many natural bounties. And one of the biggest falls Putudi falls is just 15 kms away from this place where the road till the falls are yet to be constructed and best reached through feet only.

 

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We took a tea break at phulbani and again started our journey towards daringbari. It was ticking 11:45 am on the clock and we were at ease on our schedule. It was hardly 100 km away from our destination and we didn’t want to miss the enjoyment while riding on these hilly roads through the woods. so we restricted our speedos within 40 – 50 kmph. We reached daringbari by 3:45 PM at daringbari deers eco home.

 

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There is no network available for Vodafone users at Daringbari. The only connectivity was through Avijit’s airtel mobile which was not a smartphone. so we sent the status of our journey that we have reached daringbari to our family and friends from the only alive Avijit’s phone.

The people at the resort made us some lunch though it was not informed by us to them. so we freshen up ourselves, had our lunch, took some rest and then went out to visit the local scenarios and spots. We visited DEERS eco park and the coffee plantation garden in the afternoon. It was mildly chilly out there. And in the evening we did not have any mood to leave the coffee plantation garden as spending time in that garden was very relaxing. But as the darkness came gradually we had to head back to our resort.

 

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To say something about the small place, it is one of the highest points in Odisha and a very beautiful tourist spot. But yet underdeveloped and economically week. Most of the inhabitants are below poverty level. Govt tried to advertise about the tourist spot, encouraged the tourists to visit the place with good and comfortable residence facility like OTDC Panthanivas. But due to maoist attacks that got destroyed and the only two places to stay at daringbari are DEERS Eco home resort where we stayed and hotel Utopia.  The main town is also very small and hardly stretched 1-2 km to each direction from the central crossing.

Once we reached our resort we grabbed three chairs and started our adda under the open sky with hot tea in hand. On demand the waiter also provided some muri and pakora and we were very delighted. We met Mr Anil Swain, the owner of the resort and he guided us with the maps how to visit places next day. Mr Anil Swain, the hotel owner is a very wise and helpful person. He helped us with each and every information and things to be required during our next day sight seeing. He also helped us with the route maps and directions of one or two places which can be visited on our 4th days sightseeing. Then having our dinner we rushed to our bed and very soon the nasal sound competition began.

 

Day : 4 :

Good morning to the day 4. I got up first and thankfully it was still dark outside. The weather was not too cold but it was chilly outside on that dawn of November. It was hardly 5:30 am on the clock.

The plan for the day was to cover the surrounding locations of Daringbadi. From Daringbadi to Taptapani through the hill road and through Adava and Mohana, then from Taptapani to Chandragiri Jirang Monestry and the way of returning back through Darbhangi Dam(or Harbhangi Dam) and Sonepur and few other places.

So, having our baths and morning tea we set out for our quest of the day. This route was basically not from google map and simple drawing on a white paper with a rough estimate of distances and possible checkpoints. We started at around 6:30 am. The wind was blowing heavily and the fog was directly hitting the helmet glass . I kept my helmet lid open as it was getting hazy very often. After the forest roads soon we got the hill roads and oh yes the hairpin bends again. The road condition was not so good on today’s tour except the stretch from Chandragiri to Mohana and a few other places in between. There was hardly any person or vehicles on the road when we started our tour in that morning. This day though we had to travel hardly 260km but the number of places to visit was high, hence we had to plan the time accordingly. We reached Adava at around 8:30 am. Had our breakfast there where we met 2 people from Bengal who were selling baby chickens there on a cycle.

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Adava is a small suburban town and the nearest rail station is berhampur. After breakfast we started our journey towards Taptapani again. And the same route is headed towards Berhampur. As I said earlier also the road construction work was going on in there, we hardly got them in good condition. After almost 30 km of bumpy ride we reached Taptapani.

Taptapani is basically a religious place having myths about hotspring coming from the inside. The name “Taptapani” also suggests that. “Tapta” means hot and “pani” means water. The hot water from the natural spring of Taptapani are attributed with medicinal properties and can be bathed in at the pond created next to the hot spring.The hot spring is situated at the eastern slope of the eastern ghat at a crest of the hill with in the lush green forest having wide range of flora and fauna.

When we reached there we found out there was some festival going on and due to which lots of people or I can say tourists came in on that occasion. We enriched ourselves with the culture enjoyed a couple of activities like a small act by little children, the Puja and all. Then moving from that location we started our journey towards Chandragiri’s jirrang monestry.

 

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It was around 30 km away from Taptapani, the small village is surrounded by hills. We reached jirang monestry at around 11:30 am. There is a temple outside which is partly built and construction work was going on. It felt like we were in some village in Tibet, not in Orissa. And then we walked into the monestry which was surrounded by approximately 15 to 20 houses which was all occupied by Tibetans. None of us could guess that in such a small place a monestry of that size can actually exist. They say that it is the 2nd largest Buddhist monastery in whole Asia and oh yes it is quite big in size. Generally the place is quiet and calm. But as the day was a holiday due to Gurunanak’s birthday there was quite a lot of visitors and tourists on that day in the monestry. Taking tickets from the counter we got into the monestry and it has a large temple just ahead and hostels/residential on both the sides. In the temple there is a big Gautam budh idol almost 10 ft high. After taking some snaps we moved out of the monastery at around 12:15 pm. Next destination was Darbhangi dam(or Harbhangi Dam) through mohana and adava on the way back to daringbari.

The stretch from Chandragiri to Mohana was one of the nicest and smoothest roads we got on our entire journey. After flying on that road for 19 km we reached Mohana and soon we reached Adava. It was approximately 20 km from Adava to Darbhangi dam(or Harbhangi Dam). The dam is spread over 40 km of area and touched 4 districts. Hills are all around this dam and there is also a small irrigation department bungalow situated there by the switch gate which is also available for booking by tourists for stay. We checked with the local guard for the process of booking the bungalow which is from the 2 no office(irrigation dept) situated at Adava. And the bungalow can only be booked by physically visiting that particular office. We took a snacks break there. It was 1:30 pm. After darbhangi we started again towards daringbari. Still it was almost 60 km ride till daringbari and we had two more places to visit. The very next stop was Dasingbari waterfalls though it was almost 40 km from darbhangi dam(or Harbhangi Dam).

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The mighty road was always testing our skills of riding and capability of our bikes. But the bikes kept us surprising all over the ride. We reached Dasingbari waterfalls and we could not find anybody except us in that place. We were so tired that we were in the dilemma to go to the bottom of the falls by going down through the steep stairs or not. While the thought was waiving in our head, two people came on a bike and got down through the stairs. I managed to gather all my strength and went down through the stairs while Avijit and Sourav chose to stay up with the bikes. I went all the way down at the bottom of the falls. It’s a nice place, the falls is hardly 150 ft high but the nature is supported by big big trees all around it. After the waterfalls it was our last spot for the day which is Sonepur.

Sonepur is a village situated at the bottom of the hills and basically a valley area. It was around 4:15 pm then when we reached Sonepur. The way down from the hill was full of hill descend hair pin bends and roads full with small stones lying everywhere over it. And this was the worst road we got in our entire tour. We were riding very cautiously. Suddenly I heard our signature horn behind me and I couldn’t see Sourav behind me as he was doing the tail in our riding formation. So I stopped my bike instantly and went back leaving my bike there and saw Sourav lying on the ground with his darling on himself. I helped him to get up and soon  Avijit talso came back on his bike. It was just a few scratches on the ride and rider, but nothing serious. So with more caution we proceed downwards to the valley and it was amazing to ride through the village. We visited the Shiv mandir near to the village. They say that if we wish to do something good and pray for that to the God with sacred heart then we will succeed in our destiny for sure. The valley is covered with crops and majority of the villagers are having cattle. It’s a poor village and did not have electricity. All the houses are made of mud. But they were very friendly in nature. None of them are as educated to understand even Hindi language but they tried to understand whatever we were trying to convey and helped us with proper directions to find out the Mandir. So spending for half an hour we moved again towards our hotel again at Daringbari which was still 20 km away from that place almost. It was 4:30 pm then and almost dark. We were at no hurry as it was hardly an hour’s journey left till our hotel so we enjoyed the setting sun while travelling through the woods and hills. We reach our hotel at around 6 o’clock in the evening. When we reached the hotel we met with some other tourists from Bengal as well and when they got to know that we were travelling all the way on our motorcycle, they got quite a bit astonished. But this is who we are and prefer most of all as our touring companion. So after freshen up we spent the rest of the evening at the lawn with a couple of cups of tea and chatting with each other. We went to bed early as the next day we had to cover a big distance all the way till Paradeep. So we bid goodbye to the wonderful day and started our nasal sound competition again.

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Day : 5 :

Again a foggy good morning at Daringbari deers eco home on the day 5 of our RW November trip to Daringbari. This day we were to travel till Paradeep. The route was through Sorada, Asika, Chilka, Bhubaneswar and then till Paradeep. As every morning I got up first dragging Sourav and Avijit  from their deep sleep. The hotel people helped us with a bucket full of hot water as it was the only hotel in our trip which did not have geyser in the bathroom but they never gave us a chance to complain regarding their hospitality. We were also served with tea after we got ready. It was 6:30 am. We left the hotel and set out for Paradeep.

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Road till Sorada was mostly through woods and hills. Though the road was not at its best condition but we had been able to get most of the enjoyment out of the road riding through the hill descend hairpin bends. We reached Sorada at around 9:15 am where we had our breakfast. At Odisha, food habit is like Bengal. The main difference is upma wada which is one of the top selling food item over there. After a halt of 30 mins we started again towards Asika which is around 40 km away from Sorada. It took almost 1 hour to reach till Asika. And then from Asika we started again towards Bhubaneswar. According to our plan our target time to reach Bhubaneswar was by 3 pm and then just 90 km till Paradeep. From Asika, we took the route through khalikat and then took NH5. Where we took NH5, it was the coast area of Chilka and just 20 km away the place called Balugaon is one point where one can actually feel the air of Chilka. We spent some time at the coast of Chilka. Cherishing that mesmerizing view we again got back on our route towards Bhubaneshwar. It was almost 100 km away till Bhubaneshwar and we thought to cover the distance till Bhubaneshwar without any further break. So with max speed we kept on munching miles on NH5. We reached Bhubaneshwar (capital of Odisha) at around 3:00 pm and somehow we managed to outrun the city traffic, thanks to the flyover through the city taking travelers in and out of the city. We stopped there for our lunch at the hotel. It was a restless journey all day long and everyone was feeling a bit tired. We ordered heavy lunch with 5 plates of hundi kadai mutton and countless numbers of butter nun. We took a halt of almost 1 and a half hours there. Once we got a bit relaxed we started again our journey towards Paradeep. We filled up our fuel tanks till neck.

 

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It was Kartik Puja going on in the city and at every corner we found puja going on. This puja is called Kartik Purnima. We could hardly recognize the idol as the pet of Lord Kartik in the idol was a horse and surprisingly the pet of the Ashur was a dragon. At every crossing we found some procession going on of that idol which was lord Kartik. So on NH5, from the chouki we turned right towards the Paradeep expressway. This 90 km stretch of road was fully made of slabs and it was great to ride on that road as it was smooth and at the same time traction was great. It was getting dark and we had to slow down as no street lights were there on the expressway. So we had to depend on our headlight alone and as Avijit was leading we slowed down a bit more as the dual headlamps of his Fazer were generating very poor light. Again we had to call for our lighthouse effect directly from the eden gardens (Sourav’s Darling proved it’s power on every night rides we had in our tour with it’s auxiliary lights). We reached Paradeep at around 7 pm and directly went to Panthanivas as that was the first option came into our mind. And luckily we got a room too. So we stationed ourselves in Panthanivas and after getting ourselves cleaned up we went out to have a look of the city. It was almost 9 pm at night, and most of the roads were empty but we could visit a few places like the stadium, Municipality office, Port trust office, Port club and lots of govt quarters. And there was a fair going on in the city and at 10 o’clock even it was full with people from various places. We rode back to our hotel, completed our dinner and went to sleep… a deep sleep was waiting after the long ride through different kind of terrains on that whole day. Good night everyone.

 

 

 

Day : 6 :

 

6th day of our stay at Panthanivas hotel, Paradeep was merely slower than the other days of our tour. The morning was lazy as we got up at around 7 o’clock in the morning. Most of the places or visiting spots in Paradeep comes to life after 9 am in the morning. Morning breakfast was served in the dining hall and we dived onto it without any delay. But still it was only 8 am on the clock. So we went to the beach right in front of our hotel on bikes to test our bikes’ sea legs. The beach was unlike the one at Digha or Mandarmani as it is filled with dry sands. Tyres were getting stuck and spinning heavily on the sand as it was not able to get any traction out there. So we had to literally drag our bikes out of the sand. This exercise solved two purposes, one was our morning workouts and secondly some time got passed instead sitting idle at hotel waiting for the marine aquarium and harbour ports to get open. We went to gohirmotha beach but couldn’t see any olive ridley turtles. We reached the mela ground which was hardly 100 metres away from our hotel. We kept our bikes at the mela ground and went to the beach on foot. Many a fishermen were fishing near the beach with their giant sized fishing nets. By this time the port ride got open.

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So from the fair ground, we went back to gate no 4 of the port. The rule is no outsiders can go inside the port. Army outpost is situated at the gate. Only authorized persons are allowed inside. But there is a bus tour inside the port for visitors from 8:30 am to 10:30 am and one need to get a ticket from the counter outside the gate for the ride. So we parked our bikes outside and got 3 tickets and board on the bus. The bus goes for a round trip inside by the coal storage and the ports where big ships are stationed for loading or unloading. It was a completely different experience for me as I had never been to these kind of places before. But couldn’t click any photo as usage of camera or mobile is strictly prohibited there. So with all the memories in our heart we got out of the port. It was already 9:30 am. And then we visited the marina aquarium which was just 100 meter away from our stay at Panthanivas, Paradeep. The place opens at 9:00 am. This is again a place where one needs to buy tickets and gets to see the aquarium. It’s a small aquarium but still we got to see so many kinds of fishes for the first time. Then we went to the light house. It opens at 10 o’clock. Everyone was so reluctant to get to the top after watching the height that we just took some snaps from the outside. And with that we completed our sightseeing at Paradeep. It’s a nice place. We started our ride towards Chandipur then. But on the way decided to visit Panchligeshwar before that which is a few km prior to Chandipur. So we got back to our business (riding on the NH) of munching miles.

From AH45 it is 18 km away at the bottom of hills. It was a long way uphill which we had to climb by walking through some steep stairs. Avijit surrendered at the very first and again it is me the chosen representative asked to climb till the top. I managed to convince Sourav to climb along with me with his broken leg. Its nice and challenging at the same time as its written on the stairs how many stairs one has climbed. And we climbed 250 stairs till the top. It was an achievement for Sourav obviously to climb that high on his own broken legs. A thin water flow is coming down through the rocks and under the water there were 5 rocks which implied the God Shiva. We had to climb at the cliff and reach through the water towards that whole where the rocks are situated. Sourav didn’t go inside the temple premises as he had to remove his shoes outside. It was only me who went inside and tried to reach the place but couldn’t as if had to reach further I would have been all wet. So I had to quit at last. We returned back to the parking place where we parked our bikes. And next stop was Chandipur. It was hardly 30 km away from the AH45 where this subroute was meeting AH. We moved a little forward and saw Hotel Gajanana. It was pretty late for lunch. So we halted there for our evening tiffin as it was already 4:30 pm on the clock. We had roti, mixed veg and a chicken item. The food was delicious. Now with our stomachs full we headed towards Chandipur. It was already dark and again we were in the mode of night riding. We reached Chandipur Panthanivas at around 6 pm. We did not even think of any other hotel as Panthanivas was the best option available. We checked in the best room available, sea facing AC luxury deluxe room with complementary breakfast. Somehow I was not getting network in my phone to call to my home (I want to mention one important thing that Avijit  was the person responsible to remind me of calling to my home which I used to forget very often and I want to thank him for doing the job very well). The receptionist mentioned that the DRDO Chandipur (whose office is just a few lanes away from our stay) had done some missile testing on that day and they jammed all the signals for a time period which is a very usual thing out there. But we couldn’t verify whether this was truth or just some publicity. But soon I found my mobile’s network up.

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We were very tired and jumped onto the bed without any delay. We even ordered the dinner in our room. I fell into sleep before the dinner arrived. They woke me up when the dinner came. I could hold myself up for just a couple of minutes to complete my dinner and soon got back to my dream again. And next morning none of us could remember who actually paid for the dinner last night.

Day : 7 :

Good morning to the last day of our November Daringbari trip at Chandipur Panthanivas hotel or rather I should say a lazy good morning. Even then I was the first one to get up at 6:30 am in the morning. I went to the beach just in front of our hotel expecting the colossal sound of water at the beach getting slammed on the rocks of the beach. But to my surprise the beach was completely dry and up to a long distance there was no sign of water and it seemed that it is a dry sea but the wet sand made me feel that recently there was water. To clear the confusion I asked one of the local villagers who was on a hurry to go on an important work to do in the morning. Not getting any proper reply I  understood my mistake and asked some other people who was not on a hurry, he said that this beach is one of its kind in India where the water goes into the sea upto 7/8 km away at the time of reverse tide and comes back within half an hour. So one who does not know the fact get into big trouble if he thinks that there is no water and goes deep into the sea through the dry beach and suddenly find himself in deep water in between. So I moved alongside the beach towards the mohana where the buribalam river meets the sea. One local informed me it is just 2/3 km away from our hotel if I go through the beach. He also informed me that he is also going towards it as he is into some fishing business. I walked through the beach and saw the junction where buribalam river meets bay of Bengal. I returned to our hotel at around 7:30 am. By that time Sourav and Avijit woke up. They got ready and went for the morning breakfast and I also got myself ready for check out. After breakfast we checked out from the hotel and went to the beach to spend some time. We were wearing our club jerseys on that last day of our ride. Suddenly a person approached us asking that whether we are from the same Rolling Wheels Motorcycle Club that does different kind adventure bike touring all over India… He said that his wife is the editor in the newspaper “ei somay” and she saw the club name at the back of our jerseys and remembered different articles published about our club in her newspaper. She also told us how she came to know about all these as she specifically looks after this section of the paper. And we felt proud of being a member of this club that has created recognition for itself through the passing years by its enthusiastic team members who set benchmarks in motorcycle tours.

 

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Then again a curious gentleman asked us where are we heading and are we riding all the way on bikes. This person is the in charge of NHAI development projects for that area and in on an inspection project that day. He told us about different riding rules on the highway when riding on two wheels and asked us if we can spread the awareness into all the people we are attached with about the riding rules on NHAI and how accidents can be prevented on NHAI.

 

After that we set off for Kolkata. But before that we visited the fish market at Chandipur where all fishing boats get unloaded. It is such a huge market. We left Chandipur at around 10:30 am. Destination was Kolkata. We took AH45 and by 12 o’clock we reached near the Odisha-bengal border. As per our previous plan we stopped at A1 dhaba near kharagpur for our lunch break. We had some mouthful of lunch and slept for some time on the khatias kept just outside of the dhaba. At 2 pm we started again on ah45 and then nh6. Next stop was kolaghat sher e punjab at 3:30 pm. We had our tea break there and got mesmerized with the evening tea there. Without wasting much time we again start towards our last leg of riding on that tour from Kolkaghat till Kolkata. As instructed by our club’s senior members we slowed down to 50 KMPH on the way back towards home though we did not want to end our tour on that day. But we had to end our tour this time so that we can go to some other tour to some other places some other time. We reach my home at around 6 pm in the evening.

 

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The annual cultural programme was taking place in front of our complex at Garia and the front door was blocked by stage and chairs. Somehow the local dada s helped us getting the bikes parked into the garage where my family was also waiting for us as we informed them about our arrival time when we reached near Garia. And with this we end our RW November trip to Daringbari on 28th November 2015.

 

Thanks to Rolling Wheels and all the members once again for arranging, managing and helping us every way for this memorable and delightful tour to Daringbari.

Journey to the land of thunder Dragon,Bhutan (2015)

Digging deep into the time aka History:

By 1,500 BC people lived in Bhutan by herding animals. The in the 7th century AD Buddhism was introduced into Bhutan. In the 8th century an Indian named Padmasambhava did much to encourage the spread of Buddhism in Bhutan. Ever since Buddhism has been an integral part of the culture of Bhutan.However for centuries the people of Bhutan were disunited. Then in 1616 Ngawang Namayal became spiritual leader of Bhutan. He took the title Zhabdrung Rinpoche. Under him Bhutan became a united country. In the year 1999 by introducing Satellite Tv and in 2005 unveiling a new constitution and also in 2008 after a democratic election for parliament Bhutan became a democratic country. Today Bhutan is an overwhelmingly agricultural country, and hub of cottage industry.

YESTERDAY:

It’ was like a war going on inside my mind, have to pack all the baggage, have to go to bank, buy few stuff and all has to be done before the sun set. Don’t know what to do first and what next. Super excited and tensed also as this is my first ride in Himalaya. Any way after lots of confusion, excitement and in expense of gallons of adrenalin, was able to pack my bags and tied it up on my Trex. As our beloved senior suggested and as far as I know with lil experience that we have to take a sound sleep for few hours as we are planning to cover a distance of 450km tomorrow. Before going to sleep just went to see my Trex, she was looking beautiful with full bags and all. She is gone be the soul partner of my first motorcycle tour. Just by looking at her I murmured “don’t you worry!! You take care of me…and I will take care of you”. Now it’s time for the hard thing to do… A good night sleep!  After a fierce battle between my adrenaline and my tiredness, tiredness won and I fall asleep.

Day 1:

Just wake up few crows with the Brooome of my TREX, its 4 A.M, have to start my journey from home to the meeting point.

It took me an hour to reach Jessore road and Belgharia exp way connector. Morning Kolkata with less traffic and more oxygen is worth to ride. Anyway, I reached earlier. One by one Subhendu, Sanjay both arrived along with Ravan Da, Bobo, Sanjay Da, Kisholoy Da and many brothers. We had started our journey at around 6:30 in the morning for the destination in mind Raigaunj.  Bijit  Da joined us from Boro Jagulia more on NH34. First halt was at Fulia . Ankan Da was waiting there at some special Dhaba of his bro’s. We had our special breakfast there. From there with best wishes of our big brothers (better call them brothers than seniors cause it sound close to heart!!) and with few golden suggestion about sleep, food and water we had started our journey all along. Four members Bijit Da with his vast experience in lead along with his Unicorn, me with my Trex second, Subhendu with his Terminator 125 third and finally the Marshall of Rally Sanjay with his Pulser  was on tail. The less dense the locality around the highway gets the more started to feel ourselves together. Dev da meet us at Krishna Nagar bus stand.  After a short break we started again. And then we started all along ride together. The French Dakar International rally standard off road had started just after Bethuadohori. First it was ok, but as soon as the Sun stated to shining bright we started to feel the romance of the road by inhaling the dust. We stopped in between from refreshments but as per plan we reached Beherampur for lunch. We take a break of almost 2 hrs there and then started for malda hopping that the rest will help us to get over the sleep. But it strikes back once we started to take the better part of the highway. Bijit Da and me both were feeling sleepy. So we had a 10min break in between. By time of Sunset we crossed the famous Farakka barrage. It was a breadth taking scenario,the golden sun on the west,the ganga aka Paddma flowing towars the west and specially the air smooth to breadth, and then thedisaster strike. The first tyre puncher of our tour and fortunately the last one. Bijit da was the victim. The tube was badly damaged so he was forced to buy one from the local Kaliyachowk market. After avoiding a long traffic of truck by off the road riding we reached Malda town by 8. There at some known garage of Bijit Da, Sanjay, subhendu and Bijit Da himself all clear some small maintenance work.  And after half an hour wasting on indecision of to go or stay, we finally started for Raigaunj. The 75 km journey on NH34 we cannot forget ever. It was pitching dark, no lights, unfinished highway less vehicles and we were riding on that with no intention to stop at any cost. Bijit Da and I were equipped with extra lights. Sanjay was having some problem with lights so Subhendu decided to take the tail position, so that his extra lights can help Sanjay to see too.

The road was so horrible at some places I literally fly with my bike, so did the others. I was very much lucky that I was able to come out alive from a tricky situation where I was stuck in between two trucks at high speed in opposite directions due to a man size creator I should mention. Anyway we reached raiganj by 10:30pm but we roam around the city for an hour before we find our Hotel. We checked in around 11:30pm had our dinner with whatever available and jumped onto our beds. No talking needs sleep. Good Night. IMG_20150411_153134346_HDR

Sleepy Selfi near Farakka

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SunSet Near Kaliyachowk

Day 2:

As I always do, woke up early, take a small ride in locality. The less polluted fresh air and mile long rice field by the side of highway charged my soul at the fullest. We start our Journey by 9 in the morning, day’s destination Jaigaun. It’s near about 300 km ride. It was a pleasant, warm but refreshing ride. Before noon we reached Dalkhola Railway crossing and trust me, it the convoy of truck we saw and crossed there, if the ancient mariner would have witnessed that he would have quoted” TRUCKS TRUCKS EVERYWHERE NOT AN INCH TO RIDE!!” .jokes apart ,it took us almost an hour with football’s dribbling skill to cross that. And being tired by the traffic by that are we decided to have our breakfast   near the junction of NH31. We were bit relax there and was wasting a little extra time to have our food, but then we got a call from our beloved Bhaskar Jethu. He told us that he is coming to Siliguri to receive us. And he will be reaching there in an hour. It was like lightning strike to us, because we have to cross about 120-140 km to meet him in an hour, and as the experience we have of NH34, we have no emotion left but to smile and look at each other. But Bijit da was not concern, and we came to know about that in few min. We started as soon as possible and as few head along towards the destination we realised why Bijit Da was not concern. This is not a highway its actually a Runway.  I never ride like this; I don’t think Subhendu or Sanjay Either. We ride above the speed of 80kmph together in our standard formation and was able to meet bhaskar jethu almost on time.  Bhaskar Jethu a 60+ old veteran motorcycle rider was very happy to see us. He give us many usefull tips and confidence to ride on mountain coz except bijit da its the first time for we 3, as I mention earlier. Then the veteran as a lead followed by us we start our journey towards Jaigaun. we bypass the Siliguri town and in no time reached near the Coronation bridge on Tista River. Its was like full adrinalin rush for us,as we finally having the taste of riding on hill. A one liner of Bhaskar jethu help us to cross the mountain and this was the test run. At Coronation bridge and at a view point we spent a little time to celebrate our small achievement and click some beauty of nature.

Tista River is leaving Himalaya and flowing towards the plane land there.The deep blue water, Green Mountain and clear sky the scenario is unexplainable. Though we been to this mountain so many times but view from helmet is something extra. I am sorry I can‘t express it in words. But we have to leave,so we did and the rod start to decent in the dense Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary.  Pin drop silence around expect our Bike’s sound. We were planning to stop and feel the sound of silence but as it was already 3pm, we had to move on. We reached Damdim ,a small market town by 3 pm. We had our special lunch there, complimented by Bhaskar jethu and start our journey towards Jaigaun.

The road from Damdim towards Jaigaun was filled with either dense forest, Himalaya on one side forest and river on other side of the road,over all was like a road from any fairy tale movies. At one point we realised that we were accompanied by a Goods train which was moving like a snake along with us at the bottom of the mountain on our left side. It bid us Good bye at a rail road crossing in the middle of seems nowhere and vanished in the turns of track in the forest at the bottom a mountain. Near about 6:30 we reached Birpara,the Home town of our veteran and decided to call for the day. The night there was also memorable as we felt the presence of a fierce storm there. Though we were safe but the sound of wind and door/windows banging will eco in our mind for a long time. The day was completed with the sound of silence from the jungle and the sound of power from the storm. It’s almost 2 amIMG_20150412_084134309_HDR

Good Morning Raiganj

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Near a check post, a little away from Siliguri

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Coronation bridge view point @sevok with the very Special Bhaskar Da.

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A delicious special Lunch @Damdim ..a special gift from Bhaskar Da

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@Birpara

Day 3:

The morning started a little late and we face the consequence for that. Started from Birpara near 9 am jaigaun is just 40 km away, through the beautiful tea gardens in Hasimara and after few kilometre we were able to see the foots of the Great Himalaya once more. Yes bros we are going there to conquer that part. Near Hasimara railway Station we had a funny incident of skidding with Bijit Da, which became a key to tease Bijit da for rest of the tour. Anyway We enter Phuntshelong,Bhutan by 10. After a tremendous running Around for document verification by Sanjay,helped by us. We received the permit for US and Our Ride by 1.  Sanjay has done a tremendous job to make it as early as possible. After receiving it we get even more confused,coz Thimpu was near about 180 km away. So we decided to have our Lunch,sit and decide . at Lunch we had Koka,the Bhutanese version of noodles and decided to move to Gedu, Just 50 Km away from here. Gedu is town consist of many School,colleges.  People from Indian also go there to teach. So we decided to Move on.  We had our evening tea just few kilometres away from Gedu in a roadside Bhutanese tea stall kind of thing. From there we came to know about a Guest house. Here also Sanjay take the lead and arranged rooms for us. We were very much tired mentally then. Its because Phuntshelong to Gedu this 50 km ride was the first ride for us three on mountain. So physically we were fit but mentally we were like drained out. Anyway, as the sun set I was planning to go for a round, Sanjay and Lazy Subhendu Agreed. We started from our guest house and barely reached a kilometre or two and were scared like hell. No Lights that is ok, but the twist and turns were too hot to handle. Our bike’s head light were just vanishing in those twists, was too much for a city rider for a day, so we decided to retreat. We didn’t get any signal on our phones so were concern too. We return to Gedu,find a road side tea stall. While having coffee we asked the local people about any kind of phone booth, but were denied. We were happy that finally we were free from the modern world and feeling like Lost. At the time of dinner we were able to contact our respected home. Those people at the guest house give us the first hint of how beautiful this country is. We head back to our room , was cold outside so slept early.

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Road to Himalaya through the Tea gardens near Hasimara

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Tea gardens near Hasimara railway station

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On our way to Jaigaun

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Indo-Bhutan Border gate..from Jaigaun to Phuentsholing

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In front of RSTO of Bhutan, waiting for Vehicle Permit

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Lunch @Phuentsholing…near RSTO

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Civilization on the Riverbank of  Tista

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Selfi time on the way to gedu with Sanjoy and Subhendu

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Some schools on the way to Gedu

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The beautiful Gedu city at night

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Some Night ride @Gedu

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Night @city heart of gedu

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Celebrating first ever ride on Himalaya with some evening tea @Gedu with sanjoy and subhendu

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Tea Time

Day 4:

Morning 5 am, when I look through my window, it was like heaven on earth. The moon is still shining bright, the sun has not come up yet, can see an unknown mountain covered with snow, and it was glittering with the early morning light. Can waste time on sleeping, so dressed up and move out with my camera. Clicked few, the city is still sleeping. Came back after half an hour, almost. Bros are still sleeping. Minutes I spent outside passed like seconds. So I decided to go for a small ride to see the locality. Gedu is a small but complete town. All facilities are available here. Moving along in the curve of this beautiful city was accompanied by sheep and horses some times. Rest of the time I was all along with my Trex. The well planed town, the beautiful nature around, the morning light makes my day. Splashes water on my face from some local stream wake me up a bit. After an hour and half of riding I came back and saw these successors of KUMBHAKAR’s are still sleeping. Wake them up all get ready by 9. Bijit Da was still packing his bags so Sanjay, Subhendu and me; we decided to go for a little off road adventure. We don’t have to search for a long find it in very near and did all the stuff we were planning. It was a small stretch off unfinished road to somewhere with little twist and turns, but full with rocks. We were so excited that we conquered it even before we realised we can.

Blood was running at the highest speed possible, adrenalin was acting as a booster, excitement was unimaginable. Life’s first off road adventure is done. Then we realised bijit da is still missing. Subhendu volunteer for the search. We find him still packing as the bike rolled over and he had to unpack and pack again.  We help him to do it quickly and move on. The roads are full with so many beautiful spot for photography, we became confused whether to ride or stop and click. Anyway  at a curve we decided to stop and click Gedu city from far away. It was so far that the houses and the college buildings were like few colourful dots in beautiful paintings. We easily make out the place from here, where we stayed, but were impossible to make out the place where we had tea last evening or today morning. Momo and noodles are the special foods, which are enjoyed in these mountains, and we started to enjoy it from today morning. The roads are very beautiful and well maintained here. Traffic is very less and well discipline. Don’t remember seeing a rash driving ever, surprisingly they don’t even blow horns, until and unless it’s absolutely necessary. We had to leave the high way and take a 20 km diversion through forest kind of area with less maintain road due to CHUKKHA HYDRO POWER PLANT project. Though the bypass was less maintained but still the beauty of forest and the village we passed by will fill your heart with beauty. Then again we speed up when we meet the highway.   After crossing the point, where roads parts away from HAA vally,Paro and Thimpu we stop at a place name Khasadrapchu towards Thimpu. We unexpectedly had Indian food there, serviced with a smile. We were overwhelmed by their behaviour.  Around 4pm we reached Thimpu. It is a modern city build on the bank and nearby Mountain of the river name Thimpu Chu     (Chu denotes river here). We stayed a hotel name Dragon next to this Thimpu chu.  As we reached early, decided to go for local side scene. Unpacked our bikes and headed to the main area of the city. The first point we saw after entering the main area is the memorial CHOTEN. It is very beautiful and very old and very beautiful too. After spending an hour there, with a lil help of a local people we reached the market are. The most crowded part of the city. As motorcycle is not a common thing there, we find the area for parking motorcycle clean and clear. We arrange a mobile sim card visited a hand craft fair nearby. Did some shopping, had KOKA (noodles) and tea and came back to hotel. At night we had our dinner at a restaurant, which didn’t make a good impression on us by its food. Came back to hotel, the room was very beautiful had a big window near to our bed; fall asleep by watching the city going for sleep through that window.

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Good morning…. Gedu

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Moonset before Sunrise

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The Nature@Morning

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Good morning to the Great Himalaya

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Thimpu – Phuentsholing highway from Guest house and the Town’s central clock tower

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Getting ready for Thimpu

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Selfi… before leaving guest House @ Gedu

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Gedu City a Glimpse

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Gedu City,an another Glimpse

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Gedu City from another mountain

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Some Unknown fountain in the middle of no-where

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Is that a UFO or just a cloud?

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Selfi –time with Bijit Da, Sanjoy and Subhendu

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A fountain 

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Lunch break @ Khasadrapchu

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Thimpu city from Hotel Dragon

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Thimpu in Concrete mode

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Choten at the heart of Thimpu

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Inside the compound and in front of the Choten

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Devotion 

Day 5:

Good morning woke up early, but all the possible way to go outside is close. Though of jumping out from the balcony, but had to stop myself because it’s almost two storied high from ground. Others were sleeping till now, but I was jumping around in the room to go out. Finally at 7 am I was able to say hello the beautiful Thimpu personally. Just because of the curiosity I start up hill riding on a road just next to our hotel. And after a few breadth taking twist and turns I reached near a statue of Lord Buddha, which is almost hugging the floating clouds. The view from there is breadth taking.  So after taking few random clicks, I decided to go back to hotel to come back with others. When we came back, it’s already became a bright sunny day. The 179feet high statue of was shining like gold as it was made of some golden colour material. The posture there was as if Lord Buddha is doing meditation. The people around here believe that Lord Buddha will take care of their people, so they reshape the mountain in such a way that from here we can see almost the every corner of the city. The area in front and around the statue was concreted for devotees to come. The work is still in progress, still as we hang around we felt like we were in a floating platform and looking towards the city as if it was way down to earth.  We took some group photos in that areas, but find very difficult to put the huge statue in one frame. After enjoying the heavenly atmosphere there we move on to see DOCHULA. On the way we saw the sky was turning from sky blue to deep black in a matter of moment. The weather on Mountains is unpredictable, and I guess that’s what makes it so beautiful. At the check post just 5 kms from Dochula we came to know that, we don’t have the permit to go Dochula or beyond. To go further, we have to issue a permit from Thimpu. But as i mention earlier, Bhutan is a country of very nice and simple people, we were lucky enough to see that once more. The lady at the check post allow us to visit the Dochula point and come back in an hour,if we submit all the documents at her.  Like a lucky opportunity, we agree with her and speed away towards the destination. We reached there a little faster than we expect.  Dochula is a point from where we can enjoy the beauty of the Punakha valley. It was almost cloudy, but we were lucky enough to see the higher Himalayan range in between sometimes, it was looking like someone has  drawn a with line in a dark painting. At Dochula we saw the 108 Choten at the centre, move around the place and click some photos here and there. A honeymoon Couple had fulfilled their desire of riding bike at Dochula together on my TREX. As the weather was turning bad there and as we committed to came down in an hour, we start to returns back to the checkpoint. On our way back we were greeted by some Royal Enfield from Karnataka registration. We also wave them back, as a gesture of good will.  Off Road riding is virus we riders are affected with, so whenever and wherever we get our chances, we satisfied ourself with riding on it. For example, coming back from dochula check point, we saw a stiff road going uphill somewhere, and we decided to ride on that. It was the stiffest road SANJAY, SUBHENDU, and I had ever climbed before in our entire life (till date). Sanjay take the lead, followed by SUBHENDU and experienced Bijit day and finally me. Unfortunately my TREX was stuck in between and I had to turn around from the halfway mark, rest of the team seems had reached at the top. On the way back to Thimphu we visited the Semtokha Dzong. It was a 400 year old building, till date it is used as school from Buddhist monks. As we enter the Gumpha, the hums of the ongoing classes, the architecture, the statues and all the other unknown things together creates an atmosphere as if we went back to centuries of the kings and horses. After enjoying few moments there, we rush back to Thimphu as we were very hungry. After searching for half an hour with empty stomach we were able to find a hotel with Indian cuisine. We planned to visit the Kings Palace in the evening, But as we went there expecting some museum or something, we find its restricted place. In the evening we spent our time at market only and with early dinner, we went back to bed very early.

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Thimpu city from mountain Top

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Another View of the city

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Some House at the top

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Another View of the city

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Landscape 

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In front of 179 feet tall Lord Buddha’s Statue

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Lord Buddha’s Statue Under construction

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Sel-fi

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Selfi with a part of the city

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The Buddha statue from Far away…

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On our Way to Dochula

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A Monastery @Dochula Top

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Dochula Top

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Higher range of Himalaya from Dochula Top

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 Memorial at Dochula Top

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101 no of memorial at Dochula Top

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Panoramic View of 101 No. of memorial at Dochula Top

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Near Semtokha Dzong

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Near Semtokha Dzong

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Semtokha Dzong

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Inside Semtokha Dzong

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Superb Lunch in Thimpu market

Day 6:

Today’s Destination is Paro, but not directly, via HA valley and Chelela. We started in the morning biding good bye to Thimpu and its natural beauty, and headed towards the same place Khasadrapchu for breakfast. We celebrate the morning with Koka, tea and Amazing PT dance of mine. The beautiful ladies of the hotel joined us in the group photo, master mined by Bijit da (Blink)

The road to Ha valley, in the beginning was parallel to the Thimpu- Phuntshelong highway, but after a small turn it turn us to some where unknown place. We crossed many small villages, forest areas and after a final 80 km ride and soaked in rain we reached the helipad near Ha valley. At the Helipad we were acting as if the school kids suddenly found himself in a big open ground. We ran, take pics, do some special stuff with our respective motorcycle and then after almost half an hour we move towards the town’s main area. It’s a small but complete town. Its atmosphere is never less than the small town we use to see in Hollywood movies.  After having some tea and biscuit we moved towards the greatest portion of our motorcycle life. We have already gathered info about the place named Chelela, the highest motor able road in Bhutan 13000 feet from MSL. So we started our journey with full of excitement of achieving something for the first time in our life. The road is full of hair pin turns and twists surrounded by jungles. We were all alone riding together. We were warned about the wild animals in the area by the people of Ha valley. So we were little scared too. The more, we were going up, the more the forest becomes thinner and Thinner. And at the bone chilling (it’s already raining) height we were greeted by some YAK . I was little afraid because of the way it looks at us, the Yak. It seems we are the trespassers and it is the property owner. Then we saw a Notice at a turn and we were there …CHELELA. This is the first time for Sanjay, Subhendu and me in Himalayan Road, on motorcycle at this Height. Felt like at Top of the world. We just saw a flash of far side the Himalaya and then the weather turn ugly. But who cares man!! We were emotional then, started singing dancing and all what we can. It was raining, but suddenly Bijit da warn us that it not raining..it was snowing. We became mad then, not scared but happily. Then we all realised that we should move on, as it’s getting dark and start raining/snowing heavily. The trees nearby started to turn white, when we start moving. Sanjay and I fall behind a little to wear Gloves as the chilliness is beyond control now. The Roads are slippery and wet, it raining heavily, very difficult to see. As this is a dense forest are the humidity and wetness is much more than to bear. The fingers are not working, breaks are not doing its job, only resource is engine breaking and the wheels are skidding like hell. The road from Chelela to Paro is only 60km, but it has the max number of Twist and Turns we have ever imagine. The thing which looks exciting in map is actually more dangerous and adrenalin rush than we expected. We didn’t find any Shelter on that road and by the time we reach Paro, we went above all the chilliness and rain. We check in a new Hotel Name PHANDEY GHAKIL logde outside paro,towards Tiger nest aka Tuksung Monestry. The owners of the hotel help us a lot after saw us in this drenching condition. He even went to market to buy new room heater. We sat on the drawing room window and were recollecting what we did today with tea and packet of biscuit. Its raining outside and we can see the Paro Chu (river) is flowing with his full energy. Subhendu did a fair enough job to lead us from chelela to paro in this difficult situation. We were just thinking that just from a city rider to riding on this twisting hill of chelela, we have grown a lot as a motorcycle rider. Today morning when we started from Thimpu, we were just Bikers just exploring the countryside of this beautiful country, but after this awesome experience we think we can demand that we are not the biker anymore, we are Motorcycle Traveller, a rider .I guess our big brothers at RW saw that in us, so they allow us to get Lost and find our true self in the twist of Chelela. There is a saying something like you have never lived until you lived on the edges, we might not lived but we surely ride on the edges. Thank you to the big brothers of RW back at home. After having a nice Indian dinner at night we realised that the bikes gone be standing alone in rain. But we were too tired to think for an alternative option. So we leave it to the mercy of nature and went to sleep. Today we may lay on our bed early but find it very difficult to sleep, as the thing we been through today is an experience for life time. Good night.

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The gateway of Thimpu City

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@ khasadrapchu ,in a hotel for breakfast, selfi. With Prema and her Sister

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Road to Haa valley

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Mountain Top

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Some landscape

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@ Helipad near Haa valley

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At Haa valley

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Lunch time At Haa valley/town

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@Sanjoy

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@Subhendu

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And me..

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From Hotel balcony @Paro

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Celebrating the ride through Chelela pass. The highest motor able point of Bhutan as well as our life too.

Day 7:

Today is beautiful day, can see the beauty of the nature from the room’s window itself ,after having breakfast we have plan for some local sight scene. We started from our hotel to find a way to take the photos of plane landing and takeoff from PARO Airport. So first we have to figure out a way how to reach that bird’s eye view point, which we saw yesterday while coming from Chelela. We were little concern about our bikes as that suffer in the night long rain alone, but seems they were even more fit than us, starts in first kick. After a small sprint we reached the point from where we can see the airport as well, by the side of Paro Chu. It was a breadth taking view of the area, the airport is surrounded by high mountains, can see few monasteries here and there and the valley below consist of a runway and the airport. At the proper time we saw planes land and take off in an almost impossible way. It opens for an hour or so for a day, all the flights arrive and departure in that tight time schedule. Spending an hour there we move on towards TAKTSANG MONASTERY aka Tiger nest. Bijit da quit and went back to hotel due to some physical problems. The legend of Taktshang (Tiger’s lair) evolved form 747 AD when Guru Padmasmbhava chose a cave on a sheer rock face to meditate and, assuming a wrathful form, Guru Dorji Drolo, astride a tigress, subdued the evil spirits n the locality. Taktshang thus became one of the most important Buddhist monuments in the Himalayan Buddhist world. We parked all our bikes at the bottom and start our trek towards the nest, it’s a 4 km trek and elevation is around 700mtr from the surround valley. As we were climbing up we saw people were coming down, many from India, Bangladesh and so many countries. Time was passing by like a river. For us it’s like 1 min walk and 5 min’s of rest. The atmosphere and the colour of the surrounding were changing as we were going up. The road is un made and that’s make this monastery of difficult and unique.  All along the road we can see the destination but seems the road is never ending. We lie down on grasses, on the mud and where ever we can as the feet’s are not moving and became excess baggage for us. We never felt so embarrass by our fitness lever in our life. Subhendu and I were like feeling like to quit But Never quit sprit of sanjay by pushing and pulling helps us to reach the final turn. From here the surrounding looks like heaven. Those green mountains at the bottom and white at the top, the Paro Chu the houses it just like a hilly area of state called Heaven. When we reached the main gate we realised if there is a little bit of peace left in this world, its stored here. As the battery of the camera is down and the weather is not seems so blissful on use we came down at the earliest. Fear of the rain we reached at the bottom, but sky became clear and we saw the tiger nest shining at the lap of the mountain for the last time. On the way to Druggel Monastery we had our lunch in a local restaurant.

Same menu KOKA with Egg and Tea. On the way back to our hotel we get a long stretch of twisting and turning tarmac where we assume that we were riding on some international racing circuit. After that super trek and ride we came back to hotel but it take long half an hour to get into our room, as Bijit da had locked the main door and fall asleep inside the bedroom, which later became our topic of discussion in the evening. Later on that evening rain had started to fall heavily, we were little concern over our motorcycle which our hotel owner solved by putting had plastic over it . The rain storm has grown in strength. Tomorrow what’s gone happen if this rain continues? With that doubt we went to sleep.

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An artist (Bijit Da) with an Instrument

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Paro Airport from Bird eye view point

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Traffic Jam @Paro Airport

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Panoromic view of Paro Airport beside Paro chu

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As usual…. Selfi

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On Our Way to Dragon’s nest

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The famous Taksang monastery aka Dragon’s nest

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Taksang monastery

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Taksang monastery..so close ..yet so far..

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Exhausted on our way up to the Taksang monastery..

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Tired but filled with energy and peace on our way down back Taksang monestry

Day 8:

The morning was not so good this time. It was continuously raining from last evening. We had plan to go down to Phuntshelong today. But seems we all had to delay that for a day. I look down from the balcony and saw all the bikes are covered with the hard plastics, as said by our Hotel owner Mr. Sonam Wangdi. Though this Hotel is just few feet away from the Paro Chu, still we were not able to see it as the surrounding areas are full of clouds and rain. It’s very irritating to sit in hotel room when u came to a new place, but i don’t have any wish to get wet in this rain. As the time passes by the rain starts to get lighter some time and the green trees at the far mountain has already became white in colour. It’s snowing at the top of the mountains. What does every colour looks like exactly and what are the different shades they can possible have, can only be found in either mountains or in deep seas. Bhutan has pleased our eyes with colour; fill our soul with peace and love of people. In last few days we have grown a lot, not physically but spiritually and mentally. On the afternoon Sanjay and Bijit da had decided to go out and Our Hotel owner has accompanied them with his Toyota helix. Subhendu and I have decided to stay back.

.With our Hotel Owner we went to a Museum first, It’s The National Museum. After Damage by a big earth quake, the old building was replaced by a new one. It has the collection of the artefacts and equipments which the soldier of this country use to use in war in old days and also it consist of many old written records and all. Bhutan was always a rich country in terms of culture and education, especially religious education and till date they are maintaining the same old tradition of being great as a society and as a country.

After been so lazy in the day times its time to pack our bags in the evening. Today is the last night in Bhutan. Tomorrow we will start our return journey towards home. Mr. Wangdi has treated us with some special today. It’s time to go to sleep again. A day less enjoyed.

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After a Night long rain..nature..before sunrise..

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Nature..after sunrise…

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A Photo’s Photo…

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Natural beauty with Thorn..

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Good morning tea

Today is a bright sunny day, after taking few morning photos of the surrounding Hills we start our Journey towards Birpara, India. After reaching the main central of the paro city we realised that there is a bicycle race going on, from Thimpu to Paro. On the way back we encourage the competitors of the race to push harder and they also wave us back. At a turn on a hill we find few school children standing by the side of road and encouraging the competitors and we have take a fair enough share of the encouragement as we pass the same road on the opposite direction . The beauty of these roads are unparallel to any others, high mountains, different shades of greenery and the river flowing by the side of mountain, it’s hard to explain in words. After riding after 60-70 kms we again had KOKA and tea at some very small market. This was the last food we were having at Bhutan, so even while having foods also we were feeling emotional. After that we headed towards Phuentshelong . The weather of the mountains are truly unpredictable, sometimes it shines and the nature looks like heaven and sometimes when its cloudy, scared us by reminding the ride from Chelela to Paro. Anyway with this amazing colour contrast and watching breadth taking view of few fountains in the far side of hill we reached GEDU. And there we realised that the training of riding motorcycle on Hill is still not done yet. We were stunt when we reached Gedu, seems the city has vanished under the think white cloud. None of ours lights were able to go though that cloud and the road is very slippery here along with some 2000-3000 feet drop on the opposite side of the mountain. Only Sanjay has Fog light mounted on his bike. With the help of that we stared to progress slowly, in the white cloud it was becoming very difficult even to see the person sitting in front, forget about the traffic coming from opposite side.

We find a convoy of army truck and followed that and when the clouds get thinner; we overtake them and speed up. We have crossed nearly 8 kilometres in Fog, which has also became one of the most exciting and speechless experience we even had. We all have passed through the mountain fog, but never by motorcycle and riding on it. That white cloud, which blocked our path, actually opens our mind and upgrades us as a motorcycle rider. At the Phuntshelong check post we finally submit all our permits and went out from Bhutan through that king’s Door by which We enter into Bhutan 7 days back. The dream is over, but the mission is successful. Those 3 lads of Kolkata, along with an experience rider had conquered the mountains of the country Name Bhutan. There is some difference now as I said earlier, those there not Lads anymore who hang out with bikes. Those are now one step closer to become a Good rider now. Anyway As we moved towards Birpara,Bhaskar da arrange all the accommodation and food at there. We didn’t face any problem at there. In the evening we had our Bengali style adda at Bhaskar Da’s resident and then at Dalgoun railway station.  At night while lying on be we were just cherishing the memory of our Debut trip. Seems those are the best 7 days of our life.IMG_20150419_075208558_HDR

With the Hotel owner and our friend Mr. Sonam wangdi @paro

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Some beautiful landscapes on our way back..

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Some Roadside clicks..

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Last Selfi in Phuentsholing @Bhutan

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On Coronation bridge @Sevok

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Forest Area @Duars

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A halt to Listen to the sound of Silence@Duars

Day 10 and Day 11:

It was a good morning; we started early to enjoy the view of all the nearby forests of Duars area and the last glimpse of Himalaya. Crossing tea estate one by one, we seems realised what does the greenery actually means, honestly the shades of green can be truly visualizes once you been here, in these beautiful area Called Duars. We had our Breakfast at Chalsa. It’s busy market place area. We became the main attraction there as we were having bikes with bag packs and all. Few try to communicate with us and rest were looking at us as if we some illegal intruder in their area. On the one side there is dense Jungle and on the other, there is the great Himalaya, the highway in between goes through like a snake. We even in stopped in few places to enjoy the sound of silence and then after crossing Maal Bazar, Damdim and Odlabari we reached the view Point of Coronation Bridge, it’s the unofficially good bye point for us to Himalaya. We take many Snaps fulfilled our never ending quench of taking photo. Then we start to head towards Siliguri. Our plan was to bypass the main city and from Bagdogra we were suppose to take the NH31, but we miss the mark and head straight towards the naxalbari are via NH 31c. After crossing Panitanki and Batasi we realized our mistake and we came back to the highway near Kharibari. After that we speed up, next stop Dalkhola crossing. Finishing lunch at DalKhola we headed for the long off road stretch towards Malda. From Raigunj to Malda we had the same experience as we had while going to Bhutan. At Malda Town we got the shock of our life time, as the hotel our brothers use to stay in their previous rides turn via here turns into a Nursing home now. Anyway we were able to find a good hotel near bye and spent the night there. Next morning when I woke up, saw Subhendu is already up and looking through the windown, seems searching for something. He didn’t reply to me when I asked him. I know what he is looking for, the horizon elevated as the Himalayan Mountain, those green and snow cover trees, those rivers. But from here we can only see the jungle of concrete. We started early, bye the time of lunch we had reached Krishna Nagar. In Fulia Swarno Da meet us personally at his House. Ravan da had come from Kolkata to take us Home. Bye evening we all reach our respective home safely.

BRoommm:

For us this is the beginning of our change, we have grown from a biker to a passionate rider. While going to Bhutan, we all were Four individual acting as a Team as we never ride together before for such a long time consistently .But when we came back from there We have already became a team . how i say so, because while going at a same speed the distance between the four motorcycle and the mental vibration was far and while coming its came so close that u might mistake it with just a single one. We all were quite on the last day, not that we were tired but that we gone miss this till the next ride comes. An invisible bonding has grown in between us. Those difficulties in road and weathers, Bijit da always giving advice for goods, Subhendu taking lead on the rainy day, Sanjay taking responsibility of the team in the foggy condition and I , don’t know that’s the part they can say, may be just been there with them always, make us brothers. Even Today when I woke up and go to the window, I still search for the horizon wit mountains and trees and river and most importantly peace. Subhendu and Sanjay admit that too. While coming back at the View point of Coronation Bridge, that as he has blessed us with good condition and good fortune to seen his creation of beauty, so we promise that we will be back soon in very near future. As the traveller goes home his unquenchable thirst for the unknown place does take a break though. Its keep on poking him until he pack his bags again and start his bike. We are now on that stage just waiting for a reason to go in Himalaya once again. Just got the test of adventure for first time..Ready for more..What say bro!!

HAPPY ROLLING!!!

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Ladakh 2015 – Journey to The Land of Juley

Building roads through more than 15000 kms long sensitive border is a task which in itself is unbelievable even in dreams. In addition to it the toughest challenge in someone’s job profile is to maintain such a road that is constantly hammered by rain, ice, sun and landslides.  An organization would need supernatural power and will to even think of that. Yes its BRO (Border Roads Organisation) that made it possible (http://www.bro.nic.in/index.asp?lang=1&projectid=9). This time we would try to explore places which would be almost impossible without the presence of BRO.

 

We at “Rolling Wheels Motorcycle Touring club” always believe in the ability of the rider, not the power of the engine. We believe in the capability of a rider and how familiar he is with his machine. If someone is well versed with the vehicle he is driving, it is very simple for him to feel when the vehicle needs his attention or when it is having a slightest of hiccups. There are several footprints we left till date around the nation, all on regular commuter motorcycles and the notable part is that a 125 cc went places with other higher capacity bikes.

 

Locals says that ..

Only Place in The World Where One Can Suffer Frost Bite and Heat Stroke at the Same Time

 

and BRO says ..

  • Enjoy my virgin nature

 

Yes probably you are guessing right. I am referring LadakhJ. 4 years back we,Rolling Wheels were first entity to showcase beauty of Ladakh through an 11 Episode Travel Documentary, “DU CHAKAY LADAKH”, a journey on motorcycle, which is still getting telecasted in air. This time we are going to cover plateau where Himalayan Range meets with Karakoram Rangeand The Changthang Plateau as well.

 

A small intro of Ladakh:

 

Ladakh is a land like no other. Bounded by two mightiest mountain ranges of the world, the Great Himalaya and the Karakoram, it lies athwart two other, the Ladakh range and the Zanskar range. Ladakh lies at altitudes ranging from about 9,000 feet (2750m) at Kargil to 25,170 feet (7,672m) at Saser Kangri in the Karakoram. Thus summer temperatures rarely exceed about 27 degree Celsius in the shade, while in winter they may plummet to minus 20 degree Celsius even in Leh. Surprisingly, though, the thin air makes the heat of the sun even more intense than at lower altitudes; it is said that only in Ladakh can a man sitting in the sun with his feet in the shade suffer from sunstroke and frostbite at the same time!

 

We all at Rolling Wheels Motorcycle Touring Club, were in discussion on upcoming month long tour. Different places were suggested by everyone, but the ultimate surprise was by our dearest, Sanjoy Da, he presented a detailed day by day month long plan from Kolkata to Ladakh. We knew that he was in Kashmir this year in February with his family. But we didn’t know that it was his intention to collect information on his upcoming dream. It’s always a pleasure to be associated with one of the most reputed motorcycle touring clubs in the country not only because of its achievements, but for the valuable gems, like Sanjoy. We all at RW are so lucky to have our families, which always provide every kind of support in every scenario, no matter if it’s a 7 days or a 40 days tour.

 

There were several discussion and meeting held before we left for the journey. Most of those were at Sanjoy Da’s house where we not only got an environment to discuss, but also a warm welcome from him and his family everytime. I still remember, we were going to Sanjoy Da’s house with my Son (5 months then) for a meeting right after his vaccination and naturally he was crying out loud. But it was his family that did everything to stop him crying so that we could successfully complete the meeting. At Rolling Wheels, we were-are and always will be a Great Family.

 

It was May-2015; time to decide the Team for this epic journey and we had our first set back, we came to know that Sanjoy Da, the initiator of this trip will not be able to go due to his business problems. Frankly speaking no one was willing to go on thus we were planning for some other destination. Finally we all decided to chase the dream which Sanjoy da dreamt of because by then the dream was ours it had manifested deeply in our minds and it was fuelled by the non-stop motivation and encouragement from Sanjoy da. Team was finalized as ..

 

Swarnadip ————————- KTM Duke 390 cc ——————– (Thirsty)

Bobo ——————————- Bajaj Pulsar 180 cc ——————– (Whistler)

Ankan —————————– Bajaj Avenjer 200 cc ——————- (Soti)

Arup (myself) ——————– Hero Honda CBZ Extreme 150 cc — ( Blade)

Pratap —————————– Bajaj Pulsar 150 cc ——————— (Clutchy)

Dev ——————————– KTM Duke 200 cc ———————- (Fallen)

 

The start date of this remarkable journey is finalized as 5th June 2015, Friday.

 

First of all, the time we have chosen is when road to Ladakh will be at its initial days. 4 years passed by. Many tourists now a days love to choose this region as leisure destination. So, we can presume that roads will be in better shape than we saw 4 years back but had no idea what scenario we have to face on our journey days.

 

We have never taken bikes in Train. So, had to collect information and permission to bring our companions with us. With all adventurists, traveler, enthusiast’s blessings good always happen with us and there was no exception for this time as well. I got to see one of my coaches of my initial Cricket career days, who play for Railway now a day. It was a chat for sometime with him and other officers and the atmosphere got crazy for motorcycle touring J. We shared our journeys and came to know that many of them are aware of those via media. Strange to see that we are so popular and people are there who love us for giving a new definition to motorcycle journey. Anyways we got permission from top officers of Railway and everything is booked.

 

It was 4th June 2015 and we spent almost 8+ hours for packing our companions with fully empty tank L

 

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Finally we got this amazing sunset …

 

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Bobo’s  dialect:

 

Excitement would be a weaker word to describe the pre-ride preparations of Leh & Ladakh, for me the more apt word would be anticipation. I was waiting at Hamid da’s dhaba(a local meeting point on highway) since 2011 and finally could kick off on 4th June 2015. It was till that place I had gone to see off  team Rolling Wheels for the 2011 tour of Kashmir. The word kick off held a different meaning for us, as it was more like lift off, no we did not take a flight. It was Himgiri Express from Howrah and the boarding process was more hectic than riding to Jammu. In total it took three visits to the station to confirm the booking of our motorcycles on the same train that we had our reservations in, thanks to the CPLI Howrah without whose help the whole process would have been impossible. We were informed in advance that there was a shortage of staff and we had to load our bikes ourselves but on reaching the station to our horror apart from our six bikes three more bikes of a different group was to be loaded, the person in charge of loading said that not more than three bikes can be loaded in a single luggage compartment due to space issue. But we surprised him by loading six bikes comfortably in one.

 

 

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It was 7th June but our train was late. Instead of 12:30 noon we reached at 3 pm and finally the moment arrived. We got ready with our gears and preferred to take it till exit rather than waiting for help to arrive. There are lots of procedures before we could exit the station with everything, specially our motorcycle. It took sometime but we were lucky to have a police personnel who was excited after seeing us and even helped us getting petrol from a nearby fuel pump. We poured a bit of petrol in everyone’s bike, packed our luggage and bid the helpful gentleman goodbye and started our journey at 5 pm. Together we had our lunch at Vaishno dhaba outside Jammu station …

 

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We were feeling so glad after getting our motorcycles and enjoyed the lunch for long. We even didn’t notice but it was 7 pm as it felt like it was 4 pm. We decided to leave. We all visited the petrol pump again to get our tanks full. The journey was amazing through excellent road and few long tunnels. Suddenly we saw a big snake. Pratap tried to capture, but it got vanish in dark L. We preferred continuing the journey further.

 

We were feeling so glad after getting our motorcycles and enjoyed the lunch for long. We even didn’t notice but it was 7 pm as it felt like it was 4 pm. We decided to leave. We all visited the petrol pump again to get our tanks full. The journey was amazing through excellent road and few long tunnels. Suddenly we saw a big snake. Pratap tried to capture, but it got vanish in dark L. We preferred continuing the journey further.

 

We decided to stay at Udhampur. As usual Swarna and Ankan went and found an excellent stay for the night. We parked our motorcycles but found Bobo’s Whistler had a flat rear tyreL.We decided to fix it next day and went to our rooms.

 

Next day Bobo and Swarna left to fix Whistler’s tyre and we packed our luggage during their absence, they came soon and packed their luggage as well. It was 11 am and we left. Our plan was to reach Srinagar but we were a bit late for this long journey. We stopped somewhere around 12 pm for lunch.

 

As soon as we finished our lunch, we started again and it was around 1 pm. The more we were progressing, it was getting tough for us to drive. The only reason was illiterate driving culture of J&K State. There is no police checking or patrolling. Drivers are so rough we can’t simply imagine. They do not know the use of indicators, manual signaling or even basic rules of overtaking. Vehicles run haywire even overtaking at turns. We all got puzzled and we were really feeling unsafe driving with them. Apart from Army vehicles we didn’t see a single vehicle that followed rules. Later locals confirmed that hardly 30% drivers have original licenses. Anyways it was a really tough ride for us. We stopped couple of times for a quick snack or tea break. During one of these halts we were lucky enough to see this beauty at Titanic view point …

 

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Titanic view point is famous because it will give you the first glimpse of Kargil Valley at a distance.

 

The volume of traffic was also a bit high as it is one of the two entry points to this heaven and finally we reached Srinagar. Typically, most of the locals of Kashmir are now so much professional. Roads are full of agents who do hotel booking, car booking etc. for tourists. They might provide correct information only if you are booking hotels or cars with them. Now days, there are lots of agents roaming around the city, once called paradise. Asking anyone about a route was actually diverting us to somewhere else. So, finally we went inside a hotel, check with them, validated the same in GPS and left. We were infront of Dal Lake and it was 9:15 pm.

 

Brief:

 

Dal Lake is in Srinagar. This lake covers an area of 18 square kilometers. It is in history since Mahasarit, an ancient Sanskrit text. It is also said that a village named Isbar to the east of Dal Lake was once the residence of goddess Durga. This lake has seen many decades from Ancient times of Mughal Era to British rule and still continuing.

 

It was nice to see all houseboats lit up completely and reflecting on the water of Dal Lake …

 

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We were soaked and looking for a stay. But all the accommodations were charging too high for one night. Frankly speaking we found the place too noisy, dirty and ridiculous drivers were driving roughly beside the lake, even performing drag races as few vehicles were there at that time of the night. We were thinking to stay somewhere which was at least calm & peaceful. Suddenly Ankan called us and confirmed that he managed a good houseboat accommodation at unbelievable rate. It was 11 pm and we decided to had our dinner first and then go to houseboat. It was very good veg dinner and we went to houseboat around 12 am.

 

It was really an excellent houseboat accommodation and I couldn’t resist taking snaps first and then bring luggage…

 

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We gossiped a lot with the owner of the houseboat and came to know the real scenario of the last flood that engulfed everything. We all were feeling cold and decided to go to bed.  It was excellent feeling staying in wooden houseboat facilitated with bathtub as well (which was of no use at least for us). We all slept around 2:30 am.

 

 

As usual we woke up later around 8 am. Our plan was to reach Sonmarg and stay for the night. But, team decided to enjoy a day at Dal Lake.

 

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By that time we found that my Blade and Pratap’s Pulsar needed a few repairs. We were in doubt if we could get someone who understood our requirements and we were glad to meet Imtiaz (with the help of Parvez, our houseboat owner). He is a real gentleman and an excellent person. Our bike’s were not getting enough power after 60 kmph and he just fixed it within seconds with a few small adjustments. Great part was that he also called us and demonstrated the problem and the solution. Hats off to him, not because he fixed the issues but for his behavior, temperament and friendliness. Guys going through my write up can ask anyone in Srinagar for Imtiaz Automobile just beside KralKhud Police Station if you need any kind of help for your motorcycle.

 

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It took some time to fix issues and our companions are ready by 1 pm. Apart from Pratap & myself everyone was enjoying the beauty of Dal Lake and lifestyle of locals around it capturing snaps, videos and fishes(Bobo). We had a discussion and decided to visit Gulmarg on the same day. Team regrouped infront of Imtiaz Automobile within few minutes and we left thanking Imtiazbhai from bottom of our heart. The first few kms were again through illiterate drivers and finally we reached highway leading towards Gulmarg. We were feeling hungry and thinking about trying local food. Before we think and decide where and what to have in our lunch, our dearest Parvezbhai took us to a good roadside hotel and the lunch was …

 

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Non-veg items available in Kashmir are mostly of sheep meat. Every item had its uniqueness and all are amazing in taste. Starting from kebab’s to Gustawa to all other items, preparation and taste were amazing. Lunch of 6 folks for that day was the costliest deal of the entire tour rounded up at Rs. 7000/-. It was initially real shocking to us but later ignored just because of the amazing taste J. We paid the bill and left for Gulmarg.  Road was amazing through green pine & fir forest and finally we reached Gulmarg.

 

Gulmarg is a hill station in Baramula district of Jammu and Kashmir. This town lies like a cup shaped valley in the PirPanjal Range of the Himalayas at an altitude of 8957 ft. 56 kms from Srinagar.

 

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It was nice to see the PirPanjal range around us. But we were feeling afraid as we could see the entire sky behind us was engulfed in dark clouds. We hardly spent 5 minutes and decided to return ASAP. We hardly crossed the beautiful road through pine & fir forest and it started raining. Drizzles soon became hail and then profuse rain within minutes. We got stuck for more than an hour. As it started drizzling again, we decided to leave. We started driving and slowly as we were drenched. We did stop any more as weather was bad but suddenly we were shivering in cold, Bobo got flat tyre again. It was 8 am and all the tyre repairing shops were closed. As a true friend in need, Parvez requested again to a local tyre repairing shop in their local dialect and he was ready to fix Bobo’s tyre.

 

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With the help of excellent lights of Dev’s duke, repair work was done very soon and we left for our houseboat. We had our dinner first and then went to houseboat keeping in mind next day’s journey, as much as we can cover.

 

 

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We all woke up by 6:30 am next day. Everyone was packing his luggage and prepping up their rides. Finally everything got settled by 8:30 am. We bid our friend ParvezL good bye and left with Kargil in our minds. But again things were not moving correctly. Now Pratap had a flat tyre. It took time to fix his tyre and we observe dark smoky cloud is just in front of us.

We were infront of some girls school (can’t remember the name) where the mechanic was fixing the flat, it was here that I observed the horrible habit of crossing roads. School girls were crossing road, without even looking at either sides of the road. We observed a girl being hit by a motorcycle when we were at Imtiaz’s Automobile shop. Again infront of our eyes we saw another school girl crossing the road, looking downward and got hit by a bus. It was not that hard as the bus driver managed to break on time but the schoolgirl was pushed away few feet. Locals saw, bus driver shouted, but who cares, the school girl just stood up and went ahead. We were just praying, God, please give us more patience to drive carefully through this non-sense.

As soon as we started, again it started raining and we had to stop for a few minutes. But the remaining journey till Sonmarg was excellent through Sind river by our side. We reached Sonmarg at 12:30 pm. It was too crowded with tourist. We decided to have lunch comparatively at a lesser crowded place.
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As we were enjoying lunch and it started drizzling again. We put on our raincoats and left Sonmarg. Initial journey started through a huge traffic jam as there were 2 accidents with loss of 23 lives. Among those there was a family from our hometown Kolkata as well. So, army men were stopping all vehicles every now and then to clear the path. In between we were clicking pictures of the nature …

 

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Now we are going for our first milestone, driving through one of the world’s most deadly pass, the mighty Zoji La at an altitude of 11649 ft. Though often referred to as Zojila Pass in the foreign press, the correct English translation is Zoji Pass or simply Zojila, since the suffix ‘La’ itself means pass in several Himalayan languages.

We started driving and now its time to roll on Zoji La. I think it will be better to showcase, the rest of the journey through this mighty pass, through pictures only …

 

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Every year this pass receives heavy snowfall and thus is closed for six months every year. But this year the snowfall is a bit more. BRO and Army cleared 40-50 ft of snow. It was in deadly condition as we had that huge snow wall on one side and straight steepness on the other side. In addition it was still drizzling and road was full of mud and craters. It was really tough but we enjoyed the adventure of crossing such a‘La’. Now it started raining heavily followed by snowfall and we got stuck at Zero Point, just before Zoji La ends, at around 3 pm.

 

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It was a bit of pain for us as it was cold, feeling numb and we were drenched too. It was a painful halt of 2 hrs 30 mins. at Zero Point. Though we had 6 cups of coffee along with 3 fried egg and 1 packet of potato chips. But surprisingly it cost us Rs. 820/- L. There was no sign of relief in terms of having a clear weather and we couldn’t stay more as we were loosing sense at finger tips. We didn’t have any other choice, but have to ride further. Our gloves were completely wet but with no other choice we moved on …

 

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After riding for few minutes, finally the rain stopped. It was a relief for us, but we couldn’t spend much time enjoying clicking snaps as we were already running late. It was almost 7:15 pm when we reached Drass and it was nearly dark. So, we decided to stay at Drass for the night.  While Swarna, Bobo &Ankan were busy finding accommodation, I started gossiping with a local grocery shop owner, named Mushtaq Ahemed. By that time, our accommodation was fixed just beside that grocery shop in Nawab Ali’s “Ali Da Dhaba”. By the name might suggest that it is a restaurant, but it has also had rooms with hot water 24 hrs. Most importantly, the reception and care that you will get in this hotel is simply amazing. We got freshened up ASAP and went for dinner. Food was very tasty combined with Mr. Nawab’s utmost friendly behavior. From locals we came to know the real picture of Kargil war, how locals helped our Army, how we won the battle of Tiger hill etc.

 

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Brief:

Drass is a town of Kargil district of Jammu and Kashmir. It is at a height of 10990 ft (3230 mtrs). However, the mountain ridges range between 16000 ft to 21000 ft. Drass valley is the World’s 2nd Coldest inhabited place and India’s coldest. This valley starts from the base of Zoji La (La means pass in Tibet language). This town is also referred as “The Gateway to Ladakh”. This small town became popular since 1999 war between two neighboring countries, India and Pakistan and India regained once again the Pak occupied Tiger Hill and Tololing peak. The inhabitants of Drass, Dards, are also referred as “guardiansofLadakh”. Dards of Drass are Aryan in build (now mixed Kashmiri – Aryan) are known for their courage, bravery and straight-forwardness. Most of the Muslims of Drass are Sunnis.The language spoken by the locals of Drass is ‘Balti’ which is a Tibetic language spoken in Balitistan, a division of Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan and adjoining parts of Ladakh, India. In local dialect ‘Balti’,Drass means Hell. Drass’s climate is subarctic. In winter the temperature climbs down to more than −40 °C. A war brings miseries, but in Drass, it has brought affluence too. It has changed the town that had been the epicenter of the armed hostilities between the two neighbors, from its architecture to its lifestyle. 15 years passed by after Kagil war and now Drass is a tourist town with money, new houses and jobs for locals.

It was a special feeling staying at a battle zone and seeing Tiger hill from our window, which remember us about the devastating war. I couldn’t resist myself but documented whatever information I had receive till then and found it was 2:30 am. Everywhere it was completely dark. Only visible object was snow caped Tiger Hill J. I went to sleep ..

Next morning we woke up around 8 am. There was another guy from Bangalore (originally from Kolkata) was staying with us. We previously planned to leave early. But that guy was in mood of joining us and was actually insisting us indirectly. But we always follow protocols strictly and can’t share our plan or journey with anyone, no matter if he/she is very close to us being in a tour. So, we tried to ignore his request and thus got late enough. He left around 11 am and we finally managed everything by 12 pm. It was really too late for our journey but sometimes some things happen that is beyond our control. With a plan of visiting all important places around Kargil and complete the journey till Lamayuru, we bid Mr. Nawab, Mr. Haji (owner of the property), Raju Nagvi (a great enthusiast and knowledgeable about nearby road condition) with a promise of meeting again and started …

 

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As per Shimla Agreement, signed in 1972, both the countries, India & Pakistan had agreed to pull out troops from both the sides during winter due to heavy snowfall. Till 1999, India did not deploy any troops at their posts in winter. India was not even aware that when Pakistani intruders had gained entry in the Mushkoh Valley of Drass, during heavy snowfall. Mushko valley considered as unsuitable for human habitation. This is the valley where the former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf had arrived as the then Pak army chief to give instructions to the Pak intruders regarding the war. Experts believe that the reason behind Musharraf’s visit to Mushkoh valley was that Pakistan wanted to first take control of the valley and then to seize Kashmir gradually.

Soon we came across a signboard which says “Bhim Bhat”. There is saying that stonyfied body of Bhima (from Mahabharata) could be seen. History says that all Pandavas, except Yudhisthir fell down on their ascend to heaven. This was the place where Bhima fell down. Our main motto was to reach Leh as early as possible and in this hurry we missed Draupadi Kund as well as there was no proper signage. We also came across Harkha Bahadur Memorial, just before entering Kargil. This memorial is in name of Subedar Harkha Bahadur, commander of Royal Gorkha Rifles who swam across the icy Suru (Shingo) river and forced Pakistanis to withdraw from Kargil.

 

 

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Our first halt was at Kargil War Memorial / Tololing peak. Tiger hill, Tololing and some of its adjacent peaks (Hump, 3 Pimples, Knoll) holds a very important part of the Kargil war / Operation Vijay.

 

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Tololing is a dominant position overlooking NH1D (Srinagar – Leh highway). Half of the total causalities suffered during Kargil war did happen at Tololing. History says that, Pakistan Mujaheddin along with Pak army (with influence of Pak Army Chief Gen Parvez Musharraf) infiltrated through Drass, Khaksar and Mushkoh sectors. Intrusion was first noticed by local shepherds. Upon getting the information Indian Army sent their first patrol and solders were captured by intruders and tortured to death. Heavy shelling from Pakistan damages ammunition in Kargil followed by loss of Indian fighters and bombing on NH1A connecting Srinagar to Leh. Indian Army launches major offensive and recaptured key positions in Batalic sector point 5140 (17000 ft, highest in Tololing range), 4700, 4875, Point 5060, 5100 (Junction peak), 4700 (Three Pimples) near Tiger hill and Tololing. This recent war finally ended with close combat and hand to hand fight. Notable names for their immense urge, contribution and sacrifice to secure our nation are:

Major Rajesh Adhikary – Operation Vijay. Awarded with Maha Vir Chakra

Major Digendra Kumar – Operation Pawan, Operation Vijay, Awarded with Sena Medal, Maha Vir Chakra

Major Vivek Gupta – shot on head while moving to capture Tololing along with Major Digendra Kumar

M.B Ravindranath –  2 Rajputana Rifles first radioed “Sir, I am on Tololing Top” on June 13

Vikram Batra – Operation Vijay Point 5140, 4700, 4875 (when he lost his life saving his Subedar, now called as Batra Top). Only Army person who got promoted being on the battleground. Awarded with Param Vir Chakra.

“I will either come back after raising the Indian Flag in victory or return wrapped in it”, what Captain Batra said before leaving for Operation Vijay. Infact he called up his commanding officer just to say “Yehdilmaange more” just before enemy launched a counter attack. Officers got injured and Captain Vikram didn’t allow other soldiers to go saying “Tumharebiwibachchehain (you have wife and kids)”. Being at Tololing, seeing the peaks captured by Captain Batra, Major Ravindranath and team, tears will automatically come to anyone’s eye who is a true Human Being. We were also not exceptions. It took us some time to come back to the real world …

 

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We forget everything and started feeling the pain through which our brothers in Indian Army are going through everyday. They have to stay away from their parents, families, kids for months in the most remote area just to save all of us from intruders. Question on our mind was “Do we really care for our Army jawans (men)?”. I believe that they are our real heroes. We probably will be in a better environment if we could nominate them to rule our nation not because of their sacrifice. But because of their attitude, temperament and sacrifice which these folks are doing everyday when we enjoy staying in air condition room in a hot summer noon, forget about winter.

We started roaming around, trying to see whatever document is available on the sacrifice of Indian Army at Kargil war.

 

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It was 4:30 pm and we felt we should leave now. We have felt enough the horror and agony of those soldiers who did ultimate sacrifice during operation Vijay. We decided to leave for Lamayuru. Journey was not so smooth as Bobo & Pratap started having breathing problem and we stopped at Khaksar.

 

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We found that it is basically AMS symptoms and we had treated them with the correct measure. We took a halt for about 40 minutes till both of them were feeling fine and started again. Initially road was fabulous. But with our utter surprise, the road condition was not good at all. It was completely dusty and muddy. But it was really enthralling driving through the rugged villages where it was feeling like driving through a war zone. Soon we reached Mulbek. It seems like completely devastated in war. We didn’t have enough time to wait and enjoy. I took only one picture …

 

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and we all left. Soon, we reached near Nun-Kun camping ground. It was about to dark and we thought of taking a halt for the day at Mulbek. Initially we have thought of staying at camping ground and partial team had gone to check out the price. Meanwhile we got busy taking some snaps as it was approaching dusk ..

 

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We came to know that the camping ground is charging about INR 4000/- per tent and we will require at least 2 tents for the night. We discussed for sometime and decided to stay somewhere cheaper and invest money on fuel rather than an expensive stay with no means. We got a good accommodation there at cheap rate. We parked our companions inside the hotel and went to room. It was 8 pm and we got amazed to see the sky. Believe me, in my life till date I have never seen a clear sky like this. We tried to capture as much as we can, but were shivering in cold.

I don’t use my Canon 1100D very often and also not familiar changing all the option to take a snap. I tried taking but was not that perfect  or clear that i was expecting. Chilled air was flowing all around us. We all preferred to watch the ecstatic clear sky where it was like watching a universe including stars, planets, Milky Way and moving satellites even. It was enchanting which none of us ever imagined of seeing with naked eye.

 

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We enjoyed watching sky for about an hour and went to had dinner. I must mention that the dinner was real horror for many who have ordered Fried Rice L. As per my earlier experience I preferred to stuck with noodles and was the luckiest J

 

We shared the food (apart from Swarna as he preferred to sleep having biscuits only) as much as we can and went to sleep. Rooms were well equipped and really clean and in excellent condition. We were feeling cold and went to sleep.

 

It was 6 am and I woke up seeing an orange line through the window. I wore the jacket and track and opened the door. It was so soothing seeing the early morning sun rays on top of multicolored hills. Just to let my readers aware that in this region of Leh-Ladakh, you will see different colored hills which vary from black – green – red – magenta -silver etc. Mainly these rocks have minerals due to which the colors are different. However, minerals are not present in that quantity which govt. could extract from these rocks. We have also observed ‘Shergol Cave Monastry’ at a distance. Wakha river was at just 100 ft. away from our place.

 

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The whole  Ladakh ( now is divided into  two  districts ie  Leh and  Kargil) was a Buddhist  country prior 15th  Century. The drive of  Islamization  started  from  Skardo / Skardu towards  Ladakh and  got  stopped  at  Mulbekh in  bulk. Thus the  Mulbekh is  situated  at  the confluence  of  two faith i.e Muslim populated district in its west and the Buddhist populated district Leh in its east which represent Mulbekh famous for its  secular identity. Now at present, Mulbekh and its surrounding villages are inhabited by both Buddhists and Muslims faiths.

One can have a 4 day trek from this remote village to Suru valley crossing Safi-La and Rusi-La. We enjoyed for sometime, had our breakfast and prepared us to ride till Leh which is approx. 175 kms. We left around 8 am, and it was mesmerizing. Weather was so soothing and everyone was enjoying the early morning ride. So far, our target was to cover the distance till Leh as early as possible. There are some beautiful monuments like Maitreya Buddha (curved during 2nd century A.D), Mul-dok-Khar, monasteries etc. However, we hardly had time to visit all these places. So, we decided to pass by with a hope of coming back to this state again to see the unseen. Actually Ladakh is so vast that anyone needs at least 6 months to capture it bit by bit. Hope, I could be in TLC or Discovery to roam around places and collecting their cultures J.

We started moving on and soon we reached Namika La (12139 ft.).We didn’t stop and moved on. Our first halt for Tea was just after Bodh Khabru at a roadside tea stall.

 

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We enjoyed for sometime and started. However, we never thought that something like this could happen with us. We just started and there was a steep right turn. Road was simply superb and not one of us ever expected that a turn can be completely filled with drained engine oil. There was a leakage in a truck’s oil chamber. Surprisingly being a driver they didn’t bothered to cover the engine oil, mobil etc. with sand or anything else. As the full stretch was covered with the thick oil, we skidded (myself first, as was leading the team followed by Ankan). We had enough luck that there was no inbound or outbound vehicle. My right feet got stuck under my Blade and Ankan was just thrown out from his Soti. We were hardly at 20 kmph max as just started 100 mtrs before, could imagine how devastating it could have been if we were in speed. Few locals were typically standing and watching us to fall but didn’t bother to help us until we called them. Blade was in bad condition as right mirror broken, brake paddle was misaligned, crack on headlight, handle bar misaligned, leg guard damaged etc. Along with that I was feeling too much pain on my right ankle as my loaded Blade was on top of my ankle for few minutes before locals could come. Ankan was also injured a bit. But we can’t let our enthusiasm, spirit, passion dampen due to this mishap. Team gathered and everyone tried to fix problem whatever we could and decided to start. We had a long distance to cover and no one knew what we were going to experience next. We started and crossed Fotu La (13479 ft.), the highest point of Srinagar – Leh road.

 

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After riding for sometime I experienced tremendous pain in my ankle. It was real tough for me to press break and I was driving too carefully to avoid engaging brakes. I understood that I have to reach Leh by any means ASAP. But Lamayuru is a very famous destination and we could not ignore visiting the monastery. We took a halt at Lamayuru

 

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Lamayuru monastery is just 15 kms. East of Fotu La at a height of 11,520 ft. According to popular tradition, this monastery was originally the foremost Bon Monastery in Ladakh. Bon, basically a Lhasa dialect, refers for being distinct from traditional Buddhist myths. History says that Indian scholar Naropa caused a lake, which filled the valley to dry up and then he founded Lamayuru Monastry. Naropa was born in a high status Bramhin family of Bengal. He was once a student of NalandaUniversity, now in Bihar, where he learned Sutra and Tantra.

Lamayuru festival was about to start and we were lucky to observe the practice session and prayers as well in the monastery …

 

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There was a sudden change in the weather and it started raining again. We got stuck for about half an hour as it was drizzling and then startedto pour. The journey was mesmerizing through “Hangroo Loops”, 32 kms with 23 loops from Fotu La till Khalste.  We reached Khalste and decided to have lunch around 3:30 pm. Quality of food was very good and we decided to leave. We started again and took a sudden stop to have some tea. As we ordered and turn around, we found that the road behind us is going to Rizong Monastery, Ulletokpo. This place was in my list due to its inaccessibility to most of the tourists. But the pain was unbearable and finally I have decided to pull out my right foot. But it was stuck due to too much of swelling. Finally after few minutes I was able to and found a big inflated chunk on my right ankle which was due to the fall of my blade along with the weight of the luggage (total of approx. 190+ kgs) on my ankle. I was not in a mood to miss the monastery at such a short distance. So, we all decided that Bobo & Dev will go for the offroad till monastery and rest will be with me. My love and respect once again to all my co-riders J. So, they left and we started gossiping and enjoying with the locals …

 

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But as time was progressing I was going through more pain. There were no phone network after you cross Srinagar. Only network which is available anywhere in Leh – Ladakh is Postpaid BSNL, sometimes Postpaid Airtel & AIRCEL as well. However, only Swarna’s and my phone had service , so without having any option we had to wait and they returned after 1 hr 15 mins. As soon as they reached it started drizzling again and we all got busy seeing the clicks they managed …

 

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Bobo’s  Experience:-

Rizong Monastry is one of a kind where we could not see a single tourist barring 3 elderly foreigners. The road leading towards Rizong is very narrow and strewn with blade like rock chippings. The road is constantly maintained by a dozer and a dynamite team. Just a few kms prior to the Monastery there is a small village which might have home stays for tourists but the monastery also has provisions to stay. This is the place to be if one wants to discover oneself in the tranquility of the Himalayas minus the ruckus of the touristic crowd who come to lose themselves during their “Himalayan Holiday”.

 

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After sometime as the rain stopped we started again. My pain was increasing with every passing minute as I couldn’t take medicine, apply pain relief gels due to less availability of time and I have to unpack the entire luggage. Team had to stop for taking pictures, but those stops were getting difficult for me as I could not keep my right foot on the ground. Thinking about the team, I decided to keep on moving while team can take halt for capturing snaps. We came across the confluence of Zanskar River with Indus River, Magnetic Hill, Leh-Manali highway (490 kms)  etc. …

 

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Team took halt at every places to capture snaps and somehow also took pic of myself driving ..

 

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I was in pain and facing difficulty if I stop. So, I continue driving slowly so that my team can join me and once they join, we all started moving together. Soon I observed the road towards Likir monastery. Finally I stopped somehow and told my team to visit Likir, as it’s a bit far from Leh, and I will continue riding slow. Swarna replied that “we all will go to Leh first as you (myself) need medication, we are not at all interested in visiting a monastery when you are suffering”. I just smiled and we all continued till Leh. We reached Leh at 6:45 pm but it felt like 3 pm  as we could still see the Sun and could understand that  it will take at least an hour for sunset.

 

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We had to wait for about an hour for accommodations to be finalized, as Leh was overcrowded and overbooked well almost. While waiting there we also came to know that road to Khardung La is closed as 23people died due to avalanche (which we have heard while coming to Drass from Srinagar). Meanwhile we remember that the owner of our houseboat at Dal Lake, Srinagar, gave us the contact number of a hotel in Leh and we found it is in the main market. By that time Ankan called and confirmed that he got a hotel which is still under construction and we will be their first guest. We all got overwhelmed and immediately went there. The hotel had a huge parking place and on top of that it was only a 5 mins walk from the main market. We reached, got down and received a pleasant welcome with warm tea and biscuits. I found it easier to hop on one leg and enjoyed the tea with the team. Once done, we started unpacking our luggage. It was taken into our room and it was simply awesome.

Bobo’s dialect:-

The whole concept of touring has been reborn in Leh. People have started to mix the two minute noodles concept into touring. It is the melting pot of bikers from each and every corner of the country as well as global tourists. The bullets get fitted with “Punjab Silencer” which does ever thing other than silencing the bike. Each and every bullet is modified to produce the maximum sound as if every tourer has reached there just to grab attention and satisfy their pride by announcing to the world that I am here on my(hired) bullet ridding through the passes in Leh and Ladakh ridding at maximum speed possible while producing the maximum sound. The statement was clear ”we are just ‘PASS-ing’ through no time to observe nature, got to go ‘there’ ” . But there were tourists who truly were there to enjoy the place as it was, they never tried to change the place according to their needs but changed themselves according to the place. It is because of people like these that all tourist places have not yet transformed into cities, yet.

The temperature outside was 2-4 degree C. We freshened up with hot water and I took medicine. I was about to apply ointment and Bobo came. He took the entire responsibility of taking care of my badly injured ankle. He informed that he suffered a similar injury when his ankle twisted, back in 2012 during Sikkim tour and requested my permission to take care for few minutes. With my due permission, he started massaging my ankle and I started feeling better after 2 hours.

 

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After enjoying for sometime, everyone left for dinner except me and Ankan. After an hour they came back with excellent quality butter nun and butter chicken for Ankan & myself. I was feeling lucky being in a team like this. It was feeling like being at my home where everyone was concerned about the other’s health and other issues and had a grudge to solve it immediately. We had our dinner and went to sleep.

 

It was 13th June, 2015, Saturday. We all were tired and woke up around 8 in the morning. My plan was to make the permit and leave tomorrow. I was feeling better than yesterday after medication and decided to have a look at Blade. First view on my blade gave me hints that he needs a mechanic’s supervision. As the right oil seal was broken and nearly all the shocker oil had squirting out. So, I decided to visit mechanic first. But after crossing Zoji La, everyone’s motorcycle was full of dust & mud. So, we decided to wash all our partners first and then to go to a mechanic. We were done with washing and went to a popular garage, opp. to the hospital. I was about to fix my Blade’s right shocker seal when Swarna came and we were all in for a shocked to see that his front wheel is completely locked. It’s because of caliper jammed the front disk. Mechanics were puzzled as his machine is completely new in market and they hardly have seen it, forget about fixing. It didn’t take much time fixing Blade’s problem.

 

They were trying to fix the KTM 390’s problem and Ankan & me left for permission. In our plan there was a special route which does not exists at all now a days and that requires a special permission. We went to different places looking for that exact permission we require for the route we are intend to complete. The day was not ours. After frantically searching for hours we came to know that we could only get the special permission on Monday.  Without any other available option we came back.

 

It took the whole day and our bikes were fixed by 11 pm. Every shop or food joints was closed as we left.  But the garage owner was too much helpful and he showed us a small hotel. We had rice, rajma dal, gulab jamun (sweet) and went to the hotel. Next day was Sunday and there was no other option but to stay at Leh. The tour was not going on as I like, but sometimes you have to accept things as they come your way. Anyways, we planned to roam around Leh for local sight seen and test if any of our motorcycles giving any trouble so that we could fix it as well.

 

We woke up early morning and started as we planned. Road condition in and around Leh is just fantastic. We decided to start with some non-touristic places and thus came across Model Village Saboo.

Saboovillage is situated around 8 km from Leh. In 2003, it was adopted as a model village in Leh after a visit by former President of India, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, who said it reminded him of his native place, Rameswaram, though separated by thousands of miles at the other extreme end of our country. A model village, at least that’s what former President APJ Abdul Kalam had called it in 2003 on a visit to Saboo village, when he saw its modern facilities comparable to any city. This village was the epicenter of the devastating flood in Aug-2010 when Saboo river overflowed and as a result 14 people died with huge loss to property and livestock.

The natural untouched beauty was excellent. The more we were moving inside, everything from collapsed building to twisted shutters were describing the brute force that wiped out everything …

 

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Next plan was to visit Shey monastery. Soon we reached there but we decided to go further and visit Shey monastery while returning. Without knowing anything we somehow reached a nearby school. We saw many beautiful little children were playing around. We parked our companions and amazed to find that we are at “3 Idiot School (Bollywood movie 3 Idiot was filmed here).

 

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This school is basically an orphanage and run by Drukpa Trust of London. We were out of our home for long time and being in that place with all beautiful kids around us gave us a flashback of our families. There were multiple houses and classrooms all around us. They are named by the name of the high passes of Ladakh region like Zoji La  House, Khardung La House, Tanglang La  House, Baralacha La House etc. This school was also affected by the devastating flood which happened due to cloud burst.

 

As we were roaming inside the school, we found kids were giving tickets to visitors for their annual function. We were unfortunate that we could not celebrate with them as we will be somewhere else on the day of their function L. But what came to our mind was, does it matter if we were there or not, at least we could help them with whatever we had and we purchased tickets.

 

Being there we were like in different world all together and could feel their pain. Mistakenly I asked a little boy, “Where does he stay ?” and he pointed to “Khardung La House” … I couldn’t resist tears 🙁

 

Would request readers to keep books, chocolates, clothes etc. for the beautiful kids if you are planning to visit this school. Hope we all could at least bear that little cost along with the amount getting incurred on tour to Ladakh.

We spend enough time and it was 6 pm. We planned to leave and visit next destination and decided to visit Thikse Monastery.  This monastery is located on a hill top in Thiksey village. It is popularly noted for its resemblance to Potala Palace of Lhasa, Tibet. This is the largest gompa / monastery of Central Ladakh affiliated with the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism. This monastery is situated at an altitude of 11,800 ft in the Indus Valley. It is a twelve story complex and houses many items of Buddhist art like stupas, statues, thangkas, wall paintings, swords etc. Another main attraction or point of interest is 15 metres (49 ft.) statue of Maitreya which was installed to commemorate the visit of 14th Dalai Lama in 1970.

 

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It took time taking snaps of Thikse Monastery and view of Indus valley from top of it. It was almost evening and we decided to visit Shey Monastery. It is located on a hillock in Shey village. Shey was the summer capital of Ladakh earlier. This palace was built in 1655 by the king of Ladakh then, Deldan Namgyal. Most parts of the palace are now in ruins. Main attraction of this palace/monastery is its giant (39 ft.) copper with glided gold statue of a seated Shakyamuni Buddha (because Buddha was the sage (muni) of the Sakya (among the four major school of Tibetan Buddhism Myingma, Kagyu and Gelug) people in Himalayan foothills and their capital was Kapilavastu).

 

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It was an amazing feeling watching sunset at Indus valley …

 

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We enjoyed the sunset and left. All of our motorcycle passed all kind of tests and we were happy to roar next day. With utter surprise we came to know that Sindu Darshan festival is going on and we immediately hopped to the place …

 

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We were fortunate to enjoy their culture for sometime and left for hotel. Before we return to our hotel, we had our dinner at the best place, The German Bakery in market area. Must mention that while visiting Leh, one must try the different menus at this place and also the food from the restaurant Lamayuru just beside it. Both are just opposite to the famous hotel “Yak Tail”.

 

Next day was Monday, 15-Jun-2015 and I planned to make the necessary permission in the first half and leave as soon as possible. Let me inform my readers that now a day ILP (Inner line permit) is not required for all the places tourists visit often, which include nearly all the main attraction points across Ladakh. Myself with Swarna and Ankan wrapped up all the permission required by 11:30 am, because the initial documentation and our introduction was done last Friday. We were planning to leave early but things didn’t move as we wished. We got a call and came to know that Dev’s Duke started showing same problem, like Swarna’s, with which we were stuck for 2 days. So, again we couldn’t start our journey and had to wait for another day LLLLLL. We decided to have our lunch first and then figure out the solution. As usual we went to the German Bakery.

Frankly speaking we were feeling irritated with same problem happening again and again. I was thinking for some alternative rather than visiting to the local garage. We had been staying at Leh for 4 days and since we reached Leh, we were observing a middle age guy, riding on Yamaha RD 350 and sometimes on Triumph tiger. He also was aware of us by then. I went to him to had a chit chat while rest were busy in ordering food. I am never bothered about food so they carried on. During the beautiful conversation I came to know that he is the owner of hotel “Yak Tail”, nick name Bobo (same like our friend & team mate Somjeet, nickname Bobo), an automobile engineer, passionate lover & rider of 2 wheels, also had a garage where his mechanics works on his vintage & superbikes. I was delighted and excited. I shared the problem that Swarna and Dev was facing on their KTM Duke’s.  He told us to have our lunch and assured to fix it.

 

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Team was happy after I shared the story of our conversation. By that time he came inside the bakery and conveyed that his mechanics arrived. We were surprised to saw to young champs on another Triumph tiger. Immediately Dev & Swarna left with them to the workshop. I introduced our Bobo with famous Bobo from Leh and they started epic conversation on history and technology of 2 wheelers J. Meanwhile Ankan and Myself decided to test my Blade as well as it was the last day. Both the Bobo’s were done with conversation and we decided to leave. Bobo and Pratap planned to go to the garage to be with Dev and Swarna and help them if needed, while myself and Ankan planned for few kms of vrooooommmm around the city.

 

It was 7 pm and we found Dev’s and Swarna’s duke are ready to roll for the rest of the journey, the toughest part of this tour. Surprisingly we didn’t get chance to visit Leh palace so far. Team decided to go back to hotel and Ankan & myself went to visit Leh palace. It was almost about to dark and we both were delighted to see that we are riding towards “World’s Highest Motorable Road”.

 

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It was not completely dark yet but we decided to return. I was enjoying very much capturing nature on my Canon 1100D and Micromax A106 Unite 2 while Ankan was driving my Blade with full control. Finally we reached our hotel around 8:40 pm. We got freshened up and left for dinner immediately. It was drizzling by that time and we visited some local shops for checking their artifacts. We had our dinner and went back to hotel. From tomorrow we will start the journey for which we left 15 days back from home. We packed our belongings and went to sleep.

 

We woke up early around 6 am. Our target was to cross “World’s Highest Motorable Road – Khardung La” and reach Nurba valley. It was fully engulfed with cloud. We couldn’t think of wasting another day. After checking with locals we came to know Khardung La is closed due to too much snowfall last night. Without wasting a single moment, team started packing luggage while Ankan and I went to check with the Indian Army jawans nearby, if the road is approachable. After collecting data from all the local drivers and Army officer’s we came to know that vehicles are approaching, but no news if anyone reached the Khardung La top yet. We conveyed our regards and went back hotel. We discussed for sometime, packed our luggage, went to the nearby IOCL pump and left. It was very much cloudy and we got our first halt somewhere after starting. Local drivers started agitation and asking us about showing valid papers of our motorcycles.  Especially they thought I might not have the documents as I am from West Bengal but Blade’s registration is of Gurgaon, Haryana. That’s where the beauty lies and I like it so much. After discussing with them for sometime we started again and had to stop as it was raining on the next mountain which we could see …

 

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We put on our raincoats and started again. As we were very near to southpullu, we had to stop. There was a queue of 2-3 kms at least as all vehicles were stuck since morning. It was 9:30 am and the atmosphere was …

 

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No vehicles were getting permission to enter. In that condition there is no other way but to wait. We were already late for 3-4 days, in terms of our plan and could not waste a single minute in fact. We shared our achievements so far with the respective person and were allowed to ride further on the closed Road to Khardung-La to the point we think we could without taking any extra risk. We again conveyed our regards and started. 10 other guys, 6 from nearby state and 4 from Maharashtra, started with us hoping to climb till the top with us. But as we progress we found …

 

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Let me tell you all that we were not in a position at all to pull out our cams and take the snaps. So, all the following snaps are taken on mobiles, mostly mine.

Road was full of solid ice sheets along with snow pallet and glacial ice. In addition the weather was so harsh that we even couldn’t see more than 20 ft. Now we were entering a world of snow. We couldn’t believe that we have to ride for next 15 kms through this kind of road, may be worse. We were skidding like anything and I started with a fall. All of these are covered in the video which I could not share here but hopefully you will understand the difficulty going through these pictures …

 

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All other bikers, who started with us, stopped every now and then and started going back. We had a quick discussion and decided to move on. 2 other folks from Maharastra decided to follow us. So, now on in this next 15 kms stretch till the top, there will be only we RW’ians and the other 2 folks. Let’s share the rest of the journey till the top through pictures …

 

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Bobo’s dialect:

I took the lead from Swarna as the VDO cam was set on Swarna’s bike. It was very difficult to see the road but somehow we managed. The snow as it started in flakes but at some point it took the form of pallets and we could hear it knocking on the visor of our helmets, the oxygen levels dropped drastically as we could feel the bikes were less responsive. Walking 20 ft in this thin rarified environment felt like climbing a 20 storied building. I administered oxygen sprays to everyone even if not needed. Ankan was the worst hit by AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) but luckily he had that extra can of oxygen that I had forcefully strapped on to his luggage. I kept on pushing hard keeping Pratap in my rear view mirror I saw the sky above me was crystal clear but the swan did not make any sense “where was it coming from?”. Soon  just 30 meters away from the top I got stuck in ice and Pratap was not in my rear view mirror, I could move forward after some help from an army jawan who pushed me back on the road and I made it to the top.

Within minutes I was tensed and nervous to see no one on Khardungla top, no sign of my team but I found that my phone had signal on the highest motorable road in the world. I immediately called Sanjoy da back home to inform him that I was on top and there was no sign of the team and asked him to try and contact the team. Just like a Hollywood thriller the phone’s signal was fluctuating like a game of see-saw, I observed that the army trucks with chains on the tyres were going down. I was asking them frantically to look out for bikes from West Bengal and tell them the silver bike was on top, at least 10 drivers were briefed by me. By this time I was fully exhausted and felt AMS kicking in, my prior experience riding on high Himalayas kicked in, I searched for the army canteen took in atleast 3 packets of kitkat and a bottle of warm drinking water and ordered momos and went out for some news. I was so glad and relieved to see Swarna’s bike parked beside mine that the feeling could not be expressed in words as I knew Swarna was the tail and he would not leave any one behind. But then I could not find any one and later found out that Ankan was in bad shape and the army was administering oxygen. Ankan was back on his feet in 30 odd minutes and cracking jokes as usual.

There were scenarios as well where we had to relieve ourselves with the oxygen sprays Ankan, Bobo & Pratap (captured in vdo).  Almost everyone fell  2-3 times except Bobo.  Finally we reached the KhardungLa top @ 18380ft. around 1 pm. We reached another milestone JJJJJJ. There were none other than we 8 folks (who helped each other in need throughout this rigorous ride whenever needed).

Khardong La is historically important as it lies on the major caravan route from Leh to Kashgar in Central Asia. About 10,000 horses and camels used to take the route annually, and a small population of Bactrian camels can still be seen at Hunder, in the area north of the pass. During World War II there was an attempt to transfer war material to China through this route.

We were suffering from AMS and were shivering in cold as were fully drenched socks and shoes. Without wasting time further we went inside cafeteria and started having hot Maggie, momo, biscuits, coffee etc. Whoever was feeling fatigued (another symptom of AMS), went to Army’s medical camp where they tested BP, pressure, oxygen level etc. It was recommended not to spend more than 20 mins at this height as you might be under AMS which had major repercussions on health, including water retention and lungs, brain etc. But it took time for us and we finally got up when it was 3:30 pm. Tourists started pouring in since the gate opened at 3 pm from Southpullu. We planned to take some snaps …

 

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Suddenly a guy, whom I have never seen, approached me asking if he and his friends could join us. I have to say NO as we couldn’t allow outsider in our convoy and neither we could take some others life into risk. We ate a lot at the canteen, took whatever snap we could and decided to cross the top and started for Nubra with a clear blue sky. Point to be noted here is that the road ahead of us is full of avalanche zone with loose ice everywhere. The death of 23 folks I mentioned earlier happened within 5 kms from the Khardung La top towards Nubra in last 2 weeks. This time there were no vehicles which will be going towards Nubra. All of them will be back to Leh. It was 4 pm and we decided not to waste a single minute and we started …

 

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It was like driving in heaven. Everywhere snow around us and the beauty of this stretch is much enchanting than the beauty till Khardung La top from Leh. We were having trouble as we were riding downward and tyres were skidding. There was a scenario when a small avalanche started falling between Pratap and Swarna, which got recorded in vdo cam mounted on Swarna’s duke. In this stretch amount of snow was just for 3-4 kms max but all were snow dust. Finally we reached Northpullu around 5 pm.

As soon as we reached Northpullu, we observed a gun salute was going on (can’t disclose scenario). We paid our homage and started taking snaps around us. Surprisingly we found our beloved RW logo formed by cloud

 

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We had a cup of tea and decided to carry on as far as we could. We started and managed to capture the following spectacular sites around us …

 

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It was getting dark and finally we managed to reach Diskit around 8:15 pm. As usual Swarna, Bobo & Ankan managed an excellent accommodation and we were in J. We unpacked our luggage and gathered to discuss and enjoy the day’s great journey. We enjoyed a lot and went to sleep after having dinner.

 

Brief:

Diskit is the capital of NubraValley. Original name was Ldumra means the valley of flowers. The Shyok River meets the Nubra or Siachan River to form a large valley that separates the Ladakh and Karakoram Ranges. Nubra is a high altitude cold desert at 10,000 ft. The valley produces wheat, barley, peas, mustard and a variety of fruits and nuts. Majority of locals are Buddhists.

Next morning I woke up first and found Swarna awake. We decided to leave as early as possible. But let me tell you all that the major problem after you leave Leh is fuel. You have to keep enough fuel  10 ltrs of extra petrol per bike with you. The last fuel pumping stating in the rest of the journey in this region is at Diskit. All of us were with low cc machines with higher mileage and performance. So, we planned to refuel at Diskit. We kept only the necessary items with us and left. We got amazed after reaching Diskit petrol pump. Luckily it was operational after a week of gap, but fully manual. Locals kept big jars to pour fuel, probably for a week (as there is no surety when you will get fuel).

 

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We were lucky that the pump was refilled with oil last night, so the pressure was huge. Apart from Swarna & Dev’s duke, every other machine was in no need of petrol. But we needed fuel for rest of the journey and were not sure if we could get it anywhere else. We asked and the owner said we will get it next day. Swarna, Dev & Bobo poured petrol and we left. We drove for few minutes and first halt was at Hunder. Being at Hunder it was mesmerizing to see sand dunes between Hunder and Diskit at a height of more than 10,000 ft. Notable part is that as soon as you cross Diskit, you will find sand all along roadside. Hunder is also famous for Bactrian Camels / double hump camels. Their specialty is that, they can survive in very cold temperature for long time and can carry 300 – 500 lb of weight at a speed of 30 miles per hour if needed. We took few snaps …

 

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We started again for the next destination. Road condition was good except few stretches, which couldn’t be repaired due to the rough weather and tremendous air flow. We were feeling hungry and stopped at Skuru around 1 pm. There is a monastery, but was closed.

 

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We met some young, energetic IA Jawan’s being at that roadside stall. There was exchange of knowledge and hiccups of regular life in these remote areas. We bid them and started further.

 

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Reader’s please note that there are beautiful places, hanging bridges etc. which I couldn’t share with anyone. It is because these areas are very near to either Pak / China border. We drove for sometime and reached Bogdang. It looks like a disturbed village as people now onwards are originally from Baltistan, kids kept coming infront of our vehicles on the road to block which may frighten you. But it’s not like that in real scenario. These villages are so remote that these folks hardly get their daily needs and they stop tourist basically to get chocolates, dry foods etc. We drove further, crossed Chalunka (a battle-scarred zone, where some buildings blown up by Pakistani artillery shells during the Kargil war, stood abandoned) and reached Turtuk.

Turtuk is a village 205 km from Leh on the banks of Shyok River. Turtuk gram panchayat is the northern most village of India. Turtuk was under Pakistan’s Control till 1971, but later India got control of this strategic area. The two countries once again had massive conflict around this area in 1999 during Kargil War. There are few memorials built in memory of soldiers on Main Road going towards the zero point of India Pakistan Line of Control. Predominantly a Muslim village, residents speak Baltistani, Urdu and Ladakhi Language. Turtuk, is the last outpost in India from where the Pakistan- controlled Northern Areas begin.Turtuk was opened for tourists in 2009. The village offers views of Beautiful valley, part of Shyok Valley. On clear days tourists can have glimpse of K2 mountain peak located across the border in Pakistan. Though a Muslim village, there are few gompas located on the plateau above Shyok River and there is an old royal house to see in village.

 

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We decided to ride further and reached Tyakshi, the actual border between India and Pakistan. Thanks to all the Army personnel’s who have allowed us to visit the last village Tyakshi, between India and Pakistan. This remote and untouched village, lies just beside the Shyok River with Pak bunker on the other side of the river visible. K2 Mountain, World’s second highest after Mt. Everest, 28251 ft. (which is in Pakistan), visible from this border village, infact throughout the road from Turtuk to Tyakshi one can see the K2 range.

K2 is the highest point of Karakoram Range. This peak is also knownMount Godwin-AustenorChhogori (as per Balti dialect), which is Chhogo (Big) and Ri (Mountain) or The Lord of Mountains. The other peaks are named as K1, K3, K4 and K5 which were eventually named as Masherbrum, Gasherbrum IV, Gasherbrum II and Gasherbrum I.

Unfortunately I will not share any picture taken here as it will be violating govt. and Indian Army norms. However, sharing some of the beautiful shot taken enroute …

 

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We were honored and privileged to interact with the real heroes of mother Earth, who are protecting their country, no matter if they are from India or Pakistan. We interacted with IA jawans & locals for sometime and left. While returning we stopped couple of times to take snaps …

 

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While crossing Bogdang village, we were stopped by local kids. As I stated earlier they tend to stop passerby just to have snacks, chocolates etc. However, one very strange, risky and bad habit of children in this remote stretch is that, they will stretch their hands towards you. Assuming to shake if you stretch you hand, they might hit you with tree branches etc. just for fun. That was real ridiculous experience we had. Anyways we drove fast and reached Army canteen (name can’t be disclosed). We planned to have our lunch and it was 5 pm

 

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My plan was to visit Hundar and its sand dunes while returning. However, everyone was feeling tired as we were driving since morning. So, it took sometime to had the lunch and we left around 6:45 pm. It was about to dark and we reached Hunder. We saw couple of Bactrian camels returning.

 

Upon enquiring we got response “kal subhe 9 baje baat karenge” means “lets meet tomorrow morning at 9 am” .. L. Because of too many tourists people living around popular destination are too much business minded now a day and this is an example. We left and decided to return to hotel after visiting Diskit Monastery.

Diskit Gompa / Monastery is the largest & oldest gompa of Nubra valley, Ladakh. It was founded in 14th century and is a sub-gompa of the Thikse gompa of Leh. It has got an impressive 32 metre statue of Maitreya (Buddha).

However, it got too dark by that time and we hardly were able to capture snaps …

 

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We left and reached our hotel rooms. Today there was no luggage to unpack and so we got into room as soon as we reached. We had our dinner, started copying entire day’s collection of snaps and vdo’s. We enjoyed watching the day’s journey and went to sleep with next day’s plan.

 

It was 18th June and we woke up early. As per yesterday’s discussion we headed towards the petrol pump for petrol. But our utter bad luck, it was closed. There was no one around with whom we could check if we can get fuel anywhere. We frantically searched, but no one came with any solution. We kept faith on the manager of the fuel station, but it went in vain. We have fuel but not that sufficient to cover the distinct route we had in our plan. We gathered again and planned to ride till Khalsar with a hope if we can get any help. We reached Khalsar and decided to have our lunch, at the same time checking if we could get petrol, may be at higher price.

But there were no solution. We planned everything based on the map available online, but practically kms are much more than mentioned on the map. We understood that there is nothing we could do, apart from completing the rest of the route. We decided that we will be heading towards Pangong Tso. But this time not through the popular route via Khardungla. Rather via Agham – Shyok, which used to exist once, but doesn’t now at all. As per as we have heard, river Shyok has destroyed the route as it criss-crossed the Shyok river at several places.

We started and soon entered that route. Oh my god … it started with a sharp fall towards the river. As soon as we entered it was pretty much clear to us that we will hardly find anyone to help us in this route if needed. The road was narrow and 75% covered with landslides L. It was rough and had on the narrow steep falls.  I was feeling like I am heading directly towards Shyok and then a sudden turn takes me away. Riding like this we entered the dried river bed after 30 mins ..

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It was feeling like driving through an unknown era. The plants all dried up and became yellow except those which are near Shyok river. There were signs of asphalt which will remind you that once it used to exist. So far this route is not too much touched by tourists, so the natural beauty still remains and is in enchanting shape.

We didn’t have much time for taking snaps. So, we drove continuously and come to the best point. Now onwards there will be no road and its time to off-road J. As per the information we had, I knew that we would hardly get any sign of asphalt road going forward. Further journey will be through gravels, boulders, stone, sand etc. So, lets share through pictures only …

 

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t was really picturesque as it is hardly touched by anyone, due to nonexistence of road. We were crossing mountains with different colors. As I said, due to presence of minerals like magnesium, sulpher, coper, aluminum etc. colors of mountains are different. Ankan’s Soti was not performing up to the mark due to clutch & carburetor issues. So, the journey was mostly dependent on Soti’s performance on this day long off-road journey. But Ankan is an experienced fellow who has crossed many high altitudes passes so far, so was managing quite nicely. It was a day long journey without even a place where we could get at least a cup of tea. We took halt whenever we needed to attend the nature’s call or feeling thirsty and rode again.

Some interesting yet adventurous moments were those when we found skeleton of animals (seems of cow or buffalo) along with blood stains, inside roadside caves, which depicts that there are big cats who roam around the river bed for  food and water. Seeing those all of us got nervous and rather than capturing it, we thought of continuing our journey at a steady pace.

This kind of adventure continued for the day long journey and we finally came to a place called Durbuk. To me it was like going through a war zone like what we saw in Project IGI (computer game). Now we had an asphalt road and in very good condition. After a rigorous day long off-roading it was a real pleasure for us. We were in need of fuel and finally we came to a village called Tangste. Enquiring local we came to know that we could get fuel from a local grocery shop and we immediately headed towards that. What happened next ? go through these …

 

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Tangtse is a Village in Durbuk Tehsil in Leh Ladakh District of Jammu & Kashmir State, India.

First time we have observed any local grocery shop can have such a huge quantity of fuel preserved for vehicles in need. Though it was Rs. 30/- more costly than normal priced @ 106.75/- per lt. but we were happy that our companions now had a full stomach. It was almost 8 pm and about to be dark. So, we all decided to take a rest there for that day. AS usual Swarna & Ankan went and arranged for a great accommodation.

Surprisingly we all found Swarna & Pratap took responsibility of cooking dinner for that night J and we have rice, dal & boiled potato.

After a long time we got network and everyone was a busy talking with family & friends. But as this village a remote one, so there is always a scarcity of electricity. I tried taking snaps of beautifully lit up snow clad mountain top on moonlight. View was excellent but we decided to go to sleep as we have to ride early next morning.

299_1

 

It was 19-June, Friday and we have a clear sky. Complete luggage was unpacked and we had to pack it back again. Its always a tedious job but we have to do it. We started packing our entire luggage on our buddies. It took time and we had our breakfast. It was 10 am and we all were ready. We decided to leave for next destination the Pangong Lake.

The journey from Tangste to Pangong is 35 kms approx. and it was fantastic through changthang valley with mixture of asphalt – sandy – stony road. After driving few kms finally we got the first glimpse of Pangong Tso ..

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Brief:

Pangong Tso (Tibetan: spang gong mtsho) means “long, narrow, enchanted lake”. This lake is basically endorheic basin, means a closed waterbody with no outflow to other external bodies like rivers or oceans.  This lake is at an height of 14270 ft. and 134 kms long. This lake extends from India to Tibet. 60% of this lake is in Tibet and its max. width is 5 kms at its broadest point. During winter this lake completely freezes, despite being saline water. It is said that during the making of The Great Himalaya, saline water from sea got trapped  in this region. Thus the lake contains saline water which is rare to find at this altitude. The actual Sino-Indian Line of Control passes through the lake.

We decided to drove further and reach near the lake. It was an enchanting view of seeing the clear blue water of the lake and riding by the banks. However, we decided to book our accommodation first. We got well-furnished tents just beside the beautiful lake. We took rest and enjoyed taking snaps. We discussed and decided to reach our next target the next day. We had our lunch and left for Marsemik La.

Pronounced as Marsimik La or Marsimek La is at 18,634 ft is a high mountain pass. Initial journey was fantastic through wild changthang valley

 

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However, we had to stop at Phobrang check post. We had a long discussion with ITBP personnel. It was heartbreaking moment for us as they were not allowing us to ride further. They told that due to some conflict at border they stopped visitors from visiting the pass since 2013 LL. We couldn’t accept that we have to return to the base after 15 days of rigorous journey.

Out of option we had to return. It was 2 pm and we had ample time. So, we decided to enjoy the day by the side of the great lake ..

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Finally we decided to come back to our tents and enjoy the rest of the evening …

It was the most boring day really as we were in motion for so many days and sad as well as we were stopped unnecessarily from entering Marsemik La. We roam around and enjoyed the evening gossiping and planning for next part of the journey.

 

 

 

 

Part VII

Coming Soon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sandakphu 2014

 

Aconite is a plant. The root is used as medicine. However, aconite contains some poisonous chemicals. Aconite root contains chemicals that may improve circulation, but it also contains chemicals that can seriously harm the heart, muscles, and nerves. In Hong Kong, aconite is the most common cause of severe poisoning from herbs. In Asia, toxicity is usually related to the use of aconite in traditional medicines. In western countries, aconite poisoning is usually associated with consuming the plant. In Homeopathy this medicine are in the top list of critical treatments. In India there is a hill station which is famous for this plant. Yes, I am talking about Sandakphu.

sandakphu

Brief:

Sandakphu means the ‘Height of the Poison Plant‘, a direct reference to the profusion of the poisonous Aconite plants that grow near the peak. At an altitude of 3,636 mtr, Sandakphu is the highest peak in the state of West Bengal, India. It is situated at the edge of the Singalila National Park in Darjeeling district on the West Bengal – Sikkim border. From Sandakphu the best view of the mountain Kanchendzonga is possible, which is known as the Sleeping Buddha or The Sleeping Shiva.

Sandakphu is a very famous Trek Route. Trek to Sandakphu starts from Maneybhanjan, at an altitude of 2134 mtr, a small town near Darjeeling. Maneybhanjan can be reached from Siliguri via Ghoom / Darjeeling. This town is also known as ‘The Town of Land Rovers’. Currently there are 44 Land Rovers plying between Maneybhanjan – Sandakphu. These rugged beauties rule the mountain trail in this area. Some of the vehicles are more than 70 or 80 years old. Maneybhanjang is also a border town. While coming from Darjeeling, the houses on the left of the road belong to Nepal and the right side being India. After necessary entries in the Immigration check post and the last minute shopping and meal, the trek begins. You may also opt for overnight stay at Maneybhanjan to start the trek early next day.

The Land Rovers gives a mileage of 3 – 5 kmpl while going to Sandakphu because of the steepness. Adding to that the parts is not available that much for these 60 – 80 yrs. old vehicles. So, if parts are not available, they are replacing the engine or gear box with Bolero engine & gear box. But remaining with the 4 wheel drive feature from Land Rover itself as it is far better in terms of performance than the modern one.

Every year many Indian’s as well as foreigner’s comes here to get the splendid view of Khanchendzonga Range. One of our friend, Soumendra visited this place years back and suddenly share his idea to have a motorcycle ride to this destination. As usual I started investigating and meet the great guy from Team BHP, Anirban, who drove from Kolkata – Sandakphu with his family on a 4 X 4 Mahindra Scorpio. I shared the same info with my team. We got amazed to see the rough & tough condition of the route. Frankly speaking it is not at all a road to drive and thus except Land Rovers and very few Willys, no other vehicle are driven on this route, as they are 4 x 4 only (with low & high optional). There is a very valid reason to non-development of the road. It is only to preserve flora, fauna and animal like leopard, red panda, birds etc. across Singalila National Park from pollution.

We were also aware that if we could achieve this, we (Rolling Wheels Bikers Club) will be the first group ever to reach Sandakphuon motorcycle / bike / 2 wheels, which is only 1 wheel drive. It looks very challenging to us and we finalized to give it a try. Since I started travelling on motorcycle it was never in my mind to create record or history because, I love to enjoy nature utmost and to me there is no other vehicle than 2 wheels to do this. We all meet immediately and finalized the best possible team for this epic journey toSandakphu. We were really unsure on the result as there is no information / proof available if someone ever really drove through this trek route on motorcycle. With our love and passion for 2 wheels and with God’s grace suddenly I met Anirban from Team BHP. We had a detail discussion and I got some very valuable tips from him. It was mostly all positive encouragement from this great man. Immediately I shared the same with my team and started waiting for the date …

It was 9th May 2014 and our journey is going to start. We were 8 membered team with no pillion rider. Obviously we have to drive carefully and at the same time need to capture pictures and vdo’s whenever possible to make a great document which could help any other enthusiast to visit the destination. Everyone make his partner look as beautiful as he likes with camera holder fixed and was infront of Rolling Wheels Bikers Club at 2:30 pm. But I got delayed as I (with better half Atreyi) was busy in making my black beauty more beautiful. Finally I reached around 3 pm. We found many of our RW friends Tirtho, Kaustav, Avijit are waiting to bid us. Surprisingly Kaustav gave me a packet of Dairy Milk Cadburys.

Soon after Departure

Soon after Departure

Finally we managed to leave from RW Clubroom around 3:30 pm. Our next halt would be at Airport where Biranchi, Sanjoy Da & Abhijit Banerjee will join us. We reached there around 4 pm and amazed to see Somjeet (Bobo). He was missing the trip a lot and decided to guide us till Fulia where 2 of our experienced members Swarnadip & Ankan will join us. Hope you all are aware of Bobo’s team spirit (mentioned in my Gurudongmar Revisited Travelogue) and this time also there was no exception. Actually whenever I saw him, my confidence level goes up.

We bid everyone there and started our journey around 4:30 pm. Bobo being the best person in tail, I have seen so far, guided us tillFulia. He was guiding me in every step to control the team from tail for remaining journey. We reached Swarna’s home at 5:50 pm. We did gossip for sometime and finally the team is ready with Swarnadip, Sanjoy Da, Biranchi, Pratap, Abhijit, Ankan & Arup(Myself). Our current president and senior most member, Bhaskar Da will join us from Silliguri. We bid Bobo finally with real sorrows of not having him in the remaining journey and started our trip. Our plan was to drive as much as we can.

We crossed Krishnanagar after having a small break for tea and sweets. It was around 9 pm and we were near Berhampore. Swarna stopped suddenly after getting noise from rear of his motorcycle. We all immediately stopped and shocked to see …

Uninvited Guest Enjoying Free Travel

Uninvited Guest Enjoying Free Travel

It was not desired at all at the start of the journey but we all were enjoying being stopped in dark on NH34 fixing Swarna’s rear tyre as this is what we called as adventure. With his immense power, Swarnadip finally managed to fix his tubeless tyre and we started forBerhampore. It was 9:40 pm and we decided to take rest at Berhampore for that night and continue our journey next day early morning. Me & Sanjoy da along with Biranchi & Abhijit went ahead to find a good accommodation. Swarna, Ankan & Pratap went to fix Swarna’s motorcycle’s tyre.

It took time but we found a great hotel to stay for the night with air condition accommodation where we could take rest in cool breeze for the night which will give us more energy for the next day’s ride. We ordered for our dinner and had it as early as possible. As usual surprisingly Swarna revealed his home made home theater system to enjoy the leisure time listening good old music. We chat a lot and went to sleep around 12:30 pm keeping in mind to start next day at 5 am.

I woke up early morning at 4:30 AM and helped others to boost for the day’s journey. We packed our luggage and finally got ready at 5:30 am. We all hardly slept in those 4 hours. Frankly speaking everyone was dreaming to drive on hill. We were not sure how far we could drive as we have some juniors in the team. But without any hesitation and further plan we started our 2nd day’s journey. Soon we took a halt near Malda for a small tea break.

Miles To Go

Miles To Go

Gods Blessing us with Shadow of Clouds

Gods Blessing us with Shadow of Clouds

Everyone woke up early and took rest for sometime with best early morning energy drink, the famous hot Indian Tea along with some snacks. After 15 min we started again and our next halt was at Farakka (famous for Farakka Barrage). Road from Berhampore toFarakka is now a 4 lane road which was not there last year. Also, crossing Farakka Barrage is always an enchanting experience. So we drove fast enjoying morning glory of nature and reached Farakka.

Farakka

Farakka

We had roti – sabji as breakfast and started for Dalkhola.

Somewhere just after Farakka

Somewhere just after Farakka

We were at Dalkhola around 12 pm. As usual we went to Dalkhola Bharat Petrolium oil station to pour petrol and have lunch. But frankly speaking the experience of having lunch was horrible. It was almost 38 deg and in B.P Azad Hind Dhaba they are running with 3-4 celling fans. It was hard to get any kind of comfort there. Adding to that the food quality was really bad. The chicken we were served with was roasted for Tandoori preparation, for last night wedding party (wedding party in Petrol Pump dhaba ) and they just simply mix gravy with it. It was too hard to chew and we just couldn’t have that. At last we had lunch with rice, curd and sugar (not bad at all) as there was no other option. We pour oil and left immediately without wasting time further. It was almost 1:30 pm and too hot outside. But we have to struggle and cross Siliguri at earliest.

Surprisingly road condition for the first few kms was also pathetic. Anyways we struggled for sometime and crossed Silligury which is almost 135 kms from Dalkhola around 4 pm.

 

Sevoke Road

Sevoke Road

We waited for sometime and found our senior most member, Bhaskar Da coming on his grey Avenger. At an age of 65+ he looks like 35+. After riding since early morning we suddenly got charged up seeing Bhaskar Da and immediately headed towards Mirik, Darjeeling. But the road will be different than normal route. It will be through some dense forest and thus more adventurous …

Way To Mirik

Way To Mirik

Just imagine how thrilling the experience was and how adventurous the remaining tour is going to be. We started driving towards Mirik.  The experience was fabulous as Toy Train (Himalayan narrow gauge railway, famous in Darjeeling) was moving side by side with us. After driving 5-6 kms we took a halt for a small tea break. It was around 5:15 pm and we started testing recording video on the go when others were busy in enjoying tea. It was 5:30 pm, about to dark, and we all experienced started our hill journey. It was terrific experience going through dark dense forest with all headlights ON one after another. In fact it was an amazing sight to see all 8 motorcycles taking hairpin turn with their indicator’s ON … just amazing. After riding for sometime on our way, we all took a halt and Bhaskar da showed us how Mirik looks like in night.

We started driving again, after 15 – 20 min break enjoying night view of Mirik, and reached Mirik around 7 pm. Hotel was known to us from our early visits and we took shelter there for that night enjoying lovely dinner after hectic riding of 425 kms which include 50 kms of night hill riding.

We are about to start our historical journey tomorrow morning. So, it was time to take rest and focus on tomorrow’s ride where probably no motorcycle rode before.

It was 11-May-2014. We all get up early morning and started packing our languages. We got ready soon and its time to move on …

RW Team Ready To Roar

RW Team Ready To Roar

We started for Maneybhanjan and it was 8 am. The road was not in good shape and was a bit rigid. We were a team of 8 with 3 newly joined members. We rode with them many times in plains but not in hill. And believe me riding in hill, especially in India is not at all easy as road condition is not good in many places and the more interior you go, you will come across landslide zone or with no road at all. We decided to take a halt for 5 min only infront of Mirik Lake for few snaps …

Team RW @ Mirik Lake

Team RW @ Mirik Lake

Mirik Lake

Mirik Lake

Mirik Lake Looks Fishy…

Anyways we soon came across to a border called as Simana Gaon / Gram (means village at border)
where some local beautiful girls were selling snacks, hot Maggie, local chocolates etc. From that place we could see Maneybhanjanway down. Nepal is just infront of us. In fact the girls selling goods are sitting in Nepal and we were having hot Maggie in West Bengal, just opposite to the road. It seems very funny to me how on earth we put down virtual / actual line to signify, this is our state / nation and that is yours. Interacting with any human beings always seems to me the same, unless he / she is too rude. But we are in a civilized society and probably this is the way we should civilize ourselves.

Simana Gaon/Gram

Simana Gaon/Gram

Valley of Simana Gaon/Gram

Valley of Simana Gaon/Gram

Snack and Pack shop in Simana Gaon

Snack and Pack shop in Simana Gaon

 

Resting A While in Simana Gaon

Resting A While in Simana Gaon

Way to Sukhiapokhari

Way to Sukhiapokhari

We had our breakfast and started for Manebhanjan. The more we are going interior, as said, road condition is becoming horrible. Finally we reached Manebhanjan around 1 pm. After heading further we found the road towards Chitrey. The first milestone of Chitrey reminds me Anirban’s (from Team-BHP) write up. We immediately stopped there and took some snaps …

Milestone@ Maneybhanjan

Now it’s time to be serious. The next 3 kms with 30+ degree inclination and 180 degree turn in every 50 – 100 meter is ahead of us which will take us to Chitrey.  We started one by one as follows: Bhaskar da (being familiar since childhood with this twists), Sanjoy da, Biranchi, Arup (myself), Pratap, Ankan, Abhijit, Swarnadip. The basic principal we have to follow is ‘No one will stop in between (as you can’t pull your motorcycle if you stop) and you will also not stop if someone fell down in any turn (as turnings are difficult with that inclined and steepness)’. One could only help other if he is in confident and in stable position. Else only Ankan and Swarna will help. Many of us got frightened after started driving. We have to take support in every second with our feet. I clearly remember my right foot miss the road (while trying to take support) when I was about to take a 180 deg. right turn. Somehow we managed to cross the 3 kms and reached Chitrey. So far, the road at least have some sign of asphalt. But now there is no more. We were fully tensed and could not imagine even how difficult it is going to be with road full of stones, boulders, mud which is never driven by any 2 wheeler along with incline and difficult turns.

Must mention, as per locals confirmed, we came to know someone tried to ride early with his motorcycle but later bring the motorcycle to Sandakphu by Land Rover (not even driving through the road). Anyways that is none of our business and we have to think how we could go ahead further.

 Way to Chitrey

Way to Chitrey

Cliffshoot Ride zone @ Chitrey

Cliffshoot Ride zone @ Chitrey

Chitrey

Chitrey

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(From left) Pratap, Ankan, Abhijit, Sanjoy, Biranchi, Bhaskar @ Chitrey

We gathered as a team to motivate each other and find the alternative. Because of the difficulty I was facing with the height of my CBZ we planned something different. We swap our motorcycle. Ankan took my CBZ, Biranchi took Ankan’s Avenger and myself on Biranchi’s Avenger. We did this because I was struggling to touch the road due to height and inclination. Anyways we started for the next halt Lameydhura after 3.5 kms. As soon as we started we found the road ahead of us …

CBZ on the way to Lameydhura

CBZ on the way to Lameydhura

RW Team on the way to Lameydhura

RW Team on the way to Lameydhura

The main thing we understood is that this will be the toughest route anyone has gone so far, not in terms of altitude but road condition. Road condition was so pathetic that every now and then wheels are getting stuck between boulders. We were very serious on choosing our track but you can only choose your track when there is any track. The road was nothing but a bed of boulders and choosing track was also not helping us most of the time. Whenever anyone is getting stuck the other is pushing him to get out of the scenario and go ahead further. In addition in every minute we were getting surrounded by fog and could see only next 20 ft. Here is a demo …

On the way to Lameydhura

On the way to Lameydhura

On the way to Lameydhura

On the way to Lameydhura

This was just the beginning. We all knew that the way we were moving is the only way to survive there and reach the destination. I was a bit confused on making this ride complete at earliest as we have two other destination in our list and both of them are at high altitude. But we can’t play with nature and have to respect it as it comes on our way. We started helping each other and ride as much as we can on the slippery, muddy road along with boulders everywhere. The difference between road of LadakhGurudongmar andSandakphu is that Sandakphu is in low altitude compare to other places. But the road is too steep with more than 40 degree inclination at most of the places along with every turn as hairpin bend. The elevation was also too high. If someone of us fell down, he will fall at least 300 – 500 ft. hitting the rock. Our feelings were mixed with awe and thrill as we were moving through Singalila National Ridge through this kind of road.

Milestone at Lameydura

Milestone at Lameydura

Soon we reached Lameydura. The atmosphere was awesome. It was foggy everywhere. We again hardly could see 10 ft ahead of us and the temperature was 11 degree with tremendous flow of cold air. It was difficult to drive. So, we decided to have hot tea / coffee and proceed further.

@ Lameydura

@ Lameydura

We didn’t take that much of time and immediately left for next destination Meghma which is 3 kms further.

Way to Meghma

Way to Meghma

Way to Meghma

Way to Meghma

Meghma

Meghma

Meghma Monastery

Meghma Monastery

This place is named thus as most of the time throughout the year you would see this place engulfed in cloud (Megh). After driving for sometime we reached Meghma. We didn’t take any halt at Meghma and left for next destination Tumling. It was 2:30 pm when we were leaving Meghma. So, we decided to take a halt at Tumling for the day. Tumling is 2 kms drive from Meghma. However this road gave us a glimpse of how tough it is going to be, specially the last 200 mtrs.

Way to Tumling

Way to Tumling

Anyway we kept our patience and continue driving through the steep terrain. Finally we managed to reach Tumling around 4 pm.

Tumling is a small hamlet in Ilam District of Mechi Zone in Nepal’s Eastern Development Region. Ilam is derived from Limbu Language (Tibeto-Burman language mainly spoken in Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, Kashmir and Darjeeling). Limbu Script is basically derived from Tibetan Script. In Limbu, ‘Li’ means twisted and ‘Lam’ means road. Thus came ‘Li-Lam’ which changed toIlam as time passed by. Ilam was one of the ten self-ruling states of Limbuwan before the unification of Nepal. After going through the road since morning, I should appreciate the person who gave the name of the district. It’s perfect.

Weather was not at all good at Tumling the time we reached and the locals were observing us, the mad motorcycle tourer’s  and started enquiring how we thought of driving through the horrible terrain which is only ruled by Land Rover’s.

It was raining at that time. We decided to unload our luggage as early as possible and cover our companion’s with plastic to avoid any malfunction next morning. Soon, we put our entire luggage inside the wooden furnished room and its time for enjoying the nature …

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Tumling

Tumling

Tumling

Suddenly we came to know that Biranchi will do mimicry of everyone of us. He was fantastic in doing the same and was imitating us making us laughing all around thinking if we are so funny like he was showing. The accommodation was of ‘Nila Gurung’, who is an enthusiast trekker with many achievements. She is also responsible of development of the place. She has got much recognition from different forum. They had a cute puppy and most of us being animal lover, started cuddling with the puppy and taking pictures with him …

Ankan & Myself with Cuttie

Ankan & Myself with Cuttie

It was 8 pm and we planned to have our dinner as tomorrow’s ride will be much tougher than whatever we rode so far. We enjoyed our veg dinner and went to sleep after gossiping few minutes.

The Rugged Beauty @ Tumling

The Rugged Beauty @ Tumling

We all at Rolling Wheels Bikers Club never ride to make history but since the beginning of motorcycle touring across India, we left our footprints almost everywhere which impressed many enthusiasts or next gen and followed by many as well.

It was 12th May 2014 and its time to conquer Sandakphu being the first bikers club. We planned to hire a Land Rover and put our entire luggage’s inside it as road is much steeper going forward. In addition in case of any trouble we probably could take help of that. We all are riding low torque motorcycles, mainly all commuter motorcycles and probably testing their limits at ultimate stage. Hope our motorcycle manufacturer see us testing machines at ultimate level which probably they also have not think off.

We took whatever needed for ride only and took off for the epic summit. Beauty is that, from Tumling there are 2 paths toSandakphu. One via Nepal only and the second via West Bengal and Nepal. Everyone told us to go via Nepal route as it is in better shape than the second one. But we decided to go via 2nd one as per our experience …

RW Ready For The Final Show @ Tumling

RW Ready For The Final Show @ Tumling

30+ Degree Incline Road After Tumling

30+ Degree Incline Road After Tumling

RW Team with Local Folks

RW Team with Local Folks

Initially road was as usual we covered so far. But the more we were progressing, condition is getting worse. I can still remember one of the drivers at Maneybhanjan saying, it is impossible to drive the last 2-3 kms after Bikeybhanjan as it is more than 45 degree steep with complete 180 degree turn at every 50-60 meters. Without a second thought we started driving as we are struggling at every step and reached Gairibas, 4 kms from Tumling, around 11 am.

After Singalila National Park

After Singalila National Park

We took a halt for 10 mins and in between we found an old man from our own city running towards us. He gave us raincoat of Biranchi, as they found it fell down somewhere on the road and wishes us all the best for the summit. Getting this kind of help from someone great like him, whom we didn’t know, boosted once again our energy. As we were taking a break of 5 – 10 minutes, I started taking snaps of Land Rover from different angle.

Immediately we got engulfed with fog and without wasting time we headed towards next destination Kalapokhri / Kalipokhri.Kalapokhri is almost 6 – 7 kms from Gairibas. This lake is at 3186 mtr. ‘Pokhri’ means lake and ‘Kala / Kali’ means dark in Nepalilanguage. The village is also named same after this lake. It is told that drinking the holy water of this lake cures disease Malaria. Scientific reason is being in the midst of Cinchona valley, leaves falls in the lake and thus getting diluted with water to cure Malariathrough natural sources. This is holy lake and thus no one takes bath or touch the water with feet. It is also being told that during the time of Mahabharata, Kal Nag (snake) took shelter here.

Milestone to Kalapokhri

Milestone to Kalapokhri

Biranchi doing mimicry of Anakan on the way to Kalipokhari

Biranchi doing mimicry of Anakan on the way to Kalipokhari

The road from Gairibas to Kalipokhri is a mixed combination. Either it was full of boulders or with deep mud. So, we were struggling either way or other.

Stony Hairpin Turn

Stony Hairpin Turn

Way to Kalipokhari

Way to Kalipokhari

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Way to Kalipokhari

Wanna Try Some Bungee Jumping??

Wanna Try Some Bungee Jumping??

Somewhere in between, Ankan and myself stopped. I found him wearing shoes opposite since morning as he was tensed about the journey. We laugh out louder …

We kept our patience and reached Kalipokhri around 1 pm.

@ Kalipokhari

@ Kalipokhari

@ Kalipokhari Lake

@ Kalipokhari Lake

The weather was getting worse and it will be wise decision to left as early as possible. But we were too hungry. We parked our motorcycle’s for taking some kind of food like hot Maggie (as there is no other option available & they cook it amazingly). Again I found some cute puppies along with their dad & mom with huge bulky physic. We took rest and enjoyed the foggy atmosphere with hot food and tea. Now, it’s time for the final journey of 7 kms. Our 1st target was to reach Bikeybhanjan, 2 kms from Kalipokhri. As soon as we started in the bewildered weather, we came to know that we are going to ride on the toughest route we came across till date, in terms of steepness and horrible condition with boulders everywhere.

Way to Bikeybhanjan

Way to Bikeybhanjan

Our motorcycle’s tyres were skidding every now and then and the maximum speed was 10 kmph in 1st gear. Anyhow we reachedBikeybhanjan around 2 pm. Without taking any further halt in the muddled weather we started heading towards our destination one by one. After few meters we got lost in the fog and few meters ahead I found Pratap was sitting on the road as his Pulsar skidded and he fell down.

Pratap & Bucephalus Taking A Quick Nap After The Fall Mishap

Pratap & Bucephalus Taking A Quick Nap After The Fall Mishap

We laughed for sometime and tried to pull it up. But it was not one man’s job. We waited for sometime and at last Ankan, Sanjoy da, Pratap and myself able to pull it back on the road. As soon as we make it stand, we found heavy leakage of fuel. We started checking if something got broken. It seems an overflow and we tried starting the motorcycle. After few attempts we managed to start it and after few seconds the fuel leakage stopped. Once again we encouraged each other for the next few kms.

After driving few more meters we came infront of the last 2 kms stretch where the steepness is more than 45 degree.

45+ degree Incline before Sandakphu

45+ degree Incline before Sandakphu

The cleavage was also not visible as it was so steep. If someone fell down here there will be no trace. We took a halt and think for sometime. In between suddenly Swarna’s YAMAHA Fazer stopped. Absurdly being idle and in gear, the rear wheel is rotating. Without any clue we started checking thoroughly and it was 3:10 pm. We adjusted the clutch, checked chain sprocket and fix the tuning. Without any clue again it started moving. Again we gathered and decided to move 1 by 1 for next 2 kms and blow up our special horn once reach the summit. In between, if someone gets stuck, we have to push him without any other option.

We started slowly and believe me everyone was frightened to see and feel the toughness. In this kind of steepness the benefit of 4 wheel drive comes into picture which we easily understood.

So Near Yet So Far

So Near Yet So Far

Rest If You Must But Dont You Quit

Rest If You Must But Dont You Quit

After a hard work of 30 mins we crossed the toughest stretch struggling and pushing each other when required, and reached Sandakphu. Whoever is in the last in queue was getting excited to hear the special honking but everyone kept himself cool and calm to cover the next few meters.

It was an ecstatic moment seeing local residents and tourists from India and foreign countries, staying either in the tourist lodge of Nepal or West Bengal, came out to see the first group ever riding on top of Sandakphu that too through the toughest route, and greeted us….

RW Achieved/Summited/Conquered Sandakphu

RW Achieved/Summited/Conquered Sandakphu

Victory & Glory Comes To People Who Strive For It and Eventually Drives For It.

It was a moment for us with no words. We were infront of Sherpa Chalet, in Nepal. Before I proceed further I must mention something to all of you who is going through my blog in detail. If you are going to Sandakphu, I would request you to think twice before staying at Sherpa Chalet. After struggling since morning and having only 1 bowl of Maggie, once we reached we ordered for tea and biscuits. After not getting it for next 10 – 15 min, when we requested to give us at list some packets of biscuits, the lady replied that she could give biscuits only once she serves tea. We were shivering in cold and were fatigued too much. This behavior was out of our control. After some controversy they finally gave it and then a cup of tea after next 10 min. Food quality was kind of ok. Post dinner once we requested them to give us glasses to mix hot and cold water and the reply was ‘Nehi. Glass tut jayega’ means ‘No, it will break’. We didn’t have energy to quarrel with them at all.

Anyways we had our dinner around 8 – 8:30 and went to sleep early to enjoy the amazing sunrise next morning. It was 3:30 am and some of us woke up. It was complete dark outside. As usual Swarna and Ankan started gossiping with everyone making everyone awake. Both of them were lying just beside the window. Suddenly I noticed an orange line in the dark sky.

4 am @ Sandakphu

4 am @ Sandakphu

We all immediately got ready and leave with camera to witness the fascinating sunrise on Khanchendzonga / Khanchenzondga. We all headed towards the view point and saw it closed. We found a local guide taking 2 of the foreign tourists towards a hill. We followed him immediately and could feel the roar of the cold wave. We found the guide was taking 2 of the tourist to the top of a hill through a steep muddy road through the jungle. Without knowing anything we followed him and reached on top of that hill. Now, it was fabulous watching the full Khanchendzonga, 3 Sisters, Everest range just beside a thin orange line infront of us. I was just stunned watching the utmost beauty of nature. I turned around and saw a mixture of violet and blue line, created a circumference behind us on the opposite side. I do not have any words to explain the beauty at its best. One could only feel it once he/she is there standing infront of gigantic Sleeping Buddha / Shiva.

Sleeping Buddha / Shiva

This is the Kanchendzonga family. Looking the same from a distance, specially during sunrise or sunset, gives the spectator an enchanting view, which looks like Sleeping Buddha or Sleeping Shiva. The head is Kumbhakarna, body is the massive bulky Kanchendzonga and foot is Mt. Pandim & Mt. Kabru.

Khanchendzonga / The Sleeping Buddha @ 4:30 am

Khanchendzonga / The Sleeping Buddha @ 4:30 am

Aptly called the Paradise of Trekkers, the peak Sandakphu, is a vantage point from where one can see four of the world’s five highest peaks – Everest, Kanchenjunga, Makalu and Lhotse – in a continuous snow-clad arc. The Himalayan Range which you could see from Sandakphu consists peak like Khanchendzonga – 28156 ft, Kabru 24026 ft, Jano (Kumbhakarna) 25299 ft, Pandim – 22010 ft. Further East you could see Everest group with Everest – 29029 ft, Makalu which looks like a great armed chair of snow – 27838 ft,Lhotse – 27940 ft. Kanchenjunga-correctly spelt is Khangchendzonga is the third highest mountain in the world means “Five Treasures of the Great Snow” and is a guardian deity of the Sikkimese. The contrast between Everest and Kanchenjunga is very much visible. Kanchenjunga is remarkable for its imposing bulk and massive proportions while Everest soaring above a series of valleys and its ridges is more graceful and majestic. The space between the two is occupied by snowy ranges. Three Sisters which cluster together if you look towards east beyond Kanchenjunga you will see Narsing and then the Dongkiala and Chola ranges of the Tibetan frontier with Chumalhari lifting up to its heads in the rear. The whole snowy ranges of BhutanSikkim and Nepal about 320 kms in length, is visible, but the panorama is completely dominated by the Kanchenjunga and Everest group.

Good Morning Sandakphu

Good Morning Sandakphu

59

The Morning Prayers The Mountain Bears…

hiranmayena patrena / satyasyapihitam mukham  tat tvam pushann apavrinu / satya-dharmaya drishtaye

Hiranmayena Patrena, Satyasyapihitam Mukham
Tat Tvam Pushann Apavrinu, Satya-Dharmaya Drishtaye

 From Left Mt. Lhotse, Mt. Everest, Mt. Makalu. First sunlight of the world on Mt. Everest

(From Left) Mt. Lhotse, Mt. Everest, Mt. Makalu. First sunlight of the world on Mt. Everest

62

Kanchenjunga

We also observed the 2nd road to Sandakphu through Nepal. It looks like easy but seems much tougher in terms of riding on motorcycle. We spend near about 2+ hours enjoying the sunrise. It was time to say good bye to Sandakphu.

We packed all our belongings and started our journey towards Maneybhanjan. But this time through the road of Nepal. We didn’t spend much time taking pictures except a few of roads.

This journey was also very tough as we were coming down and tyres were skidding. But our companions are performing much better while coming down compare to when we went up. In between there was heavy rainfall which made our journey much more tough.

We reached Chitrey around 6:30 pm. We took halt for 10 mins to have tea while it was raining outside. Finally we drove through complete dark taking snaps mainly of Ankan and reached Maneybhanjan at 7:30 pm. Our next destination is Nathu-La in Sikkim.

Team RW: Sky Is The Limit

Team RW: Sky Is The Limit

 

Ride Safe & Follow The Trails….Hip Hip

Hooray

 

Travelogue By: Arup Bhattacharya

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gurudongmar Revisited

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

 

 

 

 

Gangani: The Grand Canyon of Bengal

It was Sunday 9th December, 2012 and Rolling Wheels Biker’s Club was ready to burn rubber after a long time since we completed our trip to Gurdongmar Lake @ 17,380 ft. in North Sikkim. It was me (Arup), who gave the idea of this One Day Trip to this pretty much untouched town Garhbeta / Garbeta of West MidnaporeWest Bengal, especially for Gangani – Grand Canyon of West Bengal. Soon, I found many club members interested on the ride and it seemed that a great trip is in store for Rolling Wheels Biker’s Club.

So, many phone conferences and meetings were held. Everyone was curious to know what kind of experience it is going to be, as this place was politically very disturbed for the last couple of years. After a few meetings in RW Clubroom it was found that some of our Senior (Experienced) riders, who always work as our guardian & guide, will not be able to join this ride as they have some family functions to attend. However, they encouraged us a lot to complete the trip  & to find out the hidden treasures of our own state West Bengal.

Gangani 1

It was 6:30 am and RW members were ready to Vrrrrrroooooooooommmmmmmmm!!! We bid Goodbye to Krish Da and Tirtho and started for Garhbeta / Garbeta. Altogether we were 11 riders and 2 more members will be joining us from Midnapore.

History:

Garhbeta (Bengali: গড়বেতা) is a town in Medinipur Sadar subdivision of Paschim Medinipur district in West BengalIndia. It is on the bank of the ShilabatiGar in Bengali means a nullah since the boundary of the earlier town was surrounded by a small nullah so the place was named Garhbeta. Garhbeta can also be spelled as Garbeta.

In the era of Mahabharat this Bakadwip was under the jurisdiction of Bakasur. Its kingdom was BetrabatiBhimsen killed BakasurSrikrishna came from Dwaraka to congratulate Bhim. In memory of this Yudhisthir set up an image of Krishna. At present the image of God Krishna Rai Jew in the village of Krishnanagar is that very image set up by Yudhisthir. There are also other opinions about the nomenclature of Garhbeta. A vast area was called Baghratati. Once Siharuddin Bugrasah, the son of Samaduddiin Firoj Sah, the ruler of Bengal occupied this area. The place is named Bagri after the name of Siharuddin Bugrasah.

Gangani 2

Route:

1.     Kolkata – NH6 – Bagnan – Uluberia – Kolaghat – Mecho Gram – Ghatal – Chandrakona –  Garhbeta

2.      Kolkata – NH6 – Bagnan – Uluberia – Kolaghat – Karagpur – NH60 – Godapiasal – Salboni– Garhbeta

 

The Ride:

Weeks back when I first visited this place with Rajdeep (My Brother in Law) and my wife Atreyi, following route 2, we came across with the view of river Kangsabati / Kansai.

Driving through route 2 is always a mesmerizing experience as the whole route is through core jungle area which makes the ride interesting but this time it was not a good idea as it is through core forest and on some stretches you hardly can drive at 20 km speed. So, this time we preferred the first route.

It was around 6:30 am. Headlights are ON and we started our journey. We stopped at Bally Station as one of my friends will be joining (as a pillion) and coming from Santragachi. We got late and reached NH6 around 7:30 am. We drove pretty well (with many halts because everyone was busy enjoying the morning ride & attending natures call every now & then) and reached Kolaghat around 8: 45 am.

Gangani 3

It took 1 hour to complete our heavy breakfast with different kinds of dishes. In between I took a few calls from the folks at Midnapore and a call from Debdutta, one of our members, who was in Krishnanagar last night; he would be reaching Kolkata around 8 am today and then will kick off for the same destination.

After finishing the superb breakfast and checking our digital snap guns, we finally started for Garhbeta at 9: 45 am. It was getting late and was time for pack up & continue the ride.

We drove fast, as much as we could, keeping  in mind that RWBC always rides in a Group. Road condition was bad inside Ghatal, especially in Chandrakona Town. So, it took time and we meet with other 2 riders around 11 am.

Gangani 4

Finally we came to the Rasakunja Crossing of NH60 and Chandrakona Road and stopped at the 20 yrs old famous Kali Temple. It was time for some snaps and information gathering as usual.

Gangani 5

Locals informed, earlier the political & social condition of the place was so bad that everyday there was some socially hazardous activity going on. So, the locals thought that building a temple for Goddess Kali could only stop these unprecedented activities. They claim, since the opening of the temple, peace does reign in the locality.

After spending around 10 – 15 minutes in the Temple, we all started for Gangani – referred to as The Grand Canyon of West Bengal. We reached there within minutes through the help of locals. We all got stunned with the beauty of this place. Way down river Silavati is flowing like a cool breeze, probably reminding us about its history and telling us in disguise, it is dying. 

Gangani 6

Another beauty of this place is that, in the horizon one could see the hills of Purulia and Bankura district of West Bengal, as there is nothing blocking the view between Gangani and the hills.

We spent ample amount of time enjoying the natural beauty, taking snaps of this beautiful place and its canyons, enjoying the Silavati river bed. Soon, we all found Debdutta was arriving with his White Hero Honda ZMR. He also spent time taking snaps & enjoying the beauty of the amazing but non-highlighted Travel spot. We really wish that the State Govt. Takes this place seriously and converts it to a popular tourist spot.

Gangani 7

It was 1:45 pm and we all geared up for our next destination, the thousands of years old Sarbamangala Temple. We checked with locals and reached the Temple very soon.

It was another historical beauty waiting for us probably to describe its history. History tells that during the reign of King Vikramaditya a Yogi (Sage) came to the kingdom of Bagri. He was charmed to see the beauties of nature and in order to display his religious devotion, he built the temple of Sarbamangala. Hearing stories of the miraculous power of the Goddess Sarbamangala the then King Vikramaditya came to Garhbeta and devoted himself to meditation on the corpses (Sabsadhana). Being pleased with him the Goddess Sarbamangala blessed him with the power to dominate over Tal Betal, so called supernatural figures. To prove the success of goddess’s blessing showered upon him Vikramaditya ordered Tal Betal to turn the face of the temple from the south to the north. The order was instantly carried out. The name of the place was given Beta after the name of Betal.

Gangani 8

It was almost 3 pm and we all were feeling very hungry. So, once again we approached the locals to find out a good hotel / dhaba and came across one on NH60 itself. Everyone took whatever they wanted, Rice – Roti – Chicken etc. and with a full belly there are all Happy Smiling Faces around.

As soon as we finished our lunch we headed for Kolkata at 3:45 pm.

Gangani 9

Our next stop was at Sher e Punjab restaurant, Kolaghat at 6:30 pm. We knew that having food in this restaurant is a pathetic experience nowadays  since the quality of food is degrading day by day, thus we avoided the popular restaurant while going to Garbeta, but we thought to take a last try & as usual it did not prove to be  a good experience. Anyways we left around 7:30 pm from Kolaghat and finally reached home at 8:45 pm.

West Bengal is like a hidden treasure depicting different moods of nature along with variety of landscapes and it was our approach to reveal some of them to travel hungry people who does not know much about the beautiful place & its friendly Locals. Hope to come up with some more such destinations.

 Hooray

Travelogue by Arup Bhattacharya

Edited By: Tirthendu Dey

Gurudongmar: 2nd Highest Lake in India

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.

 

6 5 9

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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

 

 

Journey to the Top of the World

Location

Jammu and Kashmir is the northernmost state of India. It is situated mostly in the Himalayan Mountains. Jammu and Kashmir shares a border with the states of Himachal Pradesh and Punjab to the south and internationally with the People’s Republic of China to the north and east and the Pakistan-administered territories of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, to the west and northwest respectively.

Formerly a part of the erstwhile Princely State of Kashmir and Jammu, which governed the larger historic region of Kashmir, this territory is disputed among China, India and Pakistan. Pakistan, which claims the territory, refers to it as “Indian-occupied Kashmir” (IoK) while most international agencies, such as the United Nations, call it “Indian-administered Kashmir.”

Jammu and Kashmir consists of three regions: Jammu, the Kashmir valley and Ladakh. Srinagar is the summer capital, and Jammu is the winter capital. While the Kashmir valley is famous for its beautiful mountainous landscape, Jammu’s numerous shrines attract tens of thousands of Hindu pilgrims every year. Ladakh, also known as “Little Tibet”, is renowned for its remote mountain beauty and Buddhist culture.

History

Hari Singh had ascended the throne of Kashmir in 1925 and was the reigning monarch at the conclusion of British rule in the subcontinent in 1947. As a part of the partition process, both countries had agreed that the rulers of princely states would be given the right to opt for either Pakistan or India or — in special cases — to remain independent. In 1947, Kashmir’s population was 77% Muslim and it shared a boundary with Pakistan. On 20 October 1947, tribesmen backed by Pakistan invaded Kashmir.

The Maharaja initially fought back but appealed for assistance to the Governor-General Louis Mountbatten, who agreed on the condition that the ruler accedes to India. On October 25th 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession and it was executed on October 27, 1947 between the ruler of Kashmir and the Governor General of India. Once the papers of accession to India were signed, Indian soldiers entered Kashmir with orders to stop any further occupation, but they were not allowed to expel anyone from the state. India took the matter to the United Nations. The UN resolution asked both India and Pakistan to vacate the areas they have occupied and hold a referendum under UN observation. The holding of this plebiscite, which India initially supported, was dismissed by India because the 1952 elected Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir voted in favor of confirming the Kashmir region’s accession to India. Another reason for the abandonment of the referendum is because demographic changes, after 1947, have been effected in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, as generations of Pakistani individuals’ non-native to the region have been allowed to take residence in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Furthermore, in Indian-administered Kashmir, the demographics of the Kashmir Valley have also been altered after separatist militants coerced 1/4 million Kashmiri Hindus to leave the region. Moreover, Pakistan failed to withdraw its troops from the Kashmir region as was required under the same U.N. resolution of August 13, 1948 which discussed the plebiscite.

Diplomatic relations between India and Pakistan soured for many other reasons,and eventually resulted in three further wars in Kashmir the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971 and the Kargil War in 1999 where Pakistan suffered crushing defeats in the hands of a much powerful India. India has control of 60% of the area of the former Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir; Pakistan controls 30% of the region, known as Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir. China has since occupied 10% of the state in 1962.

The eastern region of the erstwhile princely state of Kashmir has also been beset with a boundary dispute. In the late 19th- and early 20th centuries, although some boundary agreements were signed between Great Britain, Tibet, Afghanistan and Russia over the northern borders of Kashmir, China never accepted these agreements, and the official Chinese position did not change with the communist takeover in 1949. By the mid-1950s the Chinese army had entered the north-east portion of Ladakh.

By 1956–57 they had completed a military road through the Aksai Chin area to provide better communication between Xinjiang and western Tibet. India’s belated discovery of this road led to border clashes between the two countries that culminated in the Sino-Indian war of October 1962. China has occupied Aksai Chin since 1962 and, in addition, an adjoining region, the Trans-Karakoram Tract was ceded by Pakistan to China in 1963.

Political & Militant Insurgence

For intermittent periods between 1957, when the state approved its own Constitution, to the death of Sheikh Abdullah in 1982, the state had alternating spells of stability and discontent. In the late 1980s however, manipulated discontent over the alleged high-handed policies of the Union Government and allegations of the rigging of the 1987 assembly elections triggered a violent uprising which was backed by Pakistan in order to spread disorder & insurgency in J&K.

Since then, the region has seen a prolonged, bloody conflict between Pakistans trained & backed militants and the Indian Army, both of whom have been accused of widespread human rights abuses, including abductions, massacres, rape and looting. The army has officially denied these allegations. However, militancy in the state has been on the decline since 1999, also again in 2004 with the peace process with India and Pakistan. Furthermore the situation has become increasingly peaceful in recent years with the worldwide exposure of Pakistan’s links in worldwide militant activities & backup including sheltering of the notorious Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad.

Kashmir Valley dominated by ethnic Kashmiri Muslims has largely driven the Azadi campaign. Non-Kashmiri Muslim ethnic groups (Paharis, Sheenas, Gujjars and Bakarwalas), who dominate areas along the Line of Control, have remained indifferent to the separatist campaign. Jammu province region has 70:30 Hindu-Muslim ratio. Parts of the region were militancy-hit, but violence there has ebbed along with the Valley after India and Pakistan started a peace process in 2004.

Dogras (67%) are the single largest group in the multi-ethnic region of Punjabis, Paharis, Bakerwals and Gujjars. Statehood is demand in Hindu-dominated districts. Ladakh is the largest region in the state with over two lakh people. Its two districts are Leh (77% Buddhist) and Kargil (80% Muslim population). Union territory status has been the key demand of Leh Buddhists for many years with intense interest of being a part of India.

Jammu and Kashmir is the only state in India which enjoys special autonomy under Article 370 of the Constitution of India according to which, no law enacted by the Parliament of India, except for those in the field of defense, communication and foreign policy, will be extendable in Jammu and Kashmir unless it is ratified by the state legislature of Jammu and Kashmir. Subsequently, jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India over Jammu and Kashmir has been extended.

Jammu and Kashmir is also the only Indian state that has its own flag and constitution, and Indians from other states cannot purchase land or property in the state. Designed by the then ruling National Conference, the flag of Jammu and Kashmir features a plough on a red background symbolizing labour substituted the Maharaja’s state flag. The three stripes represent the three distinct administrative divisions of the state, namely Jammu, Valley of Kashmir, and Ladakh.

Since 1990, the Armed Forces Act, which gives special powers to the Indian security forces, has been enforced in Jammu and Kashmir. The decision to evoke this act was criticized by the Human Rights Watch.

Like all the states of India, Jammu and Kashmir has a multi-party democratic system of governance with a bicameral legislature. At the time of drafting of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, 100 seats were earmarked for direct elections from territorial constituencies. Of these, 25 seats were reserved for the areas of Jammu and Kashmir State that came under Pakistani occupation, which came down to 24 after the 12th amendment of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir:

“The territory of the State shall comprise all the territories which on the fifteenth day of August 1947, were under the sovereignty or suzerainty of the Ruler of the State” and Section 48 therein states that, “Notwithstanding anything contained in section 47, until the area of the State under the occupations of Pakistan ceases to so occupied and the people residing in that area elect their representatives (a) twenty-five seats in the Legislative Assembly shall remain vacant and shall not be taken into account for reckoning the total member-ship of the Assembly; and the said area shall be excluded in delimiting the territorial Constituencies Under Section 47”.

After a delimitation in 1988, the total number of seats increased to 111, of which 87 were within Indian administered territory. The Jammu & Kashmir Assembly is the only state in India to have a 6 year as against the norm of a 5 year term followed in every other state’s Assembly. There was indication from the previous INC Government to bring parity with the other states, but this does not seem to have received the required support to pass into law.

Influential political parties include the Jammu & Kashmir National Conference (NC), the Indian National Congress (INC), the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other smaller regional parties. After dominating Kashmir’s politics for years, National Conference’s influence waned in 2002, when INC and PDP formed a political alliance and rose to power. Under the power sharing agreement, INC leader Ghulam Nabi Azad replaced PDP’s Mufti Mohammad Sayeed as the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir in late 2005. However, in 2008, PDP withdrew its support from the government on the issue of temporary diversion of nearly 40 acres (16 ha) of land to Sri Amarnath Shrine Board. In the 2008 Kashmir Elections that were held from 17 November to 24 December, the National Conference party and the Congress party together won enough seats in the state assembly to form a ruling alliance.

Ethnic Kashmiri Muslims, especially those residing in Kashmir valley, demand greater autonomy, sovereignty and even independence from India. Due to the economic integration of Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of India, separatist movements across Kashmir valley were on a decline. However, following the unrest in 2008, which included more than 500,000 protesters at a rally on 18 August, secessionist movements gained a boost.

Economy

Jammu and Kashmir’s economy is predominantly dependent on agriculture and allied activities. The Kashmir valley is also known for its sericulture and cold-water fisheries. Wood from Kashmir is used to make high-quality cricket bats, popularly known as Kashmir Willow. Kashmiri saffron is also very famous and brings the state a handsome amount of foreign exchange. Agricultural exports from Jammu and Kashmir include apples, barley, cherries, corn, millet, oranges, rice, peaches, pears, saffron, sorghum, vegetables, and wheat, while manufactured exports include handicrafts, rugs, and shawls.

Horticulture plays a vital role in the economic development of the state. With an annual turnover of over Rs. 300 crore, apart from foreign exchange of over Rs. 80 Crore, this sector is the next biggest source of income in the state’s economy. The region of Kashmir is known for its horticulture industry and is the wealthiest region in the state. Horticultural produce from the state includes apples, apricots, cherries, pears, plums, almonds and walnuts.

The Doda district has deposits of high-grade sapphire. Though small, the manufacturing and services sector is growing rapidly, especially in the Jammu division. In recent years, several consumer goods companies have opened manufacturing units in the region. The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) have identified several industrial sectors which can attract investment in the state, and accordingly, it is working with the union and the state government to set up industrial parks and special economic zones. In the fiscal year 2005–06, exports from the state amounted to Rs. 1,150 crore. However, industrial development in the state faces several major constraints including extreme mountainous landscape and power shortage.

The Government of India has been keen to economically integrate Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of India. The state is one of the largest recipients of grants from New Delhi, totaling $ 812 million per year. It also has a mere 4% incidence of poverty, one of the lowest in the country. In an attempt to improve the infrastructure in the state, the Indian government has commenced work on the ambitious Kashmir Railway project which is being constructed by Konkan Railway Corporation and IRCON at a cost of more than US$2.5 billion. The Jammu & Kashmir Bank, which is listed as an S&P CNX 500 conglomerate, is based in the state. It reported a net profit of Rs. 598 million in 2008.

Before insurgency intensified in 1989, tourism formed an important part of the Kashmiri economy. The tourism economy in the Kashmir valley was worst hit. However, the holy shrines of Jammu and the Buddhist monasteries of Ladakh continue to remain popular pilgrimage and tourism destinations. Every year, thousands of Hindu pilgrims visit holy shrines of Vaishno Devi and Amarnath which has had significant impact on the state’s economy. The Vaishno Devi yatra alone contributes Rs. 475 crore to the local economy annually.

Tourism in the Kashmir valley has rebounded in recent years and in 2009, the state became one of the top tourist destinations of India. Gulmarg, one of the most popular ski resort destinations in India, is also home to the world’s highest green golf course. However with the decrease in violence in the state has boosted the state’s economy specifically tourism.

Culture

Ladakh is famous for its unique Indo-Tibetan culture. Chanting in Sanskrit and Tibetan language forms an integral part of Ladakh’s Buddhist lifestyle. Annual masked dance festivals, weaving and archery are an important part of traditional life in Ladakh. Ladakhi food has much in common with Tibetan food, the most prominent foods being thukpa, noodle soup; and tsampa, known in Ladakhi as Ngampe, roasted barley flour. Typical garb includes gonchas of velvet, elaborately embroidered waistcoats and boots, and gonads or hats. People, adorned with gold and silver ornaments and turquoise headgears throng the streets during various Ladakhi festivals.

The biggest and most famous of the monastic festivals is that of Hemis, which falls in late June or early July, and is dedicated to Padmasambhava. Every 12 years, the gompa’s greatest treasures, a huge Thangka, is ritually exhibited. Its next unveiling is due to take place in A.D 2016. Other monasteries, which have summer festivals, are Lam (late July/early August), Tak-thok (after Phyang) and Karsha in Zanskar (after Phyang). Like Hemis, the Phyang festival too involves the unveiling of a gigantic thangka, though here it is done every third year. The Dumhal is a famous dance in the Kashmir valley, performed by men of the Wattal region. The women perform the Rouff, another traditional folk dance. Kashmir has been noted for its fine arts for centuries, including poetry and handicrafts. Shikaras, traditional small wooden boats, and houseboats are a common feature in various lakes and rivers across the Valley.

The Constitution of India does not allow people from regions other than Jammu and Kashmir to purchase land in the state. As a consequence, houseboats became popular among those who were unable to purchase land in the Valley and has now become an integral part of the Kashmiri lifestyle.

Kawa, traditional green tea with spices and almond, is consumed all through the day in the chilled winter climate of Kashmir. Most of the buildings in the Valley and Ladakh are made from softwood and is influenced by Indian, Tibetan, and Islamic architecture.

Jammu’s Dogra culture and tradition is much similar to that of neighbouring Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. Traditional Punjabi festivals such as Lohri and Vaisakhi are celebrated with great zeal and enthusiasm throughout the region, along with Accession Day, an annual holiday which commemorates the accession of Jammu & Kashmir to the Dominion of India. After Dogras, Gujjars form the second-largest ethnic group in Jammu. Known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle, Gujjars are also found in large numbers in the Kashmir valley. Similar to Gujjars, Gaddis are primarily herdsmen who hail from the Chamba region in Himachal Pradesh. Gaddis are generally associated with emotive music played on the flute. The Bakkarwalas found both in Jammu and the Valley of Kashmir are wholly nomadic pastoral people who move along the Himalayan slopes in search for pastures for their huge flocks of goats and sheep.

Jammu and Kashmir is known as heaven on earth. In the seventeenth century the Mughal emperor Jahangir set his eyes on the valley of Kashmir. He said that “If paradise is anywhere on the earth, it is here”. Persian poet ‘Firdousi’ while living in a houseboat on the mesmerizing Dal Lake said “Gar firdaus, ruhe zamin ast, hamin asto, hamin asto, hamin asto.” If there is ever a heaven on earth, it’s here, it’s here, it’s here.

 

The obvious debate arises, ‘Kashmir…The Land of Terror or The Paradise on Earth!! ’

 

The Theme

We, Rolling Wheels Bikers Club set out to search for the truth, to extensively travel every part of J&K, interview every friend we make on our journey & find out their take on this matter & of course, witness the eternal beauty of the ever beautiful state.

To most bikers/motorcyclists touring Kashmir refers to Ladakh i.e. Zojila Pass, Baralacha La, Khardung-La, Leh, Kargil, at the most Marsimek-La & THAT’S IT!! The same old postures infront of same old milestones that read, “You are at the world’s highest motorable road, unbelievable, isn’t it??” & “You are at the worlds 2nd highest motorable road, unbelievable, isn’t it??” & so on… No doubt these are points of achievement but as we believe, “There is a thin line of difference between a motorcyclist & a motorcycle traveler.” Rolling Wheels Bikers Club is a hardcore Motorcycle Travel club. When we roll, we start with a definite motto. Every tour of Rolling Wheels carries some motto behind its planning. The tour of J&K had 2 serious mottos in store.

  1. To seek out the True nature of the highly media publicized “Land of Terror”.
  2. To encourage and facilitate travelling in and around J&K after the massive flashflood in Leh last year.

The Team

The Dream team comprised of 5 people:

Krish with 1052 (Royal Enfield 350)

One of the three founder members of Rolling Wheels Bikers Club & A veteran Motorcycle Traveler, Krish is a meticulous planner & executor by nature. Krish leads his life with only one obsession…Rolling Wheels Bikers Club. He has sacrificed half of his life & belongings for this club. This ride has been one of his missions/Challenges that he had set for himself reason being his midway return from the same tour in 2005 due to a broken wrist.

Shantanu with 816 (Royal Enfield 350)

Cool as a cucumber & a saddle-sore happy rider of Rolling Wheels Bikers Club, Shantanu can be defined as the perfect lead in group riding. Outstanding navigational skills with nearly perfect Time & distance Calculation makes him an indispensable rider in any tour of Rolling Wheels. Shantanu is one among the three founder members as well. A veteran rider with a strong bondage with Krish. This ride has been equally important to him for the same reason as Krish. The journey He & Krish began in 2005 needs to be completed.

Jayanta with Ibex (Royal Enfield 350)

Though he owns a New Royal Enfield Thunderbird, he had to buy a Std 350 for this tour, thanks to the legal suit being contested with Enfield India. The poor guy couldn’t even lay hands on his new ride before it started showing serious engine issues. Gentle in nature but extremely determined in the inside, Jayanta had staked all for this tour. He bought another ride, made necessary repairs, seasoned the engine & traveled throughout without any hint of trouble. Behind his lady-killer looks lives a true warrior. The only guy to return by road from this tour. Hats off!!

Bishwa with Red Indian (Hero Honda Karizma)

Unpredictable & Unstoppable in nature, this guy is a true daredevil. One of the rare motorcyclists who can repair almost any Indian bike, head to tail. I say Indian coz he hasn’t tried any Hayabusa yet. One would always see him dissembling / repairing something or the other, be that his bike or his brand new mobile phone. No matter what situation…Biswa is always there for help, that too with a smile. After resolving the problem, He would look up to others & ask…”Boss Kaun??” An asset for any club.

Tirtho (Me) with Buddy (Bajaj Avenger 220 DTSI)

Finally, Me!! With Motorcycle Traveling in blood which I share with Krish, I, Shantanu & Krish set up the concept of Rolling Wheels Bikers Club with the intention of facilitating & encouraging motorcycle touring amongst Bikers. After traveling all over India & Nepal, I have always looked up to the skies and asked, “When do I touch you?” Finally, after 8 years of motorcycle touring, I have reached the skies. I have seen Paradise. Now, I look to fulfill a wonderful dream I once saw, a twilight when I shall be high on the edge of the mountains, so high that the world would be right beneath me, with dense snow fall, with wrinkled skin & white hair & there I shall breathe my last. On my Bike, on Buddy!!

Two other members were scheduled to join the ride from Manali. They were:

Kedarnath: Returned midway from Srinagar

You won’t find much about Kedarnath in this travelogue since he had to abandon the tour midway from Srinagar due to nerve related issues. Well, this tour is not a piece of cake. Tours like this require immense discipline, mental strength, a cool nerve & of course enough riding skills to meet the challenges of steep, dusty, broken & narrow roads with genuine altitude issues.

Subroto with Ludmilla (Royal Enfield 350)

A hardcore passionate traveler who enjoys every moment of his ride, Subroto is a man to learn from. The eldest man in our team but the most versatile & is perhaps one of the friendliest guys I have met. Subroto was unfortunate not to complete this ride but made it upto Leh before falling sick due to AMS. I am sure, one day I would see him riding farther on to Khardung La or Pangong Tso. We missed him a lot…no doubt!! Subroto has surrendered his life to Two things…Ludmilla & Ludmilla!!

Media Attention

Mahuaa Khobor (a 24X7 Bengali news channel) & Mahuaa Bangla (a 24X7 Bengali soap Channel) wanted to cover our ride & sent us one journalist & one cameraman who rode with us throughout the tour. Their mission was to make an 11 episode travel documentary on Motorcycle Touring in J&K and a one hour movie documentary of the same. They rode with us as pillions on Buddy & 1052. Both of them proved to be fantastic travel partners co-operating & helping us in every possible way, sometimes even packing & saddlebag mounting. After a couple of days it was hard to determine that they are not motorcycle travelers but journalists. Their attitude, adaptation, temperament & pillion skills were worth a salute. We thank them especially for enduring a 30day painful journey due to saddle-sore with minimum complains. Their reaction to most of the bumps & jerks was “Oooh!! Tirtho!!”, which they sounded more of ecstasy to pain, thus encouraging me on the bumpy rides towards each destination. Ha ha ha…funny!!… but their urge to adapt & co-operate is worth a grand salute.

Here they are:

Symantak Ghosh: Journalist as well as a gifted & awarded photographer. Also a superb guitarist.

Satanjib Gupta: A highly skilled cameraman & Singer.

The route we planned to take & places we decided to travel are on the map:

The Ride Begins

June 6th…. early morning at 4.30am the team of Rolling Wheels Bikers Club sets off for its everlonged Tour of Jammu & Kashmir. Most of us have trained hard & long for this day. Every day since we started Motorcycle touring, we have trained & prepared ourselves for this epic tour longing to ride on the top of the world someday & one fine morning like a snap of a finger, the morning is greeted on the Durgapore Expressway (NH2) with sounds of roaring engines & top level excitement. Some of our clubbies rode with us until Hamid’s dhaba (RW’s tea junction on NH2) some 18 kms from our club where we had our morning tea with lots of Glucose biscuits. Honestly, I was the one who had a couple of packets with the tea. I have developed a funny habit of feeling hungry at the start of every ride.

With bellyful of biscuits & heartful of best wishes & hugs from Suprobhat da, Chandu da, Somjeet & other clubbies, The High Rev Engines Roared, The Enfields Thundered & THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP.  We are off to Ladakh.

The ride plan for 6th June was to start from Rolling Wheels Bikers club in Kolkata & reach Varanasi for the night. 7th June, we planned to visit Varanasi & on 8th June early morning we would start for Delhi where Syamantak & Satanjib would be waiting for us in Paharganj. They are scheduled to reach Delhi on 8th straight from Germany where Symantak would be receiving an award for photography. A gifted photographer as I mentioned earlier.

Destination of the day: Varanasi

The NH2 seemed to be clam, straight & uneventful as usual until just a few kms before Asansol, I noticed Buddy (My Avenger220) was not performing to its brim. The clutch release was too slack & the bike was vibrating a lot in every gear change. It had something to do with the clutch. I started to feel frustrated since it’s just been a couple of days that I had changed the clutch plates & spent four thousand bucks in Bajaj probiking, thanks to their ridiculous billing & repeat servicing with repeat billing habits. This has been a serious issue among most Bajaj owners with ‘Autocentre Probiking’. Complains to the company never leads to results. After all, they are enjoying absolute monopoly in & around Kolkata.

The way Buddy was performing made it clear that it was by no means ready to take the strain of this tour. Something has to be done & it has to be done quickly. I remembered being helped by a Bajaj showroom in Asansol called ‘Automoovers’ in the tour of Nepal. Krish made a distress call to its owner Mr. Rajesh Daruka & he asked us to come down to his showroom & assured us that all spares would be kept ready by then & all help would be given. This was not surprising to us since we all remembered how this man & his staff helped us in the Nepal tour. I wish I had done my pre-tour servicing from them. This is one rare place where one feels proud to be a Bajaj owner.

We reached Asansol ‘Automoovers’ at 11.30am to receive a warm welcome from the owner & his staff. There were cold drinks & sweetmeats all round as if some VIP have stepped in. These are the moments when you feel proud to be a traveler. A Motorcycle Traveler!! While all these welcome & greetings, I noticed my bike’s repair job has already began & two mechanics after taking a test ride has started with their job. Meanwhile Jayantada faced a peculiar problem of his bikes tool box lock being broken & set off to look for the necessary spare. Enfields, as usual are full of surprises.

Before starting for ‘Automoovers’ Jayanta decided to draw a pollution certificate from a centre just beside us. This was one of the most hilarious moments of our ride. The guy at the centre seemed to be more inclined in playing Teenpatti (Poker) than carrying out his job & instructed us to do a self service checkup. Hence, Jayanta did it all by himself & sat by the computer to make all necessary corrections & take a printout. We now call it, ‘The self service pollution station’.

At about 3pm our bikes were ready to roll & I was a little worried at the upcoming bill for the new clutch plates & its labour charge. A new 1150ml jar of DTSI10,000 20W50 was poured as well. I was expecting a hefty bill of Rs.3500+ considering my experience with Kolkata Probiking service centre. To my surprise, they produced a bill of Rs.1700 only. At first I thought they had missed out something. Then I came to know that they had only taken their cost price of the spares & engine oil. I couldn’t even convince them to take the labour charges for the job done. With lots of hugs & Goodbyes we resumed our journey. Varanasi was no longer possible. We decided to roll on until dark. After driving for about 83kms we reached a small township called Topchanchi. It is 37 kms from Dhanbad. Off the NH2 a road leads to artificial lake at Topchanchi. It was excavated along the slope of Parasnath Hill in 1915 to supply water to Jharia. Situated in a cool, calm, quite and beautiful environment, it is variable paradise to nature lovers just 6 kms from Gomoh, where Neta ji Subhash Chandra Bose boarded the train for his historical departure from India on the 18th Jan 1941. As remembrance of this incident a statue of Neta ji was installed in the Topchanchi market. (Caution, do not move inside the jungles, anytime you can expect criminals and dacoits).

Some 15 kms after Topchanchi we noticed lots of weapons shops proudly displaying their varied products starting from sticks to Knives & swords. It was a little surprising to me to see a highly illegal arms trade being carried out right on the open National Highway. Then suddenly I realized…after all its ex-Bihar. Law here takes its course according to the whims & needs of politicians & Bahubalis. Locals & shopkeepers boasted that nearly all members of every household here is an expert in weapons manufacturing & they also have export quality samurai swords which are not on display due to some reason. One does not require a license, a permit for these. All you need is the cash & the product’s yours.

It proved to be a hectic day for us & we started to feel tired. Mental tiredness is a serious issue on highways. After driving for a couple of hours in the dark Bishwa started to feel sleepy & suddenly made a wild twist on the lonely highway. I came parallel to him & asked what had happened. Bishwa seemed visibly shaken & replied, “I think I am hallucinating due to tiredness. I thought I saw a huge bull right infront of me”. This is what happens if one does not sleep well before a ride. He has spent two sleepless nights in anticipation & excitement of this tour. Now, the tired body is retaliating. We decided to reach Barhi (A small township in Jharkhand) & find a hotel for the night.

Barhi is a census town and headquarters of a subdivision in Hazaribagh district in the state of Jharkhand. It stands at the crossing of NH2 / Grand Trunk Road and NH 31 and NH 33. Both Tilaiya Dam of DVC and Hazaribagh National Park are near Barhi. In spite of its importance Barhi has not developed itself as a tourist spot hence hotels are genuinely scarce there. To make matters worse, our appearance after a full days ride was not pleasant enough to make a good first impression. Most of the hotels gave us a cynical look and refused rooms saying the hotels are full. It was hard to imagine how all hotels had their rooms full in this tourist forsaken place. At last Krish managed to find a hotel whose manager was a Motorcycle enthusiast himself. He allotted us rooms at a reasonable price in exchange of our visiting cards. The reason behind this generosity was his intense eagerness to join Rolling Wheels & become a motorcycle traveler.  After having dinner with Egg curry & Dal, we surrendered ourselves to bed without hesitation & soon our nasal engines were on the roar. Jayantada revved his engine at its limit until Biswa’s elbow landed heavily on his ribs. Very soon all of us became busy in nasal conversation with each other. The ride plan for the next day was until Allahabad.

Destination of the day: Allahabad

We started from the hotel bound for Allahabad at 6.45PM and decided to make a Tea halt in a roadside dhaba at 8.30PM. We knew this tour is going to be an ultimate test of mental & physical strength but imagining situations & facing them practically are two entirely different scenarios. Everything seemed to be against us. The hot & dry weather, the dusty & broken roads, the sun burns itching terribly, the blisters on the wrists, lack of drinking water, everything. The drinking water we carried was so hot that one could easily make tea out of it. The only things that drove us forward is the passion for travelling, the dream to ride on the top of the world, the ambition to become a respected biker, the urge to do something different from the daily life. I asked Bishwa jokingly, “Should we go back to Kolkata & try this on a cooler weather?” Bishwa replied, “Only my dead body would return midway!!!” That’s the passion we carry for travelling, that’s the desperation we carry to fulfill our dreams, that’s the ambition that has given us a place amongst the most respected bikers, that’s the undefeatable urge that makes us do something different!!

This part of the ride was perhaps one of the most uncomfortable episodes of the entire tour. We started from Barhi at 6.45Am with a fresh mind & body. The morning was bright & greeted us with a cool breeze. Two hours of riding seemed to tire us easily.At about 8.30AM, we stopped in ‘Pataliputra Family Restaurant’ for breakfast consisting of Roti, Dal, Bhaji & my mandatory Curd. The Tea halt was converted to breakfast halt since we were sure that we have to make several halts to get relief from the tremendous heat wave even at 8.30 in the morning.

As time passed the weather became hot & the scorching sun was burning every uncovered parts of the body. It was becoming increasingly difficult to ride on in such temperatures. From 10.30Am onwards the heat became unbearable & everyone was dehydrating. Exposed parts like our hands & necks were badly sunburn. Suddenly we saw a Concrete shade which is actually a bus stop. We decided to make a brief halt to have some water & take a rest in the shade.

 After a 30min halt we decided to ride on until lunch. The concrete road as you can see above is desolate & straight but we were pessimistic to speeding up in fear of overheating the engines due to the extreme hot weather. The dry but extreme weather reminded us that we are nearing the tropics. If this is the weather condition here, how’s that in Delhi?? We decided stop ride to have an early lunch & make the most of it after 3.00pm since it would be comparatively cooler then. At about 12Pm we stopped at a highway dhaba for lunch. Lunch came to us as Chicken curry & rice followed by curd. Curd is a very necessary dish in this weather since it keeps your glucose & fluid level high thus keeping your body cool in this dry & hot weather. After our post lunch cigarette session, we started for Allahabad at about 2pm. All of a sudden we were companied by a biker on an Enfield 350 STD. He seemed to have noticed us from a distance & has caught up with us. We chatted with each other for a while & came to know he is a member of the ‘Jamshedpur Roadmelters’, a Enfield Bullet club of Jamshedpur which is captained by Bharat (a friend of ours) & a good friend of Deepak (Capt. Of Ranchi Bulleteers), who is also a good friend of us. It was quite astonishing to find someone out of the blue who is actually very close to us. The world is a small place…as they say!

After taking numerous halts and uncomfortable driving we managed to reach Allahabad at 10.35pm at night. Krish & Jayanta hurriedly went in search of a hotel and we were asked to convince the nearest McDonalds corner for dinner. There was no restaurant open at that time of night there and the McDonald was the only place possible for food & its chairs were already lined up for closing time. After lots of tears & toil we managed to convince the manager to provide us with a table and four chairs and One ‘Maharaja Burger’ each accompanied by a couple of Pepsi pet bottles. Long Live McDonalds….Long Live the Spirit of Traveling.

After dinner it probably took us a few minutes to get back to hotel, take a bath & find ourselves in dreamland. Jayanta & Krish as usual was on a nasal duel. I was too tired to be disturbed by the rumbling! The ride plan for next morning was until Delhi.

Destination of the day: Delhi

Next morning at 7.30am we went for a tour to Allahabad city. The city itself is beautiful & tidy. We went to visit the sangam where the Ganga & Jamuna & Saraswati rivers meet. The Triveni Sangam, in Allahabad has two physical rivers Ganges, Yamuna, and the invisible or mythic Saraswati River. The site is in Prayag, India. A place of religious importance and the site for historic Kumbh Mela held every 12 years, over the years it has also been the site of immersion of ashes of several national leaders, including Mahatma Gandhi in 1948.

The Triveni Sangam in Allahabad is a confluence of 3 rivers, the Ganges, Yamuna, and Saraswati. Of these three, the river Saraswati is invisible and is said to flow underground and join the other two rivers from below. Here the muddy and pale-yellow waters of the Ganges merge with the blue waters of Yamuna. While the Ganges is only 4 feet deep, the Yamuna is 40 feet deep near the point of their nexus. The river Yamuna merges into the Ganges at this point and the Ganges continues on until it meets the sea at the Bay of Bengal. At the confluence of these two great Indian rivers, where the invisible Saraswati conjoins them, many tirtha yatris take boats to bathe from platforms erected in the Sangam. This, together with the migratory birds give a picturesque look to the river during the Kumbha Mela, in the month of January. It is believed that all the gods come in human form to take a dip at the sangam and expiate their sins.

After visiting the Triveni Sangam, we decided to head back towards our hotel & start for Delhi since it was already 11.30am & it was getting hot & humid. Something told me, it was about to rain. Jayanta freshened up using an Rs.5.00 pouch containing max to max 100 ml of cold drinking water. That was the only water permitted in the holy place. Religion means business!!

At 12.30pm we refueled our bikes at a nearby petrol pump & rode on for Kanpur where we decided to have our next break for tea & snacks. The road was like a carpet & the weather unexpectedly was cooler than the day before since it had started raining as soon as we kicked off. Krish & Jayantada decided to start 15 minutes ahead of us from the next halt since we decided to split in two teams & would meet at Kanpur. This was done to avoid taking unnecessary halts since as per our rule if anybody of the team halts the entire team would stop for him. We never leave our team mates behind. Having two teams would create a sense of urgency and tops the mileage (Distance covered per hour).

It was raining like a drizzle & I was on the lead when suddenly I realized Bishwa is not visible in my Rear view Mirror (RVM). I remembered last seeing him on a bend which was watery & we overtook a truck moments after the bend. I remembered Biswa complaining of inadequate road grip on his bikes rear tyre. We stopped aside waiting for Biswa to turn up. 10 mins passed & Biswa was nowhere to be seen. I turned back a few kms to find out if anything had gone wrong. After 5-6 kms, I was informed by some local people that a red bike has had an accident some 12 kms farther. I was horrified!! Never since the establishment of Rolling Wheels in 2005 have we had an accident big or small in nature which is an obvious outcome of the strict discipline & caution we maintain every moment of every ride. I rushed to the scene & found that it was some local biker with a Hero Honda Passion. At that moment my phone rang & it was Krish who informed that Biswa has rejoined the group but somehow has broken his Front brake lever which had cracked earlier in Kolkata when his bike fell off from centrestand after being hit by an Autorickshaw.  He had to stop to try and repair it so that we can reach until Kanpur & replace it with a proper spare. I reached back & we decided that Jayantada & Krish would head on for Kanpur whereas we would repair Biswa’s bike at the nearest Hero Honda service centre.

We managed to find a HH (Hero Honda) service centre in Fatehpur,  MS Shyam Motors. The service centre falls right on the NH2 but to our misfortune couldn’t provide us with the necessary spare. Instead, they provided us with a HH Passion brake lever which was hardly compatible with the Karizma, but atleast the brake was working. We bid Goodbye to the curious crowd watching us in wonder and resumed our journey for Kanpur.

NH2 just 15 kms before Kanpur suddenly leads to a long flyover where it shows ‘KANPUR’. The road was beautiful & desolate & encouraged us to speed up & we made the most of it howling over speeds of 120kmph. Suddenly I noticed the city of Kanpur was swiftly passing beneath us. It was a confusing situation since both teams were supposed to meet at Kanpur & we were not getting any exit from the 23 kms stretch of the flyover. 8kms after Kanpur the flyover landed us in a small township from where we made a call to Krish & received information that they too took the flyover & was waiting for us 2 kms farther on. A huge sigh of relief was heard from Bishwa who had no intention of turning back 8kms to Kanpur through the congested & broken city road. We rode for a couple of Kms and found Jayantada & Krish waiting for us in a roadside hotel cum restaurant. It was nearly 5.30pm by then.

Krish ordered coke & fruit cakes while Bishwa & I seized the opportunity to take a bath in the water fountain beside the hotel. It was actually meant for drinking water purpose but we just couldn’t refrain ourselves from taking a bath in the cold & soft water. It was a huge relief from the extremely hot weather conditions we had gone through today. It had rained a little in Allahabad but a few Kms it was worse than any other day. I remember Krish taking a bath midway in a car service garage from a guy who had been washing a Tata Sumo with his high power water gun. I asked krish, “Does it pain? The force of the water!!” He replied, “The relief comforts the pain.”

We resumed journey as one team & decided to make a tea halt in Etawah in a small roadside dhaba at about 9.00pm at night. We were in no mood of stopping for now & decided to reach Agra. We were having tea & biscuits when the dhaba owner, a senior man of 70 came up to us & enquired us of our journey. He helped us with his advice on upcoming road conditions & safety at night. He also advised us to take the Agra road instead of the Etawa-Aligarh road which is in very broken & unsafe condition. We decided to take the Agra road & make a 5 hr powernap halt in some hotel in Agra.

Destination of the Night: Agra

At 10.30 pm, we started off towards Agra through the lonely highway. It seemed we were the only humans awake while every other soul is living in wonderland. Kms after Kms we rode our way through small villages & townships with no pair of eyes to be seen, only a couple of lighted bulbs hanging from some closed shop or house giving us a hint of human habitation. At about 11.30pm we entered some place which can be described best as the beginning of a city. The gates of Agra!! We decided to make a brief cigarette halt there & stood beside a market area where every signboard read ‘AGRA’. Suddenly ‘Anuj’, a frail guy in his early 20’s with an aviator goggle clipped unusually in the behind of his shirts collar greeted us with a couple of his friends and enquired about our destination. I can still visualize his face awestruck with the news that we are heading off towards Kashmir on our motorbikes. After a few moments of amazement he said, “Shit!! There ARE some crazy people available. This is Craziest among crazy!!”

After this brief complimenting session, he requested us for a lift till his home which is a couple of Kms on our way. We were a little uncomfortable with this since it is a strict rule of highway riding never to give lift to strangers, especially at night!

We tried to get rid of him through various excuses but I was taken through his innocent but witty talks & decided to take the risk. We decided I would be riding in the middle while the others would surround me from all sides until this excess baggage is dropped home and at any cost we are not going to divert from the highway.

We started off and after a few mins I felt a wobbling tendency on Buddy. It seemed Buddy had gone dizzy. I signaled to the others and stopped my bike and to my horror found out the rear tyre was flat!! A two inch nail somehow found its way through my tyre and punctured the tube. This was the least wanted situation in this dark lonely highway with a stranger. Several thoughts went though our minds…

Is this a trap? Did this guy somehow pierce this nail so that we are compelled to stop?? Is this guy linked with highway robbers??? Where can we get a puncture mechanic now!!

We also realized that the more late we are, the slim our chances become to arrange a hotel in Agra and get some rest. Krish asked Bishwa to reach Agra city and arrange for a hotel while the rest of us would try to repair the damage.

Anuj who stood silent all this while suggested us to ride a few hundred metres further where he said he knows of a puncture mechanic. His house he said was just a few mins walk from there. We reluctantly decided to take his suggestion and reached a small petrol pump with a puncture repairing corner. Anuj jumped off from the bike and woke up the mechanic. It seemed he knew him well because the mechanic was in no mood to work at the middle of the night but Anuj was persistent. The mechanic started working upon Buddy’s rear wheel with Anuj carefully supervising every detail of his work. We asked him to go home since it was getting late and he told us earlier that his father gets very annoyed at his late night ventures but ‘the frail guy with the Aviator goggles tucked in the behind of his collar’ replied, “You helped me in my need, now how can I leave you in your need!! I will stay until your bike is repaired and wave you goodbye. If your friend couldn’t manage a hotel, you must stay at my home for the night. We shall arrange for some dinner for you”

We were thunderstruck!! All this while we have doubted him & now this guy who has known us just for a few minutes is acting like a true friend!!

AGRA Halt

I hugged him at his generosity and it didn’t take us long to become friends. Rolling Wheels Bikers Club, a Motorcycle Touring Club from Kolkata has made a new friend in Agra, that too at the middle of the night. This is the essence of traveling. This is the spirit of a traveler.

After probably half an hour Bishwa called up to inform he has managed for a room in some Petrol pump just after Agra Bridge at a mere Rs.200. He would be waiting for us there. We decided to reach the Petrol pump and make a stay there. Anuj was a little sad since he wanted us to stay at his house but we did not want to impose upon his old parents at this time of the night. We promised to pay him a visit when we return and started for the Petrol Pump. Buddy, after medication and a stitched wheel seemed fresh and smooth & we with the flavor of a newly acquired friendship rode with high spirits.

So high, we failed to notice Bishwa & the Petrol pump and the opposite lane and zoomed past. After riding for about 5-6 kms we noticed Bishwas headlight in our rear view mirror. He was signaling at us vigorously. We stopped and came to know that we have gone past the Pump nearly 6 kms back and the Pumps caretaker, disgusted at our ignorance decided to call off the deal. Now, we were in a fix. We were absolutely tired and sleepy. We obviously need some rest before starting for Delhi because in Delhi we could rest for maximum half an hour and then start for Chandigarh.

After discussion, we decided to ride on until we find a dhaba (roadside inn) and have our dinner there. After dinner we could rent a Khatiya (roped bed) each and take our Powernap there. The next morning we would start for Delhi.

AGRA Dhaba

We managed to find one after a couple of Kms and had our dinner there. While on dinner, Jayanta, Krish & Bishwa decided start for Delhi right after dinner since they were not feeling sleepy. They decided to reach Delhi early and take a sleep in Symantak & Satanjibs room. I was too tired to ride on so I suggested them to ride on and I would start after sunrise. I had to convince them that I would meet them safe and sound in Delhi. In RW, we rarely break our group while on a tour. Traveling alone is one thing but when people travel in a group, a sort of dependency & care acts on every member.

Krish & his group left after a cigarette session post dinner & I took to the luxury of a Khatiya, numerous mosquitoes and thousands of colorful insects attracted by the 250 watt bulb above my head. I just crept into my raincoat, plugged my ears with cotton and Dingggg….!! I fell asleep!!

After an hour my sleep was disturbed by some thoughts that were going through my conscience. Have I done it right to break away from the team?? We are supposed to travel together….then what the hell am I doing here!!! Couldn’t I have bear with them a little more and rode with them until Delhi?? Am I setting a good example???

I jumped out of my bed and cabled my raincoat on my luggage, wore my helmet and VROOOOM….Sped off to join the team…!!!

The Dawn was greeted on the highway with the essence of a fresh morning, a fresh day. Nature, in the dawn is perhaps in its full glory. No words can express the beauty of it when combined with the joy & anticipation of meeting ones dear ones. It was this morning when I wanted to become a poet and was enjoying the new morning at its brim until….I seemed to pass some saffron things…..Yes I did!! I stopped the bike and turned back to notice three sleeping beauties beside the road in front of the gate of an educational institute.

Sleeping Beauties

I took the opportunity to photograph these sleeping beauties who claimed to reach Delhi by morning since they were not feeling sleepy and then rode on to a nearby dhaba for the morning tea. I knew they would soon meet me here soon & so they did. With sleepy red eyes they rode in. Krish explained, “well, we were not really sleeping you know….we were just like taking a rest…you know…but Couldn’t you had come a little later, then we would have rested a little more!!Ha ha ha ha ha….this incident still makes us laugh our hearts out.

I decided to ride on slowly to refrain from cooling down. Once you cool down in this sort of a situation you tend to feel sleepy. After all we have been driving continuously for 18 hours without any proper rest and we were all dead tired. Now we can take a proper rest only in Chandigarh at the evening. That would mean 30 hours of continuous driving with brief halts. That to with the trouble of shooting…takes & re-takes. Satanjib & Symantak would start shooting right from Delhi.

Soon the team re-united and we reached Paharganj (Delhi) via India Gate at 9.30am. Symantak & Satanjib the crew from Mahuaa Khobor was all set for the journey to Chandigarh & we got a brief rest of 30 mins in their hotel room including the time for a Bath.

Delhi Halt

At 10.05 am we were busy packing their luggage at our bikes and started for Chandigarh.

Destination of the Day: Chandigarh

 To Be Continued…

Travelogue by Tirthendu Dey

The Holi ride to Digha.

Hi I am Tanendra, a member of Rolling Wheels Bikers Club. Rolling Wheels got registered as the 1st open BIKERS CLUB IN KOLKATA (INDIA) in January. Now I can proudly say that Rolling Wheels is not only bound to our locality at Dunlop or in North 24Prgs, it’s a national level Motorcycle touring club who has an increasing list of potential members. Sorry, Rolling Wheels is not a club of members; it’s a family where our heart beats at the same pace. Hope you guys had enough fun last winter in Nepal. Didn’t you? Sadly I missed the tour. But now….even I have something to cheer about. Let me tell you about that.

Thats Me

Recently, we stuck up with a plan for a short trip. But where to? We cannot rule out the possibilities of any danger on road in this election timing. Then where? Let’s make it to a known place, Mandarmoni. You might be thinking Mandarmoni is just another common place, why not any other place. Now, there is a twist, we decided to make the trip on the Holi festival. The Holi festival at Mandarmoni is something worthwhile and also this place just too good for a weekend trip in this upcoming summer.

Paradise in Summer

19th March is Holi, so we decided to kick off on 18th . Three of our members started early in the morning at about 6’O clock and headed towards Mandarmoni. I had already taken leave from my office and started packing my luggage. At about 2 pm, I was ready and headed towards Rolling Wheels club premises at Dunlop. I had a few issues with my bike’s headlight. Bishwa and Krishnendu da sorted it out quite easily. See!! That’s why we call it a family. Here everyone helps each other. No need to ask.

Reinstalling the HID Wires

Wait! I forgot to introduce you with my bike. I own a Pulsar 180 UG4. I call it  ‘Dark Stallion’. Trust me, it’s my best pal & has never failed me. Now ‘Dark Stallion’ is ready with HID headlights of 4300K. Everything’s running fine. It is also waiting for my command to rule the road with other RWians.

Meanwhile, Somjeet arrived at the club with his antique Bullet 350. It’s antique because it would be 50 years by next year but still it’s a roaring lion when put on highways. It was about 3’O clock noon we got a call back from one of the three members who has left early in the morning, stating that there’s no room left in Mandarmoni or Shankarpur. All rooms were booked. As suggested by Krishnendu da, they headed for  Digha to find rooms for us. Meanwhile, Bapi da arrived with his Bullet 350std. He declared that he won’t be able to be a part of this trip. Time rolled on…

It’s 6 pm evening and still no news from those three members. Our confidence was put on test. Oh sorry! I just forgot to introduce the three guys. It’s Rathin da with his Ninja 250, Kedar and Bobby da on Bullet 350. Remember them? Rathin da and Kedar were participants in our Nepal trip 2010 and Bobby da is Kedar’s elder brother. Its lucky to get him in this trip. The BSF Jawan has come to Kolkata on a holiday & never had imagined his holiday to turn up so bright. They are now on a roomhunt for us. At about 8 pm, we got a call from Kedar confirming that they had finally managed to get one room. One room for 10 people !!! Not too good but there were no options left. Hurray!!! Now our nerves relaxed a bit. Everyone took a deep breath and just as we looked up in the sky, it was dark with clouds. Oh God! We don’t need a shower now.

Luckily there was no rain that night. Still for more affirmation we planned to start at 1’O clock at night. Meanwhile the other members arrived. The team finally stood

Krishnendu da with a Bullet 350.

Bishwa with his Karizma

Pritam with his Karizma

Jayanta da as pillion with Krishnendu da & vice versa.

Somjeet with his Bullet 350std

Me in my Pulsar 180 UG4.

Kedar & Bobbyda in their Bullet 350std

Rathinda with his Ninja 250

Tirtho, one of the active tourers was missing this trip due to his officework. We all requested him for his participation but it was not possible from his part. Bapida too couldn’t participate. So two expected members were not available.

Crossing Dhulagarh Tollplaza

It was a dark night with thunder roaring above. Now it’s almost 12’O clock & the sky began to clear up a bit. With a sign of good weather, a glittering smile sparkled on all faces. Ronnie rolled in with his Thunderbird. He has come to see us off. Nice, but it would have been nicer to have him with us in this trip. Time passed with numerous pranks & mischiefs. Now it’s almost 1:15am at night when Krishnendu da called for kick off. Yippee!!! Not too late than our scheduled departure. We decided our formation rather position in the queue. Ah, again I forgot to tell you that we generally follow a typical queue formation while riding. That is considering the first bike as lead bike, the second will follow the tail of it and be at the left of it and the third will be right of the second bike and so on. It helps to manage the team properly and does not obstruct any members visibility. Back again, the lead bike was Krishnendu da. My position was 2nd and following me was Somjeet and rest following in the same pattern. Tail was done by Bishwa and the most vital role of communicator was accomplished by Pritam. His general position is always 2nd last. After filling in fuel from a petrol station nearby, we rolled towards the NH6 (Mumbai Road). It was a happy rolling till I made a blunder of passing through two trucks coming in opposite directions. Well, I later had enough thunderbolts from the seniors for this. Speed was maintained at about 70-80Kmph. My Stallion’s headlight was giving better luminosity than expected. Thanks to Krishnendu da and Bishwa. Our first pit stop was Sher-E-Punjab in Kolaghat. It was almost 3.00am. We had a fantastic dinner there with alu parathas and cold drinks. We decided not to roll until daylight clears up the darkness. At about 5AM sunlight lit up the entire horizon. We started off again breaking the boredom of Somjeet who was continuously pushing Krishnendu da to kick off.

One of the Fag Breaks...Bishwa & some others takes a Zoooooom

It’s 19th March 2011, it’s Holi. We expected showering of colors from roadside….and we were right!! After passing Nandakumar, where the bad stretch of road starts, children along with their parents started bombarding color filled balloons on us. It was hard to drive on that bad road condition and to make matters worse was the bombardment. Amazed!! I tried to maneuver from such one situation and ended up almost colliding head-on with a mini truck. Thank God!! It was a very close shave for me. After that I gave up any attempt to resist coloring. Let them do, at least I won’t die. One funny incident was some children threw one balloon toward Bishwa and after hitting him it bounced back to the sender itself. Now that child will never throw balloons on a biker. He got his reward. We stopped for a fag break. Bishwa and Pritam was too eager to rev up their machines that they zoom past us and all I could see was their tail lamps diminishing to the horizon. At about  8AM we reached Digha. Pritam and Bishwa was waiting for us and had reached their long before.

All bikes gathered in the old digha crossing. Krishnendu da was trying hard to contact kedar for the exact location of the hotel. After trying for about 15 min, kedar responded in a sleepy voice. No doubt, he was sleeping. He gave us directions towards the hotel in New Digha and said that he would wait for us to arrive. The engines roared and we headed towards New Digha. As committed, Kedar was found waiting outside the hotel to receive us. We parked our bikes and hurried towards our room and what we found was astonishing. The room was in the first floor and it was too small to accommodate our entire team of ten. Even then, the manager was asking for 3000 bucks for a day for that room. Mind it, its Holi when the Hotel rates goes sky high. However, after 20 long mins of hard negotiation, Krishnendu da managed to settle it at 2600 bucks. It was a relief to us all. Suddenly, Rathin da entered with a handful of fried seafish & two bottles of Rum & whisky and declared, “Let’s drink to the honour of getting a room”. In his response we weren’t a miser either & had plenty of them.

After our ‘Drink & Toast’ a tragic incident followed.

I went to bathe & all the colours & the dust I had on me was washed out. With a tired & sleepy body I went for a brief powernap. When I woke up, it was 12.30pm and I saw bobby da waiting beside by bed to colour me up once again. He did it and I saw green & red colours mixed up to form a brownish layer on all my hair & face. He then almost dragged me outside the hotel where others were waiting. They all took turns to colour me up. I also borrowed some colours from them & coloured them too. I had no option left but to bathe again. Krishnendu da asked me if I would accompany them to the sea for a bath, but I was slight hesitant as I feared Sea waves. Hearing this krishnendu da almost carried me to the sea in spite of my several refusals, He said ‘nothing is too late to learn’. He then took me into the sea. Trust me, I was never so afraid like then, but I had faith on krishnendu da. For the first few waves, it was quite impossible for me to stand and some gulps of seawater entered my stomach, but after a few waves, I found myself standing firm on the sand despite of the huge waves. I made it. I have learnt how to withstand waves. Thanks Krishnendu da, once again it is proved we are a family where everyone is beside the other. After having bathed for quite some time we returned to our hotel room. It’s enough late already & we needed to hurryup for lunch.

After lunch, needless to say, we were all so tired that we couldn’t resist ourselves lying on the bed. Although there was a TV provided in the room, no one paid attention to it. Time rolled on & we had some memorable time spent amongst us playing pranks & sharing tour experiences. At around 3 pm, Krishnendu da received a phone call & rejoiced soon after. ‘It’s Bapi!!!! He’s Here’, he yelled & ran down to receive Bapida who was waiting somewhere on the road nearby. Meanwhile, a second call came to Bishwa and he declared,’Tirtho’s coming…He’s on the way & expected to reach by 6pm’. Finally, the initially planned team seemed fulfilled.

Tirtho was facing a wobbling problem. Buddy's front tube was twisted inside the tyre. Carelessly fitted by the last puncture mechanic.

Bapi da couldn’t restrict himself in his home when some of his clubbies are enjoying the seaside. His visit was spontaneous but very short. He stayed with us for about a couple of hours and then bid goodbye and started off for Kolkata. At around 5.30pm we decided to visit the beach market. Bishwa & Somjeet went to the nearby ATM (which was almost a km away from the hotel) and they also received Tirtho on the way. Meanwhile, I along with Kedar, Krishnendu da, Bobbyda, Pritam & Jayanta da went out to enjoy the evening. I and Kedar bought some shell Jewellary & Decorative for our home & met up with others at a Kwality Swirl stall where we had some mouthwatering icecreams. With our belly’s full, we headed towards the beach. Wait a second!! Isn’t today the Super Moon day??? What a beauty!! The golden moonlight glittering on the sea like numerous gems laid on a plain. Awesome nature!! Meanwhile, Tirtho arrived at the beach with Bishwa & Somjeet. Now the party was at its best.

We sat on the boulders beside the seashore. Bishwa, Pritam & Tirtho revealed their singing talent. Trust me, there was no boredom even after spending four long hours there. Then we hurried towards our restaurant for dinner. We almost ordered all the non-veg dishes but all tastes the same. Awful experience!! A piece of advice…’Never trust Dighas food’. After finishing our dinner we returned to our hotel room. Then, under Krishnendu da’s supervision I and Somjeet cleaned up the room floor, to accommodate some members there.

Chitchat & Fun at the beach. Also expecting something special from the SuperMoon.

We went to sleep about 12’O clock at night so that we can start early the very next day.

When I woke up, I found everybody busy packing up their bags. I also hurried to the bathroom to have my morning job done. Due to those decoratives that I had bought last night I had to arrange another bag. All packed up, I, Krishnendu da, Jayanta da were almost ready. Suddenly, I heard a chaos in the corner of the room, it was because Pritam went to finish his morning job & two other members waiting outside holding their pain, but as usual Pritam took his time & till then the chaos continued. We had some funny moments spent in the course. After handing over the room keys to the manager we headed for the restaurant to have our breakfast. Some of us took butter toast & I personally took Kochuri, which I am very fond of. After finishing our breakfast, we started our way back to Kolkata. It was almost 9.00 am. Our first pit stop was in Nandakumar. After having a cigarette each we started again. The ride was quite smooth and our second pit stop at Sher-E- Punjab in Kolaghat. We had some south Indian dishes like Idli Sambar & some delicious rose flavoured Lassi. Then we started again for our home at about 12 noon We needed to reach home earlier to 2pm since we had a India Vs West Indies world cup match coming up. The entire NH6 stretch was covered very rapidly maintaining high speeds. We had to give a halt midway near Dhulagarh toll plaza where we happened to meet a Belgian traveler on a Bullet 500std. Tirtho exchanged phone nos. with him & we learnt from him that he has come all the way from Belgium to India and is planning to leave for  South Africa in a few days. Whoops!!! What a tourer!!

Finally we reached our club premises at 2pm sharp. One thing I learnt from this trip was how to manage Time & Space. I went home longing to be back with my clubbies in the next Trip or Tour. That’s why I consider Rolling Wheels to be a prized family.

THREE CHEERS FOR ROLLING WHEELS….

HIP HIP…

 

Travelogue by Tanendra

Ride to Chandipur (Orissa)

A Cold Winter Night…..A Lonely Highway…..8 Bikes….. 10 Bikers…..

There we were!! Again on the highway, rumbling on our rides, along with friends, on a winter night, ignoring the biting cold, for another grand success, of Rolling Wheels Biker’s Club, a Motorcycle Touring Club of Kolkata (INDIA) . The plan came up suddenly one morning at our club Adda.  ‘Let us have a winter short trip’, that was what was proposed by our members and was unanimously supported almost immediately.

So …. Where to go?? The question loomed for a few minutes in the club room. Almost everyone was thinking for a spot to visit, when suddenly, the name Chandipur came up. There was a little discussion and VOILA!! It was chosen by all!!

Now the date was to be fixed. And so it was, on 21st January – 23rd January (Friday – Sunday). Members started to pour in their names. Krishnenduda (Krish), Bapida, Tirtho, Tanendra, Jeetda, Kedar and I (Pritam) confirmed their participation. Few more members started to manage their planners to attend the trip. All was set. Rolling Wheels was once again on the roll.

The days flew by and the 21st neared sooner than we expected. On 18th I started to call every member one by one, but had to take three bombshells !!

i) Atish could not make it for some official reason.

ii) Suprabhatda and Chanduda would not participate due to some family problem.

iii) Kaushikda (KB), our club President, may not join us, again thanks to official problem.

iv) Souravda could not confirm but was trying every possible way to join us.

Somehow, every one of us felt a sense of loss, for all those who will not join us. We are going to miss our friends a lot.

Finally it was 20th, and was time again to call every one and take the final confirmation. Atish, Suprabhatda and Chanduda confirmed they won’t be able to join, but there was a fresh breeze when I called KB and Souravda. They managed and sorted out their problems and are joining us with a full blast !! Hooooorrayyyy …. That was the reaction of all of us.

The next few hours flew past and it was time to get out on the road. Members arrived one by one at the club, a little after ten. Well… That is not the end of surprises. Rahulda, a long time friend of us, was joining us on this trip. Though he is not a member of RW, it was a pleasure to have him in our midst. This arrangement and Bapida’s answer to the last moment nature’s call made us to start late. Finally our bikes started rolling exactly at 12 o’clock in the night.

Bapida & Krish on Bapida’s Bullet 350, Tirtho and Rahulda on Tirtho’s Avenger 220, Kedar on his Bullet 350, KB on his Apache 160, Tanendra on his Pulsar 180, Jeetda on his Pulsar 150, Souravda on his Dazzler and me on my Karizma. After filling up our fuel tanks, we headed for NH-6 (Bombay road). There was a blast of biting chill on the highway. Our winter protections seemed inadequate. But the excitement made us shiver more than the cold. Once we hit the NH-6, there was no looking back. Pollution, jam and the noises of the city died down.  With Krish at the lead, KB at the tail and me as the communicator, our group glided on the smooth asphalt. Our first halt was scheduled at the Sher-E-Punjab at Kolaghat, 72 kms from Dunlop.

The initial few kilometers went eventless. But at the 50th kilometer we had to stop for a cigarette for it was too chilly to go on. After about 15 minutes of cigarette break, we started again. This time Bapida took over the lead on Kedar’s bike with Kedar as pillion. I will tell you a secret here, my friends. Kedar was really lucky to have Bapida in front. He was having a complete protection against the wind gust, thanks to Bapida’s healthy stature. Cannot say for others but, I was really jealous of Kedar at that very moment.

But … jokes apart, we were almost at Kolaghat, which I knew within 30 minutes because, the road was all very jam packed. There was a huge traffic jam starting well before the bridge. The weather was very warm here you know, thanks to all the pollution coming out of the exhausts of the big bore truck engines. We had to find our way through the maze going left and right, between this and that truck. Even, we had to have some on road off-roading since we had to get off the road and ride on the loose soil beside. All along it took almost half an hour to cross the bridge. Speaking for everyone, I think we all could smell the famous hot tea of Sher-E-Punjab, for which we all were craving. Souravda, ever eager, went ahead without stopping at the exit cut-out. We all were surprised !! But … we didn’t have to wait for long. He was back with us within a few minutes. I guess at first he missed the flavour of tea but eventually was caught by it.

Sher-E-Punjab seemed to be waiting for us. The whole parking lot was empty and there wasn’t a single car (FORGET BIKES !!). The employees were quite taken aback seeing us, the crazies, in the middle of a chilly night, on motorcycles, going on a tour !! We had a very warm welcome along with some really hot and creamy tea. Slowly we all regained our strength and became alive with excitement and jokes. The cold seemed to be far far away.  After spending almost an hour it was time again for rolling. Next target Kharagpur (night halt).

The 55 km drive was uneventful. But the chilly wind howled around us like a cold blooded beast trying to stop us from achieving our target. Well friends … it failed, no doubt, all thanks to the brave hearts of Rolling Wheels Bikers’ Club, who made the Chandipur trip a success. While on the way to Kharagpur the road suddenly changed its texture from asphalt to concrete. It was time to find a Dhaba for the night halt. We were already at Kharagpur a little later than the projected time. It took us 25 minutes to find out a Dhaba fit enough to accommodate all the riders as well as our rides safely. The first thing we all did after parking our mo’bikes, was to order a hot tea A.S.A.P. The manager of the Dhaba showed his promptness and in no time we were sipping the smoking hot tea made especially for us. It felt heavenly. We settled slowly. KB was first to realise that he was terribly hungry and ordered Anda Bhujiya & Roti. Tirtho and I were next to order the same menu. Bapida ordered Tarka & Roti. Now, the cook was in real problem to maintain his speed. Rahulda, realizing this, went into the kitchen and WOW … He was cooking. Well, nobody knew that he was hiding such a talent within himself, for he really cooks nice. The Anda Bhujiya he prepared was marvellous and was scooped up before he could even think of tasting it. Again the same order went out and this time Kedar helped Rahulda in the kitchen. It seemed a feast was going on and the Dhaba people went dumb seeing our KIRTIs. They merely helped us with small stuffs like bringing the water, spoons, and other accompaniments. Our seemingly insatiable hunger subsided slowly and we all were beaming with a self-satisfac … no sorry STOMACH-SATISFACTION!!

It was 3:30 in the morning and the chill went sky high. We all were shivering to the limit. KB and I went out on the way to take some Light-trail snaps and were instantly hit by the biting wind. But we ignored and went on with our mission. What a night it was, out on the open highway. The sky glittered with the shimmering stars. It was difficult to get Light-trail snaps on NH-60 as traffic is very little on this stretch especially at night. But still we managed to get some snaps after waiting for quite some time. In the mean time, Krish tried to get some sleep. Jeetda was already sleeping after wrapping himself up with all the warm clothing he had. He had a high fever just the previous day, so had to take protection. Kedar was also sleeping tight. Bapida & KB were having a chat. Rahulda was missing. I tried to sleep a bit. But thanks to Rahulda, he was in a very playful mood and within few minutes every sleeping beauty of Rolling Wheels were sitting up. But Rahulda had trouble to wake up Kedar. Finally, after a splash of a glass full of fresh and cold water Kedar was up with a face that of a kid, whose new toy has been taken away and hidden. We all ordered another round of hot tea for the cold was still biting on our skin. The tea came within 10 minutes and was gulped down even faster. We all were so busy with our chatting that we did not notice it was already 5:30 in the morning and though it was still dark, there was just a hint of red in the east. We felt adrenalin rushing through our veins once again. It was almost time to be on our rides.

After freshening up, we had one more round of tea. It was 6 sharp in the morning that our engines started. We were once again on the roll. The sun was pretty reluctant in showing its face. The veil of clouds was finally up at around 7:30. We took a short pit stop to take in all the warmth possible. Quite a photo session went on and we all were really having one hell of a time. Seemed like all the worries and problems of the world were far behind us. Bapida, always immaculate about time started pushing us. We were getting late and he started his famous Chal … chal … chal … chal … Well we started once again and after almost an hour’s ride we were at the Bengal-Orissa border. It was a little congested there and we had to bypass a little traffic. All was going just fine when suddenly disaster struck. At first I was not sure what exactly was happening with my bike. It was behaving oddly. I thought I was riding on a fish. Then it occurred to me that I might have a flat tyre. I had to stop to take a look and yes, it was a flat tyre. The rear tyre of my bike was hit by a puny little cobbler’s nail and it was flat like a piece of paper. The entire team was way ahead of me. Fortunately, there was a puncture repairing shop just on the opposite side of the road. No time to waste or to wait for my team to come back. I took my bike to the shop and waited for the shop owner to come back. He was having his breakfast at a nearby store. In the mean time Bapida and Krish came back looking for me. The entire team was stuck a few kilometres ahead. My bike stood on one wheel as the rear wheel was detached pretty carefully under Bapida’s cautious supervision. The shop owner understood pretty well that it was quite important for us to have the puncture job done carefully for avoiding any similar incidents up ahead. Krish could not wait any longer and went out to have a look for some breakfast. He found a place quickly and while the repairing was being done we 3 had bread and omlette and it felt heavenly for we were quite hungry. It took almost 40 minutes to make sure the bike was ready to roll again. After much appreciation of the shop owner we started again to catch up the team waiting ahead. We three were greeted cheerfully. But after we mentioned our breakfast … well friends guess what happened!!

We started once again. Strangely, the weather changed drastically and it felt quite hot. The ride was becoming a little boring as there was little traffic on the highway. After a 2 hour long journey we were finally nearing Chandipur. We had to take a diversion to get on to a state highway. It went for a few kilometres and from there we had to take another diversion on to a city road. Suddenly it seemed all the people in the world were out on the streets. It was a super congested city road filled with pedestrians, bicycles, rickshaws, autos, cars and a few four legged species as well !! It was almost a 20 kilometres stretch. Finally we could smell the salt in the air and realised that we were at Chandipur. Now it was time for booking a hotel. We went to the OTDC Panthanibash. It was full !! But we didn’t just quit there friends … and finally settled for the banquet hall they had, all thanks to our dear Mr. President KB & Sauravda who had a friendly relation with them due to his previous visits & fluency to Oriya language. The banquet hall was more than large for the 10 of us. Mattresses were set on the floor to sleep on. It was a new experience for every one of us. The welcoming look of the mattresses compelled us to take LYADH … but only for a very short period of time. Lunch was served and we all had to pull ourselves up with a lot of will power against the pressing tiredness. Lunch went smooth and as always the hoteliers were struggling to keep up with our devilish hunger. For almost an hour and a half, we devoured FOOD. And after that, guess … guess … yesss we all went to sleep. Every one of us just had to touch the mattresses and was asleep instantly. Kedar and Bapida started to snore as well. What a deadly DUO !! I guess even a tiger would have thought that there must be a BIGGER TIGER than him inside the room !!

Finally, at around 7 p.m. we woke up slowly and had freshly brewed coffee. That was quite refreshing and we were all coming to our proper form.

“Hey, what about the bonfire that was to be arranged ?” said Jeet.

There was a roar of support. And within minutes the President and the GS had to be out for the arrangements. Meanwhile I went out with my camera to take some night snaps. The Panthanibash has its own beach area. And Ohh … how beautiful it was with the half moon overhead. The white waves could be seen very far though. Water was nowhere near the beach. The wind blew steadily from the sea reminding of the soothing sea-breeze. It was only eight, but seemed like it was 12 already. I took a long walk on the wet sand towards the water. Once out of the light I took a look back at the beach and it seemed I was the only person alive … alone !! I missed my Mom like never before. Sea-beaches have always been her favourite. Looking up at the sky, I felt like Dad was looking from above, hidden in one of the innumerable stars. Ohh … how I missed them both !!

But the memories could not linger for long. My friends were calling me to join them. I started to walk back towards the beach and felt my feet were becoming heavy. Tide was coming in slowly and I had to run. The bonfire site was chosen at the backyard of the hotel. With a lot of trees, the place was magnificent. Timbre was arranged by the hotel management and it was all ready, waiting to be set on fire. Well friends I didn’t know that setting something on fire could be such a troublesome matter. The first attempt was taken by Tirtho and Tanendra (T2) but was a failure. All the paper was wasted in vain to light up the woodpile. The man who brought us the timbre was called and told what the matter was. The wood was not completely dry. We were all very upset for time was running out and there was no fire. Tirtho remained silent for some time and then suddenly jumped out of the chair. PETROL … he shouted at the top of his voice. Before anyone could even react he was running towards the parking place with a bottle in his hands. When he came back he had the bottle filled up almost up to the brim with liquid gold. Again we all were feeling just like children with all the adrenalin rush. This time we were determined that there will be fire by hook or by crook. Petrol was sprinkled all over the piled wood and it was set on fire. The fire caught instantly but died down quickly as well. The petrol burnt out but the wood remained the same. Now Krish was furious with the man who brought us wood. He was still standing silently and watching our efforts go in vain. Once again petrol was poured and again it was lit. But this time I took the bottle of petrol and kept on sprinkling until the whole pile was burning like hellfire. Finally with our bonfire on the go we settled down.

“There must be music” said Bapida and all agreed upon. All were looking at me so I had to begin and Tirtho, my all time singing partner right from school, joined me. It was huge entertainment. On a moonlit night, under a tree shade, with a fiery fire burning all the way up … 10 crazy people were enjoying every moment, like there was no tomorrow. KB started taking snaps as the rest of us were singing and dancing as well. Tirtho and I had a ball dance along with our trademark song Phuloon Ke Rang Se … Dil Ki Kalam Se … Our celebration even pulled the other boarders out of their rooms and of course they were enjoying as well. It felt the world revolved round us. We became the centre of attraction of the hotel and there were people on the balconies listening to our singing. It went on for at least 2 hours, when finally dinner was ready and served. Roti, Dal Makhni, Aloo Gobi and Chicken. Elaborate dinner. We were very hungry and everybody just dug in without wasting a moment. After dinner we all went to the beach once again and ohh what a beautiful scene it was. The water was glittering, as if liquid silver, for the moon shone bright right above us. The air was refreshing and cold as well but not biting as the previous night. Chandipur, being on sea has a very pleasant weather almost round the year. It was 12:30 when we returned to our banquet hall. There went on another singing round until 1:30 in the night when finally everyone felt their eyelids were becoming heavy. As always Bapida and Kedar right after lying down started to compete with each other in snoring championship of the millennium !!

Someone was really shouting … “Hey … Buddy its morning already … Wake up you sleeping beauty”. It took me a while to open my eyes and register the matter. Finally I realised it was Tirtho who was vigorously shaking me to wake me up. It was 7:30 in the morning. And yes we were late, for the previous night was too hectic and got us all. It was time to haste and we all were up and ready within half an hour. We were going to Panchalingeshwar. It is so named because there are five Lingas of Lord Shiva, though submerged in water round the year in a fissure on a hill. One has to climb 200 STEPS (info collected from cold drink shop after reaching Panchalingeshwar) to reach, pray and well if one wants to touch him !! That is one tiring thing to do. 200 hundred steps up the hill !!?? I wondered why Lord Shiva chose such a place. Could he not come down a little bit ?? Only God knows why !!

We were all ready to roll when Souravda said he has to leave early and won’t join with us. Some matter has come up back at his home and he will have to turn back. It turned our mood just a bit. After all we started all at a time and now will have to part with one of our tour partners. That really feels bad. And there was always worry for he will have to travel almost 400 kms back to his place all alone. But still we had to bid him good bye and good luck. Our team started from Chandipur at 8:45 a.m. with one member short. We were nine members in the team now. Bapida took the lead. We were headed for Panchalingeshwar and were on a state highway. The road was quite smooth but a bit heavy with traffic. We had to find our way through the maze of trucks and buses. We had to ask a local tea shop for directions and guess what … we were misdirected to a longer route !! What a mess !! We had to take u-turn, that also on the wrong side of the highway !! That was risky but there was no other way. We had to go at least 2 kms on the wrong way before we got onto a city-village combo road which ultimately took us to a village road. This was very interesting road as it had a lot of turns and twists which we all were quite enjoying. Our riding pleasure was disturbed only once that also by a young OX !! I think it thought he owned the road and was practically enjoying his lazy walk. Me and Kedar was stuck behind it and had to blow our horns for at least 5 minutes before he gave us way !! IT WAS DEFINITELY THE OX EFFECT !!

Finally the peak of the hill could be seen a little far away. The road started to go up hill. And just as we were starting to enjoy the road we had to take an abrupt halt !! We were there already !! There was a tremendous crowd. The whole area was in frenzy. We parked our bikes and felt it was quite hot. We were all sweating and had to get rid of all the warm clothing. Tirtho, Krish, Jeetda and Bapida didn’t want to climb up the hill and stayed with the bikes. Kedar, KB, Rahulda, Tanendra and I started for the famous 200 steps climb (mentioned earlier). It was really very tiresome. After going up at least 100 steps we had to take a breather. Kedar noticing a small stream decided to take a bath for he was going for the Puja. Rahulda and I continued to go up. KB was nowhere to be seen and we were quite sure that he decided to go back. Tanendra waited with Kedar. Finally when we 2 reached the top we were stopped by the guards and were told that we will have to open our shoes in order to continue any further. We decided otherwise and thought it would be best if we turned back. So we did and finally when we were back on terra firma we were really exhausted from the exercise. KB greeted us with a chilled cold drink which felt heavenly at the time. Kedar was back after approx 30 minutes and it was time again to roll. Next target – Nilagiri helipad.

We took a different route this time. It was approximately 30 kms away. We had to alternately take city and village roads. Finally we were there at base of the hill. There was an army base. And there was a check post. A board on the side of the road said the helipad was 8 kms up-hill. But the ITR (Integrated Test Range) base officials stopped us and asked where we were coming from. We told everything about our tour and our club as well. They wanted a permit from the ITR. Alas … we didn’t have it. We can’t go through unless we had a permit. And to have that we will have to go back to Chandipur again to the ITR office (at least 50 kms back), that also on a Sunday !! All of our requests were turned down. The officials had to do their duty. But one thing we got there which we didn’t have throughout the tour. We asked for water and they brought us and ohh how sweet the water was !! It was taken from a stream and we thought we were tasting nectar. It was our only consolation at Nilagiri, because ultimately we were not allowed to visit the helipad. We decided to turn back from there as it was getting late. Everyone was quite hungry and it was lunch time as well. We went back to the state highway and from there we finally got onto the mighty NH-60. We selected a dhaba just beside a petrol pump. It looked good. After parking our rides I noticed that the drive chain of my bike was quite dry. I had gear oil of grade SAE-90 with me (I always keep it with me) and it was time for a little care for my stallion. After lubing my bike’s chain, I did the same to Tanendra’s P180 and KB’s Apache 160. It is a messy job, lubing the chain. After freshening up I felt the hunger that has been building up for since the last hour. We ordered rice, dal, aloo chips and chicken. KB had roti. I myself was reluctant about having rice for it makes you a little heavy and at times sleepy as well. But I could not resist … after all being a Bengali and not having rice in lunch is a painful thought. The lunch went pretty smoothly and the whole dhaba was listening to our never ending cacophony. Bapida finished first and went out to check all the bikes. One by one every bike was inspected minutely and it was Kedar’s bike that gave Bapida a big frown. Kedar had run to answer his call. His bike was leaking oil from the cam pinion cover. It was quite a leak and Kedar admitted that it was going on for some time now. Finally he had to buy a 500 ml engine oil to refill the chamber. It was too risky to go out without having a backup of oil. There was neither time nor a mechanic who could fix the problem. So we had to carry extra oil in order to avoid seizure of the engine due to lack of proper lubrication.

It was time to roll again. But this time another of our partners had to part his way from the team. It was Tirtho this time. Some official work came up in Bhubaneshwar and he was informed from his head office to attend to it as early as possible. So he decided to start from there to Bhubaneshwar. It was roughly 250 kms from where we were. There has never been an incident like this before. Me and Tirtho are friends since last 14 years and biking partners for last 5 years and we have never parted before while on the same journey. It really felt bad. It was really a difficult situation for both of us. He asked me to join him but I had to return home by any means for my Mom was all alone. I was worried about him as well. He will have to travel 250 kms approx all alone. It will be dark very soon and that worried all of us. After digesting a lot “GYANS” (advices) from me he finally told me “Arrey Yaar … kahe ko tension leta hai !! Tension lene ka nahi dene ka hai … you people carry on. I will be informing you time to time whenever I take a halt.” And so it was agreed upon that he will be sms-ing me whenever he stopped and after reaching Bhubaneshwar will either call me or Bapi. After bidding goodbye to my long time partner my heart grew a bit heavy. And we started lazily. The heavy lunch made us a bit slow as well.

The NH-60 was as always free from heavy traffic. Only occasional 10-wheelers from Southern India could be seen. Slowly we gathered a little more pace. The weather was becoming cooler. It was a sheer riding pleasure with the setting sun in the backdrop, open highway in front and cool and calm of the weather. There were some occasional pot holes on the NH-60. The concrete in these places have been eroded away and these were pretty disturbing. We all had to take one or two at times. Then there were some really camouflaged serial bumpers. Just imagine friends … on a highway you are going at a speed of 80 kmph and suddenly without any hint there were at least 6-8 bumpers. It really shakes the whole of your body at that speed. Every joint feels to be rocking. That is one very bad experience. Still our pace began to rise steadily and finally we were going at around 100 kmph. That was real fun time. It was 5 in the evening that we all agreed to take a halt. The light and shade of the time made it quite disturbing to get a clear view of the road. And we needed a breather as well (cigarettes). Soon me and KB became busy with our cameras. It was a perfect dusk for all of us. Darkness was creeping slowly and we had to wait for 35 minutes to let it become completely dark. We started again this time Bapida and KB in the lead and me as the tail ender. KB had HID installed on his bike and so did I. Our lights shone bright through the night like diamonds and it was easy to mark us out both. So one in the lead and one at the tail. We were not very far from crossing the border and within half an hour we were back on Bengal soil. Back on NH-6 traffic was as always pretty heavy. We had to start making our own way through the maze of trucks and other vehicles.

It was around 7 that we had to take another halt for we were quite tired and feeling sleepy. We stopped at a dhaba 30 kms from Kharagpur. We had tea and breathers. Me and Rahulda ordered anda bhujiya as we were feeling hungry. The halt was of 30 mins approximately. It was time for us to start again. This time Bapida and Rahulda started early for they had to attend a marriage ceremony which could not be avoided. Jeetda joined them as well to avoid the cold that was increasing with time. It was me, Kedar, Krish and KB who started a little later after Bapida, Rahulda and Jeetda left. We were also in a hurry to get back home soon. While getting ready to roll, we heard from Tirtho and he has reached Bhubaneshwar safely and well before expected time. He left out the part of fast riding but nevertheless we were not late to understand that he has been riding quite fast. Finally we kicked off with KB in lead and me at the tail. We decided not to take any more halts. Our next target was Dunlop. I took a look at my watch and it was 7:30 p.m. already and we still needed to cover 100 kms (approx). The NH was quite heavy with traffic. We managed to maintain only 80 kmph on an average. When we reached Kolaghat it was 8:30. We faced a huge traffic jam starting well before the bridge. A new bridge is under construction over Rupnarayan River. The existing bridge is not enough to handle the huge highway traffic. It is old as well and the police control the volume of traffic on the bridge at a given time so as to avoid any kind of risk factors as well as bottleneck situations. We had to do real off-roading this time. We even had to pass under a hoarding and between the two posts which were holding the hoarding in place. It took us a sharp 35 minutes just to cross the bridge. The whole place was terribly dusty and polluted and we were really trying hard to find our way through the mess. We got relieved when we were on the NH again. But we had to make up the lost time and started to maintain 80-90 kmph on an average once again. KB got separated and went ahead of us. It was now Krish, Kedar and me. We could not find KB and Kedar as being pillion went on trying him on the mobile. Finally after quite a while KB picked up and told that he was on the way towards Dhulagarh Toll Plaza. He will wait for us at the toll plaza. We were still well above 30 kms away from Dhulagarh. After about half an hour we could finally see the dimmed vapour lamps of the huge toll plaza at Dhulagarh.

I felt a strong surge of emotions inside me. It was a mixture of happiness and a little melancholy as well. I was feeling good for every minute I was nearing my house a bit more. And felt sad because this wonderful journey with my friends was going to end very soon. I missed my partner Tirtho. I wish he was there. Finally we were crossing the booths of the toll plaza. KB was standing just after crossing the toll plaza. We took a quick breather after joining him. It was 9:40 that we kicked off from the Dhulagarh toll plaza. We were just about 25 kms away from our club.

The journey was about to end soon. As we approached the Bally Bridge, I felt I was already missing the highways. I missed the beautiful evening we had at the hotel sitting and singing by the fire. I missed the beach of OTDC Panthanibash, Chandipur.

But every journey should come to an end for a new journey to commence. Being one of the oldest members of Rolling Wheels Bikers’ Club, I could feel deep inside my mind a feeling of achievement was building up every passing moment. It was not pride … it was not over confidence. It was a feeling of achievement which was possible only because we had the zeal to make it possible.

We dared to make it happen. Which I am sure will happen again and again in the coming days of our club…Rolling Wheels Bikers’ Club.

THREE CHEERS FOR ROLLING WHEELS …. HIP …. HIP ….

Travelogue by Pritam Mukherjee

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