Solo biking to Sandakphu (11,600 ft)

26th Oct 2016

Despite being a teacher by profession, it always brings me utmost pleasure to carve out some time from my routine life to kick start my 7-year-old Unicorn—a 150cc, 13 bhp motorcycle with a mileage of 49,000 kms—and embark on aimless journeys. This time, I decided to challenge myself further by taking a bold step towards a small picturesque hill station nestled in the lap of the Himalayas, renowned as a trekking spot and my long-dreamt biking destination, Sandakphu.

After encountering several inconveniences and difficulties, I finally arrived there with a twisted wrist and some damage to my bike, but what I gained was an inexplicable lifetime experience. Throughout my journey, I realized that it's more about mental endurance than physical strength. Upon reaching Sandakphu, you will undoubtedly leave all your pain behind and be mesmerized by the beauty of Everest and Kanchenjunga together.

Photo of Solo biking to Sandakphu (11,600 ft) 1/8 by Santanu Ray
Wide view of Kanchanjungha range (The sleeping buddha)

It was Sunday. I woke up in the morning and decided to go for a ride. So, I packed my bags, charged my batteries, fueled my bike, and kick-started it for the journey. Around 1 pm, I reached Ghoom. Since I had no idea about the way to Sandakphu, I had to seek help from local taxi drivers to navigate towards Manebhanjan. It was there that I learned only four-wheel-drive Land Rovers are allowed to go further, even though there is no restriction for two-wheelers. With a mocking smile from the local drivers, I continued moving forward. Soon, I realized the reason behind their amusement—the road was unbelievably steep! So steep that I couldn't even shift my gear to the second and move. The road was paved until Chitrey.

Photo of Solo biking to Sandakphu (11,600 ft) 2/8 by Santanu Ray
Road from Chitrey to Tumling

Chitrey is a small bordering village, more like a shelter for trekkers, situated on the border of India and Nepal. It has only two or three trekker's inns and an SSB camp. There, I met Norbu, a local Land Rover driver. Similar to the drivers in Manebhanjan, he also chuckled upon hearing my intention of heading towards Sandakphu and warned me. However, after being convinced, he was kind enough to lead me all the way to Sandakphu. From Chitrey, I rode to Tumling, another small village in Nepal. And the roads there... trust me, there were no roads! The last kilometer to Tumling was truly one of the hardest and awfully bad. A long stretch of almost two hundred meters was just full of loose boulders and was too steep. A break after reaching Tumling, a comparatively better village with a few places to stay and a few small shops, was a vital requirement at that point.

Photo of Solo biking to Sandakphu (11,600 ft) 3/8 by Santanu Ray
On the way to Tumling

Having a cup of relief, I started again towards Gairibas, which was 7 kilometers away from there. The road to Gairibas was comparatively better as it was made of concrete. At Gairibas, I had to complete the last formalities with the Sashastra Seema Bal authority and then headed towards Kalapokhri. As soon as I started riding, a heavy patch of cloud covered me up, making it too difficult for me to see even the next few feet. It took almost one and a half hours to ride 6 kilometers to reach Kalapokhri. Though Norbu insisted, I decided to take a halt there as it was getting darker.

Photo of Solo biking to Sandakphu (11,600 ft) 4/8 by Santanu Ray
way to Phaloot from Sandakphu

I stayed in a small hut at Kalapokhri. I strolled around the place as long as the chilling wind allowed me. It is another small village with 10 to 15 houses and a Sashastra Seema Bal camp. You can have a clear look at the villages of Nepal when it gets dark as the flickering lights spark. I don't know whether it was the biting cold or the altitude sickness, but I couldn't sleep for a single second. Or maybe it was because of the awaiting challenge of the next day—reaching Sandakphu.

Photo of Solo biking to Sandakphu (11,600 ft) 5/8 by Santanu Ray
way from Kalapokhti to Bikeybhanjan through Nepal

At around 5 in the morning I packed my gears to face the toughest. Having a glassful of yak milk and a bowl of waiwai, I kick started my bike to face the tough. I took the road through Nepal to reach the next destination, Bikeybhanjan. It was all me and the serenity of Nepal.

Photo of Solo biking to Sandakphu (11,600 ft) 6/8 by Santanu Ray
a small village in Nepal before Bikeybhanjan

It was indeed beautiful. Upon reaching Bikeybhanjan, I could see the toughest part ahead of me. Though it was just a stretch of 4 kilometers away from Sandakphu, I could see the rooftops of the lodges there. The last 4 kilometers comprised bouldering hairpin bends with an elevation of 45 degrees, literally shaking me up. After crossing almost 4-5 bends, I fell off for the first time. I stood up, started again, and fell once more. However, the last fall was particularly terrifying for me. It was at an altitude of more than 11,000 feet, and I couldn't even stand up. I waited for a single human presence, but there was none. After almost 45 minutes, I pushed my bike and managed to stand up. In fact, my bike was unable to carry both me and my luggage. So, I had to unload my luggage and walk all the way to Sandakphu, pushing my bike. Then, I had to come back and retrieve my luggage again.

Photo of Solo biking to Sandakphu (11,600 ft) 7/8 by Santanu Ray
Finally Sandakphu

But it was worth it. Reaching Sandakphu and witnessing the splendid scenario of Everest along with Kanchenjunga was truly breathtaking. There is no limit to feeling the immense pleasure and warmth that you get being so close to Mother Nature. Though reluctant to return, the next day I had to leave the place with lots of experiences and memories, and definitely, a broken wrist. The return journey from Sandakphu was yet another story. But by then, it became easy for me to overcome everything, after all, I had experienced everything until reaching Sandakphu.

Photo of Solo biking to Sandakphu (11,600 ft) 8/8 by Santanu Ray
On the way to Phaloot

This blog was originally published on 'WRONG ROUTE'