Travel is the only thing that makes you richer... and the hardest walk you can make is alone, but it’s the walk that will make you stronger. YES… you guessed it right, My wife Sumera Shariff did not ride with me this time. It was a solo ride..."A Journey Far and Beyond 2"
This enthralling and adventurous ride started from the Pink City, Jaipur on the 29th of July 2016. The journey lasted for 28 days, covering 9532 kms through India,Nepal and Bhutan. Travelling through more than 40 cities, towns and villages,riding in all kinds of extreme weather conditions with more than 250kms of pure off-roading to get as close as possible to the mighty Mount Everest and riding through the Everest trekking route which has never been taken by any known or unknown biker. Taking unmapped and unknown routes in the Everest region which have never been traveled on a motorcycle along with crossing rivers which are so swift that they cannot be crossed on a bike and reaching as close as just 35kms away from the Everest base camp in Nepal. 4hrs of hiking to see the Tiger's Nest Monastery in Bhutan, 1st person to cross the head race tunnel (Mangdechhu Hydroelectric Project) in Trongsa, Bhutan on a motorcycle. Riding during the night with zero visibility due to thick fog, rain and low temperature to reach Jaswantgarh War Memorial on the way to Tawang at 12midnight on Independence Day. Hiked 7000 steps up and down to see the Living Roots Double Decker Bridge in Meghalaya. Stayed in a tree hut at Mawlynnong Village (the Asia's cleanest village) and a boat ride in the most famous clear water river in dawki (India- Bangladesh border), riding through the eastern coastal stretch of India to Guwahati, Silliguri, Kolkata, Bhuvaneshwar, Vishakpatanam and Chennai all the way to Bangalore.
Day 1 – Jaipur – Agra , Day 2 Agra – Lucknow –Gorakhpur, Day 3 – Gorakhpur –Nepal Border – Lumbani – Palpa – Pokhara, Day 4 – Pakhara – Kathmandu , Day 5– Kathmandu – Ghurmi, Day 6- Ghurmi – Siddhicharan - Palpu Airport – Everest Region, Day 7 Everest Region –Ghurmi – Sirise – Mirchaiya – Kakarvitta Border –Silliguri, Day 8 Silliguri – Darjeeling, Day 9 – Rest Day In Darjeeling , Day 10 –Darjeeling – Coronation Bridge – Mal Bazar – Jaigaon(India- Bhutan Border), Day11 – Phuentsholing(Bhutan Border Entry) – Chapcha – Paro, Day 12 Paro –Thimpu, Day 13 – Thimpu – Punakha – Phobjikha Valley , Day 14 - Phobjikha Valley – Trongsa –Mangdechhu – Geylegphug, Day 15 – Geylegphug – Zhemgang – Gelephu Border – Guwahati , Day 16 – Rest Day in Guwahati – Day 17 –Guwahati – Bhalukpong – Tenga – Bomdila – Sela Pass – Jaswantgrah – Jang –Tawang – Day 18 – Rest Day in Tawang , Day 19 – Tawang – Jaswantgrah – Tenga – Bhalakpong – Tezpur, Day 20 – Tezpur – Nagaon – Shillong , Day 21 – Shillong –Cherrapunjee – Tyrna - Mawlynnong Day 22 – Mawlynnong Village – Dawki River– Shillong – Guwahati , Day 23 - Guwahati – Silliguri, Day 24 – Silliguri – Malda –Farakka – Kolkata , Day 25 – Kolkata – Cuttack , Day 26 – Cuttack - Vishakpatnam –Rajamundry, Day 27 Rajamundry – Ongole – Nellore – Chennai, Day 28 – Chennai– Bangalore.
Day 1 – Jaipur – Agra:-
Took a late night flight from Dubai to Jaipur and landed early morning on the 29th of July. Preplanning and preparation for this ride had started the day I ended the previous ride to Leh. So it helped me immensely in terms of making appropriate arrangements and planning the route. The motorcycle which was going to be with me for the next 28 days arrived at the Jaipur airport allowing me to start my ride right from the airport. I was welcomed by the members of Jaipur Super Bikers at the airport and they also gave me a grand flag off. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to start.
After filling the first full tank fuel I started riding out from Jaipur City towards the highway which will take me to Agra. The best experience on the day 1 was that an old man on a Bajaj scooter chased me down 2kms to give me my wrist watch which fell down while riding. It was heartening to see such a gesture which gave me immense happiness.
The plan for day 1 was lunch at Agra and end ride at Lucknow for the day to rest. But the Agra Enfielders had other plans… had a sumptuous lunch with the members of Agra Enfielders. The warm hospitality of the Agra Enfielders was irresistible and I ended up staying back in Agra for the day. Visited the Royal Enfield Showroom with the one and only Dheeraj Solanki to do some minor check up on the bike and also to get a flag pole fixed.
During my last ride, while returning back to Bangalore I rode through Agra and now again I am back in Agra, but even after riding through Agra for the second time, I didn’t visit the Taj Mahal because I had promised my wife that we will visit the Taj together and some promises are meant to be kept :)
Day 2 – Agra – Lucknow – Gorakpur
Said Goodbye to my friend Dheeraj Solanki at 8 am. Reached Lucknow around 1pm and met with another enthusiastic biker Babla Daa who is the member of the Roaring Indians Motorcycle Group in Lucknow. After a delicious lunch and listening to some very interesting riding stories from Babla Daa, I turned the throttle to Faizabad - Gorakpur highway. The road was butter smooth which was helpful in covering the distance faster. Then came the true experience for the day, After passing the Faizabad town and I saw a long queue of trucks, private and public vehicles. The road was closed! No vehicle was allowed to go beyond that point but luckily the policemen didn't stop me. After riding a little further I saw a Padh Yatra, assuming that it will end after a few meters I rode further, only to discover that it was the famous Kanwar Yatra which is performed by Shiva Devotees who are dressed in saffron colored attire. Both sides of the road was filled with the devotees which barely left place for even a motorbike to pass through and continued for around 65 kms. It was a divine experience to see such strong belief and determination shown by the Devotees which makes them cover such huge distances with ease.
Reached Gorakhpur by evening and decided to take rest for the day. the excitement level was at its peak since I was suppose to enter Nepal the next day.
Day 3 – Gorakhpur – Nepal Border – Lumbani – Palpa – Pokhara
Started the ride quite early to reach the India – Nepal Border at Bhairahawa - Sunauli. The formalities to get the entry done were very simple, took a new sim card to operate my connectivity in Nepal and the rest of the world.
The first stop in Nepal was at Lumbani , the Birth Place of Buddha. It is one of the holiest places for the believers of Buddhism and is pivotal for the existence of one of the world's greatest religions and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After visiting the Lumbani monuments and relishing some Nepali lunch I started riding towards Pokhara. The natural beauty of Nepal started to grow on me and riding through Palpa was an enchanting experience, it gave me a sneak peak of the pandora box that was about to open in the coming days during my ride in Nepal. The roads were good and bad at times but the nature around kept me entertained. I managed to reach Pokhara by evening as per my schedule. Took a hotel room right next to the Phewa Lake to rest for the day.
Day 4 - Pokhara – Kathmandu
Well Well… The first bucket list got ticked! The bungee jump in Pokhara!
I packed my bags and checked out from the hotel early in the morning and rode all the way to the Bungee jump destination in Pokhara. With excitement level sky high and butterflies in my stomach I reached the Bungee Jumping site. I didn’t want to miss even a single moment of my jump, So I spoke to the instructor and managed to get permission to wear my own helmet with my adventure camera attached to it and also to carry my Iphone attached to a selfie stick which I could hold in my hand. The chances of losing the phone during the jump were very high so the risk factor was entirely on me. It is hard to articulate the feeling of 30 seconds of leap which was definitely a moment between life and death. In fact,Half dead half Alive!
Happiness of achievement was sky high while riding out from Pokhara towards Kathmandu. The roads were pretty bad in this route, especially the last 20 kms to enter the Kathmandu city. I managed to reach Kathmandu by 7 pm and met the man who was suppose to ride with me for the next 3 most memorable days of my life, Mr Bagale Suvesh. He had already arranged my stay for the night in Kathmandu. So after the checking in we went for dinner and discussed a lot of things as to what to expect and how to prepare ourselves for the ride towards the Mount Everest base camp which no other biker has ever attempted before.
Day 5 – Kathmandu – Ghurmi:-
The bike had already started to give some trouble, so I wanted to make sure that it is in the best condition before we ride towards the Everest region because finding help or fixing major issues will be impossible in those remote areas. Took the bike to a garage owned by Suvesh’s friend Prakash Tulachan. Tulachan is indeed a very talented mechanic who has built couple of custom made motorcycles which were quite impressive. While the bike was getting fixed another biker brother from Nepal Mr Sunil Diamond Sarkar whom I was in touch with while planning the ride came all the way to the garage to meet me and shared some valuable advise prior to our ride towards the Everest region. The members of Royal Rollers and Dhaulagiri Enfielders had also come for the flag off to Everest region.
At around 11:30am the bike was ready to roll. We started immediately as we were running behind our schedule. The destination planned for the day was Ghurmi which is the first village before the Everest region starts. As we slowly moved out of the Kathmandu city, I started to experience the real Nepal and its people. While the nature around was spell binding, the roads were dicey. There were some world class roads en route which were surrounded by greenery, rivers and hills, abruptly ending with horribly broken and damaged roads or literally no road at all. Slowly the villages and crowd started to disappear and it was just us and the nature around. Witnessed a couple of small landslides and off-roading became rampant. Small river crossings, mud and rock filled roads made the ride like a roller coaster and we were looking ahead for more to come.
Then came the deadliest riding experience of the day. There was landslide that happened on the mapped route towards Ghurmi and it stopped us from riding ahead for the day. Here comes the advantage of having Suvesh with me, being a local he could speak to the villagers to find out if there is any other route which could take us to the other side of the hill, which paid off. A local showed us a direction towards a hill which is only used for the villagers to walk up to their homes uphill. The path was just a meter wide, filled with slippery mud and rocks. The chances of landslides was more due to the soft mud. The adventure began right there, A slightest mistake could cost us our life. Watching some of my videos will show you a glimpse of our experience on that path. It took us about an hour to ride up and down hill to reach the mapped road to continue riding towards Ghurmi. The roads no longer existed and doing extreme off-roading towards Ghurmi made me feel a gripping pain in my body and I was losing my stamina to ride until Ghurmi. Finally after a hell lot of an adventure packed ride around 8 pm we reached Ghurmi which was a dainty village with a very small population. There was a home stay which we hired for the night and Although I was dead tired and weak, the excitement to ride the next day towards the Mount Everest was sky high.
Day 6 – Ghurmi - Siddhicharan - Palpu Airport – Everest Region
And finally the most exciting day of my life as a rider had come! Riding towards the Mighty Mount Everest!
We filled the tanks in Ghurmi where the last known petrol pump is available in the region. The road from Ghurmi to Siddhicharan was very good and going uphill was scenically beautiful. The mist and clouds started to touch us as we rode towards the high altitude area. At times clouds hugged us and at times we rode above the clouds. After Siddhicharan the roads again started to disappear. Landslides at times forced us to take alternative route which was suggested by the locals, mostly foot trails. In some areas the road showed us dead end with hills to climb or a small paths between the trees to ride ahead. We rode further with only the Mount Everest in mind which took us through some unknown trails which cannot be found in any maps! Keeping the direction and the final destination in mind we rode with confidence and trust in each other.
Now comes the unexpected surprise!! The first glimpse of the Mighty Mount Everest! We were riding on top of a hill which is called the Solukhumbu, Pattale Bazar and we got to see the Mount Everest’s Tip which was covered with clouds! It was for a speck of a second that we could see and it disappeared due to the passing clouds. But that very sight was mesmerizing enough to boost us up to ride further and reach our goal. The route was getting worst to indescribably horrible. Knee length dipping mud which made the bike half drown at times slowed down our journey. My shoulders started to feel weak and the legs started to cramp up.
Finally we managed to reach the last known airport on the Everest region, the Palpu Airport. Riding further from Paplu airport, we reached the last known restaurant in that region which is used by the trekkers. Speaking to a local in the restaurant suggested us not to ride further from that point which is not even travelled on a motorcycle around by the locals ever. My self-confidence and determination was so positive and high that I wasn't ready turn back until I felt that there is no way possible to go further towards the Mount Everest on a motorcycle.
The path was so slushed and wet which made it very hard to ride ahead. These trails are only used by the trekkers, porters, horses or yaks to go towards Everest base camp or to Namchi Bazar. Then came a huge river with water flowing down with a lot of force and a lot of depth. The last known road as per Google maps ended there. Suvesh had already given up by seeing the river and told me that this is it, we cannot ride further from here. But I wasn’t ready to give up. I walked into the cold flowing water to check the dept and the force. It was indeed deadly! I came up with an idea of putting stones in the water and making a path. Suvesh was not very convinced with my idea but I started to work towards it. The medium or small sized stones which I could lift and throw in the water just got flown away by the force of the running water. I kept on working and managed to create a path which still had water until the knee length. I was already wet until my waist line. I made Suvash to cross the river first by standing in the water and helping in to ride through. The next turn was mine and with the help of Suvash I also managed cross to the other side of the river.
The feeling of achieving this milestone was exhilarating and on top of the world but we were aware that there still a lot more to come until we accomplish our goal. Again riding though the toughest path which was even worse than described earlier, we reached another dead end which was literally the tip of a water fall which definitely had the capability of submerging the entire motorcycle and us. I looked around for all the possible options and even a smallest path which could take us on the other side of the river. But unfortunately, there wasn’t any path available.
Me and Suvesh looked at each other and laughed loudly with happiness. We were not disappointed at that point because we knew that we have given everything in us possible to reach until this point. The feeling was out of the world and I don’t think I will ever be able to explain it in words. Tears rolled down from our eyes. We sat there for a while only trying to recall the path and the risk we took to reach this place which was worth every toil and hardship we went through. Even though we were aware that we needed to ride back now from that place and the path we came was something which we had to rediscover again to get back because some of the paths were just taken by instinct. But we were not bothered or worried about that because we had achieved something that no one else has ever achieved.
We managed to cross back the river which we crossed earlier to get back. Reached near paplu airport around 6 pm, continued riding towards Okhaldhunga where we are planning rest for the night. The reason for deciding to get back to Solukhumbu was because it was the only place in the Everest region from where you could see the Mighty Mount Everest. The best time to view is early in the morning because the sky will be clear from the clouds. We managed to reach Solukhumbu by 8 pm and stayed in a house right at the spot where we could get the view in the morning. We both were extremely tired. I was wet inside out. Kept all my clothes and riding boots for drying and relished some authentic Nepali dinner before hitting the bed. In spite of being extremely tired and exhausted I tossed and turned on the bed and finding it hard to sleep as the anxiety level was high coz the next morning was the first time ever I would be getting to see the Mighty Mount Everest. I charged and prepared all the cameras and kept it ready to capture the magnificent view when I wake up in the morning.
Day 7 Everest Region – Ghurmi – Sirise – Mirchaiya – Kakarvitta Border – Silliguri
It was 4 AM when I opened my eyes and I was trying not to even blink my eyes until I left from that most beautiful place. I placed all my cameras at the spots where I can get the best shot of highest peak on earth. The sun slowly started to rise up behind the Mount Everest. The mountains started to change its colors as the sun rose up. The shadow slowly faded away and the mountains started to shine in golden hue. The sky turned blue slowly and the snow filled Mount Everest started to show its true beauty which left me spell bound and a feeling of how lucky and blessed I am to witness this. I could feel my heart beating like a fire cracker bursting one after another. I could feel my mind and heart smiling together. At around 9 am the clouds started to build up and God knew how to hide his master creation "The Mighty Mount Everest”. With a very content and blissful feeling we started to ride away.
We managed to reach Ghurmi at 1 pm and it was time to say adios to my dear friend Suvash, we parted ways here and he will get back to Katmandu and I will continue my ride which will last for another 21 days. Even though it was just the 7th day of my ride, I felt like I have now completed an entire journey in itself. Saying goodbye to Suvash was very emotional because in the last few days the bonding we had and the experience and friendship we shared felt like it existed a lifetime. I have to admit that if I would have rode this route without Suvash or Suvash riding without me this achievement wouldn’t have been possible. I said a heartfelt thank you to Suvash and promising him that we will meet again soon, we bid goodbye and headed towards our directions.
I was as per the schedule and took the route which would take me to the highway to kakarvitta border to crossover to India. I managed to reach Silliguri by 8 pm. The other name of Silliguri “Santhanu Banergee” and Rana Paul were waiting for me right outside the hotel arranged by them for me to stay. They were very keen to know my experience and journey so far and we discussed a lot of things over dinner. Santhanu and Rana left for home promising me that they will be at the hotel in the morning to say bye before I head to Darjeeling.
Day 8 Silliguri – Darjeeling
As promised, Mr Silliguri has come in the morning to say goodbye. It was a very short ride of 65kms for the day to Darjeeling. Rain started to trouble me initially and slowly gave away for mist while I started going uphill towards one of the most beautiful hill stations in India.
Paul Gurung, my brother for life came half away from Darjeeling to welcome me.It was a heart touching gesture. We had lunch on the way towards Darjeeling and reached Darjeeling in the afternoon. My Bike needed some pampering due to the kind of trails I rode in Nepal. He took me to a mechanic who did everything possible to get the best pampering done for my bike. During this time the Himalayan Throttle Motorcycle Club – Hit MC brothers came to meet up. The hotel room I took was right at the spot where I could have the view of the Kangchenjunga. Dinner with the brothers and decided to have a much needed rest day tomorrow to get refreshed before I head toward the borders of Bhutan.
Day 9 – Rest Day in Darjeeling
I wasn’t that lucky in the morning as the Kangchenjunga was covered behind the clouds. Although it was a day planned to take rest it was an unavoidable offer to ride and explore the beauty of Darjeeling. Paul, Ritesh Rai and the rest of the members of Himalayan Throttle Motorcycle Club – Hit MC took me to some of the iconic and unknown places in Darjeeling which were worth riding to. Shared a lot of riding stories with each other during this time. The day was well spent with these amazing guys from Darjeeling. Paul and Ritesh had promised me to ride with me tomorrow until a certain point to say goodbye while I head towards the India - Bhutan Border.
Day 10 – Darjeeling – Coronation Bridge – Mal Bazaar – Jaigaon (India- Bhutan Border)
As promised, Paul and Ritesh rode with me until a certain point. Paul rode all the way until the famous coronation Bridge to say Goodbye. The road from Darjeeling until Coronation Bridge was very misty and foggy. The fog was so thick that I couldn’t even see the handle bars of the bike! After crossing the Coronation Bridge the road started getting dusty and bumpy. It continued until I reached Jaigaon which is town shared by the Indian border with Bhutan.
Reached Jaigoan as per the schedule and entered Bhutan borders to find out the formalities to complete the entry permit. Prepared everything required and crossed the border gate back to India to rest for the day.
Day 11 - Phuentsholing(Bhutan Border Entry) – Chapcha – Paro
Entry permit to Bhutan is very simple but the most important requirement is that emigration department will not grant you the permit if you are travelling to Bhutan solo. The entry is allowed if 2 more individuals are travelling together. In my case I had to find a way around to enter Bhutan because I was riding alone. But there was hope that I could find someone at the emigration office whom I could tag along. Here I meet a rider couple from Chennai known as Custom Made, riding to Bhutan along with another solo rider named Deepan and Sandhiya, who was backpacking solo across Bhutan. Deepan had already decided to tag alone with the couple from Chennai. While having a discussion with them I got to know that the couple and Deepan are heading to Thimpu for the day. The girl who is backing packing solo had a same travel plan for the day as me, so she decided to tag along to get the entry permit done together. She expressed her interest to hitchhike with me until Paro and I agreed. Once the permit was received she got a helmet for herself and we started to ride towards Paro. The couple and the solo rider rode with us until the point where we split towards our separate destinations.
It was raining on and off during the ride, the roads in Bhutan were good compared to India. We reached Paro early evening. The reason for riding to Paro was to visit the Tiger's nest Monastery. I was aware that to complete the hike to Tiger's Nest it will take at least 5 hours, so it was important to stay somewhere close to the Monastery to start the hike early, managed to find a place close enough to rest for the night.
Day 12 Paro – Thimpu
Hike to the Tiger's Nest Monastery is one of the most desirable destination for all travelers around the world. Caught up with Sandhiya again in the morning to reach the base camp and hired a horse to take us halfway. The horse ride was fun, quite a change after all the riding. After an hour of horse riding we reached a spot where we could see the iconic monastery from far. Walked for the next one hour to reach the monastery. Tiger's Nest or Paro Taktsang as it is locally known as was first built in 1682 around a cave which dated back to the 8th century as a meditation place. The monastery is hanging on a cliff 10,240 ft over the Paro Valley. The first view of the Tiger's Nest will leave you awestruck as it is surrounded by serene beauty, witnessed quite a few waterfalls along the way as well. The effort was worth taking since the entire experience wasn't a bit disappointing. It took another 2 hours to reach back at the base camp. The hike was quite tiring and energy draining but was completed within the scheduled time frame.
Now as per plan we immediately started to ride towards Thimpu. Thanks to the roads, we managed to reach Thimpu in the afternoon. Now the most important thing in Thimpu was to get the permit extended to ride further. The permit issued from the border only allowed us to travel until Thimpu and if anyone wants to travel further from here, the permit extension to the new destination can only be done in Thipmu. So we visited the emigration office and got our permits done as per our different travel plans ahead.
Visited the Buddha Dordenma statue or the Future Buddha in Thimpu, it is a gigantic Shakyamuni Buddha statue constructed in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuck. It is made in bronze and gilded in gold.
After reaching Thimpu got in touch with the rider couple and the solo rider I met at the Bhutan border as they were still there. We all had dinner together sharing our riding experiences. Another biker brother Dorji Tshering (Parop Rider) came down to meet me at the restaurant, he gave me a lot of insight and details for my ride further. I said goodbye to all of them before I went to bed since I will be riding towards Punakha early in the morning. At the end of the day it is all about the route you travel and the people you meet which will make a mark in your travel experience and turn you in to a story teller.
Day 13 – Thimpu – Punakha – Phobjikha Valley
Now the roads in Bhutan started to show me the real colors, they started to get nasty. Witnessed a lot of landsides on the way and due to rain the roads were narrow, slushy and very slippery. But the nature around was mesmerizingly breathtaking which was boosting my confidence to ride further. Dochula pass Dzong was one of the main attractions on the way to Punakha, Reached Punakha in the afternoon, visited the longest suspension bridge and also the Punakha Dzong.
After Lunch I started to ride towards to final destination for the day, The Phobjika Valley (the valley of Cranes). The route was very tough but it was worth the ride when I saw the beauty of the hidden valley which will make you degrade the valleys in Scotland.
The valley is surrounded by lush green mountains and carpeted fields with lots of cows, wild horses and few villagers. I managed to get hotel room which was right next to the Crane museum. The valley is very unique because of the rare Cranes that visit the valley during October – November season. The weather in Phobjikha valley was perfect to get a goodnight sleep.
Day 14 - Phobjikha Valley – Trongsa – Mangdechhu – Geylegphug
Day 14 had a lot of unexpected adventure in store for me. I started my ride from Phobjikha Valley to have lunch at Trongsa and dinner at Bomtang Valley in Jakar. But the weather gods had some other plan for me. The road until Trongsa was horrible as expected and landslides were at every single bent I looked. Escaped couple of landslides in split seconds difference from the disaster. Reached Trongsa at 2 pm and sat for lunch.
The local at the restaurant informed me about the landslide ahead towards Jakar which he said will take at least 4 days to clear.As per my permit I must exit Bhutan from the Samdrup border in two days time and this seemed impossible now. I had to find an alternative route now to get to the border. Looking at the map I could only see the option of riding towards the Galepu border by taking an immediate deviation from Trongsa. Taking the decision to ride towards Trongsa will make me miss the experience of riding through the eastern part of Bhutan which was in my plan. But getting to border to crossover to India was more important to keep up to my schedule too. So I started to ride towards Galephu.
Here came the next block! A huge landslide right in front of my eyes and also witnessed a connecting bridge collapse! It felt like this was the end of the ride but the never say die attitude in me refused to give up. Spoke to a few locals around that area and one person told me about a tunnel around that area which is used for water passing only. The tunnel is completely protected by the Bhutan army and they do not allow anyone to enter the area other than the employees and officials. I had no other options in front of me but to give it a try passing though that tunnel. I rode towards the direction of the tunnel which was suggested by the local. The army personnel at the main gate didn’t allow me to pass through, but after requesting them for a while, I was allowed be to ride towards the tunnel which was 5kms from the gate by saying that the officers near the tunnel will send me back.
The tunnel’s name was Mangdechhu Hydroelectric Project or The Headrace Tunnel in Bhutan constructed by Gammon India to generate electricity. I was still ready to take the chance and rode towards the tunnel. Now the army officer at the tunnel entrance asked me to turn back and go immediately. He told me that this tunnel is 3kms long and made for passing water to generate electricity and currently they have drained the water from inside due to some maintenance work. No vehicle other than the special trucks built to enter the tunnel for work have ever entered it. The floor of the tunnel is equal to a river bed due to constant water passing. He also told me that the tunnel still has water clogging inside at places with waist height water. So sending me inside through that tunnel was not feasible due to the risk involved. Being an adventure freak my excitement level was high and wanted to pass through that tunnel somehow. So I keep requesting him to allow me. Finally he said he will call the officer at the other side of the tunnel and check if he can allow me to pass through. Now here comes the biker’s brotherhood, The officer at the other side of the tunnel was a biker himself and allowed me to take the tunnel where the risk was on me. There was a sudden rush of adrenaline with sky high excitement level to cross this tunnel as it has never been allowed to even be attempted by anyone before.
Started the engine as an adventure packed 3kms ride was about to unravel but it turned out to be far more adventurous than I expected. Indeed the floor was like a river bed where the tyres were getting stuck inside the mud initially. After riding 500 meters inside the tunnel, the water logging areas had started to show up. Theclogging was 50 to 100 meters long. The worst problem was I couldn't even get off the bike to check the depth of the water as the bike will not stand up on center or the side stand because of the spongy mud. So I had to believe in my instinct and ride. The water level was definitely up to knee length which made me wet inside out and the bike almost gave up at few places. After passing through many of these water clogging's I reached a point where I saw an option on side where there was no water and the place looked dry. I took the bike towards that dry mud but was fooled by it! It was a mud hole which was capable of taking me and the bike in completely. The front part of the bike started to get into the mud hole and I was not able to hold up to the bike because of the weight and the luggage on top. I started to scream loud for help, luckily couple of workers inside the tunnel heard my voice from far and came running to help. By the time they reached, the bike was drowned until the headlights. They pulled the bike from the mud hole and advised me to ride only through the middle of the tunnel. I thanked them profusely for helping me and took their advice and rode further. I managed to reached last turn of the tunnel which would take me outside the tunnel but water level was too high there. I somehow managed to pass that by risking everything.
Finally, with more than 2 hours of struggle I managed to exit that 3kms long tunnel! The workers outside the tunnel were stunned seeing a bike coming out of it and they gathered around the bike with a lot of curiosity. I was drenched inside out, so my first priority was to change my clothes. After changing my clothes I spoke to the officer who allowed me ride through tunnel and shared my experience riding thought it and thanked him for letting me cross it. As I had to reach the Galepu border by the night fall, I moved out of that place immediately. But now the rain was the next enemy. It started pouring down very heavily and riding on that road made it even more difficult. By 6 pm I reached a small village called Geylegphug. The locals advised me not to ride further as the area ahead is more prone to landslides because of rain and the night makes it more difficult. A local gentlemen in that place was kind enough to offer me a place to stay for the night. He took me to his house and I spent the night there.
Day 15 – Geylegphug – Zhemgang – Gelephu Border – Guwahati
It was dark while I reached his home and I didn’t see anything around. But trust me I was awestruck when I saw the beautiful nature around his house in the morning. Bhutan is definitely a heaven on earth.
After saying goodbye to the gentlemen who gave me shelter last night I started riding towards the Gelepu border. I reached the border by noon and ended up paying a hefty fine since I was at the wrong border to exit the country. But nevertheless, it was unavoidable. Once I crossed the border the road ahead was straight where I could turn the throttle enough to reach Guwahati as planned. From Bongaigaon to Guwahati the 3 lane road made things easier for me. Reached Guwahati by evening and my first priority was take the bike to the showroom for a complete check-up because it had gone through so much in last few days. So I directly took the bike to the showroom and the showroom boys was very cooperative and understood right away what was required to be done. After checking the bike they promised me to get the bike fixed by next day evening which was exactly what I was looking for.
Took a hotel room in the middle of the city. Few very enthusiastic bikers visited me at the hotel and their company helped me to relax my mind after the long day's ride.
Day 16 – Rest day in Guwahati
After a long time I got a chance to sleep until noon! Hahaha…! It was definitely a much required sleep to refresh my mind and body. Went to the showroom in the evening and the bike was ready.
Day 17 - Guwahati – Bhalukpong – Tenga – Bomdila – Sela Pass – Jaswantgrah –Jang – Tawang
This was definitely the longest and the hardest ride of this trip. I reached Bhalukpong check post by 10 AM and got the permission within 30 minutes to ride further to Arunachal Pradesh. Tenga army base was the next stop where I will be meeting an army men/biker Mr Arun Melt. The road condition was not getting better as I rode ahead and the narrow cliff roads were filled with danger. Reached Tenga at 1 PM and met with Arun and relished some very typical army lunch offered by him. I left from Tenga at 2pm and I had to cover another 260kms to reach Tawang. The most important reason for me to reach Tawang before the end of the day was to witness the Independence Day India - China Flag meet at the Bumlapass . At around 6pm I was just 120kms away from Tawang and darkness started falling, it started raining heavily and thick fog started to build up. I was riding towards the high altitude and temperature also started to drop. The road was muddy and wet but it was wide enough to ride through. The enemy was the darkness, thick fog and rain which was not allowing me to ride anything above 10kmph, Even though I was wearing rain protective clothes, I was thoroughly wet and was shivering due to the low temperature. At about 8:30pm I managed to reach the gate to Tawang , the Mighty Sela Pass and found a cafeteria and Army Base right next to the gate, stopped there and spent another two hours with some of the most amazing army guys under the warmth of the fireplace. This helped me to stabilize my body temperature and managed to dry all my wet clothes, boots and gloves to ride further. The Army guys advised me to stay the night but I decided to ride ahead because my ultimate goal for riding to Tawang was to witness the Independence Day Flag meet. I wasn't ready to give up on that so turned on the keys to ride ahead at around 10:30 PM and I had to cover another 90kms to Tawang. The deadly combination of night, fog and the rain was making my ride horrendous. Sharp at 12:00 AM I reached one of the most historical location of Arunachal Pradesh, The Jaswantgarh War Memorial. Jaswantgrah War Memorial is named after the great rifleman Jaswant Sing Sawat, the Brave heart who was awarded with the Maha Veer Chakra for his bravery to fight against the Chinese at the battle of Nuranang. What better place could I beat 12 midnight to celebrate Independence Day. I hugged and greeted the army man who was patrolling there and we shared some good memories to remember for the lifetime. I had to cover another 70kms Tawang and the harrowing experience continued. I finally reached Tawang at 3am in the morning after day long fight against the odds. I directly visited the authorities who issue the pass for the flag meet but unfortunately I was too late... but I wasn't disappointed at all because I had done everything possible from my end fighting out every obstacle that came my way to reach Tawang as planned. I found a hotel in Tawang and crashed to get the much needed rest after the 23hours long ride!
Day 18 – Res Day in Tawang
Visited the Tawang Monastery, which is the largest monastery in India and second largest in the world built during the 16th century. The monastery is 3 storey high, it stands on the spur of a hill about 10000 feet above sea level. Around 450 Lamas (Monks) reside over here.
Day 19 - Tawang – Jaswantgrah – Tenga – Bhalakpong – Tezpur
While riding back from Tawang I had planned to meet those individuals whom I met while I was riding towards Tawang. As soon as I reached Jaswanth Grah War Memorial, I found the Army guy whom I met at midnight, His name was Rajesh Kumar. He took me around the war memorial site and educated me about the importance of the place I reached on the day of Independence. The next stop was at the Sela pass army base to meet and greet all those army men whom I had met earlier. They were very happy to see me again and I shared all my experiences with them over a coffee.
Reached Tenga Army camp at around 2 pm and met with Arun to say Thank You and bid good bye. The next stop was at the Bhalakpong check post and then rode all the way to Tezpur for to rest for the day.
Day 20 - Tezpur – Nagaon – Shillong
After riding through some of the most toughest roads in Nepal , Bhutan and India getting a smooth road to ride felt like heaven. The road from Guwahati to Shillong was very good. I was heading towards the Scotland of the east and the wet state of the country, Meghalaya it was sure that the rain is one thing that I will not be able to escape from. I reached Shillong before night fall.
Day 21 - Shillong – Cherrapunjee – Tyrna – Mawlynnong Village
It was imperative to start the ride early in the morning because of the place that I had planned to visit during the day. Riding through the roads in Chirrapunjee was the highlight of the ride. Lush green hills, Misty, foggy and wet roads kept me entertained throughout. Reached Tyrna around 1 pm and the living roots double decker bridge was in the bucket list to tick. It was a 3 hours long 3500 steps one way hiking to get to witness the living roots double decker bridge in the East Khasi Hills. I was totally in awe the moment my eyes set on the bridge, patiently built by generations by guiding the roots of the rubber tree across the river by the Khasi and the Jaintia people of the mountainous terrain, this was definitely a visual spectacle. Hiking down the 3500 steps was quite exhausting, so you can imagine how much stamina is required to hike up the same 3500 steps and get back. But trust me it was worth the hike. Each and every muscle in my body was paining badly.
The final destination for the day was the Mawlynnong Village which is the Asia’s cleanest village. The village is definitely worth a visit. I got myself a tree hut to stay the night. From the tree hut I could see the Bangladesh territory.
Day 22 – Mawlynnong Village – Dawki River – Shillong – Guwahati
Dawki River was just around the corner. Left early morning towards the River which is most famous for its crystal clear water where the river bed is visible. So a boat ride in the Dawki River was done to experience the same but unfortunately the water wasn’t clear enough to please me. This was the last destination of my ride and now on I will be riding back home.
By finishing the boat ride in the Dawki River helped me to plan the final destination for the day which was Guwahati. I rode as per the schedule and had lunch in Shillong. Right after the lunch the first accident happened, a kid crossed the two lane highway without checking the vehicles around. He was right in front of my bike and to save him I turned the bike which made me go off balance and crash in the hazard sign board which saved me from falling into a drainage right below. The bike was damaged badly but I came of unscratched, thanks to the protective gear which I was wearing. The front shock, rim and the disk brake was completely jammed which meant that I cannot ride further today and towing the bike was the only option available. I managed to get a good carrier jeep which dropped us all the way to Guwahati Royal Enfield Showroom. The guys at the showroom were familiar with me since I had visited them earlier so they offered me immediate assistance in fixing the bike. I can’t thank them enough coz they stayed back till late to have my bike fixed so that I could continue my ride the next day as scheduled. Took a hotel room and crashed for the day.
Day 23 - Guwahati – Silliguri
The ride from Guwahati to Silliguri was very smooth. Catching up with Santhanu Banerjee and Rana Paul again was the only thing on the chart but while I was on my way , I was informed that Mr Deepak Thimmoji is also expected to reach the city as he is on the way to his dream SEA ride. it was a nice evening well spent with all of them by exchanging a lot of riding experiences and also got information as to what to expect on my route tomorrow to Kolkata.
Day 24 – Silliguri – Malda – Farakka – Kolkata
The most uncultured and messed up roads ever in India. The highway was nothing short of hell. Cows crossing, pot holes everywhere, dusty and insane truck drivers. This horrible combination was making the ride extremely difficult. I felt riding in the mountains is much safer. Getting out of Malda was the biggest challenge as the trucks were glued bumper to bumper for god knows how many kilometers. Finding a place to ride between those trucks was next to impossible. After taking a lot of trouble I managed to pass Malda. Now the rain started to play the spoilt sport. It started to pour heavily. From Malda to Farakka and all the way to Kolkata the rain continued. Since my hands were soaked in water continuously for a long period of time the skin started to peel off. Almost a 200kms of riding in heavy rain did all the damage.
Day 25 – Kolkata – Cuttack
Only I was praying that the rain shows some mercy on me but riding through the eastern coastal stretch of India is not something which anyone can hope for without any rain. Until Balasore it didn’t rain much and the ride was smooth. Then came the 2 nd accident of the trip. An irresponsible villager on the bike took an unexpected turn on a two lane highway and while trying to escape from the collision, my bike skidded and fell down. The worst part is that the guy didnt even stop and ran away from the spot without helping me. Luckily the only damage on the bike was that the headlight was broken. I fixed all the other minor issues and started to ride further. To infect the wound further the rain started to pour inn. The road had pot holes filled with water and the sky started to get darker. Riding without the headlight during night and in rain was deadly dangerous. Cuttack was the only place I could find the next Royal Enfield showroom, so getting there was very important. I started to ride behind the trucks which had some light on the back. Almost 100 kms ride in heavy rain without headlight was definitely the most stupidest thing I have ever done and I will never recommend anyone to do so while riding. With God’s grace I managed to reach Cuttack by late evening and took good rest.
Day 26 Cuttack – Vishakpatnam – Rajamundry
I went to the Royal Enfield Showroom before starting the ride to get the bike's headlight fixed. The rain continued to trouble me until Vishakpatnam, then got settled. Roads in Telangana were pretty good to ride on so I managed to reached Rajamundry by evening.
Day 27 Rajamundry – Ongole – Nellore – Chennai
Left from Rajamundry keeping Chennai in mind. Here came a surprise message from one of my hard-core followers who was following my ride throughout. Mrs Razia Shaik from Andhra Pradesh, married and settled in Delhi with her husband and two kids sent me a message online stating that she is in a place called Guntur in Andhra which falls on the route and also mentioned that she wanted to meet me. She waited on the highway along with her brother and cousin. We met at a dhaba on the highway for a quick snack and chat. It was overwhelming to see such support and gesture from people who are complete strangers. It gave me a lot of confidence that my ride was definitely successful and motivated so many of them.
Then came the 2 nd surprise for the day. After entering Chennai another biker brother Gokul Krishna who was also following my ride had come about 20kms from his home to the highway to meet me. But meeting was not the only thing in the list for the day, He said his parents wanted to meet me and they are waiting at home for me. I couldn’t reject his invitation although I had plans to meet someone very special in Chennai after a decade. I went with him to his house,met his parents and had dinner with his family and shared some experiences with them before leaving.
Including Chennai in my route plan was only because of the intention to meet up with my godfather/guardian Mr JK Mahendra after 8 long years. The person who thought me to fight hard and live my dream. Meeting him was the best way to prepare for the final ride of my 28 days long trip.
Day 28 – Chennai – Bangalore
The start of the day was filled with so many mixed emotions, topping the list was to see and get a hug from my daughter and wife. Riding through the Chennai –Bangalore highway was nothing but rewinding the last 27 days of ride. It thought me a lot of lessons which will help me to live a better life ahead. The people I met during this ride, the places I visited, the struggles, the toil and pain I went through. Tears rolled out of eyes out of happiness and sadness, the moments which touched my soul, the nature that took my breath way and most importantly the adventure that I experienced made me a stronger person mentally and physically.
I reached Bangalore early in the evening and directly went home to get a warm hug from my daughter and wife which made me forget everything around me. Indeed the best feeling in the world.
This journey wouldn't have been possible without the unconditional support I received from the riders around India, Nepal and Bhutan. First of all I would like to thank each and every one of you who helped me succeed this mammoth ride. Deepak Kamath sir in Bangalore whom I was in touch with months before I started my ride and who helped me to get connected with all the wonderful riders around India, Nepal and Bhutan. Mudit Asthana who helped me manage all my requirements before I started my ride and the Jaipur Superbikers who gave me a wonderful flag off in Jaipur to start my ride. Dheeraj Solanki and the Agra Enfielders for their speechless hospitality in Agra and further assistance during my ride. Roaring Indians in Lucknow. Bagale Suvash who was my partner in riding to the Everest region, Dhaulagiri Enfielders / Royal Rollers and also Sunil Diamond Sarkar in Kathmandu. Santanu Banerjee the pillar of all riders entering north east and Far East India and Rana Paul in Siliguri. Paul Gurung the Darjeeling's heartthrob, Ritesh Rai - Himalayan Throttle Motorcycle Club-HiT MC who took me around the beautiful Darjeeling. Parop Rider in Bhutan. Neeraj Surana and Arun Melt in Tenga, Arunachal Pradesh. Siddharth Roy in Guwahati and many more during my ride.
I was fortunate enough to have some amazing sponsors who believed in me and provided me with all the support to complete this ride. Without them this ride wouldn't have been possible. A heartfelt Thanks to Barista, Angata Camps and Safaris, Royal Enfield UAE and The Delhi Dance Academy.
The plan for the next ride started the day this ride ended and currently my mind is working towards the preparations. Follow me on my facebook page The Herculean Rider and on Instagram as theherculeanrider for all the past and future updates.
I would like to share the credit for this blog with my beautiful wife, Sumera Shariff... for all her support in adding valuable inputs and editing.
Before signing off I would like to share this quote by Paulo Coelho "Travel is never a matter of money but of courage".