A deadly ride to Tawang - Heaven for riders

25th Dec 2018
Photo of A deadly ride to Tawang - Heaven for riders by CA Kapil Khandelwal
Day 1

Somewhere on the journey I read- "Some goals are so worthy , that even it's glorious to fail"
And yes true it is, the ride I decided to make this time was a dream ride for me as a kid I planned this ride when i read a story in VIIth standard about two friends travelling to "Tawang" and after more than a decade I finally planned this ride with my friend Amar.
This was the first time when I was adding North East to my travel diary so I was not aware with the people, culture & food there.
We booked our flight from Delhi to Guwahati and flew on 25th December early morning. After reaching there our first task was to find a good deal to get the Bike on rent, after putting an hour into browsing we got to know that there are very few dealers available around one of which is Ahija but there rates were quite high , then we had a call with a guy who recently started his small startup of renting the Bullets. And that's how we got to meet the guy "Saurav" who was the owner there. We took a cab from the airport after having a light breakfast to his garage and after an hour of ride we reached to his place which was at court lane, it was a small garage and our Ride was there only, a 2017 model Royal Enfield 350 Classic white colour was standing there , the bike was in perfect condition , he got the carier added to it and then we got few other things checked like oil, break shoe, clutch wire and then the negotiation part, we got the deal for Rs. 5500 as rent for 6 days and for the security he asked for one original ID to be deposited where I gave my original RC of my own Royal Enfield. Saurav told us where we will be checked for our ILP so he advised us to apply it online on the go and we will get it the next day and so we did , we applied for it online at www.arunachalilp.com then We had our lunch at D'vine Restaurant and at exactly 2'o clock we finally started our ride for the Day1.
I had never been to Guwahati , specially never had a ride here so I had no idea of what kind of roads I will get here since we both are riders and have our own Royal Enfields so we decided to take only one on rent so we can ride in parts. So the roads were quite curvy and bit hilly we took NH 127/ 36 and as planned our first day ride was till Bomdila which was 333KM from Guwahati but since we started a bit late so we were not sure if we will be able to make that out or not. At 4 we had the first stop and we had tea and snacks and from here Amar started riding and I sat back, the view was beautiful on the road sides and temperature was normal but something which wasn't normal was the sky which started turning dark very soon and by 5 PM it was all dark and the highway was a single lane road loaded with heavy trucks and trailers and now it was getting difficult to ride, Bomdila was still 200KM+ but we were about to reach a small City called Tezpur , since I could find that there is an airport in Tezpur so I assumed that city to be a bit good and we were tired so all we wanted a good place to eat and sleep.
At 6:30PM we reached the city Tezpur which was at 123KM from Guwahati ,it was smaller than what I assumed and the airport was limited to mostly army aircrafts only, Amar was still riding so I was looking for a hotel sitting at back and all I could find is 3-4 hotels available in entire city, it took us 15 minutes taking a look at the entire city and we noticed a strange thing that every one was well dressed and they were going somewhere with their friends and family and they all were moving to the same direction , I become so anxious that finally I ended up asking a guy that where they all are moving to and then he told us it's Christmas and everyone was moving to the Church and infact he advised us to go to the church well we had the bike and the luggage so we decided first to find a place to stay, we got a room in City Point Hotel , it was one of the good hotel there , we got a deal at Rs. 1200 and then the next thing was to find good food so the only good restaurant was Saffron and we landed there had great food and met few people over there who told us a bit about our destination "Tawang" and asked us in anxiety that how we decided to ride to Tawang and that's too in December when it will be covered with snow well since it was a long story so I decided to skip and focus on my food, we came back to hotel and now we were already dead so fall asleep the moment we got to bed.
The Day 1 ride we covered Guwahati to Tezpur and for Day 2 we decided to reach till Bomdila.

Day 2

We got up at 8 , got ready had the breakfast and started riding at 11AM although the plan was to start riding at 6AM but none of us could actually woke up. The city looked much better in day light and the road this time was again a one way but was in good condition so it was easier for us to ride , Bomdila was 220KM so we decided to cover the most of it by 4 as after that the sky will start turning dark. The view was getting even beautiful this time, clear sky, small basti's on road sides and farm feilds we clicked few pictures on the way when we stopped by the river side.
We were crossing the Assam Border and entering into Arunachal Pradesh via Bhalukpong Pass and as being told to us we were supposed to get checked for our ILP here but it didn't happen and we crossed B'pong and moved ahead and now we were entering to the curvy roads and hills started from here. At 1:45 we saw a long chain of vehicles standing when we moved ahead we found a sign board which says the road will be closed from 9AM to 2PM, for the first time we felt fortunate that we could not woke up early today else we would have wasted enough time waiting here, the construction was going on there and here we met two local riders who were riding till Nag Mandir which was on the same route and from there Bomdila will be barely 40KM so we decided to ride along and since they were locals they gave us a clue that the good roads ends here and now you will get the tough ride and true they were, barely after a KM from that stoppage the road turned stony and dusty even muddy at times , Amar was riding and I could see it was really difficult riding on that dusty route at times the roads were turning blurred due to heavy dust and since we were riding uphill so sometimes it was getting too shrink that we had to wait so the vehicles coming back can pass first. Well the day had got enough adventure after riding for an hour we finally took a break and tried to clean out the dust out of us as we were all full of it even our bags. We had tea and now the temperature was getting down and we were feeling a bit cold afterwards the road was good and the scenic beauty around us was giving us goosebumps , waterfalls on the way , cloudy hills and the roads covered with green shed.
At 4 we got the tank full and we were riding through an Army Cantt area and the sky started turning dark, Bomdila was still 50Km far and the roads were too steep to ride after half an hour we got bit of more adventure added to the day the back Tyre got flat and we somehow managed to handle the bullet as I was riding on a steep road. After asking around we got to know there is nothing we can get here , and Bomdila was 11KM far, I asked amar to take a lift and reach Bomdila and I started riding it with a flat tire at barely 10-15KM of speed , it was difficult and risky as the bullet was loosing control too often plus the luggage at the back was adding the trouble, but finally after that tough ride I reached Bomdila where Amar had already managed to get the hotel, a small hotel called Hotel La but the adventure was not yet over, the hotel guy asked us to show our ILP as a mandatory ID and when we checked the status online where it was still showing under process.
Well here somehow we managed with the hotel by calling few locals to be our known ones but he advised us to get it done before we move further. so the small place called Bomdila was a hill station and it was too cold here, the temperature was around 1-2° the first thing we did was to take a shower as that dusty ride gave us dust all over. It was 7:30PM so we went out to have a look around , had our dinner out since we were not sure about the hotels own food so we decided to have it out somewhere.
On the roads mostly we were preferring to have boiled eggs as its not good to take a risk with the food when you are on a road trip.
And we came back to our hotel had rum and slept.
The day 2 ride got over and we had a 220KM ride from Tezpur to Bomdila.

Day 3

We got up early as we had to get the Tyre done so went out and now we could see riders around who were riding to Tawang although they were few who were actually riding till Tawang most of them were riding till Sela Pass only. Well here for the first time i heard this name called Sela Pass and now I guess after riding through it for my entire life I can never forget this name. Well we got a guy who came back from tawang the last day but he went there on 4by4 and he was pretty surprised to know that we both are riding there he was anxious and asked how you guys gonna cross the Sela and I was like what's that ? Well he gave us few tips and told us about few riders whom he saw coming back from half way as there is heavy snow fall happening and the temperature is as low as -20°. He advised us on the ILP as how we can get it done. We moved to the mechanic and got the Tyre changed as it got few cracks , the break shoe , clutch wire and oiling done. Met a rider there who came from Hyderabad riding all the way for Tawang but came back from Sela now I could sense a bit about Sela. If that place could make a rider to went back from the mid then that is worthy enough to visit.
The half day got over and we had ride nothing till now, we started riding at 1PM after having lunch and in an hour we reached to the beautiful place called Dirang.
I heard about this place on the way a bit but the reality was  much more beautiful than the words. As soon we reached here we started looking for the ADC's(assistant deputy commissioner) office as we wanted to get the IPL issued first before we get checked and forced to end the journey there. 5 min ride from the Dirang gate and we reached there , and the real struggle , lot of questions that how we reached till here without ILP but the ADC was off course a well understanding guy and he helped us by approving our application when he saw our Membership cards and got to know that we both are Chartered Accountants and but off course crazy riders. and we met a guy there "Rohan" who runs a small shop of grocery cum photocopy , he helped us throughout the process of getting our application approved , Rohan if you are reading this , thanks a lot buddy to help the strangers trust me at least we can never forget each and every person who helped us through this journey.
After getting the ILP we started the journey and visited the 'Thupsung Dhargye monastery' the very old and beautiful monastery I visited this year. Now it was already 5PM and sky started turning dark, we left for senge which was already 40-50KM far, we stopped in between to have food on a small home stay kind of restraunt but there the owner who was in his 60's tried his best to send us back to Dirang as he said you can't ride further there is on visibility till senge and plus there is no place to stay except an IB ( inspection bungalow) of PWD, well his son helped us getting us a room in IB by confirming from his friend who was in senge that time and inspite of uncle trying his best we started the journey to senge. In 15 minutes of ride I realised we made a mistake there was no visibility at all, the fog was so heavy that my headlamps couldn't pass through it. And we were riding in anticipation of not getting hit and the speed came down to as low as 15-20KMPH. The temperature came down to -7° and the fingers started freezing even in heavy glooves, the eye lids started freezing and somehow in 2 hours of that freezing journey we finally reached to IB where the caretaker was already waiting for us and handed over the keys and she left, the room was pathetic I must say but it was the only hope to stay warm and alive. We tried sleeping but it was too cold that we ended up warming ourself in those blankets and waited for the night to pass. It was the third day and the real journey had already started.

Day 4

The Final Destination
Since the whole night none of us could sleep because the temperature went as low as -8° and we were just lying on our non cozy beds.
It was barely 5AM when I heard somebody starting a bike and then that noise kept on coming for almost half an hour, I managed to get out of the bed and went down to check, finally the family , met a group of 12 riders who were all set to leave. We took barely 10 minutes to get ready to leave and at 6:30AM we started our ride to Sela. Trust me now I was more curious to visit Sela then to Tawang as I heard alott about this place.
The road was clear and weather was great and after an hour we reached to a place where we could see the "Gorichen Peak" such a beauty it was. And another hour and exactly at 8:30 AM we reached to Tawang Gate, for me reaching Tawang gate and getting clicked was one of the best moment. Tawang was 78KM  from here and the only hurdle between us and Tawang was crossing Sela. So this was the entry to sela pass. We had breakfast at army canteen there and planned to leave and cross Sela within 4 hours , now we were more than 25 riders who all met at Tawang gate and for almost all of us Sela was unknown.
We entered the gate and yes the world inside the gate was totally different , it was all white , nothing but just huge mountains covered with heavy snow beads , narrow stoney road with almost 2ft of snow both the sides, and freezing fingers , we started riding slowly and got a view of Sela lake which was totally Frozen and just after 400 mtr ahead of Sela lake one of our rider got slipped as now the real ride was getting started , yes it was all frozen ice on the road.
We all got conscious when we saw our riders slipping , few of us tied the rope around the tyres as it helps in building the grip since we can't use breaks here and now believing on this fact that we have to ride here for next 75KM was terribly horrifying us. We decided to ride without pillion riders as now building balance was a challenge and I was the one for whom riding on ice was the first time experience so I was being more concerned and was trying to keep myself ahead of all the riders so if I fall the riders can come forward to help. But this way I ended up in losing all of them far behind of me and I end up reaching almost in the mid of Sela alone. Since riding back here was not even an option I opted to wait , apart from us the only other human being was the Indian Army here and their heavy trucks where the tyres were locked with heavy chain to maintain the grip. Now the situation was getting worst as the snow fall got started and it was already -25° there , my eye lids were almost frozen and it was already 30 minutes I was waiting for them. I could not feel my fingers since they were frozen already, my leather boots failed terribly to keep my feet warm and this was the toughest time I had there alone. I moved ahead and saw a army bunker , I asked for the help and yes they helped me in parking my bullet inside the shedd and asked me to come inside , off course for me this moment was almost equivalent to getting my life back, they asked me wait and get warm a bit and after having word with them i realised what pain army actually bears for us , the place where even standing for 15 minutes was terribly painful they were doing duty there.
After half an hour I heard a bike coming and yes my riders were coming but not the all , most of them went back in between and only 8 came till here, watching Amar (my pillion rider) coming gave me a relief. For a moment I was all set to leave this place alone as I felt no one is coming here. But for a rider the journey never stops and even the destiny works accordingly.
From here we started together and the road & situation remained same for next 25km , almost all of us fell down lot of times , helped each other , faced the worst to the worst situation , seeing army guys standing there was the only thing boosting us to move forward. While we planned we will cross Sela in 4 hours it actually took us 8 hours to cross the hardest part of it and it was not yet over. Even today when ever I think of sela I get goosebumps as that place was heaven and hell both. We got the clean road but still the fear of getting ice on the road was not letting us ride in speed so were slow and it was already 4PM when we reached jaswant garh. A memorial being built in the loving memories of Sir Jaswant Singh and our Indian army was serving tea for free for the travellers passing through there. We did rest for a while and started riding , roads were moreover clean so I asked my pillion rider to sit back and we started barely after 500mtr within a blink of eye we fell down terribly, it was again ice on the road and our bullet was almost 200mtr away from us. We got panic and now sky was turning dark and we were still almost 50km far from Tawang , but the worst part that we were alone , all of our riders moved ahead when we were resting for a while. I don't  know how we boosted each other , collected the courage all again and started to ride , heavy snow fall was happening and we were ridding non stop  and after 3 hours of ride where Amar mostiy did the walk and I managed to ride it without  falling again we reached Jung. Where we met 2 army officers at the check post who advised us to stay at Jung for tonight and not to move ahead to Tawang as the weather has turned really bad ahead. They also advised us to meet them on the way back to guwahati so they can help us in crossing sela.
Well I knew they advised us totally correct and we should stay in Jung but now when the destination was so close I could not resist and asked Amar to sit back we will reach Tawang tonight.
This ride from Jung to Tawang was even more thrilling and challenging then crossing sela to us, I don't how how Amar trusted me for this but this late night ride in heavy snow fall was the most riskiest ride I ever had in my life and offcourse after 3 hours of continuous ride on the steep hills while the eyes were facing heavy snow balls and the body was shivering. And now we were out of excitement or out of panic shouting the KM being left, I knew we were about to reach and now we will be having rest in a good hotel there , our bodies will be warm soon , and moreover the mental state of us will be calm soon. Every KM we we're passing now was making a difference to us as we were reaching to the destination that we were chasing since last 4 days without being known to any of the stops we made throughout, it was 10km left when Amar boosted me and asked me to slow it down a bit, my eyes were barely open even now when I try to remind myself how I was riding there with my eyes almost covered with snow I get Jo clue. Off course the roads are meant to end to the destination and every moment was taking us close to it. For a moment I got a  flashback of this entire journey, the people I met, the place we stayed, the food we had, the situations we faced and now we were ready for bigger than this. Reaching Tawang while I was totally covered with heavy snow shield was the most memorable moment of this ride. And it was 11:30pM while I rode for continuous 17 hours in the most terrible circumstances where there were no roads , my body was giving me a sense that I have crossed all the limits and am left with no energy I still couldn't resist myself in getting clicked at the Tawang Entry. And Amar who knew that this is more of an emotional moment than an achievement clicked the moment well.

We reached to the hotel and it took us 3 hours to make ourself normal and then we celebrated the victory 🥂

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The memorable journey

Photo of Tawang by CA Kapil Khandelwal
Photo of Tawang by CA Kapil Khandelwal

Day 3 - Dirang

Photo of Tawang by CA Kapil Khandelwal

Dirang Monastary

Photo of Tawang by CA Kapil Khandelwal

Day 2 - Tezpur to Bomdila

Photo of Tawang by CA Kapil Khandelwal

Starting of sela

Photo of Tawang by CA Kapil Khandelwal

Gorichen Peak at my back

Photo of Tawang by CA Kapil Khandelwal

Day -4, Army bunker who helped me stay

Photo of Tawang by CA Kapil Khandelwal

Finally when we reached Tawang

Photo of Tawang by CA Kapil Khandelwal

Tawang Gate at Day 4

Photo of Tawang by CA Kapil Khandelwal

The ride at Bomdilla

Photo of Tawang by CA Kapil Khandelwal