(AEC RIDERS- Assam Engineering College Rider's Club, first riders club of North East India by undergraduate students.Trip was from Assam Engineering College, Guwahati,Assam,India to Bhutan.) It was 10 degree Celsius; needless to say we were all shivering. Each one of us was wearing at least three layers of warm clothing. But the water hidden in the folds of the fog found secret inroads into our clothing until we were all soaking wet. The hum of the bike engines between our legs seemed to be the only humble reminders of our existing appendages. Dantak roads, Chelela pass. The fog would part at times to show the sun was still there.Shining. At least it was still daylight.
Keith was the only one amongst us without gloves. And Keith stopped a car on the road and managed to convince the driver, a nice middle aged man, to part with his. Petrol soaked and very very dirty. The man also parted with a warning that it would get colder still. We rushed on. And true to word, it got colder very soon and quite suddenly. With the sun sinking down at what felt like an impossible rate, we rode our bikes with its last rays chasing us at the heels. And true to Murphy’s Law, it started pouring. Dim visibility, 12200 ft above sea level, pitch black darkness. It was 50% pure terror and 50% pure exhilaration.We were just a group of guys from an engineering college, excited about making a trip to another country.
A last hurray before we parted our ways. It’s being final year and all. But what was supposed to be just a fun boy’s night out stretched over a 6 day trip became what will possibly go out in posterity as one of the best trips of our lives. After hassles at the Indo- Bhutan border and an impromptu Durga Puja celebration in Phuentsholing, we rode our way to Thimphu.
Ever played Hill Climb Racing? Remember stage 4 in the Caves? The seamless climbing up a hill and down only to climb another again. Well, that was the road to Thimphu. A sheer drop down on one side, and laced with caves on another. And just as we thought we had the hang of it, the mountain covered up the sun, clouds interspersed and the roads got dangerously narrow. Five boys on three bikes and a spectacular view.
Welcome to the Land of the Thunder Dragon.For a place that is named after a staple monster of children’s tales, it is surprisingly quiet. And for a boy who is born and bred in India, known for its rush traffic and horns bellowing at every second delay, the quietude and laid back attitude of the place hit me like a rock in the face. It seemed as though all the clocks in Bhutan had been corrupted and time had forgotten itself. And speaking of traffic, long lines and yet no angry howls, no furious jabs at the honk. After such a shock of chrono-displacement you can’t really blame me for getting lost that first day in Thimphu. A bottle of petrol in hand, much needed for our tired and hungry bikes, i stood there breathing in the peace of the place. When i did realise that i had well and truly lost my way, going in circles and possibly losing my way yet some more, a local boy helped me find my way back to my hotel. And were we thankful for the hot shower and warm meal and cozy beds.
We would have gladly stayed wrapped in blankets, and some breakfast in bed would have been heaven, but we had a long day planned ahead of us. A steaming bowl of chicken penne and a day journey to Chelela pass later;
it was time to trek to Tigers Nest. Nest. But here’s the thing, i had a problem back and my good doctor had advised me against any strenuous activity. Well, considering that i had travelled all the way from Guwahati to Bhutan on my bike, that ship had already sailed. But my poor back was giving me subtle warnings. My friends went on the trek but i decided against it and waited while i watched them getting smaller and smaller. But then i was in a strange country, surrounded by beautiful valleys and missing out on one of the ‘must see’ attractions.
Throwing caution to the winds i started climbing. Up the hill and then many millions of steps later came across this beautiful monastery nestled in the lap of a mountain and the people, oh the people!
From Turkey, from England, from all over the world gathered together and my friends amongst them busy shooting. I swear one of them almost yelped! When i surprised them! But then i lost my balance and fell on the climb downhill! My poor back was screaming expletives at me!
And if you thought the trip so far was amazing, and if you didn’t: really? What have you been smoking? The ride back to the Bhutan border was perhaps the most dangerous ever. The roads got so narrow winding down the hill, there wasn’t much space to veer the bike, and the constant traffic at night didn’t help. But it was beautiful. I left Bhutan with a heavy heart and i believe the resounding thought in all my friends mind on that night journey back to India was a solemn promise to visit this beautiful country again.
P.S - This was written by my friend Gautam.