Travelling through Bhutan, I bumped into a few quirky characters. A Bhutanese guy who spoke Hindi with a Bihari accent. A hotel receptionist who found the lack of colour in our riding gear disturbing. A hotel owner who’s nick name was Kabhi-Kabhi. And (my favourite) a fellow who kept a table fan pointed towards his TV set while watching a football match to “keep the players cool” 😀

Travelling changes the way you look at people. Its innate nature forces you into instant relationships with the people you encounter.

A few days before I started out for Bhutan, I read a post about travelling solo through Bhutan. Check it out. Its an interesting read!

Now the plan originally was quite different from what we eventually ended up executing. This lad I travelled with had booked a bike he had been saving up to buy. And not just any bike.

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Royal Enfield Himalayan

Look at this beauty! I rode this machine for a short span of time and man it blew my top! If this is where the biking scene in India is headed then bring it on! Anyhow, sadly the bike was not delivered on time and he had to make last minute arrangements and borrow a friend’s bike. A tried and tested Bullet 350. A capable machine in the right hands and a delight to look at.

Now this friend of mine wanted to ride to Ladakh. Although I haven’t been there on a bike, it seems to me that pretty much everyone with a bike is going there these days. The trip simply wouldn’t be that mysterious and touching when you have a biker group to chat with every few kilometres. I suggested touring north-east India – Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram. Those regions are quite green this time of the year. After much persuasion the focus shifted away from Ladakh and then one fine day a few weeks after Ladakh was scatched I received a phone call. “Let’s go to Bhutan” “Done”. And that is how the best plans are made.

Now Bhutan, ladies and gents, is no joke. I mean, just look at that topography!

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Terrain Photoshopping ?!

I’ve read about how the Indian sub-continent collided with Asia gazillions of years ago but this is a completely different level. Fertile plains to pine trees in 30 minutes flat! Plains abruptly give way to mountains resulting in spectacular views such as this one.

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Plains on the left stretching all the way to the horizon

I’m not much of a planned travel kind of person but biking into a foreign country demands paperwork and a definite plan. The Bhutan immigration authorities need to know where you’ll be going in order to create permits. Remind me to write a small piece about the necessary paperwork before you travel to Bhutan. I spent my free time looking up travelogues, travel plans, places to visit, road conditions, routes and such. What I came up with was a hazy outline of a plan which looked nothing like anything. Fellow rider Abhishek was the unofficial planner and all time worrier. He took it upon himself to sort out travel plans, fuelling stops, hotels, food stops, rest stops, butt rest stops, fix-the-bike stops, lets-stop-for-a-while stops, this-is-heaven stops and i-almost-dieded stops. I’m going to shorten the name to Abs because otherwise there are just too many syllables.

The first task was to transport our bikes to Kolkata which would be base camp for a day. The Bullet needed servicing badly. The owner claimed that the front forks were out of alignment and the rear shock absorbers were low on oil. Not the best way to start a long ride. Transportation of the bike via railways turned out be a breeze. The journey was comfortable and the bike unscathed. I navigated my way through the streets of Kolkata. Crossing Howrah bridge felt wondrous. The bridge has been an icon since the imperial days. The next day, a hurried visit to the RE service centre and the Bullet was sorted. Now our friend Abs began constructing an ad-hoc carrier for his laptop, camera, GoPro and other such death-by-water devices. PVC pipes and connectors were used and this was the end result.

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Any buyers?

This was covered up with a high grade water resilient ductile material also known as a plastic bag. What we ended up with was an easily accessible yet water proof tail bag. Later on in the ride, several people including truckers admired the luggage mounting technique.

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Loaded Bullet

Not a very pretty sight but hey.. function dictates design. Oh and in case you’re wondering what’s up with the seat, its another stroke of genius. An idea that saved his butt, pretty much. More on that later.

A summary of my own luggage and equipment:

  • ViaTerra Fly tank bag
  • ViaTerra Rapide saddle bags
  • BikingSpirit tail bags
  • Foot air pump
  • Chain cleaner and lube
  • Spare bungee cables
  • Dry fruits

The most important items perhaps – deodorant and a portable bluetooth speaker because what’s life without music?

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The ride began next morning amid suspicious stares from people in the Salt Lake area. Without further ado, I’ll hasten to write about the next part which involves breaking pretty much every traffic rule ever written. Check it out here!