Travelogue of my first major bike trip.. along with Photos
In the previous post I had mentioned the chain of events which made me take this bike trip. There were a total of 7 members in the group, 5 (including myself) of us were travelling from different locations of India to Guwahati and were transporting our bikes as well.
The original plan:
The original plan was actually a 13 day long itinerary covering "Guwahati - Bhutan (Via Phuentsholing) - Arunachal Pradesh (via Tawang) - Back to Guwahati"..!!
Unfortunately our bikes did not arrive in time and therefore the trip had to be replanned. During the first 6 days, my friends visited Bhutan by Car and then the last 6 days were kept aside for the bike trip to Arunachal Pradesh (by then our bikes had arrived).
I decided to give the trip to Bhutan by car a miss and joined them for the bike trip to Arunachal Pradesh with Tawang as the destination. Even though my bike (Pulsar 220) had made it to Guwahati, I decided to take a 2003 vintage Pulsar 150 (single spark plug) instead for the trip which was arranged by my friend Nilutpal Hazarika.
Nilutpal is also the guy who is responsible for co-ordinating and organizing this trip and making this memorable journey a reality.
The Band of Bikers:
From left - 1. Diptinder Singh Chabra "Kenny" (Bullet Electra 4S), 2. Mrinaljit Dutta (Avenger 200), 3. Nilutpal Hazarika (Pulsar 200), 4. Satadal Payeng (Pulsar 150), 5. Gyanath Moshari (Karizma), 6. Mrinal Doley (Classic 500) 7. Ajit Kumar Bramha (R15)
Except Kenny, the other 6 guys are natives of Assam, out of which 4 (Mrinaljit Dutta, Mrinal Doley, Gyanath and myself) are currently based in different parts of India. Mr. Ajit Brahma who joined us on this trip on a Yamaha R15 happens to be the Uncle of Gyanath.
Image courtesy GoogleMaps
Day 1: (Guwahati to Bhalukpong - 254 kms)
The trip started at Guwahati, 6 AM on April 16'th. I had ridden with Kenny and Nilutpal earlier but not with rest of the guys. But only after 10 minutes of riding with this new group, I could make out that the group dynamics were perfect. The riding speed, the stops, looking out for each other etc. everything was coming naturally and the group was gelling well. I was delighted that this was definitely going to be an enjoyable experience for me.
Day 1, Highlight:
Realization that "How Green is my (Assam) Valley"
Having grown up in Assam, the trip from Guwahati to Bhalukpong was nothing new for at least the 6 Assamese guys in the group. The roads were familiar, the people were familiar and nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary. But to Kenny, Assam appeared to be so Green..!!
Kenny in fact asked us "In which part of the year is the greenery maximum?" In retrospect, as I was growing up in Assam, I never felt that there was anytime of the year when the greenery could be less. In fact every the other guy in the group echoed similar sentiments. My valley (Assam) remains evergreen throughout the year..!!
"Smooth highway between Guwahati - Tezpur (Assam).."
"One of the Tea Gardens.."
"How Green is my (Assam) Valley..!!"
"Road deteriorates about just before Bhalukpong.."
We reached Bhalukpong at around 5 PM. We could have reached there earlier, but we had a stop of around 2-3 hours in Tezpur, during which we had lunch and I changed the rear tyre on my bike.
Bhalukpong is a small town which is situated in the Arunachal Pradesh side of Assam-Arunachal border. One has to show "Inner Line Permits" at the military checkpoint to enter Arunachal. These were arranged by Nilutpal for us before the start of the journey.
There are not many hotels/accomodations in Bhalukpong town as it is basically a small town. We went to a resort called "Solu Resort" which had been booked in advance by Nilutpal (who else?).
And that's pretty much how the Day 1 ended.
Day 2: (Bhalukpong to Dirang - 152 Kms)
Day 2 started at 10 AM. Just as we left the town of Bhalukpong, we were greeted with off road trails and slippery slush. At that point I thought that the rest of the journey would be of similar kinds of roads. But after 20 odd Kms, as we started the ascent, tarmac roads appeared (to my disappointment). We reached Tenga a small town at around 12.30 PM. Bomdila was another 20 odd kms from there.
Day 2, Highlight:
The sumptuous lunch at a nameless dhaba 10 kms from Bomdila..!!
We had lunch at a small nameless dhaba/restaurant some 10 kms after crossing Bomdila. The food that we had there was simply the best that we had in Arunachal Pradesh during the entire trip. During the return journey we actually made it a point to have lunch at that same place..!!
Bomdila is situated at a slight altitude and the air around that place was definitely colder than at Bhalukpong or Tenga Valley. After lunch we started the descent from Bomdila to Dirang, a town which is at a lower altitude and situated some 40 odd kms from the place where we had our lunch.
"Arunachal Pradesh..!! Yeah Baby.."
"Surprising smooth twisties.."
"Butt break at scenic Tenga Valley.."
"Entrance to Bomdila.."
"Solitary Err.. reaper?"
"The unnamed dhaba where the food was awesome.."
"Never ending road construction.."
"The longer the destination, the merrier.."
To my delight, the roads started to become off road trails once again. It was actually a welcome change for me as it did not allow me to get drowsy after the relatively heavy lunch..!!
We reached our resort in Dirang at around 6 PM and that’s how the ride for the second day ended.
Day 3: (Dirang to Tawang - 143 Kms)
I was quite excited at the start of Day 3 as we were supposed to cross Sela Pass (the highest point of our trip) and we got the news that there was snow there. So far I had never experienced snow and this was going to be my first experience.
Sela was some 65-70 kms from Dirang. We started at around 9 AM, the drop in temperature could be felt as we started our climb towards Sela Pass. We had breakfast a an Army run cafeteria some 20 kms from Sela. It was difficult controlling my excitement as from there the snow capped mountains were clearly visible.
Day 3, Highlight:
Snow at Sela Pass..!!
We resumed the ride; we soon were riding among the clouds..!! The Sun was no longer visible amidst the thick fog which engulfed the broken roads. Our ascent was slow and steady. And then all of a sudden there we were on the Sela Pass. And yes, to my joy there was snow there. It was a memorable moment for me.
"Resort at Dirang.."
"Breakfast at an army run cafeteria.."
"Ride in the clouds..!!"
"Sela Pass, Start of Tawang District.."
"I finally get to experience snow..!!"
"The "High" point of the journey.."
"Pay your homage at Jaswantgarh.."
"..a quick snack with the army guys"
"It was very cold.. but it was worth it..!!"
After spending around 30 mins on the Sela Pass, we resumed our journey. The next 20 kms was the most scenic part of the journey. We were riding among mountains partly covered with snow. I have never visited Kashmir but I could now visualize how it would be.
We reached Jaswantgarh, which has been named after a "Param Vir Chakra" decorated Martyr who laid down his life in the 1962 war. We paid our homage by visiting the war memorial and then resumed our descent towards a small town called Jung.
We had our lunch there and then went to see the Jung Waterfall. Nilutpal, Kenny, Mrinal Doley and myself couldn’t stop ourselves and decided to get a splash bath by the foot of the waterfall..!!
Tawang was around 40 kms away and just as we resumed our journey, it started raining. I was cursing myself to have not brought a rain suit. My DSG Maze jacket with mesh construction is definitely not made for riding in the rain. It was getting dark and therefore we had no choice but to resume the rest of the trip.
It must have taken around 3 hours of riding in the rain to reach Tawang and by the time we checked in our rooms, I was shivering badly as I was nearly drenched. We quickly changed into dry clothes and went to bed real exhausted.
Day 4: (Rest Day at Tawang)
Day 4 was reserved for taking it easy and if possible visiting a couple of places around Tawang. We got to know that Madhuri Lake and P.T. Tso Lake are popular tourist spots around Tawang. By the time we were back on our bikes, we realized that it was a bit late to visit Madhuri lake, therefore we decided to visit the relatively nearby P.T. Tso lake instead. But as luck would have it, Gyan’s Karizma broke down and refused to start. We took it to a local garage to find out that it was due to a loose electrical connection.
Day 4, Highlight:
Couldn’t get around Tawang yet no regrets..!!
After getting Gyan’s bike sorted we decided to have lunch at a local restaurant and then head towards P.T. Tso lake. But it seemed that lady luck was definitely not with us that day as the route to P.T. Tso lake (which is under a military area) was closed to the normal public as there had been a helicopter crash (carrying tourists) at Tawang just as were on our way to the lake.
The rest of the guys decided to call it a day and went back to the resort that we were staying. I along with Mr. Ajit Brahma (the R15 guy and Gyan’s uncle) decided to visit the famous Tawang Monastery.
As we returned back to the resort, I saw that the entire Tawang Town wore a deserted look with all the shops and market place shut. They were mourning for the victims of the helicopter crash which had taken place just a couple of hours back.
We went early to bed quite early that night in preparation of a long day of riding for the next day.
"Tawang Monastery & the Tawang Town.."
"Checking out the locals.."
"..and the local pooches"
"Visit to the Tawang Monastery.."
"Tawang Monastery, the largest outside Tibet.."
"A young monk.."
"He wasn't shooing us away.."
"..just wanted to show us the giant prayer wheels"
Day 5: (Return from Tawang to Bhakukpong - 284 kms)
Till now we all were riding at a lesuirely pace. After we had entered Arunachal Pradesh, were just covering 140 odd kms in about 7 hours of riding in the hills. But on Day 5 we had decided to cover the distance from Tawang to Bhalukpong in a single day. i.e we had to ride for an estimated 14-15 hours in a single day..!!
We started the ride at 5 AM. Luckily there were no rains and we rode as briskly as we could on the hilly roads. Unlike the other days, butt breaks were kept to minimum (except for the pee stops). We had decided that there won’t be any photo sessions either. But I did manage to click a few on our return journey.
After we crossed Sela pass we were somewhat confident that we were making good time. The snow on Sela Pass was thicker on our return journey indicating that there had been fresh snowfall after we had crossed it on day 3. We continued with our descent and managed to reach the unnamed dhaba/restaurant near Bomdila by 12.30 PM. By then we had nearly covered 50% of our return journey. We did lose some time as Mr. Ajit’s R15 suffered a flat rear tyre (he had been riding with a tube as the rim had earlier bent on a pothole impact) just as he was about to reach the scheduled meeting point.
Day 5, Highlight:
The physically draining last 20 kms ride in the slush
As pre decided, we had launch at that unnamed restaurant. After lunch I took a power nap of around 10-15 minutes, which was really rejuvenating. We resumed our trip at 2 PM.
One highlight of the return journey was the ride at a stretch on which the fog becomes so dense that the visibility is just about 10 meters. We must have ridden for an hour in this heavy fog.
"Fresh Snowfall at Sela Pass.."
"Welcome back bad roads.."
"Visibility 10 meters..!!"
The sun had set when we were about 20 kms away from Bhalukpong, it was a moonless night and the roads were illuminated with nothing but the light from our bike’s headlamps. Also the roads were entirely covered with slippery slush thanks to the rains. Riding in the slippery surface with limited visibility of the road ahead was making things very very difficult for us.
Till then I had enjoyed riding over bad terrain but the last 20 kms of Day 5 was physically too much draining. Both my wrists and arms were starting to ache. At one slippery patch my bike went out of balance and I did not have the energy to stabilize it, I just had to let the bike fall gently on the ground along with me as well.
We somehow managed to ride through the last 20 kms of slush and reached our resort at Bhakulpong at around 8 PM, 15 hours after we had started our journey..!! At 9 PM we hit the bed, dead tired.
Day 6: (Return from Bhalukpong to Guwahati - 254 Kms)
Even though we had to cover around 250 Kms from Bhalukpong to Guwahati on the last day, we knew that we would be riding on proper laid out National Highways. Therefore we started the ride for the last stretch of the trip at a leisurely 2 PM.
As expected, the ride back to Guwahati was without any hiccups. We reached Guwahati at 10 PM in the night.
Even though we could not go sightseeing in Tawang (our destination), I realized that "it is the journey that is more important and not the destination".
I had read about this saying before but looking back at the memories of the trip that I will forever cherish, I truly believe in it as well.
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