Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Horse With No Name

I’ve been unable to put down my experiences because of some changes. Finally I had some time to write down but when I started I couldn’t write a word! I thought about the reason, but no answer. This afternoon, when my friend Pinaki and I had gone to a restaurant for lunch, they were playing a song called ‘A horse with no name’ from the band America. While listening to that song, I felt there is a relation between what I wanted to tell y’all and the song. Assuming that you’ve an idea about my crazy, random thoughts, I shall try to write it down.

Have you ever felt how good it feels, when you’re thousands of miles away from home and on your own? Have you felt the freedom you have? I keep thinking many a times, why do I ride? Riding is not as rosy as we all think. When you have all those heavy riding gears on you, the sweat, greased palms, smoke n dust in your face, it takes entirely different dimension of thought process to be one among the surroundings. But, beyond all that, no matter what, there’s something about motorcycling which nothing else can substitute – ‘Freedom’. You might ask me, ‘Enough of bragging, tell me what’s freedom?’ I don’t have an answer in one sentence, ‘Ride with us to know it’ may be. Now, let me tell you, how I sense my freedom.

In our everyday life, we have many roles to play, son or daughter, an irresponsible friend, mug-faced colleague. These are all what others think of you. But what’s the picture you have about yourself. If you know it, in my opinion that’s freedom. That picture of you, where you don’t need a name for you, you don’t care about what you’re, how you’re.

Till the time we left Phuentsoling, I was restless, I wasn’t happy till the time we reached Phuentsoling. Jo might have observed this in me. But I knew why I was so, because I wanted to free myself, it’s been a long time, I had felt freedom. I couldn’t wait anymore to let the horse run free J

After we left Phuentsoling, we climbed mountains to reach higher (Paro), I slowly started to leave behind the ‘me’ in me. I let myself sink in the surroundings, I lifted the helmet’s visor to feel the cool air, can I close my eyes for few seconds? :P We rode for few hours, riding amidst tall coniferous trees, with the sunlight playing hide n seek., passing through small quiet villages is definitely an ‘experience ‘ man! If I was god, I’d have tied all humans with motorcycles and placed towns too far apart with beautiful nature in between.

We passed through one beautiful village, it was so beautiful that, we stopped for lunch before time. Few women were running shops on the roadside, their talks, chuckles added to the beauty of the village, we went inside a restaurant, we couldn’t believe our eyes, from the windows of the restaurants we could see snow capped mountains far away with a flower filled valley between the restaurant and the mountains. We spent few hours there, talking to owner couple, playing with their kid and messing around with an old lady there.

After that break, it was all about ‘free horses’ again. There were bad patches often but it was fun to do off-roading. I’m failing to give y’all a picture of those places. I began to think what all I’d missed in these two and a half years, such a waste! I look at the valley often and dive into thinking, what was I thinking all these days? If I wanted I could have done this expedition whenever I wanted, what stopped me? No point in thinking now.

It started to become dark because of clouds, we saw one more beautiful village. A beautiful village, it overlooks a valley and a huge mountain on the other side, we had reached that village at the right time, slant sun rays piercing through the cloud were kissing the golden leaves of the trees. The village had a bench to sit and enjoy the view, we did just that! Some curious kids gathered around us, we took their pictures, made them happy and left the village. This is what you’re gifted with when you are on an expedition, you give happy moments to people you meet, they don’t care about your name, they don’t care about the place you’re from, what matters is what you become with them.

After few hours of more riding, we got closer to Paro, sun was setting, in the twilight Paro looked Gorgeous from distance. We rode into the town slowly enjoying the view. A river flows through Paro town, trees alongside the river, benches beneath them. People sitting on them, enjoying peaceful moments, horses grazing, wooden bridge on the river lit up mildly in creamy light. A lit up Dzong somewhere in the mountain. How I wish I could have taken a panoramic picture of it!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A story

Today, I ain’t gonna tell about the fourth day but a small story, a day dream I had may be. A dream had when I was in ‘different world’. I’m lying on my bed, thinking of few things which are bothering me, but suddenly my mind starts thinking about a rocky mountain in Bhutan, huge one, so huge that it’s masking the sun. I’m walking on the road on that mountain. People start coming in two lines on either side of the road. I closely see to find out who they’re. They’re the friends I made, people I saw in Bhutan. Kids, Old people, monks, young men and women, everyone! They all are looking at me, smiling at me. I’m puzzled and try to understand what’s the meaning of their smile? On looking at them again, I understand they’re calling me, they’re calling me to their land. They say in their language, ‘This is the place you were looking for all your life, it’s here, come join us’! I turn to them, think for a while and turn back. Up ahead, I see my near and dear ones. I stop walking, I’m shocked to see them there. Then my mind tells me, there’s your family, there’s your friends, you belong there, go there. I tell my mind to keep firm, slow steps and walk towards them. I start walking again.

Behind me, all those people are gathering together, making a huge mass of people. One guy who looks like a leader suddenly starts growing taller, so tall that I can see him clearly between all those people. He starts saying something in his language but I’m understanding what he’s saying. He says. ‘This is the place you looked all around, it’s here now, come to us! I just can’t make my mind and I can’t handle it anymore, I cry for help. I begged and begged for help, I ask some faces I see from both sides, whomever I ask, when they start giving me suggestions, I can hear their understanding of my situation than the actual help I needed. How can I tell what I feel? How can I make them see, what I see? Which way should I take? Where do I go?

Can I be lost soul and be happy?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Crossing the border and the first feel of the Shangri La!

This morning, we somehow had to figure out the way to Phuentsoling from Bongaigaon. We asked our room boy Krishna, he had little idea but it wasn’t of much help. We called Sen’or and got the list of all the places we have to go through, Sen’or later told us that we just have to ride on NH 31 till Hasimara (West Bengal) and then take a right deviation to Bhutan. That made things easier.

We didn’t have much money, we looked all around Bongaigaon for one ATM which can dispense some money, but found none working (no exaggeration!). We carried on from Bongaigaon, since we knew we can draw money from some town in West Bengal. We decided not to stop until we cross the border of Assam.

After few hours, we crossed the border and we stopped at a small town called Barobisha in West Bengal. We rode into the town to withdraw money. While Jo went to draw money I was waiting by the side of the road. A man comes to me and then asks me ‘Have you come on touring?’ I said ‘Yes’. Then he asked few routine questions which every amused person asks a motorcyclist. His name was Dhiman Roy, After some time Dhiman said, he has the passion to ride too and he wants to ride all across India, by that time Jo joined us and he said ‘one day it’ll happen’. You should have seen the smile on the Dhiman’s face J

By then, we were very hungry. We said bye to Dhiman and went inside a small Hut-hotel nearby. Jo and I are always keen to try out local food, but we don’t speak Bengali! So, I went out and called Dhiman again, he came in and asked the lady at the hotel to serve us rice, dal, local chicken curry, some salad made of leaves called ‘Saakh’. It was very tasty. After the lunch we took pictures with Dhiman Roy and his cousin few helped us in shortening the travel by few kms and left Barobisha.

From Barobisha, Phuentsoling is about one and a half hours ride. We reached Hasimara, where we have to take right turn to go to Phuentsoling. Hasimara is an army town, you find people from all over the country there. Army towns have their own charm, we passed through Hasimara. After crossing Hasimara, roads enter into tea estates. Unlike other tea estates, these are flat. When you pass through these estates sometimes you’ll get to smell strong fragrance of tea in the air. When we were passing through these estates it suddenly became cloudy and dark with slight showers. For the past two days we were riding in the heat and the rain was a welcome gift to us J. Fresh tea fragrance, cool air and slight rains energized us which resulted in twisting the throttles :D For the next half an hour or so the ride was just awesome. We were enjoying the so much that we forgot to take pictures of the beautiful view we had around us, but I managed to find a video clip in youtube which shows what we experienced there. Link is here

We have to cross Buxa tiger reserve to go to Phuentsoling. It was a nice ride through the tiger reserve too. We didn’t get to see no tigers though L While riding in the tiger reserve we got the first look of the mountains! I Showed the mountains to Jo, excitement again, throttle twisting again J That resulted in horn clamp coming off from Jo’s motorcycle. Jo fixed it temperorily and we got it fixed in a garage nearby.

After about an hour’s ride we entered Jaigaon. Jaigaon is Indian side of the twin city, Bhutanese side is called Phuentsoling. It started raining heavily as we entered Jaigaon. We withdrew more money and crossed the border. As we entered Puentsoling, we could feel the difference immediately. Just few hundred meters before, we rode through bad roads, slush. But this side of the town is neat, traditional, Buddhist style buildings people in traditional attire (Gho for men, Kira for women), smiley faces. That was a good start for our Bhutanese expedition.

We pulled over to curb and parked. Next thing to do is to get permits to travel in Bhutan( Paro and Thimphu only from Phuentsoling). I went to the immigration office and there was a long queue and the time was already 3:45. So, we decided to stay in Phuentsoling, get permits in the 24-hour counter later in the evening and start early in the morning tomorrow. But Jo had a smart plan, he suggested to get the RSTA permits for the vehicles first and then get permits for ourselves J. We went to RSTA office, RSTA office is in a beautiful location. As we entered the office, people in Bhutanese offices are always smiling and helpful. They helped us in fillinf the forms and all the procedures and we had our vehicle permits in about 20 mins!

We checked into a hotel, freshened up and stepped out in the evening. Bhutanese people are very friendly. Cops and parking attendants are always ready to help people, few times in Bhutan we had to ask cops about hotels to stay, every time they used to come with us and enquire in each hotel until we got a room. A very kind gesture from them.

Parking attendants are mostly young women in traditional attire. They are always smiling and talk to you in a friendly manner. We made friends with one of the attendants there and she told us where to park in the night and not to worry about thefts or anything of that sort as long as we are in Bhutan :)

We visited a park nearby and took some pictures; we’d already begun to get a hang of Bhutanese lifestyle, a relaxed and a happy way of leading life. People sit in parks quietly and enjoy cool breeze, you can hear Buddhist prayer wheels rolling, bells ringing often which adds to the calmness. We spent some time there. Luckily for us we could get signals from Indian mobile service providers since the park was in an elevated place. We called our near and dear ones and headed to a nice restaurant nearby our experiments with Bhutanese cuisine begin from there :)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bhutan ride - Day 1 & 2

Day 1 (2nd April 2011)

4:30 in the morning, we are traveling to airport fly to Guwahati. I'm imagining how Bhutan is going to be? How thrilling rides in that country are going to be? Etc. Jo is trying to talk to me I simply respond 'hmm, hmm'. Jo in his typical voice says, 'Arre... you're dead man!' I don't have words to tell him what I'm thinking :)

We reached Guwahati. Bad news! It’s a Bandh today. That means we can only get our motorcycles tomorrow. Too bad :(. We checked into a hotel and lazed around. In the evening, I stepped out to get a feel of the town. People are not friendly; they don't talk to you looking in the eye. Not a good feeling. We had dinner at the hotel room itself and slept.

Day 2 (3rd April 2011)

we reached the warehouse, got our motorcycles. My motorcycle had some minor damages - handle bar was bent and some one had played with the carburetor. We fixed 'em.

12 PM

We saddled our motorcycles and headed towards Siliguri. In Assam it’s very difficult to find routes as there are no signboards and people are unaware of the name of the next places! After asking so many people finally we got onto the road to Siliguri. Bad stretches all along, ride was not enjoyable. But there were some interesting things, Short goats in Assam. They've short legs and fat body, they looked funny :) and every home has a pond in the front yard, they looked beautiful.

In the evening we had a good ride. Jo and I had done rides in dark together earlier too, one such ride was from Kodaikanal to Bangalore during Silverbullets' 5th anniversary ride, amazing ride it was. Today too it was enjoyable, we had to ride through tribal villages, and we could hear villagers singing and playing drums.

Riding in the night is different experience. In the night you’re separated from the surroundings by darkness. That lets you imagine the place the way you want it to be. Headlights piercing the darkness add a tinge of mystery too :)

We stopped at an army camp to ask about the routes. The army men were very helpful, they told us the route, but warned us not to ride in the night and not to talk to anyone other than army men and police. They said, if you talk to strangers they might slit your throat and steal the money! They suggested to stay at Bongaigaon (20 km away from that army camp) as Phuentsoling is too far to cover in the night. Only then we realized that we'd lost our way! We stayed at Bongaigaon that night.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

One more day to go

After a long wait of about 4 years, we're starting our ride to Bhutan from tomorrow. I'm hoping this ride will be full of adventure, fun and memorable experiences. Last evening, when Jo and I were discussing about the ride, he told me - 'In Arunachal Pradesh, there are some tribes who are head hunters, do you wanna go see 'em?' I asked him, why? He said, j'ust to see if we can come back with our heads in their places' :D. If we have time to explore Arunachal Pradesh we will do that too. We haven't really planned anything in detail for this ride, we only have a map of Bhutan and some information given by Sen'or and Prashy.

A few words about Sen'or. Sen'or is always influential for all my rides. I have learnt many things from him. Motorcycling skills, mechanical knowledge and he is influential in my developing a taste for Blues and old school rock too. When I was contemplating about Himalayan ride, he had told me this - 'Expedition in Himalayas will change the way one sees life'. I could relate to some extent whatever he said, but only after that expedition, I realized what he really meant.

Tomorrow morning we are reaching Guwahati. After getting our motorcycles from the transporter's warehouse, we plan to explore places around Guwahati. Sunday morning we start towards Phuentsoling, a border town in Bhutan. That's the only plan we have for now.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Motorcycles shipped

Monday (28th April) we shipped our motorcycles to Guwahati in train. Our mechanic 'Kargil Pasha' managed to get packing material for us, so we could pack our motorcycles properly. Packing motorcycles was fun :)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A ride long due (and a badly needed one)

It's been more than 2 years since I went on a ride. I had planned for a ride to Bhutan somewhere in August 2007, and it didn't happen for some reasons.
When we started planning this ride, Sen'or, GK and I were part of it. Things changed afterward, GK moved US and Sen'or got busy with work and family. After that, Jobin, Parvez and I planned during December 2010 but again nothing materialized.

Recently, Jobin moved back to Bangalore and things fell in place :). Now, we are almost set for the ride. We're starting on 2nd April.

I'm eagerly looking forward to do this ride. This Blog space will be the place where I'll share my thoughts and experiences before, during and after the ride. Hope y'all find it enjoyable, useful as much as I do.