Thursday, November 26, 2015

Part 13 - Ranchi to Mumbai via Kanyakumari -The Home run!

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After a fabulous stay in Ranchi it was time to move on and frankly speaking the thought of getting home was pretty motivating! But it did involve a few thousand kilometres of riding before we could rest our heads on our own pillows. And so we moved on to Nagpur where we spent a couple of days with Aditya’s  cousin who went that extra mile to ensure we were extremely comfortable. They also ensured that the local press got to know of our travels who then interviewed us in the electronic media and newspapers too.

 The local Royal Enfield motorcycle club too ensured our rides were serviced well for the rest of the ride. Special mention here to Nagpur’s Zero Mile Riders’ Club whose members ensured that our 

bikes were taken care of. Shahnawaz Khan (member of ZMRC) who owns the garage took personal interest in getting our bikes ready. Thank you guys! And a big Thank you to Shezad Doongaji, a local motorcycle enthusiast and entrepreneur who spent most of his waking hours with us, while we were there, to assist us in getting introduced to the local RE club and taking us around.

Then we moved on to Hyderabad where we spent a couple of days taking in the popular sights and the pilgrimage to Paradise café for their famed Biryani.

By the time we reached Puducherry the rains caught up with us and we spent a couple of wet days by 

the seaside.

Kanyakumari beckoned and we rode on to the southernmost point of India which is where we decided to head straight for home rather than going up via the western coast. The main reason was of course we were feeling tired and secondly because the western coast was well explored by both of us a number of times hence did not excite us.

So we turned up our rides nothwards and rode home via Hubli, Satara and Pune.

Our homecoming was a tame one compared to the thunderous send off that we had.

It was just us hugging each other at the completion of our epic ride of 13000kms in 72 days. On the 73rd day we were at Bandra Kurla Complex, from where we had set out, congratulating each other on the splendid time we had!

Hope you too enjoyed reading about our ride as much!!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Part 12 - Paro to Ranchi

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After our brief tryst with Paro we rode on to Thimpu. In Thimpu we stayed in Riverview Hotel that 

is beautifully located as the name suggests and visited 

the largest Buddha statue in the making, 

the Royal Palace and walked around the main street 

visiting the restaurants but after Paro, Thimpu was nothing to write home about.
Soon it was time to leave Bhutan and head towards the Indian coast of Orissa which we did via Phuentosholing, Purnea, Farakka, Bankura, Bhubaneshwar to Puri. The ride was a mix of very bad 

(high density of truck traffic) roads to bad to some very good roads. It was a pure transport section where one’s skill to manoeuvring through traffic was tested. This journey took us five days. 

We visited the famous Sun temple in Konarak on the way from Bhubaneshwar to Puri. I consider that as the highlight of this route for me. In Puri, there was some special puja going on due to which we could not get darshan of the dieties. But the ambiance of the temple pervaded everywhere we went in the city.

While in Puri we got information of the impending HudHud cyclone which would land on the eastern coast. Due to this we had to make a route correction and instead of proceeding down the eastern coastline to Kanyakumari  we headed inland to Ranchi. Why Ranchi? Well because Diwali was fast approaching and what better way to spend the festival than with close friends. Aditya’s schoolmate 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Part 11 - Gangtok to Paro

We had started our journey towards Siliguri on a very pleasant morning. The weather was cool and the roads were good. Perfect for a lovely ride down the mountain.
Everything seemed perfect, actually too perfect. And sure enough my bike just died as we neared the Teesta river bridge. I cruised it on a silent mode to the edge of the road to check what the problem could be. Aditya had gone ahead but I was not worried as I knew that in a short while he would either ride back or stop and call me to know what it was that was keeping me back.
I tried starting but no go. The bike did not show any sign of life or coming back to life. So I called our trusted mechanic Vinod back in Mumbai to ask what the problem could be. He asked me to carry out certain procedures and after listening to the results he declared that it was a fuel pump problem which would have to be replaced.
In the meantime, Aditya called, I apprised him of the situation and within minutes he was with me. He checked the bike for whatever faults that he thought it might have suffered and then decided to go ahead and try to get a mechanic. And he did return with a mechanic who apparently had his workshop under the Teesta river bridge. The mechanic went through the paces of checking and he too arrived at the same decision as my Mumbai mechanic – Fuel pump needs to be replaced. And this being an expensive part would be available only at the Royal Enfield dealer’s outlet in Siliguri which was another 30kms away. Seeing our plight he said that he would organise the van to carry my bike to Siliguri.
We had time till the van was organised, so Aditya called up the Royal Enfield dealer who reluctantly agreed to source the part for us. It sounded a bit dicey. As luck would have it, just a couple of days back a biker friend, Sakshar, had called and given me a couple of contact names and numbers who were prominent members of the ‘Teesta Thumpers’ the Royal Enfield motorcycle club from Siliguri. So I called them up and they put my mind at ease and said they would connect with the dealer and ensure we got the best attention. Thank you Anupam and Saura for responding to our SOS and assisting us move on.
The van arrived, bike loaded and we were on our way to Siliguri and by the time we reached it was early evening. Aditya had gone ahead to ensure immediate action, hence, as soon as we reached my bike was taken in for necessary repairs. After a check up by their seniormost technician it was firmly established that the fuel pump needed replacement. And they got onto the job at hand while four riders of Teesta Thumpers motorcycle club arrived to ensure we and our bikes were attended to!
By late evening both our bikes were ready for the ride ahead to Phuentsholing but as we, as a  rule, did not ride at night, were escorted to the hotel by our rider friends so that we could have a good night’s rest before riding on to Bhutan.
Next afternoon we reached Phuentsholing, the border town of Bhutan, where we had to get our permits for ourselves and our bikes to ride around in Bhutan and this took some time so we stayed over in Phuentsholing for the night with plans to ride to Paro the next day.

The road to Paro was beautiful, winding through the mountains, with fog reducing visibility at places.

 We reached Paro early evening and checked into a beautiful hotel. Everything in Paro is quaintly beautiful. After arranging for a taxi to take us to the base of the ‘Tiger’s nest’ hill, we went for a walk around town.
Paro is a very pretty town with lot of cafes and restaurants. The discipline there among the drivers is amazing. Nobody seems to drive above 50km per hour. Everything is very sedate. Nobody is shouting or fighting. There is a general sense of peace all round. If you do hear some raised voices or laughter you can rest assured it is the tourists. The streets are clean and all pedestrians are on the footpath.
Next morning, surprisingly the taxi arrived a bit late. Somehow I had thought punctuality would be a virtue here but as we found out during our stay there, it is not.
The taxi ambled along, as was the general trend on the roads, to the base of ‘Paro Taktsang’ where he would drop us and then pick us up again once we were back from the visit. ‘Paro Taktsang’ means ‘Tiger’s lair’ and the legend is that Padmasambhava flew in from Tibet on the back of a tigress from Tibet and was responsible for introducing Buddhism to Bhutan.

Now there is a monastery that is built on a cliff 3120 metres above sea level and to visit it one has to climb all the way up there. The path 

to the top is well laid out and though tough there are places to rest with availability of drinking water for both men and horses (used to carry humans and/or cargo). We climbed all the way up, prayed for a successful ride and walked down. The views all along were amazing.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Part 10 - Pokhara to Gangtok

We left Pokhara around 0800hrs and reached Kathmandu around 1400hrs after yet another peaceful ride through the beautiful forested hills of Nepal.
Kathmandu is as busy and crowded as any other Asian city. We stayed in Hotel Vaishali in Thamel 

which seemed like a tourist hub. There were plenty of small cafes, bars and restaurants which vied with each other for attracting customers. There were plenty of cyber cafes too and one did have guys

View from our room in Vaishali Hotel

sidling up to you and asking if you would be interested in dope or women.  
We visited the Pashupatinath temple and again eased our minds and bodies of the rigours of riding. 

After a couple of restful nights in Kathmandu we decided to move on and say goodbye to Nepal which we did after spending one more night in Bardibas, very close to the Indo Nepal border.
From Bardibas we headed straight to Siliguri. The exit was chaotic. We managed to change our balance Nepali rupees into Indian Rupees and were looking out for the police to hand over our vehicle permits. Strangely, nobody was interested and when I asked one officer at the border he just waved us on!
Siliguri was just a transit halt for us and we spent the night at the WBTDC (West Bengal Tourist 

Development Corporation) ‘Mainak’ Lodge. The rooms were spacious but the service was poor.
From Siliguri we rode onwards to Gangtok. Was a beautiful ride through the mountains with the 

pretty Teesta river running alongside us all along.
In Gangtok we booked ourselves in ‘Nettle and Fern’ a cute little Hotel. There is no level road in Gangtok. It is either going up or coming down.
Since we had reached Gangtok in the afternoon we decided to have a quick look around all the must see points by a local taxi whose driver was full of information (another advantage of taking local cabs) and 

took us to a popular waterfall where you could indulge in ziplining and then to Ganesh tok from where you could get a bird’s eyeview of Gangtok.

We spent the evening on MG road one of the most popular traffic free streets in Gangtok where the tourists and locals come to shop and spend time.
We dined on some excellent veg and non veg momos in one of the stalls there and returned  to our room feeling content.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Part 9 - Lumbini to Pokhara

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The ride of 180kms from Lumbini to Pokhara was a very pleasant ride that we completed in a leisurely 8 hours revelling in the atmosphere.
Pokhara is a honeymooners’ paradise apart from being a base for quite a few treks in the Himalayan

region.  It is most famous for Mount Annapurna which is the tenth highest mountain in the world at 8,091 metres. If you are the real adventurous type, you can go for a trek to the Mount Annapurna Base Camp from Pokhara too.

Boating in the Pokhara lake is one of the most serene activities. You can row the boat to the centre 

and meditate sitting amidst the mountains. It is an amazing feeling.

Or take that flight by microlight aircraft to hover around Mount Annapurna and return!

The cuisine in Pokhara is to suit every possible palate and wallet. You have the Continental, Indian,

Italian (with pizzas baked in wood fried ovens) or the native Nepali food. If you wish to taste Nepali 

food visit the restaurants sporting ‘Thakali kitchen’ boards. There is free wifi available in all the restaurants that line the main street so a great place to hang out and chill.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Part 8 - Bardia to Lumbini

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The ride to Lumbini was a soul soothing ride. The road was good and the ride was trouble free. We reached Lumbini late afternoon and were guided to a ‘hotel’  by the traffic police in the centre of town. It was a 2/3 room hotel with bare necessities and included safe parking for our bikes. The owner offered to go get our tickets for the Lumbini park wherein all the temples and the birth place of Buddha lay, to ensure we did not waste time in standing queues to purchase tickets. We utilised the time to freshen up and eat a roti or two made by the owner’s wife and were ready to explore by the time we had the tickets to the Lumbini park. 

To get the local flavour we hired a cycle rickshaw to take us around the huge park with the driver as our guide.
Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, Japan and India have their temples there, each one trying to outdo the other in beauty. We loved whatever we could see as some were closed for the day or renovations. You can admire them in the pictures below.

The Golden pagoda of Myanmar

Thailand temple

International Goutami Nun's Temple

Finally we went to the most important place of all – the birth place of Buddha. Obviously this 

occupied the prime place in the park. The solemnity there was calming.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Part 7 - Entering Nepal

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Tanakpur to Bardia 

The ride to Tanakpur was delightful on winding mountain roads. In Tanakpur we stayed in the 

KMVN resort. It was a comfortable overnighter after which we started our journey to Nepal. Exactly seven months have passed since that day, and the recent tragic event of the devastating earthquake brought back fond memories of that wonderful country tinged with a lot of sadness.
Entry into Nepal was a hassle free affair. At the border after submitting copies of our driving licence, motorcycle registration and insurance papers we were waved through after paying the visa fees.
Our destination for the day was Bardia Tiger Reserve. The distance was not much and the road was 

lovely! The famous Mahendra highway! Though it was just 2 lane the traffic was sparse and the surface wonderful. It was a ride through the dense forest hence the ambiance was very pleasant and no animals nor humans criss crossing the road except when we passed through villages.

The final few kilometres to Bardia Tiger Reserve consisted of a tiny river crossing and some off 

roading on paths which added to the fun of the ride.

We reached just in time to savour a refreshing chai and got ready for the last jungle safari of the day 

in a Toyota pick up van designed for jungle safaris.

We were fortunate to spot deer and more deer but no tiger.
We returned to some delicious meals prepared by the resort staff at their inhouse restaurant and had a long restful night in a very comfortable room.
It had rained in the night and fortunately for us the resort staff had covered our bikes which still had the saddle bags with our luggage on, with tarpaulin that saved our clothes from getting wet.