Tour De Sikkim – When I fell in love with the mountains

Prologue

If you are a biker, traveler, photographer or just about anyone who loves adventure then you should see this space,this is just not a thread it is woven with emotions,feelings,experiences and hardships of 5 Young Men,who set out on an enigmatic Journey on exotic bikes to explore the beauty of Mother Nature and to shut the mouth of thousands who sit in the couches of their Air Conditioned homes and find our land ugly and full of nothing..This trip is the celebration of our success,the freedom,the spirit of adventure and doing something we have never done before..
We request you not to read this in haste as then you wouldn’t get its taste..

This trip was from 14th May to 2010-18th may 2010

This is like we lived 4 decades in 4 days,through the breath taking and the best roads one could have ever driven and…..on smoothest and bumpiest highways…..and meeting the most colorful people….people full of life  to explore a very small part of my beautiful India

The Riders–The Team

Avik Mahato (aka Bhaisaab),Kolkata

An Engineer by profession and a hardcore Indian Biker,he lives his life on Wheels and his Camera Lens.A man of few words and full of expressions.The most experienced,for him age is no bar.

Suryajit Bhattacharjee (Surya),Kolkata

A Software engineer,stuck in 9-9 work cult who wants to desperately break free from this shackle and have his taste of life,a photographer and just like his Physique he is a man with great Spirit

Soumajit Chakraborty (Speed Sam),Kolkata

A Marketing manager,a colourful man with so many traits and emotions so much visible in him.He loves speed and knows how to enjoy life amidst so many odds

Subhajyoti Chakraborty (Joe),Kolkata

An IT analyst,who deals with every small and big aspects of computing and hardware.Fun Loving,always ready for more and knows no limits,for him the world is an open land and made just for you.

Tanmoy Ganguly (Tanny),Siliguri
A Student of Electronics,complete no nonsense guy and a candid photographer.His Photographs speak a lot about him.Loves adventure and loves to explore the unknown.

Saswati Sinha (Swati di),Kolkata
Not an Xkmphian,but sumone worth mentioning.She was with us as a pillion to Avik and went through all the terrains,the high and the low lands.A container full of energy and spirit and our guardian.

Our Rides-Avik(Yamaha FZ 16),Surya(Yamaha FZ 16),Sam(Yamaha FZ S),Joe(Yamaha Fazer 2009),Tanny(Yamaha R15)

Travelogue–The most difficult part for us,the experiences and memories of this trip..We will try to bring our heart out through words that will describe this great trip

No, this is not a million dollar sponsored fun ride to be featured on the celluloid neither a publicity flick for some international brand.This is just doing what we wanted to do,reviving some childhood memories of pictures we saw in the postcards from our grandparents of all commercialized hill stations and how we wished,we could be there one day,to taste the eternal,the reality which is far more beautiful than those postcards..I remember someone in my office saying that we don’t have a better pastime than burning petrol,i wonder what the hell are we all doing in this world??First get educated,notice and get attracted by opposite sex,get a job,get married,have children,change job for more money..get frustated and have headaches in calculating the dividends and returns from our investments and check our bank balances at the end of the financial year and die in peace one day,end of life is it??

For certain group of individuals like us there is one religion,”Bikeism” too,not our bread and butter but definately our food for life,So five of us realized its worth which resulted in this Great Road Trip…

14th May,2010—-D DAY

As planned we met near Technopolis,Saltlake at 4.30..Sam was the first to reach,i joined him shortly,Surya also joined us in no time,we had all come from work so the fatigue lines were pretty much visible on all our faces but the biker inside us screamed Go!Go!Go…got rid off our office apparels and got ourselves decked up like Bikers with all our protective gears on.Avik got slightly late from office so he joined us near Haldirams..We had decided earlier to enroute NH 34 but since NH2 is a pleasure Ride we decided to take NH 2.

We hit the road eventually at 6.15 and pushed the full throttle through the lavish NH 2,the weather suddenly changed gears and got gloomy..We were intially excited coz riding in rain is fun but dangerous as well,it was drizzling until we reached Shaktigarh to hault for “Langchas” for doing muh meetha for the trip.After being briefed by the localites about the route we started sailing on,but we had more problems and turmoil waiting for us ahead on the road.It suddenly started raining recklessly and we were forced to stop at a weigh bridge for almost an hour and half which was like a setback for us.After the rain stopped totally lost and drenched we started once again,but little did we know that the most difficult part of the journey was yet to come. ,although there were no forecasts of cyclone we were hit by one,for almost 5 kms we dragged our bikes on the road  because of strong and gusty wind in the wayward direction it was becoming very difficult to ride.We took shelter in a petrol pump,for a moment all our spirits,energy was thrashed like hay roofs,Siliguri and Sikkim was looking not only distant but almost an impossible task at least in the next 10 hrs.It was already 5 hours we were on the streets and we had not even covered 10% of the entire bulk of distance we had to travel..We waited for another hour and half in the petrol pump as it was quite risky to drive amidst such turmoil.One would probably blame it on our fates as to why did we decide to come on NH 2?when initially planned route was NH 34,and to our amazement we were informed by Swati di that NH 34 was clean.But there was no looking back for us so we decided to move on,drive and cover as much distance as we could,we were updated that the stretch from Panagarh to Moregram is not the safest  to ride at night considering the high occurrences of highway robberies.Our next buttbreak was,Darjeeling More,where we haulted for dinner at a roadside dhaba. After stuffing ourselves with ample amount of tandoor roti,chicken bharta,kaali daal and chai we started off again we decided not to lose link from each other..Our machines had to be refueled on this almost inhuman State Highway and in the middle of the night gave us a real hard time.Every petrol pumps were shut off and declined us fuel until  we reached an Indian Oil outlet where the great actors inside us showed emotion,drama,begging and pleeding for some petrol  in the middle of the night when the clock rung almost 2.Finally after bribing we got our machines refueled and hit the road once again.We had already wasted some valuable hours of the trip and it was no longer looking like a joyride as we were very tired.We desperately  kept driving with heavy eyes and waited for the break of dawn which might instill fresh energy in us…We were on Suri-Moregram express highway and crossed some known and unknown places.We took pit stops many a times to get fresh or clean our helmet visors,at day break we were at Moregram brushing our teeth and had almost conquered a truck(At least Surya did)

Road condition of  NH 34 on this juncture is  quite good and scenic,we pushed full throttle and crossed Murshidabad/Berhampre and had a chai break once again,as we were really sleepy..But happy times didnot last long!The almost non existent roads from here to Malda to Farakka saw us struggling behind trucks with broken axles,some desperate vehicles,matadors parked or overturned on the middle of the road and “exclusive” traffic jams that lasted for Kilometers together.The dust winds whirled up by the  buses struggling to get a grip on horrible lunar crater surfaced  roads only added to our frustation. I thank Almighty that the bikes we took didn’t break down or face any major problems in the middle of the so called `Highway’. Conclusion was we fell way short of our target midday..We still had a long long way to go and road looked like never ending.We reached Farakka.It was becoming almost impossible to ride so we decided to rest in the roadside lodge for atleast a couple of hours..We took bath,had light breakfast and again rolled on,the sun was 90 degress on our head and was in its best form,making us sweat,dehydrate and burn in the scorching heat..We anticipated to reach Siliguri not before dusk..We were kind of desperate to reach Siliguri and our next potential stop was Dalkhola which was still another 150+ kms..So without thinking much we just rode on.Undoubtedly we were quite excited as our destination was nearing by,but failed to express that because of the extreme heat and we  managed to reach Dalkhola by 4.15,Siliguri was just another 100 and a few leagues.

We crossed kishangunj, Islampore , then Bagdogra through a much better 4 lane Highway NH 31,some relaxation for our butts ,also the greenery of the tea gardens on both sides of the road gave some relaxation to our retinas as well..Within no time we reached Siliguri time 6.30 pm,it was an achievement for us considering the tough phase we had been through.The first to meet us here was Tanny and his stalk yellow R15..It was a warm welcome from the man and his machine,within moments we jelled really well and none felt like it was the first time we were meeting each other.

Meeting Suman Bhai

I just couldnot stop myself from keeping a special space for Suman Bhai in this Travelogue,a man with a golden heart.Down to earth,softspoken.Suman bhai if you are reading this,i am not flattering you.He didnot lose his patience and promised us that he would do everything to make this trip unforgettable.As we all know North Bengal and Sikkim is going through some political disturbance due to which it looked almost impossible for us to reach Sikkim the next day.But Suman Bhai and Santanu da promised to guide us through the disturbed areas.Really guys no words can be enough to Thank You,these words are merely what i could have used.We had our dinner and went off to sleep quite early as next day we had a task in hand..

Ride to Sikkim-The best roads ridden

It was a new day,the morning sunlight had filled in lots of energy in us.Tanny was the first to greet us Good Morning,Surya me and Sam we all got ready,shortly we were joined by Santanu Da and Suman Bhai follwed by Avik Bhaisaab and Swati Di.The morning started with full throttle and we were all set to conquer our neighbours,The Mystic Sikkim.. Have a glimpse of this great journey through our eyes and camera lenses,follow the link.

(((( TANNY’s TEXT ))))
Coutesy: Tanmoy Ganguly

Meeting the KOLKATAns

My 6th Semester exams were scheduled to begin on 15th May.It got postponed,& I joined IN. It generally is a very tentative feeling as it was to be my first bike trip, with my first bike, within its running in period.

14th & 15th were the most puzzling days i experienced. These guys I didn’t know really kept me in a huge array of dis concerns when they kept me surprising by their huge delays in time schedule. Every time Joe called me, he surprised me with his present location to that of what i generally anticipated by some calculation.

Finally, on 15th MAY 2010, 18:40, i met these totally psyched out guys riding for 24hours, in a huge dismay and in absolute rage. These were the first XkmpH-ians i was meeting in person. I had this feeling that they will be like “kaku”-s (as i had learnt from their profiles that all of them were workin)..but was taken aback to find these guyz absolutely young at heart and still living their passion of YouthisM). SAM had some outbursts to express, but finally we all settled for a good but uncomfortable meal at Yatri (still,man..i love Yatri ), and the team went off to their much needed rest.

((((16th May, 2010))))

Chalo Let’s go!!

I din’t have a very good sleep the night before. Neither was this night very comfortable. I was too excited to hit the roads. Woke up at 4:30…got ready and waited for the clock to tick 5am. Zoomed off to the hotel at 4:59 [couldn’t wai8 longer]…woke up evry1 (specially SAM)… and we all were ready by 6:30 [we had earlier planned to set out by 5 though].

Soon we were feeling the air past our ears. Re-fueled, checked our air pressures, and hit SEVOKE ROAD. Waz great fun riding behind Suman da’s 2yr old R15. It was as refined as the rider on the wheels.

We were riding well past 110kmph mark…and it felt like a rush of cold blood as we zipped past the beautiful forest of the Mahananda wildlife sanctuary on our  left.

Within a blink, we were at the Coronation Bridge, Sevoke. Built by the British, across the Teesta, this holds a special place in everyone’s heart in North Bengal. One of the most beautiful structures located at a place with the most picturesque surroundings and the ever so aggressive TeestA to add to it. We spent some time at the empty bridge [courtesy the BANDH that was going on in Darjeeling district, we somehow tweaked it]. And the cameras popped out like everyone’s third eye.

But we had to hurry as we were not sure of political conditions ahead of us. There were chances that the BANDH would affect the road at Melli. However, we continued our journey with our fingers crossed. We were soon past Kalijhora and sped our way towards Melli.

In between we had a Tea Stop, which was ever so refreshing as up till then we were still without breakfast. The journey towards Melli continued with utmost zeal and the pace kept quite fast, the roads being very empty due 2 bandh. Riding behind Suman da was again being a great fun.

Now it was the team of Five YammieZ and Sathi di.We continued from Melli towards Gangtok, following the NH31A. As the road ascended through the mountain curves and bends, the beauty kept on becoming wilder. The sense of soothness was now settling into our nerves. The very beautiful route from Melli to Gangtok, via Rangpu would be with us now for some 60kms.

The joy ride had by now burnt all the stress off the shoulders of my fellow bikers and even the strains & sprains they had from the 650kms ride.We finally entered Gangtok at somewhere around 12noon.

CLIMAX AT GANGTOK:

The hotel at Gangtok was previously booked by SAM & AVIK. We were pretty much in a distress for the fact that we would be losing lots of money as we reached late. However,to our amazement, the guy at the hotel had already rented our room as he wasn’t sure. The ball was in our court. There was a heat of enthusiasm and hidden pleasure within ourselves as now we had a chance to push up to Ravangla and stay there for the night (as we all anticipated Ravangla to be a more beautiful place to stay).Things fell in place, and Avik & Sathi di won the battle with the hotel guy and we were to move to Ravangla now.

RAVANGLA Run:
We started for Ravangla at around 1:30pm from Gangtok. We skipped lunch, as Ravangla was 68kms from Gangtok.In the way, we once lost SAM and waited for a long time for him to locate us, but finally discovered that we were on the wrong track and SAM had advanced towards the correct destination.

The road to ravangla was now an absolutely different treat. No traffic, improperly banked roads. Rough bends, high inclines, broken patches of serious off-roading.
However the journey continued. Just around 8kms from Ravangla, it started pouring down heavily. I had been to sikkim numerous times. So I was very well prepared against the rain. Rode in the heavy rain with surya and sam to finally reach Ravangla, where Joe,Avik da & Sathi di,already waiting with tea and peyaji for us in the Mt Narsing Resort.

We all had huge chit-chats and lots of peyaji and loads of food till midnight. The team was now more of friends than of bikers. We all shared ourselves and it was like amidst a pool of people i’ve known for so many days. Avik was instrumental in sharing his college day mischiefs, Joe narrated his awesome tales from his personal life Wink…Surya, was a showstopper when it came to making us laugh with his tell-tales…butt arrgghh….SAM was fast asleep (with a Salamander beneath)…the tiredness had crept onto him…the Rain by now was pretty heavy outside…and it continued whole night…as we retired to our beds (i loved my makeshift Squeaky BED

((((17th May, 2010))))

Kissing the Kanchenjungha!

Again, I woke up at 4:30, there was still a drizzle outside. I had been visitting sikkim for the last three years, but have never missed a Kanchenjungha View. I feared this would be the first time. Generally, in the monsoon period, there is something like a 3 out of 30days chance of seeing a sunrise on the Kanchenjungha. A little dissappointed I stayed back on the bed till 5am. It waz very cold.Wore my wind proof and went out to observe the dusky sky. There was a huge cloud cover and chances of a Kanchenjungha view still seemed distant. But, these typical gut feelings that I have….kept on looking towards the Narsing peaks and suddenly out of nowhere, they were visible… i rushed back to the room and woke up joe & surya (sorry SAM…i failed in waking you up from that cosy posture of yours Tongue)…i couldn’t even change my shorts, neither did i find my shoes,helmets,etc…i just picked up my Camera & My keys and rushed out to reach upper Ravangla. Joe followed, but Surya was a li’l delayed by his daily duties he needs to serve his digestive system Wink. Me n Joe went up to Upper Ravangla and took the road to Damthang as it was climbing upwards towards a ridge from where Kanchenjungha views are expected. I was riding on (almost half naked, and without helmets) at something past 75kph…By now i was having that feeling…i was almost smelling a Kanchenjungha view…and suddenly on my REAR VieW Mirror…it WAZ IT!!!!!… looked back…and it waz the majestic peak in its golden attire….as if just for us…out of nowhere, the clouds cleared out…and we got a magnificent view of Mt.Kanchenjungha for almost an hour (even surya got time to catch up with us). Lots of photos, pictures, memories and thoughts were getting sealed onto our heart.I’ve been into mountaineering & trekking for the last 3 years, and every mountain has inspired me…but kanchendzongha has been speciaL…ALWAYS!!

After a while, even Mt.Pandim exposed itself to our Lenses…We kept on admiring the beauty of nature and the beauty of our YammieZ…Me, Joe, n Surya….that also reads: R15, Fazer, FZ…the three YammY brothers…We took lots of pic of our bikes and finally got back to our resort by sneaking through the traffic police’s vision (as we weren’t having Helmets, Sorry Guys, we were in “overwhelmed biker mode”…)

Ghore ferar gaan…!!

The inhuman call of the earthly formalities,the educational burden of exams,the professional chain of agony and all other earthly miseries were to curse now.It was time for us to return back home singing the….ghore ferar gaan!

ami gai…ghore ferar gaan
utola keno e praan
sudhu je dake…fire amake
bidesh bibhure pore achi, tobu chare na
keno charena pichhu taan……

(excerpts from Mohiner Ghoraguli)

the nostalgia kicked in_the the road back to Siliguri from Ravangla complimented our emotions, matching every heart beat at the perfect harmony.The first stretch of road from Ravangla to Namchi via Damthang is an awe inspiring road across the ridgeline with amazing tree line covering both sides of the road.Fast bends & smooth curves are the best features of this route.

En-route namchi (2km before Namchi), there is a very steep diversion to the 135ft-Guru Sampdruptse(Guru Rinpochhe) statue. We took the detour to visit the magnificent architecture.The road was neverthless very challenging,but I had this guilty fun of overtaking the others… ..(sorry guyz)_
the statue added an amazing value to the cultural heritage of Sikkim, and it showed from the way it was maintained.

From there we continued towards Namchi. At Namchi Petrol Pump we found this crazy Karizma guy who took us to his college to meet his bikers’ group. And gosh…where did the road suddenly dissappear.It waz only gravel and huge stones through which we had to ride for some 3-4kms to reach the college, only to find that the group had already left.It was a bit of an awkward situation for all of us, and then we just decided to flee from this whole situation. We feared we might take some punctures from this tremendous off-Roading. Luckily, we were through.

The Chapter from Namchi to Melli was another treat, as we went through the Kitam Bird Sanctuary, which was another sensational place of Sikkim, which was needless to say, “AWESOME”…

The Rest of the Return remained uneventful as Avik da and Sathi di advanced as Sathi di had a bus to board. Apart from  that the rest of us, got detained by the Sikkim Police & Army at the border for crossing  the gate multiple times without stopping at the checkpost. But seeing that we were all basically passionate looking guys on a trip…they didn’t harass us. After lunch at Melli Bazaar we set sail for Siliguri.We all got separated as everyone preferred to ride their last ride on the Hills at their own feel of melancholy.I reached Coronation bridge at 5:50pm (we had started from Namchi at 12:45pm). Joe Came in after around 25mins. and Sam and Surya follwed soon after. Now we were back to the plains, we all rode together back to Siliguri for the last 22kms and ended up at my apartment at around 7:10pm…

MY FIRST BikE trip to Sikkim had ended!!
what followed after this is another STORY…and i’m sure we’de all want 2 forget!

Some FACTs:
>> Distance Covered [siliguri to siliguri]         : 333kms
>> Fuel Price at Sikkim                             : Rs 47.67 (2010)
>> Mileage attained by my R15                       : 38+
>> Top Speed attained                                    : 121 kph
>> Total Ride Time                                            : 13:30+ hrs