The Sikkim Ride Odyssey Once a year go someplace you’ve never been before – Dalai Lama. Ever since the Nepal Ride the wanderlust feeling has grown within ourselves big-time but life is not the way as we think and plan for it. Life went on and the shift towards the Middle-east was a complete change of things personally but soon things started to come in our favor with a job change and yes I had that feeling of doing something again. Reached back home by the first week of September and the same day I started to research about a K2K ride and spoke about the same to Kumar sir and within a day he did send me a detailed ride plan for the same, but some urgent engagements and personal commitments caught up and we were running late on the plan, by the time we got ready for the ride the climate and situation up there had become unfavorable and so I started my research again and ended up in Bhutan and one day I spoke to Kumar sir for a long time and fixed up a tentative plan of doing Sikkim and then to do Bhutan as per the time and situation available. The preparations – Getting on the saddle after a gap of 7 months for both us gave an altogether different feeling, I wanted to know how the bike and the physique work together, so we did a Kollam – Calicut-Kollam ride and came back with a lot of data. The bike needed to be thoroughly serviced, and it needed a rear tyre replacement along with a Luggage carrier. We had body pain and with that we realized that a seat adjustment was necessary. The Headlight needed to be modified for better night vision. The bike was serviced very well and the headlight was modified to suit our requirement by my friend Mr.Dilip Chandrashekar (Devile) and the whole seat was replaced with a new one and some cushion works done and I got the Ladakh carrier just in time and the bike was all set and ready to go. We decided to start our ride by 9th of October and so did we start- Day -1- (09/10/2015) The bags were packed, all set and ready to go and then Mother Nature started to bless our ride with torrential downpour and somehow I took the bikes key from my Mother and said bye to rather unhappy and angry father. We started from our home at 8.15am and rode through Kottarakkara- Thenmala-Tenkasi – route. It had rained all the way till we entered Tamil Nadu and after that it was sun shine all the way. It took us some time to adjust to the touring mode and once we entered the NH-7, the mode kicked in and YES we started to feel it. Madurai – Dindigul- Salem passed by and we decided to end the day at Krishnagiri. Route Done – Kollam – Tenkasi – Madurai – Salem – Krishnagiri. Hotel – RKV Residency, near new Bus stand, Krishnagiri. (Rs.1000/-) Day -2- (10/10/2015) The day started with a heavy breakfast and we had to do some adjustment to the Carrier as it was giving severe pain to Finu’s legs, finally did some old school tricks and started at around 1.00pm from Krishnagiri. We have virtually lost half a day and as per the itinerary we had to reach Ongole for the day which seemed quite out of reach. In the mean time I had a talk with Chief and he advised to take the Vellore-Tirupati route and we followed that. We rode hard and decided to stop only for fuel breaks and soon we entered Andhrapradesh and crossed Tirupati and Mother Nature again blessed us with very heavy rains. We decided to stop once the rains got torrential and we had a very bad lunch from a hotel. (The non-availability of quality restaurants has to be kept in mind in this stretch) We slowly moved through the rains and decided to stretch the ride further more to make up the lost time and we reached Ongole by 9.00pm and entered the town. We managed to get a room in the town and got good food from Ismail Biriyani which is a famous chain restaurant. (It was written so).It was too humid and I couldn’t sleep well. Route done – Krishnagiri – Vellore-Tirupati- Nellore-Ongole. Hotel – Sreekanya Lodge, Trunk road, Ongole (Rs.1000/-) Day -3- (11/10/2015) We had to start early in-order to stay with the plan and we did start by 7.00am.While we were busy packing there was a crowd which had gathered in the nearby tea stall who were staring at us and chit chatting about us, may the KL registration got their attention. We started riding and the Sun was smiling too much on us and I was feeling dizzy, and just at the right time I spotted a bus stop and I decided to stop there for a short break. Well the break became long when I slept off for 2 hours and when I finally woke up I saw some villagers watching over us and chit chatting with finu in some language which I’m not sure off. We rode into the evening and it was a Sunday so we decided to stop at Vizag for the day. It took some time to find out a hotel and we found out an Apartment Hotel and we had a heavy dinner from a Good restaurant nearby. Route done – Ongole – Guntur – Rajahmundry –Vizag. Hotel – Sea City Grand, Shivajipalem, Vizag. (Rs.1200/-) Day -4- (12/10/2015) We started early around 6.45am and was doing a slow ride as per the speedo reading, we were continuously doing 60kmpr and still overtaking small cars which made up suspicions and soon I noticed that the speedo was dying, 50-40-35kmpr, so it was clear that the speedo is dead, not bothering much about it we proceeded and entered Srikakulam town for breakfast and fuel. We proceeded from there and riding comfortably through the sun and by 3.00 we both were exhausted and took a turn into Brahmapur town for a short nap. We found a good vegetarian restaurant and spend an hour there and had nice veg. food. Then we hit the road and crossed Bhubaneshwar hoping we will get good accommodation by the highway in Cuttack, but Cuttack disappointed us big time and we had to venture deep into the town through the heavy temple processions and rush and finally found good hotel with parking. We took much needed rest and took some good food and had a good sleep. Route done – Vishakhapattanam – Srikakulam – Brahmapur – Bhubhaneshwar – Cuttack Hotel – Neeladri, Mangalabag, Cuttack. (Rs.1400) Day -5- (13/10/2015) We had a late start and the bike was showing signs of distress and by then the odometer was showing 10kmpr. The ride was not smooth and in the wink of an eye I saw Royal Enfield written somewhere and I stopped and went back and I was more than happy to see a new showroom. I went and enquired about service and they were more than happy to assist. I had plans for a speedo cable change but finally ended up doing a regular service with engine oil change. The speedo set was gone and got it replaced. By 4.00pm we got the bike back and everyone came to bid us a farewell from there. Started the bike from there and did 203kms nonstop (a personal best). It was dark and we needed to stop for the day but the unavailability of rooms made us wander. By then there was heavy winds and the bike was continuously taken off from road due to strong cross winds, I knew it’s going to rain heavily and by God’s grace we found station and went in. within the next 5 minutes it started to rain heavily and the power went off and the petrol bunk was a very small one and did not have a big roof, the rain and winds were so heavy that I stood behind the fueling machine and I had to hold finu tight to me because she alone couldn’t stand the winds. To add to that thunder and lightning came in and the scene was Contra. Finally after 2 hours things settled and badly needed to end to the day and finally we got a room in a lonely place along the highway near Durgapur. We checked in and had a deep sleep. Route Done – Cuttack – Balasore – Kolkota – Burduwan – Durgapur. Hotel – Malmsey Resorts & Hotel Pvt.Ltd (Rs.1200/-) Day – 6- (14/10/2015) After a rather eventful day we started late and by this time we were running short of our ride plan, however planning to make up the deficit we were doing best and slowly we crossed Asanol and went into the country roads towards Jamtar – Dumka, Slowly the ride became an exclusive rural ride and we were enjoying the village ride and it was scenic. Hoping to make it to Siliguri for the night we were doing it hard, and after Dumka the roads started to become bad at some stretches, and I was riding cautiously. BHAGALPUR – THE NIGHTMARE – The ride became hard when villagers were blocking the roads at multiple places with sticks and stones and there was kilometers long truck traffic, somehow I managed it and was managing the even harder road conditions hoping that soon it will be good roads. But the good roads NEVER CAME. Carefully I was riding through the pot-holes and soon it became moon land, there was no roads and huge craters as if some asteroid strike happened, a tata nano going ahead of us was suddenly lost from my vicinity and after few seconds it came out of a huge crater, then inbetween there was tarmac and I throttled hoping the roads got better, it within seconds I hit a very deep pothole and somehow without falling I stopped and found out a broken spoke with a bend in the rim, and the Ladakh carrier was broken at a vital point, I knew we will not make it to Silguri that day but unsure how far we can go with the damaged bike? It started to rain and I stopped at a local welding shop and got the carrier welded but by then the shape of the carrier was gone, now the bike was zigzagging and somehow kept on riding without falling down and finu had to get down at 2 places because the bike wasn’t going up at all. Finally around 7.30pm we reached the outskirts of Bhagalpur and decided to end the day there, we rode to the city and within minutes I got mad along with the people riding/driving there, it was chaos at the Railway over bridge leading to the town with some procession along with crazy people, cows,buffaloes, rotten vegetable and flowers and it was the craziest place that I have ever been to, finally we found a hotel and checked –in. it took us some 5.5hrs to cover 65 odd kilometers of the Bhagalpur stretch. We had a good dinner and went to sleep. Route done- Durgapur- Asanol- Jamtar-Dumka-Bhagalpur. Hotel-M.S Hotel Pvt.Ltd, Near Railway station, Bhagalpur. (Rs.1420/-) Day -7- (15/10/2015) After the Bhagalpur Nightmare we decided to reach up to Gangtok by the day end, but Biju Jose sir from HVK helped us with a contact in Purnea to get the Bike repaired. I got in touch with Mr.Sheel Priye from HVK and he guided us to a workshop to get our Bike repaired. We met him along with another HVKian Mr.Suman Saurabh who took us for Breakfast and we had a good rest at Mr.Sheels office. Within sometime the bike was ready and set to roll, we bid adieu to them and dashed off with the hunger for hills. At around 4.00pm we reached Siliguri and we went ahead towards Teesta where we had a break and it was dark by then. We went up the Hills at night and we crossed the Landslide sections very carefully. Soon we reached the Sikkim Border and called up Mr.Pranay Gautam (HVKian) who told us to reach Gangtok and we reached Gangtok by 8.30pm and met Mr.Pranay. We went to a nearby hotel, and we were so happy that we reached Gangtok as per the plans and we decided to plan the next day off and Mr.Pranay informed that it’s the day to attain Permits for North and East Sikkim. Route Done – Bhagalpur-Purnea-Siliguri-Gangtok. Day -8- (16/10/2015) After a late morning breakfast we walked to Manan Bhawan, where the Permits for Bikers are issued, we went there along with Mr.Pranay and took 3 sets of RC/PUC/Insurance and ID card and we filled a form stating the places we intend to go and other personal details, finally by 2.30pm we got the Permits in hand, 5 set of Permits Including an Applicant Copy. (The detailed procedure will be mentioned at the end). After that we walked to M.G Marg which is a landmark area in Gangtok, did some shopping and went to Gangtok ropeway. It was the first time that we were going in a rope way and I must say that Gangtok Ropeway is a must do thing once you are here. The cost is Rs.80/- per head for a two way ride. On a clear day we can see the snowcapped mountains while enjoying the ride. We went back to M.G.Marg and had dinner from Khans Restaurant and it was very good. The weather became chilly by 4.00pm and we went back to the room to take some serious rest as we knew the real ride starts from the next day. In the meanwhile Mr.Pranay had introduced Mr.Anup who will assist us in the coming days as Mr.Pranay will be driving to Bhutan for his vacation. The adrenaline didn’t let me sleep much. Day -9- (17/10/2015) It was around 7.00am and we were all set for the ride and we went to the Tourist Information Centre located in the Ground floor of M.G. Marg, we met Mr.Anup and we went to the Police counter where permits are issued, we took police permit for North Sikkim for 7 days including East Sikkim. Around 10.00am we left for North Sikkim, by then my clutch cable play was very loose and I knew it would go f soon, so I found a work shop who fixed us with the new cable which we were carrying, the cable was just hanging on one string, luckily we had a spare. So by 10.30 we started riding towards Lachen which was 128kms away from Gangtok. I was expecting some off roading but slowly roads were not to be seen for Kilometers. Landslides started coming enroute and we were doing the stretch carefully. When we took a turn a Rider riding a Bullet was coming in our opposite side, he looked at our number plate and waved hands to stop, so I stopped wondering who this is? The gentleman came walking towards us with a smile face, introduced himself as Deepen/Deependra, and in 2 minutes of the talk we had he shared very vital information’s for the route ahead, he just took out a puncture repair rubber from his bag and gave to us and said it will become handy in case you have a flat tyre. We took his number and said bye until we meet, we said to each other about the Respect given and taken to each other while being on the saddle in always very special. We were riding through broken roads/Landslides/water crossings all the way and we reached Mangan, and filled up our bike because this is the last Petrol Bunk in the entire North Sikkim stretch, (Information given by Mr.Deepen). It got dark very early and the temperature became very chilly and we reached Chungthang where we met a group of Bikers from Assam. Then we slowly rode through the roads with Army camps on either sides and at one particular water crossing the bike stalled in the middle and I had no other option other than to put down my leg in the freezing water, I asked my pillion to get out of the bike because the bike will move forward only after that, but she refused, wait, did she just say I CANT?? She refused to get on the water and as each second passed by hyperthermia was setting in and the water flow was heavy, somehow I shouted and made her walk out of it and got out of it and stopped the bike and removed the shoes and somehow put it back. Finally around 6.30pm we reached Lachen and the temperature was freezing, we checked in a cozy hotel room and bought a gold color Gumboot and settled in for the night, we had to wake up by 4.00am and start riding towards Gurudongmar Lake by 4.30am. Route Done – Gangtok – Mangan – Chungthang-Lachen. Hotel- Holiday Inn- Rs.1000 per head (Not the original Holiday Inn) Day -10- (18/10/2015) We woke up at 4.00 am and the temperature was in single digit, so finu tried layer clothing style and I went ahead with regular riding jacket and gloves along with Gumboot. We started by 4.40am and started riding, after 10kilometres the temperature became unbearable and I couldn’t feel my fingers, roads are non-existent with landslides/water crossings and very difficult HP bends, at some places finu had to get down because the bike wouldn’t go up, we were riding through isolated roads but the Army Camps in-between gave a sort of safe feeling within, the stray dogs kept running towards us and fortunately none of them bite us, and slowly we started seeing the first rays of the sun touching the snow covered peaks and boy that got us going, finally we reached the last town called Thangu which is at 13500ft above MSL. By then my fingers were numb and legs started to shiver, however we went to the small hotel and sat beside the fire and ordered Maggi noodles and coffee. It was a great relief sitting beside the fire and after taking a much needed break we proceeded from there towards Gurudongmar. After some Kilometres we came to the last Army check-post, submitted the original applicant copy of the permit and entered the bike details there. The Army Officers asked me whether I am fine and also about the pillion, I said yes, but actually I was feeling dizzy and had continuous running nose, but finu was fine and that kept me going. On enquiry the Army Officers said that the Lake is around 12Kms from there, we started and soon we got newly laid tarmac and I opened up the throttle, snow covered peaks were all around us, I remember finu saying that it’s looking like huge “White forest Pastry cakes”. I did around 19 kms instead of the 12kms said by Army Officers, still no signs of the Lake. Finally one Army vehicle asked us to stop and a Captain came and asked me where are we going? I replied sir- Gurudongmar Lake, he looked at the number plate and smiled and said to me that we are 350metres away from Chinese Checkpost. He asked for our Permit and after checking he asked me to look to the right and said there is Cho-Lhamu, the Origin of River Teesta, and said that we are at almost 17500Metres above Sea Level, he guided us to go back a few kilometers and then you will see the Signage for the Lake, Thanking him we rode back and found the entry to the lake, there were track through small hills which leads to the lake, we started going up the steep hill and the bike died, it was not going up, so somehow without falling I parked the bike there, and started walking. By then I was in some mental state and finu was finding it hard to breathe, within few steps each step became a struggle, but then something called determination set in our heads and we walked. (We were doing a very big mistake). Finally we were nearing the red colored temple and slowly the Lake came into our vicinity amidst the Snowcapped mountains, but we almost collapsed to the ground and sat there,2 Army men came running towards us and helped us to stand up and asked whether we are alright? When I removed my helmet there was snow settled in my moustache and sweating like anything, they ordered us to get back to the Army check post to get Medical attention. Determined to reach the checkpost we rode back, we just reached the Checkpost and went inside Café-16, a coffee shop run by Army, they asked me whether I need oxygen, I waited for the body to relax near the fire place. We kept on drinking coffee and eating spicy Momos. After 3 hours I was feeling comfortable and we started from there and started our ride back. Remembering the words of Kumar sir about the only aid to get rid of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) is get to lower grounds ASAP. We reached Thangu and took a break and rode back towards Lachen. We reached Lachen by 5.45pm, we were too tired so that we left Yumthang from our plan and stayed at Lachen for another night. Route done – Lachen - Thangu - Lake Gurudongmar – Lachen. Hotel –Holiday Inn- Rs.1000 per head (Not the real Holiday Inn) Day -11-(19/10/2015) Early in the morning I checked the bike, it has done its part by taking us up and down the harsh Himalayan Terrain safely, by then the front fork oil seal and chain sprocket was gone and almost everything in the bike was loose and the Ladakh Carrier was broken again at multiple places. So I called up Mr.Deepen to help to get the bike serviced and he happily did the arrangements and we rode back and reached Mangan, refueled the bike, did some local welding on the carrier and proceeded towards Gangtok and reached there by 5.45pm. We went to the Mechanic, showed him the bike and he said the full service can be done the next day. So we went back to hotel and stayed there, the next day was public holiday and so we had nothing to do. Route done – Lachen – Mangan – Dikchu- Gangtok Day -12- (20/10/2015) We were invited for Breakfast at Mr.Deepn’s home, so went for the breakfast and had some lovely dishes and got our tummy full. After thanking Mrs.Deepen and kids we left for the workshop. While the bike was getting serviced I got a call from one Mr.Faizal from HVK and said that they too are in Gangtok and they are on a drive, they needed some information’s and I shared what all I had and told them that we will meet in the evening. After sometime I saw a KL registered Fortuner by the road side and a gentleman came across the road with a smiling face, it was Faizal who realized me from some pictures in fb. Along came two more people with smiling faces, Mr.Ashif Midhilaj and Mr.Nafin Mohammed. I introduced them to Mr.Deepen and we all had a good talk and parted, The bike was well serviced with new engine oil/filter, Front disc- pad, Chain Sprocket, Airfilter and also got the carrier welded. In the evening we had a good dinner from Kettle & Ferns restaurant in the development area where we were staying. In the mean time I realized that I need to get another police permit for Nathula – Zuluk (East Sikkim).We settled in for the night at a hotel in the locality. Day -12-(21/10/2015) I had to reach the Tourism information office at 8.00am, so while finu was busy packing I went to the office. There was heavy rush in the office due to the Pooja Holidays and somehow I managed to put my head inside the office and after an hour long fight I got the permit. I came out and met Faizal and team who were waiting for their permits, bid adieu to them and went to the room and picked up finu and left for Nathula. A few kilometers uphill there is a check post where we had to deposit the permit and after that there was full traffic jam towards Nathula, narrow and steep roads with landslides and heavy traffic, somehow we managed through it and finu had to walk up at few places. Slowly the roads became good and it was free riding all the way. Finally we reached Tsomgo Lake by 12.45pm, it was a really scenic place to be in, but we didn’t spend much time there, we headed for Nathula and finally by 1.15pm we reached the Army checkpost some 5-6 kms down of Nathula, I went and showed our permit and the Army officer said he cannot let us go because we did not have a token which is issued from another check post which is 5 kilometers down and he said he will not let us go after 1.30pm, Immediately we rode back down to the Check-post, got the token somehow and while riding up we ended up following a convoy of Chinese trucks escorted by armed Army Men, finally by 1.55pm we reached the checkpost and the officer let us go. We reached Nathula Pass and parked the bike and ran up to the border, we reached the Border line and yes, we made it finally, we did it again, seeing Tibet (China) again riding our bike from our home. With the permission of the Commander we walked to Borderline where there is Indian and Chinese Bunker facing each other at 14100ft above MSL. We stayed there for a minute then and walked back with the satisfaction of accomplishing something in life which many dream to do. We went into the café and there the Commander was issuing Certificate of Visit, we paid Rs.110/- per certificate and collected it and then walked down with the feeling like we got Doctorates. By then the dark clouds have come in and it was too foggy, and chilly but I kept my visor opened, and I bowed my head with my right hand in my chest to each and every soldier who was there on the road, at least that much respect should be given to “The Brave men who guard our Country in that Terrain and Climate, they have left their loved ones to ensure that we sleep safely with our loved ones”. “SALUTE TO THOSE MEN” By the time we turned for BabaMandir it started to drizzle, rain drops started to become heavy and soon to hail storm, by the time we reached BabaMandir Temple the Hail storm became strong, and it was hitting us badly and we had no place to hide. We stopped at the Temple, spent few minutes there and started the ride towards Zuluk through the Old Silk Route. We rode through the bone freezing hail storm and reached the last checkpost enroute Zuluk, we got the formalities done and in the mean time we met a Keralite Army officer with whom we had a quick chit chat and left from there. We had no idea of the roads and the thick fog gave us a mere zero visibility. Finally we got in between an Army Convoy and they showed signs to follow them, so we followed them all the way till Zuluk and it was dark by then, our accommodation was arranged in a place called Aritar, which was some 45kms away. We kept on riding and it became very dark with very less people, finally we reached a town called Rangpo and after that we turned towards Aritar. We kept on riding around some hills and we couldn’t find Aritar. The search went on and on but we never found Aritar. Finally we reached some junction and asked for direction, but the person whom we asked was too much expressive such that around 10-15 people gathered around us and the situation was not so comfortable, but soon we realized that the person is the MLA of that area and guided us to the hotel where we had accommodation, he was so generous that he send his son in a car to escort us, finally after doing some off-roading we reached the Homestay and Settled in for the Night after dinner. Route Done- Gangtok- Nathula Pass- Baba Mandir Temple – Zuluk- Rangpo-Aritar. Hotel-Homestay – Kanchenchunga Mirror. Day -13-(22/10/2015) We had an early breakfast and started from Aritar and rode towards Rishi through some very steep roads and then we crossed into West Bengal again and reached Kalimpong, riding through scenic roads and a few landslides enroute. Kalimpong is a very good place for adventure tourism; however we continued and reached Teesta, took a tea break and took U-turn towards Darjeeling which was 41kms away. The roads became very narrow and slowly the tea gardens came into our vicinity and we stopped at a view point called Peshoke View point (Also known as Lovers point where river Rangeet joins river Teesta) and finally around 4.00pm we reached a rather Chilly and misty Darjeeling, the Queen of the Hills as it is called. We checked into a Hotel near the Railway station and after sometime we walked to the station to enquire about the Toy train ride. To our surprise the ticket counters were closed due to Pooja holidays and it was written that all tickets for the Toy Train are full for 3 days. Well, that shattered our dreams of taking a ride in the Historical Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. We walked around the bazar for some time and returned for Dinner, however we decided to go to the station in the morning and see if any ticket is available for the train. Route done – Aritar – Rishi- Kalimpong-Teesta-Darjeeling. Hotel – Shri Ganesh near Darjeeling Railway Station. (Rs.1200/-) Day -14-(23/10/2015) We woke up early and reached the station by 8.00am and found quite a big queue in front of the Reservation counter. Finally the counter was opened by 8.00am and they put up a board saying all tickets are full, and in seconds everyone left from there, but I peeped into the counter and asked for availability of any train ticket and the officer said there is a chance for one train which has waiting list of 3. I bought the tickets paying Rs.625/- per head. We waited hoping the tickets will get confirmed and after 2 hours of delay the Train was ready with our tickets confirmed. It was an altogether different experience and we were enjoying each kilometer the train covered, soon the train reached the world famous Batasia loop and stopped for 10 Minutes. I knew there was an astonishing view of Mt.Kanchendzonga and other peaks from there but it was too foggy and we couldn’t see anything. The train proceeded towards Ghoom station which is the highest station in elevation (7410ft above MSL) and reached there and we had another 20 minutes break there. There is Ghum Museum which is worth a visit, and soon the train started the return journey towards Darjeeling. We reached back around 2.10pm and we rushed towards Darjeeling Zoo (Padmaja Naidu Himaayan Zoological Park and & Himalayan Mountaineering Institute) which is some 4 kilometers away. I went there with the wish of seeing some of the most elusive, mysterious and mere extinct wildies like the Snow Leopard, Clouded Leopard, the Red Panda, the Black Leopard and yes the Sharekhan. We were welcomed to the zoo by Balu – The Bear, and Himalayan Goats and soon I rushed towards the VIP’s, and boy, the Snow leopard, what a beautiful creature, I always wanted to see one of them in live and yes I did it, and then we moved to see the mere extinct Clouded leopard and suddenly people were running because the Bengal Tiger paid a visit to his visitors. Then we headed to see the Red panda, another wonderful creature in the verge of extinction. Finally we decided to return and then we saw a person renting traditional dress for taking photographs, so we tried it and the outcome was somewhat fine. With a fulfilled heart we left from the zoo and headed to the high-street and roamed around in the Bazar, and had a heavy dinner from KFC as the famous restaurants were running full (like Glennarys). We reached back to the room and did all the packing at night itself because the next day was our last day of ride for the trip. In the mean time we have arranged Tatkal Tickets from NJP (New Jalpaiguri) to Kollam. Hotel – Shri Ganesh near Darjeeling Railway Station. (Rs.1200/-) Day -15- (24/10/2015) It was the last day of yet another dream ride, we started early from Darjeeling and proceeded towards Kurseong. We were riding alongside the rail line and soon we were riding alongside a Toy Train, we took a small video and proceeded as we needed to reach NJP fast as the Bike needed to be couriered in the same train along with us, there was some landslides on the way and finally we reached a point where there the road suddenly came to a dead end. Luckily a native guided us through a broken path alongside the rail track to get back on the road and we proceeded, we crossed the Sukna forest range and finally reached Siliguri around 1.00pm. We went and collected our tickets from one agent and reached the NJP station. After sometime we found the Parcel office and enquired about the procedures and decided the get the bike booked on the same day. We went back and arranged an accommodation near to the station and kept our luggage’s there and returned to the station. With the help of few workers we got the bike nicely packed and got the procedures done and got the bike booked and kept the bike in the Railway yard. After that we went back to the room and had a good sleep. Route Done – Darjeeling – Kuresong – Sukna – Siliguri – NJP. Hotel – Tirupati Lodge Pvt.Ltd (Rs.1800/-) Day -16- (25/10/2015) Finally it was the day to start our return journey; we really wanted to ride back but due to strict personal commitments we opted for the train ride. Finally the train arrived in the station by 9.45pm and I ensured that finu and luggage reach the correct compartment safely, after that I had to run around to get the bike loaded in the train, and finally got it done and boarded the train right on time before it started. And yes, that was it, the end of yet another emphatic, adventurous ride. ” The ride that started with the torrential rain and then to the bright sunshine and further into rain and then into the scorching heat to the ride through the Moonland and then to Hills and further deep into the Cold desert of the Himalayas and then through the historical route to the Queen of Hills”. The ride wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Our Chief, Kumar sir. He is the person who keeps on inspiring us for our journeys and the support and help that he provides is just beyond words and any words in the dictionary will be too short to thank Him for what he has been doing for us and many like us. Along with Chief there was Biju Jose sir who helped us in a critical situation and then guided us all through the way. Special thanks to Mr.Sheel Priye and Suman Saurabh for the help in Purnea and also a special mention to Mr.Pranay Gautam who provided us with good accommodation and helped us to get the permits for North-East Sikkim. Special thanks to Mr.Deependra Sharma who helped us with lot of information and support when needed and brotherly thanks to Jayan James Morris (The Celebrity) for being with us all the way. General Information’s – A) Things to be carried or rather things we carried- Ø 3 set of Photostat copies of the RC/Insurance/PUC and I.D card and license and a print out of the Ride plan. Ø Spare tube, accelerator and clutch cable, head & tail lamp bulb, chain lube and a handy tool kit. Ø An extension cord (board type) which will be handy for multiple charging like mobile phones and camera. Ø A small led lamp and a good enough paper cutter. Ø An extra phone which can manage without charging for at least 3 days. Ø A dusting powder (Abzorb) to avoid fungal infections, Vaseline (dry to normal skin), and handy medicines for cold, Diarrehea, and sprays for joint/muscle pain along with a good first aid kit. Ø Carry only sufficient dress because the less the luggage the more hassle free your ride will be. B) Obtaining Permits- Ø The permits for North-East Sikkim for Bikers are issued from the Home Department in Manan Bhawan which is located in the Development Area which is hardly a kilometer from M.G.Marg. Ø You should carry 3 sets of RC/Insurance/PUC and ID card copies along with 2 photos (per person, but there must be extra copies with you). Ø The Home Department is located at the lower ground floor of Manan Bhawan and you can directly approach the office during the general working hours. Ø You have to fill an application with personal details along with the route that we intend to cover along with the dates and time duration that is needed to cover the mentioned route along with 2 photos. In our case – we mentioned North Sikkim (Mangan-Chungthang-Lachen-Lake Gurudongmar but North Sikkim also includes Yumthang Valley, Lachung and Zero and Katao) and Tsomgo Lake-Nathula Pass, Baba Mandir Lake and Zuluk in the East Sikkim. Ø Once the application is submitted it will take around 2-3 hours for the permits to be issued. Ø Once the permits are issued we have to go to the Ground floor of the Tourist Information center which is located in M.G Marg and we have to attain the Police permit from the counter there. We have to submit the original applicant copy of the permit issued from the Home Department and submit 2 photos along with a fees of Rs.20/-. Ø Once the police permit is issued you have to take 5 copies of the Police permit along with the applicant copy and staple it together, once we start riding towards North Sikkim we will come across 3 check posts before Lachen and the third one is the ‘Toong check post’ which is an important check post. Finally you will come across the 4th check post which is the Army Check post around 12kilometeres from Gurudongmar Lake. There you have to enter the bike as well as submit the original applicant copy there and you can collect it back once you return. General Infos- · Sikkim is full of Military activity and for that reason you will be riding/driving along side with Military Vehicles/Convoys mostly. Be patient while following a convoy, when ever there is space they will let you go, do not keep on honking and avoid rash over takings (No over taking from the left). The roads are narrow, slippery for all reasons, so once the vehicle in front of you have enough room to let you pass they will surely do it. (We were asked to follow a military convoy en-route Nathula Pass, when another convoy of Chinese trade vehicles were passing by and while going down the Silk route we had almost zero visibility and again we were shown signs to follow the pilot vehicle for our safety. · Two wheeler workshops are mainly concentrated in an Bye pass road area which is some 2 kms away from Gangtok Town, the best mechanic to get a Royal Enfield serviced is one bhai, whose workshop comes first on top on the right hand-side once you enter bypass road area. · The terrain in North Sikkim is harsh, and for this very reason we have to ensure that the Bike is fit to take it, the chain sprockets/Cables/Rim+Tyres/Front shocks, all will take heavy toll, so it’s best to go after a service if you are riding from a long distance. (Carrying of spares is as equal as carrying lifesaving medicines). · Ride can be adventurous and fun, but the moment when you feel the ride becomes a threat, you have to retreat, what I am meaning to say is High Altitudes are not cake walks for people especially from the south (with normal physique). You are exposed to the limits when you are riding and once you reach altitudes of 15000ft plus, then Nature starts to play on our body and mind. AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) can be fatal, and if you feel you are not comfortable, abort the ride then and there, leaving to lower altitudes is the first thing you have to do once you get caught by AMS and restrain from doing exercises like walking, running etc (we did this mistake of walking up to Gurudongmar lake and paid for it) and avoid Alcohol and smokes as per your wish. These are just my suggestions and things experienced in our ride; hope it will be helpful at-least for some. It was a Journey which tested us to the extremes, and all this time there was a person with a smiling face with me all through the way, without complaints and with courage, My Wife, Finiya who beard all the struggle double to that of what I went through and I am sure she enjoyed the ride double times than me. Hatts of to my hard and lovely Pillion, you are such an inspiration to many. “The ride goes on… (To be continued).. “Miles to go before we sleep”..