LOST IN BHUTAN: 6 BIKERS, 20 DAYS, 7500 KMS OF INSANITY!
Chapter 6 – The grand entry into Bhutan.
The route plan for the day was Sevoke – Baintgoorie – Binnaguri – Birpara – Jaigaon – Phuentsholing, after which individual and bike permits had to be sorted.
After the battering we had received the prior day, it was a done deal that none of us would be waking up early. The swollen bottoms, aching arms, bad headache was the wake up alarm next day. A few scrambled eggs and two cups of strong coffee later, we were ready to roll.
The ride started a little later than planned. The aim was to leave the hotel by 6 am, but we ended up saddling up by 8:30. Today was the big day! There was sense of enthusiasm in all of us. Today we were to make our presence felt in a foreign land. And so with this note, the ride began.
The first stop over point being a hilly area, offered some scenic beauty, although the stop was kinda forced as Sherman and Glinfy had lost their way and we had to wait for them to turn around! It was the first encounter of ours with twisting and turning roads on the entire tour, with our bikes parked on a bridge, hovering around a steep mountain, flanked by the river Teesta, and I must say it was a sight to be remembered. The road was just the beginning of the terrain which we were about to experience. After we regrouped and were done admiring the beauty of the terrain around, it was a time for a fuel stop soon and then it struck us that Sherman failed to acquire his bike’s PUC. It was time to run helter skelter in search of a PUC agenct, and with none in sight, the group decided to carry on, only to find a shop open two corners later.
It was during this time; I received a call from Afzaal from KTM Lucknow and was given a shock. The bike’s front tyre axle nut was missing, rather due to some unforeseen circumstance, it was left out to be fixed. A new search began to source the nut. After a lot of looking around, we did finally manage to find a smaller nut of exact size that managed to hold the threads together. Something was better than nothing and by the time this entire scenario was over, we had already lost a costly hour and it was time for some food (food here means biscuits).
Then on ahead as the journey continued, the scenes just kept getting better and better, the roads became smoother and smoother, and the corners sharper and sharper. At a point, the roads were passing through tea plantations, dense forests and *here it comes* lots of coconut trees. That, seriously, to the ultimate level, felt weird. We at once felt we were travelling through Kerala, but nonetheless, each corner called for a photo/moto shoot. The entire ride towards Phuentsholing was smoothly paced in triple digits with the bikes feeling at home.
As we knew the distance to be covered was very less, the entire ride was relaxed, but as the destination appeared closer in GPS, the excitement level started to rise. The smooth straight road, which was going through Jaigaon, soon revealed the majestic Himalayan ranges, the green forest clad mountains, and then, at once, there was sparkle in the eyes of the riders, this was it! We were just 15 kilometres away from the foreign land, the dream trip had finally been conceived. What once started as a foolish idea, materialized! Soon we were across Jaigaon at around 12:30pm, and there it was, the border gate of “The happiest country” on the planet. It was the first time each one of us had set foot on foreign soil, an unknown land, the entire atmosphere was electric and with rapid conversations happening on Scala Rider between each of us, it was time to celebrate. With the security check posts throwing salutes with surprised expressions on their faces, we knew, we had marked our presence right then and there. It was now time to proceed for the permits.
But as the spare day was used up in sorting the bikes out at Lucknow, we knew we couldn’t afford to waste time. We barged inside the immigration office, only to find that it was closed for lunch, which in turn helped us to fill up the necessary forms and attach the documents for the permits. Everyone readied their documents except for Deepan, as his passport and voters ID were not in existence.
Deepan’s race against luck:
It is a norm, that if an individual fails to/doesn’t have proper identification documents, he/she needs authentication letter from the Indian consulate situated in that country. This thought itself is upsetting, as one never knows what surprises are waiting behind those magnificent looking doors. But as they say, fortune favours the brave and it was lucks turn to favour us. It turned out that the person at the consulate was a Hyderabadi too, and Deepan managed to build an extremely good rapport with him, and the letter of authentication was handed over to him in no time. That was the most consoling moment for the group, never did I see anyone so relaxed!
Back to the waiting game:
As the documents were filled and being attached, it was almost 2pm and the foreign crowd had started to gather for permits. But what advantage we carried over the others was, “we were Indians”. As Bhutan being the neighbouring country, it holds a really good relationship with our Mother India. This proved to be a great asset and our permit forms were taken inside within no time once the counter opened, and so was the processing and interviews done. This episode took less than an hour, but as it turned out, individual permits are not the only thing you should worry about when you are travelling inside Bhutan with your own vehicle. There’s one more special permit for vehicle, issued by their RSTA (Road Safety and Transport Association) in the individuals name, and it needed to be obtained the same day in order for the group to continue to the further part of Bhutan.
Once done with the individual permit, we rushed like maniacs to the RSTA office, with only one thing in mind, NOT TO BREAK THE TRAFFIC RULES! The traffic over here seemed extremely sedate and extremely well-mannered and a sound of horns was something that would probably jail you for life. We were the odd ones out, the hooligans inside the civilization, which seemed so calm and quiet. But alas, the RSTA was closed for the day. And the permits could not be obtained. But nonetheless, we managed to source out a really cheap and awesome accommodation nearby the RSTA. Now it was time to celebrate, cherish the journey, which none of us thought we would be doing, to raise a toast for the story, which would be passed across our generations to come. It was time to enjoy with some authentic Bhutanese cuisine.
Although with the individual permits being sorted, the RSTA permits were still pending, and with two of our bikes not having a R.C. book in existence, it was going to prove a challenge to get the permits for those vehicles.