LOST IN BHUTAN: 6 BIKERS, 20 DAYS, 7500 KMS OF INSANITY!
Chapter 7: The Magic Begins.
Route taken for the day was Phuentsholing – Gedu – Chuzhom – Thimpu. Total Distance to be covered was around 190 kms.
The Permit Story at Phuentsholing:
We woke up early; we woke up with just one target in mind today which was to be the first in queue at RSTA Permit Office in Phuentsholing for our motorcycle permits. Couple of us, Glinfy & Sherman to be precise was anxiously waiting to see if their bikes permits could be issued to enter Bhutan as they both did not have RC cards with them. Sherman had bought his bike just a month back and Glinfy had some address correction issue due to which they did not manage to carry their motorcycle RC cards. With a very gutsy positive hope and balls of steel, both Sherman & Glinfy decided to come for this trip even when they knew there is a high possibility their bike permit may not be granted.
Alright, all said and done, we reached RSTA office at 9AM sharp with all necessary documents and the main official present inside the office started reviewing the documents one by one. We had intentionally kept Glinfy & Sherman’s documents below all our documents with a hope that may be the official might miss checking RC card in the huge pile of papers. Here’s how the Q&A with the official began:
Bhutanese Official: Why is the name on the driving license and Voter’s ID different?
Sachin: Sir, the name is same (Surprised). Sachin Nair! Both in DL & Voter’s ID.
Bhutanese Official: No, in Voter’s ID your full name is written, Sachin Sadashivan Nair & in your DL only Sachin Nair is written. It is different!
Sachin: Sir, this is old DL booklet where Father’s name is written below my name. (Pointing towards father’s name)
Bhutanese Official: Yes, this is not the correct format.
Sachin & Deepan: Silence!
The Bhutanese official at RSTA after this discussion added his remark to check DL in all our permit documents who had old Driving License Booklet. Interestingly his signature was very very long and his point of view to check documents was very different to what I imagined. With his remarks on our permit form, we were told to go the next official now for permit. The next official was a lady and I was thinking in my mind, maybe she is less knowledgeable, casual and will not bother with the RC card paper missing. We were told to pay around 80 Ngultrum’s per person and Voila! With that receipt, the lady started printing the permits for our motorcycles. I was soo overwhelmed that I called Akhil inside and said you can go and inform Glinfy & Sherman that they are riding in Bhutan baby!
With the permits sorted, it was our turn to start the ride and reach destination planned for today, Thimpu!
Riding the Twisties:
The ride we had done so far was 99.9% on straight roads and 0.1% twisties so the urge to ride on ghats was at all-time high. From here on, the entire 1200 kms we rode in Bhutan were full of twisties. There is no other word to describe the roads, there are very few straight roads in this country and more or less the entire ride in Bhutan is majorly twisties. The climate was nice and cold when we started the ride, hair pin after hair pin the ride was more enjoyable than ever before in this trip. Every kilometer you feel like stopping for a snap and just chillaxing such is the aura of this happy land. There are a couple of check posts where you need to show your individual & bike permits to proceed further and it’s a 5 minutes job really so not of an issue. The country is very beautiful and you can feel the difference as soon as you step out of India and enter Bhutan. Driving discipline left us speechless, Traffic reduced drastically, people are super friendly, humble, honest & always have a smile on their face. Combining all of these factors with the beautiful climate & scenic beauty this country offers, we would love to come here again & again!! Every place we were passing had left their mark on us, such is the picturesque beauty it offered and we felt like getting our camera’s out in every turn we took. The roads occasionally had pot holes and dangerous turns during today’s ride but with a cautious mind one can tackle it easily. Oh and there is a high possibility of landslides in the entire country! I repeat, possibility of landslides in Bhutan is very high so you may want to add a couple of day’s buffer just in case you get stuck at a place due to landslides. We were lucky not to encounter too many bad landslides.
We halted for early lunch at a small restaurant we saw on the way to Gedu. Here we tasted a very different type of Red Bull and unlike India where Red Bull is given in a proper can, in Bhutan Red Bull is sold in bottles which look like cough syrup bottles literally. But surprisingly the taste was awesome & different; personally I found it better than the Red Bull sold in India. Gulped Maggi noodles and local Bhutanese noodles (The only dishes available there) which were spicy and tasted delicious. We moved on after filling our tummies and the roads & views continued to get better as the journey progressed. The last 45 kms to reach Thimpu has fantastic tarmac and it’s a biker’s paradise. Winding roads with butter smooth tarmac & less traffic, the last leg before Thimpu will make you smile inside your lid! If you love cornering, leaning your motorcycle, this is one place where you are guaran-damn-teed pure fun!
By the time we made it to Thimpu it got dark and we did the last stretch at night. After riding for close to 7 hours we had made it to Thimpu. We stopped at the huge signboard which says Welcome to Thimpu! After clicking some nice night shots of the board we moved on and reached Thimpu.
Thimpu Road Puzzle:
Now, if you are riding in Thimpu for the first time, be ready to solve the Thimpu Road Puzzle. Since we did not book any hotel in Thimpu, our search for hotels began. Thimpu has very strict traffic rules (20 kmph speed limit) and mostly one lane roads. We got LOST in Thimpu and after going round and round for good 60 minutes to find a hotel in our budget with decent parking we met a chap who took us by walk to show his hotel. We liked it and decided to end the search and settle in what we found. The hotel name was Yoedzer and it had good parking space and decent room with restaurant attached. Glinfy & Sherman had decided to treat us with Pizza’s in Thimpu as they got bike permits successfully, something which was dicey for them from the time the trip plan was getting discussed. Unfortunately all the major food joints were closed and we had to settle for normal Indian restaurant food in Thimpu which was not bad at all.
Another day of this epic journey in Bhutan came to an end. Every day was so different from the previous day and everyday kept some new surprise for us. Today we were left speechless by the beauty this country has to offer and we could only imagine what else the Mother Nature has in store for us when we continue further!