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  • A Snowy Sojourn and a Nomad Rider

    Solo Rider

    Start Destination: Gorubathan, West Bengal 735231, India    End Destination: Tawang
    Distance: 1,338 km    Bike: Bajaj , Avenger 220
    Start Date: 04/11/2016    End Date: 04/19/2016

    THE JOURNEY:

    Gorubathan-Alipurduar-Srirampur (West Bengal- Assam Border)-Guwahati-Tezpur-Bhalukpong (Assam – Arunachal Border)-Sessa-Nechiphu-Tengga-Bomdila-6th Mile-Dirang--Senge-Sela pass-Jashwantgarh-Jang-Lhau and Tawang.

    I was working in Bangalore as an IT professional and was considering tendering my resignation for a time. So I did quit eventually. As time passed, I started to feel better about my decision and decided to go back to my hometown, Gorubathan. I had my bike transported back via train and that was the first step in planning my trip. On my way back I made a one-day stop at Kolkata and reached back home by the 7th of April. A few days of meticulous planning later, on 11thApril I was ready to trail the route to Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh.

    Day 1:

    As you travel from Gorubathan to Alipurduar, you come across wildlife sanctuaries, national parks and tea estates. The route was beautiful and the road was smooth. I made my first stop at the Srirampur border, had some tea and biscuits and hit the road again. For lunch I made a stop at a dhaba in Pathsala, Assam. Finally by 1:30 in the afternoon, I was in Guwahati, where I decided to settle for the day.

    Day 2:

    The next day I started early in the morning as I wanted to visit the Kamakhya Temple in Guwahati. I then went to the Assam Tourism Department to get an Inner Line Permit that was required to enter Arunachal Pradesh. For 450 bucks (that’s what the permit costs) I had permission to go to 2 districts in that region, Kameng and Tawang. I then started off from Guwahati and planned to reach Bhalukpong by the evening via Tezpur. However, the plan was delayed a bit as I had a small accident with a cyclist. Due to my protective gear I wasn’t hurt but the cyclist ended up getting 4 stitches on his leg. I gave him 200 bucks and decided to stay in Tezpur for the night.

    Day 3:

    Starting off early to make up for the delay, I got my petrol tank filled at a petrol pump in Tezpur around 5:30 in the morning. With the GPS set to take me to Bomdila, I made my first stop at Bhalupkong. I was finally in Arunachal Pradesh, a dream I had nursed for months. I made a quick stop at Sessa for some tea and Maggi and was pleasantly surprised to hear Bollywood songs being played at the eatery, in a place where I had hardly expected for anyone to even be familiar with Hindi!

    As I moved on further, with the increasing altitude, the visibility dropped. Dense fog covered the road and it was impossible to see any further than 10 meters. The temperature fell below 10 degrees and I was in desperate need of another cup of tea. I stopped at a place called Ziro Point and found out that the next 50 km stretch was just made of stones and rubble. The locals at Ziro advised me to stick to a speed of less than 20 kms per hour.

    The landscape was breathtaking and I was enjoying myself, singing songs and having the time of my life like never before. By mid-day I reached Tenga. Here, I came across an army restaurant which served amazing momos and chowmein. As I talked to people there, I gathered information about the places I was going to see next. By afternoon I was in Bomdila and from there rode to Dirang via 6th Mile. I checked into a hotel named Awoo.

    Day 4:

    I started off and reached Senge next. This is where the deadly curves and crazy elevations started. From this point you can see the mountains which are completely covered with snow.

    Note: Take the Sela Pass, which is 13700 ft. above the ground, to reach the tip of a mountain.

    As the day progressed it started to snow. Initially I enjoyed it, but it soon became difficult to ride. The snow accumulated on the road and my hands were freezing, it was becoming difficult to ride, so I decided to stop at a Lama Shop at Sela Pass. Once I felt warm enough, I hit the road again. I took many stops to cover this stretch. At Jang, I halted at a roadside house to fix myself a meal. This place sells lunch to drivers. I was only 20 kms away from Tawang and was finding it difficult to ride. It was raining and the temperature was a stunning 6 degree Celsius.

    I located a tea shop and inquired if I could find any hotel nearby. I was in no condition to go on. The lady at the tea shop was kind enough to offer me some tea and asked me to sit by the fire to warm myself. After 2 hours I wore my armour again and took the road that the lady had directed me to. I found a hotel -The Tawang Regency and stayed there for the night.

    Day 5:

    I decided to explore Tawang, so I went to a Monastery and visited the Tawang Memorial, the DC’s office to procure the Bumla Pass and as the weather favored me, I got to see the beautiful Pangong TsoLake as well.

    Day 6:

    It was raining the whole day. I managed to find an umbrella from somewhere and kept walking around town, stopping at different shops to talk to the locals. I got to know so much more about the place which made the experience quite amazing.

    Day 7:

    Finally the sky cleared and I was ecstatic. I met a fellow rider and we decided to go around the place together. We started early in the morning as we wanted to see the Madhuri Lake and return to Tawang to hit the road for our return journey. The scenery were amazing and I was completely absorbed in the journey - I was singing songs and laughing along the way. That was before I soon found myself unceremoniously dislodged from my bike and rolling on the ground. I was lucky enough to have army men posted nearby who came to help me up. My bike and me both were safe, all we sustained is a few scratches and I was thankful for that.

    As I went on further, some distance ahead I found my fellow rider from Tawang on the ground, badly hurt. His bike had dents and his camera and phone were broken too. I helped him and his bike up, assessed the damaged and decided it was safe to start off again, this time - together, at a speed of about 10 kms per hour. But as luck would have it, we soon found ourselves stuck again. Army vehicles and contingents passing by advised us to wait for the snow to melt before going any further.

    When we found a favorable time, we started off again. But the weather soon turned on us and we were finding it difficult to continue. We reached Sela Pass around 5:40 p.m. and entered the army post. We stayed with them for 20 mins, had a cup of tea. They advised us to hurry back, as with the approach of the night, the ride would only get more difficult. 2 hours later we reached the Senge and the Inspection Bungalow (PWD) where we were generously extended a room to spend the night in.

    Day 8:

    We left Senge at 9 in the morning and rode back to Bhalukpong. When we reached, we checked into a hotel, spent the day there began our journey back towards Ziro the next day.

    IDEAL TIME TO VISIT:

    The best time to visit Tawang are the months of March, April, September and October.

    The rest of the months are not ideal for bikers as from November to February it Snows and May to August the rain makes it difficult to travel.

    ENTOURAGE STRENGTH:

    It would be best to cover the route solo or have just one other riding partner traveling along.

    PREPS:

    Get a 3 layer riding jacket and a good helmet when you plan to take a trip down these roads. Since the route is difficult to travel, ride carefully and be prepared for mishaps. Get a saddle bag to carry biking essentials. Apart from a first-aid kit, carry a few break shoes, clutch cables, accelerator cables, chain lubricant, basic tools and an air pump which is particularly useful.

    ASSISTIVE GIZMOS:

    Mount a mobile charger and a GPS holder on to your bike. It really helps.

    A GoPro camera will be great for capturing the beauty of the landscape.

    Consider carrying a torchlight, magnetic needle, swiss knife, a sharp regular knife – may come in handy!

    ROAD AND TRAFFIC CONDITIONS:

    From Gorubathan to Guwahati the road is great and the ideal speed is 80 kms per hour.

    On the way to Dirang from Bhalukpong,the road is broken in places while from Dirang to Tawang there is no road at all, it’s just gravel!

    Bhalukpong to Tawang is a 350 km stretch of which a 100 kms is good tar road, for the remaining 250 kms you’ll have to ensure that the speedometer does not read above 20kms/hour. And know that it will rain, it will snow, it will scare you, but you can win, eventually.

    WEATHER ENCOUNTERED:

    From Gorubathan to Guwahati and Tezpur the day was sunny and the weather hot. It was a challenge to keep my jacket and helmet on. I could remove one layer of lining from the jacket but the helmet had to stay, on my head, under every circumstance.

    FromTezpur to Dirang - there was dense fog for a few kilometres at Nechiphu, but for the rest of the journey the weather remained pleasant.

    While riding the Dirang to Tawang stretch, it snowed, it rained cats and dogs, and at a point where altitude decreased there was a hailstorm. The downpour was relentless and it was freezing cold. I was drenched and shivering – if you can help it, avoid being caught in this kind of a condition. Finally, the 20 km stretch took more than an hour to cover.

    FOOD JOINTS AND STOPOVERS:

    A dhaba at Srirampur border was the first pit stop.

    Made a quick stop at Sessa for some tea and Maggi.

    Ziro Point for some rest and tea.

    Army restaurants in Tenga offer amazing momos.

    Lama Shop at Sela Passto catch some rest and a quick bite.

    Roadside dhabas and tea stalls abound for a major part of the journey. You can always score good food and meet beautiful people. Everywhere, anyone you meet is eager to offer assistance if needed and they will open up to you quite sincerely.

    I had many free cups of tea on the way, when I told them about being on a solo trip for almost 1.5 months. Also, what really helped me to get free mugs of tea was that I can converse fluently in Nepalese and Bengali, and can follow Assamese, and most of the roadside shops are run by people of these ethnicities.

    PIT STOPS

    Jang


    Tenga


    CHECKINS

    Sessa


    Bhalupkong


    Pathsala, Assam


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