Ideal Time to Visit: Autumn, especially September through October is the best time to ride through this route.
Entourage Strength: A group of 10-15 people at the most would be an ideal size for this trip. ‘Divide and ride’ becomes easier when travelling with an ideal entourage size. In case of a breakdown few members can move ahead and look for accommodation for the group whereas the rest can stay back and get the breakdown fixed. Again, finding an accommodation poses a problem for larger groups and is easier for smaller groups.
Preps: Take a well-planned leave in advance. Once you know that you have finalized a trip and your leaves are approved, start prepping up your bike. Get a regular servicing done and ensure that all lights and the horns are functioning properly.
For all the equipment and luggage etc. that you carry on this trip, you will need a sturdy carrier fitted to the bike. Have the ‘Ladakh Carrier or LC’ fitted so that you can carry all sorts of things like bags, tools, tent, etc. Also, take along extra spares like, wires for the clutch and throttle, brake pads, tyre tubes etc. Ensure that your tyres have treads that will hold you up safely through the course of the journey. Keep a torch, basic tools, winter gear, caps etc. at hand.
Assistive Gizmos: Although we did not use any gadgets on this trip, except for our smartphones, any good GPS device always comes handy on a trip like this. A GoPro camera would have been the perfect companion to capture our journey en route the picturesque country of Bhutan.
Road & Traffic Conditions: Traffic on this route is quite sparse and quite organized. More than any other vehicle, you’ll find more SUVs on these roads.
Best & Worst Stretches: The entire stretch undertaken in Bhutan, after entering through Phuentsholing proved to be the best part of the route – the roads, the landscapes, and the people – all were lovely. Unfortunately, during this trip, we couldn’t explore much of Sikkim due to flash floods. However, the unparalleled scenic beauty of Bhutan and places like the Tiger’s Nest or Taktsang Monastery, Haa Valley, Dochula Pass, Paro Airport, and many such locations more than made up for our disappointment in missing out on the better part of Sikkim.
Weather Encountered: During autumn, the weather mostly remains pleasant. However, one can feel the chill in the air at night, especially in Bhutan.
Food Joints & Stopovers: After leaving Delhi, we first stopped at a dhaba called Tadka which served up some delectable fare. Do not look forward to finding fancy restaurants. There were a few others we found along the way. I distinctly remember Nirmal dhaba, as it has the same name as I do, somewhere in West Bengal and Arthur’s at M.G. Road, Gangtok. The food served at Arthur’s by the man himself, was one of the finest meals I had while on a road-trip.
Bike Care: Doing up your bike inside and out reflects how passionate you are about your pursuit. I believe if you do not take care of your bike, it would, in turn, stop taking care of you! And just in case that happens midway through a journey or in the middle of nowhere, you are in a soup!
I take care of my bike exactly like I take care of my family. My bike takes me places, shows me sights for sore eyes and rejuvenates my soul. Sometimes, when I’m on the road for long spells I make it a point to have conversations with my bike because if I do not love and pamper my bike, it’s going to reciprocate in the same manner and god forbid if such a thing happens on the highway. Accessorizing your bike in the correct manner with the right equipment is a must for a hassle-free ride.
Locals: I had the opportunity of meeting some wonderful people on this journey. There was the girl who served us the most awesome Maggi-breakfast at Gedu in her tiny home which also double up as a shop; the family that served us a super yummy dinner and fine red wine in the middle of nowhere in Haa Valley, and the gentleman who cooked up a finger-licking dinner for us during our camp stay at Paro. He and his entire family also drove down in the dead of the night, long after we were back at our camp, to return a mobile phone someone from our group had left behind in his home. They were worried that our families might need to get in touch with us and may not be able to do so without the mobile phone. Honesty and hospitality at its best!
The people that we encountered on our route were probably the most hospitable and friendly ones on the face of this planet, especially those in Bhutan.