A biker group from the city, ROC Riders-Bangalore -- all IT professionals -- recently went on a three-country bike ride. Their mission was to experience mountain biking in the Himalayas in Nepal; explore the tranquil kingdom of Bhutan and ride on Nathula Pass (the highest motorable pass in world) in Sikkim.
Karthik BP, a software engineer with MNC, who was part of the group says, "All our trips are usually spot decided in our so-called 'adda' at Indiranagar. We have covered South India and have made trip to Leh-Ladakh twice. But this three- country-ride was special. We always upgrade our biking area. An international ride was a test to check our abilities," he says.
The 10-member group began their journey from Bagdogra, from where it took around six hours to reach the Indo-Nepal border. The next day, their ride to Dharan began. Dharan is a town surrounded by the hills on the eastern side of Nepal and is famous for its natural beauty and religious shrines. Raja Rani Hill, which is 20 km away from Dharan, offers an excellent view of Kanchenjunga, Khumbakarna, Makalu and Mount Everest. The group decided to climb the hill to enjoy the picturesque view.
Their next destination in Nepal - Ilam - ushered them to a world of lush green tea gardens, mountain streams, dense natural forests and holy sites.
"We got the taste of fresh tea from local 'chai' shop and shopped for some Ilam tea too. It was not a bad idea to take back home some," he says.
The group then left for North Sikkim the next morning via Darjeeling border. They chose a shortcut to reach Singtam which was their overnight halt in Sikkim.
Sampath says, "That was our worst decision. The whole stretch was deserted, we couldn't spot a single human on the way. One of our bikes also got stuck, somehow we managed to repair it. As it was getting dark, the dirt road became worse to ride on. Somehow we reached Singtam past midnight."
Next day, the group left for Lachen. They took a lunch break at a home stay in Phodong. "One should never forget to enjoy momos which is served with mouthwatering chutney here. In Sikkim, there is no concept of chicken momo, or mutton momo. You will find veg momo everywhere. So after having some momo and tea, we started our ride to Lachen again," recollects Varun Shivashanmugum.
In Sikkim, Gurudongmar Lake was their first destination to explore. "We rode at a speed of 10km/ hour since the entire road was covered with ice and was slippery. We reached Thangu, the last village on Indo-Chinese border, at around 9 am. It was freezing.
"There is a huge military base in this village. We saw how hard our Armymen work to protect us throughout the year " shares Nisar KM.
While the entry to the Gurudongmar Lake closes at around 9 am at the Army checkpost, it is required to return to the checkpost by 2 pm.
"Post noon, weather changes drastically at Gurudongmar Lake, the snowy winds turn deadly. At Army checkpost, photographs of people who never returned are put on display to caution visitors. We reached the lake at 10 am. The colour of Gurudongmar Lake was greenish blue and it was half-frozen with the clouds clearing from the snow-clad mountains beside it. The place looked nothing less than a heaven, " shares Karthik.
The group left for Zero Point, their next destination in Sikkim, the same day. "We reached Zero Point via Lachung after completing two hours of journey. At Zero Point, all roads end. It is the place where three rivers meet with snow-clad mountains in the vicinity offering some thrilling views,'' says Dhananjaya Gowda.
About the ride on Nathula, Pritham Prabhu says, "The road gets narrower and often covered in clouds as one nears Nathula Pass. From the Army checkpost, it took around 20 minutes to reach the top. After parking our bikes on a designated spot, we had to walk the steep road to finally reach the steps that takes you to the actual Indo-China border. The temperature by now was below zero and even though it wasn't snowing, frozen water could be seen all around.
After completing our ride to Nathula Pass, we had a feeling of accomplishment."
From there, the group headed to Gangtok. They reached Paro at 9 pm. Tiger's Nest was the group's first destination in Bhutan. The place is a collection of monastery buildings perched on a cliff, 900 meters off of the ground. It involves four to five hours of round trip hike to tour the monastery.
"While many tourists start their hike around 9 am, my advice is to start as early as possible to beat the afternoon heat. After a tour to all monasteries, heading back down the hill was an uphill task too," recollects Vikas B Suresh. The destination for them the next day was Thimpu. They satiated their craving for shopping by buying local artworks.
Next day early in the morning, the group headed back to Bagdogra for their flight to Bangalore.
Karthik shares, "The entire trip is still afresh in my mind. Having fresh free raspberries directly from the farm; spending the entire night on India-Nepal border for vehicle permit; riding on Nathula Pass and having 'idli' amidst heavy snowfall in Sikkim were some of our unforgettable moments."