Ride to the Buddha Land

This ride has been really special for me. Many will see it as a ride but for me it was a break from too many new things flooding in my life. You often tend to get that lost kind of feeling when everything in your life suddenly starts changing in a good yet unexpected manner. It had been 3 months that I was posted in Kolkata in an IT firm . I wanted to get rid of the feeling of unknown streets and culture by exploring the in and out of Kolkata . For me this was only possible if I got my bike from Pune to Kolkata. This ride was the follow on of exploring Kolkata. One can’t just sit at home with that lazy ass in front of the laptop or TV if you have a Royal Enfield in your parking.

Well, it was 18th December 2014 and I was literally grazing the calender for the upcoming holidays while siting in the office . To my surprise I saw a probability of getting 4 days holidays in a row during the Christmas . Now what I did next was very spontaneous and didn’t even think once before taking the decision. I went to my senior colleague who was more of a friend than senior and asked him “Bro,you wanna ride to Darjeeling next week ?” . He glanced at the calendar in the task bar and without even thinking the answer was “YES,lets do it”. Have you ever had that sudden adrenalin rush in your body when some plan forms instantaneously ?. Well,that was my situation . All pumped up and eager to chalk out this trip. But , there was a glitch. We didn’t have these 4 day holidays in a row as 26th December was a working day. Without even chalking the plan out ,I asked my manager if I could skip this Friday . And the answer I got was “Umm.. ok ,you can take a leave”. I was at the peak of my happiness as everything was falling in right place.

Prasad,my friend had to bluff the leave by stating that he had some NOC work regarding his bike and it would take a whole day at the RTO for doing it. So,now we had holidays,we had bikes,we had that anxiousness . Everyday after 18th December ,we started taking out time from the office hours to chalk out this epic first long ride of ours. First things first, hit the google maps page and check for the Kolkata -Darjeeling route. 650Km one way . We were over confident about the road conditions and were planning to accomplish this in a day’s duration. But ,as the saying goes,”Too many expectations lead to disappointment. We will come to that later.

4 days before the ride

Have you ever experienced this situation ,that everything is planned and something happens that puts your plan in doubts. Same shit happened to me. The thing which I was hoping should be the last thing to stop our ride. VIRAL FEVER. Yes you read it right. I was taking all the precautions that I shouldn’t get this shitty viral fever as it was winters. That day I emptied all the stock that the med-store near my house had and prayed that I feel fine by the time the ride date comes closer. To my luck , just a day before the ride I was absolutely fine and healthy . All set up for the ride.

8 hours before the ride

Prasad and I were suppose to ride after 8 hours . We were packing our saddle bags and checking all the things that we need to carry along. The excitement was building up . But, to add some twist, Prasad came across some emergency and wanted to cancel the ride. And this was just 8 hrs before the ride. I can never forget this epic moment and I am proud of him the way he handled the situation and decided to ride on as per the plan .
Early morning at 6:00 am We stacked our saddle bags on our beloved bikes and kick started our most epic journey to Darjeeling.
It was so cold early morning that we couldn’t even press that clutch lever by an inch. By 8 am we made it to the Azad Hind Dhaba on NH2 and added almost 4–5 piping hot coffee cups to our chilled tummy. We enjoyed holding the coffee cups more than having the coffee as the cups felt so warm to our frozen hands. By now the sun had come out and it was pleasant enough to rest our bum on that seat and ride on. Till some 70 odd kms the NH 2 was butter-smooth,but we couldn’t cruise those soft rubber tyres anymore on them as we had to take a diversion from Burdhwan and proceed to the SH 7 . The moment we got on to SH 7 we thought we were lost. The road is completely barren for around 30–40kms with potholes everywhere. There is no road as such,just few remains of tar here and there.

Rover enjoying the serene landscape

It was 1 pm now

The road was so bad that we had covered only 12kms in the past 45mins . We still pushed ourselves as much as we could and finally connected to the smooth roads of NH-34 at Morgram . It felt as if we had found an Oasis amidst a freaking barren land . We thought of giving some rest to those suspensions who were swearing at us for taking them off-road for almost 80kms. We had a quick lunch from the tiffin box that I had packed before leaving home. And now time to ride again .

Prasad’s beloved taking a nap.

The smooth road continued for a long time . Almost 60–70kms. What we witnessed after that was a nightmare. The NH-34 becomes so horrible from Farakka that the potholes can swallow the whole car in itself. It was 4pm by the time we reached this small town where there were trucks everywhere,leaving no room to escape this misery.

The “No Road” part of NH4

It was 5 pm and was really getting dark . We weren’t aware that these potholes were just a small sneak peek of what we were going to witness later. It was pitch dark and the road was full off huge potholes and never ending trail of trucks. We started getting second thoughts of staying at a lodge that night and taking a U-turn next morning to Kolkata. Guys, believe me , when you are in such situation,just distract yourself by singing songs loudly inside the helmet. Worked for me like a charm. We somehow made it to Raiganj where we thought of taking a halt and spending the night as there were no lodges before or after Raiganj . Raiganj is a small town ,around 400kms from Kolkata and 300 Kms from darjeeling.

The clock was showing 9pm and it was insanely cold by this time. Our fingers had become numb. We were riding since last 15 hrs and had just completed 400kms . But the road that we witnessed made us feel a bit proud in what we had achieved . As the road and the landscapes were new we had a good half an hour stop after every 2 hrs because of which it took us a bit long to cover up.

Day 2

Our main target for the day was reaching Darjeeling before it gets dark. We started a bit late from Raiganj at around 10 am. The road was far better than what we had witnessed the previous day. We made it to Siliguri by 2 pm . We had lunch at Darjeeling more . Now Darjeeling was just 77kms far . We started from Siliguri with all our camera gears ready. The route is so amazing ! The road passes through the army cantonment and gives you an amazing view of tea garden-scapes and jungles.

Rover in the jungles of Siliguri

We were supposed to take a right turn for the Rohini pass but we missed it as we were busy looking at the breathtaking landscapes. We didn’t even realize that we were going on a wrong track. But the view we witnessed on reaching the top was something you can just dream of. The fire ball setting into the mighty Himalayas with the mist covering the orange canvas of the sky. It was like I just took the road to paradise.

Mighty Himalayas !
Rover and I having some lone time together.

We reached Darjeeling at 7 pm , around 6700 feet above the sea level. Our hands went numb and fingers were frozen . We couldn’t move our fingers to pull that clutch lever . We stopped for some hot tea and samosas and started searching for lodges. There are these few lodges you should look for if you want a good room with reasonable budget : Hotel Choice (near the Mall road), if you want a scenic morning view of the incredible peak of Mount Kangchenjunga then you can check in to Hotel Highland Inn as its windows directly open to this majestic view.

Off-roading with mighty Kangchenjunga in the backdrop.
The beast in the jungles of Siliguri

As it was the Christmas eve ,we were finding it difficult to find the hotels as most of them were sold out. We finally found Hotel Choice and stayed there for the night. The owner was very good and humble and called the food on the house. That day we decided to sleep off early and wake up early.

Day 3

We were so exhausted the previous night that we slept like pigs. We woke up at 8 am and decided to explore the city. It was still very cold . First on the list was the Governor’s house as people told us that we would be able to see the Kangchenjunga peak clearly from there. And man ! it was spectacular. The peak was so clearly visible that we didn’t even make efforts to spot it. The shutter bug within us popped out and we started clicking this beautiful view.

Tea gardens are always fun to ride in !
Prasad enjoying the ride in the mist.

Sipping tea while siting on the bench with such a view in front was so soothing that you could just exhale all the stress with an “Ahhh” and nod your head with those uplifted lips. The agenda for the day was to visit the Mall Road , Rope way and the zoo (we couldn’t make it to Tiger Hill as we didn’t have that much time). After all this , it was night and we decided to go to The Glennary’s Cafe. Its an awesome place to chill in Darjeeling. Later, we had some Thai food in a restaurant in front of the cafe and went to our hotel to get some peaceful nap as we had to leave back for Raiganj the next morning.

Day 4

We woke up early and started the engines to ride back . On the way we went to the Ghoom Monastery . It was so peaceful that all the thoughts in my mind were replaced by those mantras echoing in the monastery. We were wearing 4 layers of clothes and when we say the little monks playing football in just their simple 2 layered attire ,we were shocked ! How can someone survive in that much clothing in such a terrific cold. We did some photo clicking session for a while and left for our next stop, Raiganj .

DDLJ moves never get old.

After crossing Kurseong, we got on the Rohini pass road that we had missed while going uphill. Man! What a road it is ! You will feel like scrapping those foot-pegs at every corner. Such smooth curves and that too in a ghat section is really commendable . We reached Raiganj at around 7 pm and called the day off.

Enjoying the off-road enroute Siliguri.

Day 5

We woke up early and left for Kolkata at 7 am . Our aim was to cross Burdwan before sunset as the SH7 leading to it is completely barren and risky to travel at night. After crossing Burdhwan at 5pm we took a halt and rested a bit after a long patch of non-stop riding. When we reached home ,we were so proud of us. We had pushed ourselves through some bad-ass situations and made it back. This was my longest and most tiring ride of all time. I hope that I keep on breaking my record of longest ride again and again with a huge margin. Happy Riding Folks !

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