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Old 22nd March 2014, 22:12   #1
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Default Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!

The beating wind bellows, screams and pierces through my riding jackets. My knuckles freeze and my fingers ice up. I feel a churn in my belly - not of hunger - but one of anxiety. My face, hidden behind the helmet, has cracked under the prolonged exposure to the fierce cold.

So cold that a cup of hot tea freezes in half a minute.
Chocolates can become as hard as steel plates.
And a minute's walk can leave you breathless for the next quarter of an hour.

Far away a few yaks dart across the plateau, scurrying for cover from the freezing cold. And here, I hang on to the thin air, latching on to the remaining oxygen.

In this primal and hostile environment, stands the massive Giagong plateau, one that fades into the horizon everywhere. I know I haven’t hit the plateau yet, but the flat nature of the land and reducing number of turns tell me that I am almost there. Edges of mountains, precipitated by snow are visible in remote distances.

It is the fag end of autumn and winter has set in the high plains of the Eastern frontier. It is a pilgrimage - one of the different kind. There are no Gods to be praised, no demons to be exorcised. The pilgrimage is a journey, to the high mountains on a motorcycle that drones under the lack of air, but does not stop. Ruts, dug by the military vehicles and telephone cables serve as pointers in these high plains.

I pull the jacket closer with one hand and grip the handlebar of the motorcycle with another. I miss the comfort of the windshield and the protected cabin of the car. For, in a motorcycle, you are in flow with the nature, a part of the scene. You are a surging wave that it out there to conquer what nature throws at you.

The thoughts die fast. For all I can hear now is the screaming gale and the drone of the running engine. Whereas at times, it feels too deaf and silent.
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Old 22nd March 2014, 22:48   #2
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We rode over the whizzing tarmac.
Rose over the sea of mountains.
Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!-_dsc1135.jpg
Climbed over the meadows of pine.
Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!-_dsc1143.jpg
We saw the darkness of the night fade into the colours of the dawn.
Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!-_dsc1168.jpg
And the orange hue of the sun, beam into the might of the Kanchenjunga
Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!-_dsc1213.jpg

The little shrubs fluttered in the morning breeze.
The valleys became flooded with light
Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!-_dsc1248.jpg
And the slopes spiraled like a maze
Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!-_dsc1263.jpg
Lakes so blue.
The air so verdant.
The part of a world which we think, isn't our own.
Yet it is there and it is our very own.
Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!-_dsc1323.jpg
Fluttering breeze.
And waving flags.
And that slice of the lake.
Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!-_dsc1341.jpg

No matter where you would go.
The Kanchenjunga would peer at you.
Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!-_dsc14062.jpg
Wild flowers and berries.
On the road sides.
Across the steep slopes.
Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!-_dsc1422.jpg
And the autumn.
The azure skies. Blue and cloudless.
Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!-_dsc1424.jpg
And that beating engine.
The heart beat of the motorcycle.
That never gave in.
Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!-_dsc1432.jpg

Peaks so sharp.That they seemed to slice the blue skies.
Sparkling, as the golden sun rays fell upon them.
Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!-_dsc1457.jpg

And a dry and desolate plateau.
Brown.
Barren.
Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!-_dsc1551.jpg

And the ice.
Frozen and unforgiving.
And how it stopped us
No, the motorcycle did not go to Gurudongmar.
Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!-_dsc1519.jpg

But the Lake was still there.
And it hang around for us.
Frozen.
Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!-_dsc1580.jpg

The colours of autumn were still there.
You just needed to look around.
Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!-_dsc1737.jpg

The valley was hidden.
Hidden from the maze of the hills.
But it was still to be seen.
Yet it was a speck.
Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!-_dsc1703.jpg

And far ahead, in the miles that followed.
Which seemed to be the end of the road.
The hills seemed to merge into the horizon.
Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!-_dsc1681.jpg

And the snow.
And the rocks.
And the shrubs.
Paradise, is indeed, not lost.
Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!-_dsc1683.jpg

Read on!

Last edited by GTO : 1st April 2014 at 13:05. Reason: Merging back to back posts
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Old 27th March 2014, 21:34   #3
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"..... this road is cool and breezy. I see the speedometer needle touch 40, then 50 and I can hear the engine growling. The curves have bent straight into an arrow straight piece of black top. It appears to be a stretch of around a kilometer with no vehicles in sight. So, I speed more and touch 60 then 70 and then step off the gas and move to neutral and then experience the cycle as its speed comes down...70..60..50..40 and finally it stops at a small grocery store, perched on a corner of the mountain.

You can see miles from here without any obstacle. There are packets of Sikkim's indigenous noodles "Wai Wai" hanging on the walls of the shop. The choice is simple: tea and noodles and while the noodles is being prepared, I bask in the glorious sunshine, just outside the shop. I remove the sunglasses and see that a fine layer of dust has accumulated on it. I act on the instincts and pat on the jacket sleeves and thick volumes of dust emerge. A few minutes later, the support vehicle stutters to a halt behind me.

The store owner comes out and hands me over the tea. I draw up a chair from inside the store and sit out in the open and enjoy the tea. It is so sunny now. The light is bright, the shadows are darker, the colours so pronounced that it gives the word "contrast" a new meaning. But there were times earlier when there were only rains and clouds and no sun. That is when the cold felt much harsher...."

A few miles out of Siliguri town...

To my right, I can see, a flock of birds, which, seem to float across the orange rising sun over acres of golden harvest. The fields stretch for miles before merging into the horizon.

To my left, stands a gently rolling blue hill that has filled up the horizon.

Cutting through the fields on the left and the right, is a sweeping, jet black piece of road, on which I am breezing on a motorcycle. The chilly air hits straight on my face and its gusts, almost numb my nose tips.

On the surface are plans for a long motorcycling holiday
Over the high passes, cold deserts and meadows of pines.
Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!-_dsc1109.jpg

I get mixed feelings.
I feel a little agitated.
This holidaying concept is new.
Its a maiden one for me.

But there is an excitement which I cant hide.
And on my face is an unmistakable grin.
Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!-_dsc1114.jpg

These are roads which rise high above the plains.
Roads that lead to exploration of a world that we think do not exist.
Roads that lead us to a point of self discovery.

Today I am on my way to Zuluk.
Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!-_dsc1115.jpg

Last edited by GTO : 1st April 2014 at 13:05. Reason: Merging back to back posts
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Old 28th March 2014, 09:41   #4
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The miles stretch on.
And so does the ride.
Near a road side dhaba I turn the ignition off and the motorcycle strolls with its remnant bits of power over the gravel strewn road edge.
The morning is still young and the wind is still cold. I remove my helmet and let hang it from the motorcycle handle bar.

The chairs and tables along with a few khatiyas have been laid out in the open. I stretch my arms and legs, which have become a little stiff, and take a seat.
"2 Aloo paranthas and tea. Bring the tea first", I order.
A young lad takes note of the ordered items and dashes to the chae wallah.

"Sir apka chae", says the young fellow, who had taken the order comes up to me and hands me over the tea.

I thank him for the tea and as I sip it little by little, the hint of ginger, elaichi and a good amount of milk makes the tea pretty tasty. A slice of the fields appear between the kitchen and the restaurant section of the dhaba. Its all golden and green and brown and looks very beautiful.

Almost in no time, the smell of Aloo paranthas fills up the olfactory nerves. The paranthas are hot, straight out of the oven. A couple of tablespoons of butter are melting on its surface. It is accompanied by a bowl of thick dahi. Just what the doctor ordered! Not to mention the hunger that was bellowing in the stomach.

I spend a good half an hour at the dhaba. A nice relaxing day to start with!

I see these guys enjoying a joy ride on their bicycle.
I ask them to pose.
They happily oblige.

Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!-_dsc1126.jpg

The hills are winding.
But the road holds good and steady.
I switch between the second and the third gear.
And the motorcycle feels planted on the road.
Somewhere near Melli, I see this spot. I get down and shoot them.
The forests and trees are there. All over.
No matter where you would go, the trees, the river, a snowy peak at the head of the valley would always be there.

Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!-_dsc1127.jpg
At the petrol pump in Rangpo I fill up extra litres of fuel in the reserve cans knowing fully well that a drop of petrol will not be available from here until Gangtok, where I am expected to reach tomorrow. The thought of the icy cold winds, snow fed streams and glacial lakes - the start of the high plains bordering China - hits me. It creates a sudden disturbance in the mind - a feeling of excitement - the prospect of riding over those roads.

From Rangpo, until Rongli, a ride of 25 kms, the road is devastated. The concentration lay more on the ride. And hence, no photos!

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Old 31st March 2014, 23:19   #5
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At Rongli I meet Chundu Bhutia, whose support vehicle I will be using for the remaining trip. He arranges the permit and takes a long time to arrange for that. But the road beyond Rongli is a different world.

The boulder strewn road has given way to smooth asphalt.
The dust from the low hills has given way to clean, untainted air.
The intense sun has given way soft, white clouds.
The tropical trees have given away to conifers.
The hairpins have become sharper.
And the traffic, thinner.

I see these BRO workers returning from work. They are a little intrigued when I ask them to pose. Instead, they tell me "We are from CID!"

Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!-_dsc1136.jpg

There is an urge to stop at of those sharp hairpin bends and look at the world below. Wisps of clouds hang around the valleys. From where I stand, it feels scary to see that the raging river resembles a thread. The drop is a sheer straight one. Take a flight and you will hurtle hundreds of feet into the bottomless valleys beneath.

Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!-_dsc1137.jpg

As the roads lead me out to the higher places, I can see a beautiful meadow. Behind a wooden gate, are pines and conifers, wild flowers and berries. An old, stone walled school building appears in the rear of the garden. I can hear the shrill sounds of children repeating what their teacher was teaching. It’s the village primary school and the system of education remains the same almost everywhere. It reminds me of our kindergarten classes.

Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!-_dsc1146.jpg

At Padamchen, the last check post on the way to Zuluk, I get my permit stamped the fourth time. My mind is riveted on the milestone that that indicates that Zuluk is not too far from here. And for the first time in the day I make haste. I cannot deny that the prospect of a home, a bed, clean linen and a proper bath can leave me happier. But before I start the last leg of the journey, I can see a convoy of Army trucks coming down. The series of trucks resemble a moving chain descending the mountain. I wait for the convoy to pass and then climb the remaining switch backs. I cross the military check post from where I can see the little village of Zuluk floating in clouds and mist. Some of the clouds, high up in the sky, have turned orange due to the evening sun.

Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!-_dsc1144.jpg
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Old 31st March 2014, 23:25   #6
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Default How the colours - They Changed!

May be it is the fresh air that has filled up the room.
Or the cup of tea which Lobzang has brought for me.
Or the fact that beyond the warm comfort of the quilt, there is an unmistakable phenomenon waiting to be discovered.
There is an electricity that I feel; a surge of energy - in my thoughts and action.

I cannot deny the fact that there is a magic somewhere.
I feel fresher than I must have felt in a long time.
I feel that I am the part of an engagement which was long due.

But presently, outside, the moon is shining bright.
And the stars appear still and calm.
And a breeze picks up at times and then settles down.
There is a little amount of sleep still hidden in my eyes.
There is a residue of the tiredness which I had taken yesterday.
And there is an undeniable anticipation with which I look up for today.

Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!-_dsc1168.jpg

We will be climbing up the slopes of the mountain, to a place where the water has frozen cold into ice. Where the sun will beam over the moon and peer straight into the Kanchendzonga.Yes, we were going to watch the sun rise!

Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!-_dsc1170.jpg

I won't be taking my motorcycle along this time, because I am going to retrace the same path later in the day.



Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!-_dsc1174.jpg

Lobzang starts the vehicle and I settle inside it. He turns the headlights on and I see the swerving headlights light up the corners of the steep roads that have zigzagged their up and down - reminiscent of the roads that led to Zuluk from Rongli. The myriad lights from the military station grow fainter as we rise up and they finally disappear after a turn.

Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!-_dsc1189.jpg

All the while during the conversation, the darkness started to disappear and the stars receded into the faintest of lights. The road that we are on circled along the mountain and rose higher at every turn. That resulted in different views every time we switched to a different turn. Whereas, during one of the turns, the starlit sky remained visible, the next turn reflected a sky of the faintest of an orange hue. The orange hued horizon was the place from where the sun would rise and the starlit sky side belonged to Kanchendzonga. I figured it out that we are going to watch the sunrise from the top of this hill.

Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!-_dsc1194.jpg

And then, as we keep rising along the slopes, what juts out suddenly, massive but silent, towering yet benign, in the fast disappearing darkness of the sky and the remaining stars, appeared the mighty Kanchendzonga range - basking in its distinct pearly white snow - clearly distinct from the darkness of the sky above it and the mountains below it. The sunrise, a figment of my imagination, was just taking shape!

Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!-_dsc1176.jpg

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Old 1st April 2014, 13:09   #7
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Default Re: Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 1st April 2014, 13:44   #8
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Default Re: Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!

Let me be the first!

Ten Thousand Thundering Typhoons!, Billions of blue blistering barnacles! , as Captain Archibald Haddock always said!

This is natural beauty personified! What say? Eh!

The curves of the hilly roads! Ah! The feel of it! And also, just to hear the 350 thump it out is a pleasure!

The tasty Wai-Wai noodles, the masala tea, and oh! The Siestas, the vistas! And all this, while basking in the sunshine!

Oh! Even the very thought of this is utterly, well............Amazing!

As all the Fiatians say, "Admiration Guaranteed!"

Well, in this case, it is....well, I'm running out of words, to speak the truth!

Cheerio! Eh!

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Old 1st April 2014, 13:49   #9
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Default Re: Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!

Your photo's are breathless, your narration - impeccable & that leaves me absolutely, wordless.

Brilliant travelogue - if there're more of those photo's then do kindly share it with us. I like the
way you skip all the mundane details otherwise people delve into.
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Old 1st April 2014, 14:26   #10
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Default Re: Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!

I am, possibly one of the first few to commune with the sense of grandeur and utter awe which you have experienced.
I am eager for further details of your experiences.
If I may ask : Did your route eschew 4-wheelers?
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Old 1st April 2014, 15:09   #11
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Default Re: Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!

Awesome awesome narrative and brilliant photography!

Cheers to you!
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Old 1st April 2014, 15:45   #12
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Default Re: Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!

Your 'Motorcycle Diaries' through one of India's most beautiful states, Sikkim, is truly enchanting! Besides the bountiful natural beauties, Sikkim's biggest asset, I think, is its people: warm, hospitable, friendly, peace-loving—one falls short of adjectives to describe them. Your photos are breathtaking, please share more if you have. Your travelogue reminded me of my brief stay in Gangtok. Being from the North-East, another heaven that lies in India's Eastern border, I was instantly able to identify with the people of Sikkim (though Sikkim is nowadays clubbed with the seven North-East states for financial reasons by the Central Govt, Sikkim also has a distinct identity from other North-Eastern states).
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Old 1st April 2014, 20:36   #13
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Default Re: Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!

Wow that's a lovely travelogue, sayakc.

Brilliant narration and stunning photographs. Those loops near Zuluk look so tempting. Few questions that I wanted to ask:

1. Can you please share contact details of Mr.Chundu Bhutia and also please let us know what all documents and how much time it took to get all the necessary permits?

2. Can you please let us know what itinerary did you follow? That would give a good picture of the distances between the places.

3. How good (or bad) are the roads in East Sikkim and North Sikkim?

4. Where exactly are those winding hairpin loops? Are they between the Rongli-Zuluk stretch or between the Rongli-Kupup stretch?

I am so glued to this thread. Awaiting your replies in anticipation.

Rated the thread 5-stars.

Thanks and Regards,
Arunabh
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Old 1st April 2014, 22:21   #14
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Default Re: Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!

Amazing place , Amazing photography , Amazing thumper to give you company all along. Excellent narration.

Congrats and Good wishes for all your future trips!!!
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Old 2nd April 2014, 20:55   #15
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Default Re: Riding beyond the Snowed Out Vistas!

Thank you James! This is practically the first travelogue that I have written here and I am glad that you have liked it.
Quote:
Originally Posted by jamesdraj View Post
Amazing place , Amazing photography , Amazing thumper to give you company all along. Excellent narration.

Congrats and Good wishes for all your future trips!!!
Dear Arunabh,

1 - Chundu Bhutia's # 9733 063 463.
Since I stayed in Chundu's resort and had taken his services for a support vehicle and also to watch the sunrise so he had arranged for the permits. You require only Police permits for the Silk route. No army permits are required.

2 -
Day1: Siliguri - Zuluk (140 kms)
Day 2: Zuluk - Kupup - Sherathang - Tsomgo - Gangtok - 90 kms
I will share the distances of North Sikkim once I get there!

3. Road condition: Siliguri - Rangpo (80 kms) - Excellent. Rangpo to Rongli - Terrible (I guess 28 kms). Rongli to Zuluk - Nice single lane road.

4. Yes, you are correct. The hairpins are from Zuluk to Kupup. During the winters, I was fortunate enough to see them, they are heavenly.

Thank you so much for rating this thread 5 stars.

Quote:
Originally Posted by //M View Post
Wow that's a lovely travelogue, sayakc.

Brilliant narration and stunning photographs. Those loops near Zuluk look so tempting. Few questions that I wanted to ask:

1. Can you please share contact details of Mr.Chundu Bhutia and also please let us know what all documents and how much time it took to get all the necessary permits?

2. Can you please let us know what itinerary did you follow? That would give a good picture of the distances between the places.

3. How good (or bad) are the roads in East Sikkim and North Sikkim?

4. Where exactly are those winding hairpin loops? Are they between the Rongli-Zuluk stretch or between the Rongli-Kupup stretch?

I am so glued to this thread. Awaiting your replies in anticipation.

Rated the thread 5-stars.

Thanks and Regards,
Arunabh
Thank you FINTAIL for the kind words. It feels great that you liked it!

Quote:
Originally Posted by FINTAIL View Post
Let me be the first!

Ten Thousand Thundering Typhoons!, Billions of blue blistering barnacles! , as Captain Archibald Haddock always said!

This is natural beauty personified! What say? Eh!

The curves of the hilly roads! Ah! The feel of it! And also, just to hear the 350 thump it out is a pleasure!

The tasty Wai-Wai noodles, the masala tea, and oh! The Siestas, the vistas! And all this, while basking in the sunshine!

Oh! Even the very thought of this is utterly, well............Amazing!

As all the Fiatians say, "Admiration Guaranteed!"

Well, in this case, it is....well, I'm running out of words, to speak the truth!

Cheerio! Eh!
Hello Joy,
This route allows 4 wheeler traffic. But the traffic is low!

Quote:
Originally Posted by joybhowmik View Post
I am, possibly one of the first few to commune with the sense of grandeur and utter awe which you have experienced.
I am eager for further details of your experiences.
If I may ask : Did your route eschew 4-wheelers?
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