Monday, 10 June 2013

In pursuit of happiness: The Land of the Thunder Dragon

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Happiness??? I was sold. Being happy and gay is what I live for (no puns intended). Biking makes me happy. Bhutan is happy. Biking in Bhutan is the ultimate happy high then? My heart and head worked in unison for the first time in my life and they called out saying, “let’s go find out!”
After a few test runs and minor replacements my trusted stead, Madam Vadm (vah-dum), a 1985 Yezdi was ready to head towards happiness. Accompanied by another 3 oldie 2-strokers and one 350cc “bird” and a few great gentlemen for company everything was now set. Suddenly, happiness seemed a bit too easy. Is there a catch? Where is it? What is it? 

The Plan: Truck the bikes to New Jalpaiguri, Fly to Bagdogra, Collect bikes and ride off into the Bhutanese Himalayas and traverse Bhutan from west to east.
The reality: One broken arm, one hospitalization, one pillion deciding to ride for the first time ever. Bikes were trucked to New Jalpaiguri, received with broken brake levers, accelerator throttles. Working on 3 bikes with 4 helpful hands and a dying sun at a logistic supplier warehouse in the middle of god alone knew where. None the less bikes fixed, hotel found, beer bottles empty. Yup, happiness was coming.
The roads in West Bengal are horrid. I felt like Major Tom in the Space Oddity landing on the moon. But god bless our BRO (border roads organization) and DANTAK, for the minute we hit the home stretch to the gates of the Land of the Thunder Dragon it felt as though gravity had gone and we flouted off into space, behind Major Tom.
The difference between India and Bhutan is shocking. We crossed a small fancy gate and apart from crossing over countries we had crossed over from one self-destructive mentality to a warm and organized world. Everything has its own place and order. Everyone follows every rule. No one double park, no one jay walks, no one litters, and no one feels they are following rules, or they are being imposed with laws. To them it’s a part and parcel of living an easy life, and they do a fantastic job of maintaining peace and harmony. That’s all good and all for them. For me though, I had crossed over countries on my bike!!!! Happiness, for sure!!!
After a hearty session of Druk beer, a fantastic spicy cheese gravy “emdatsi” ,our inner line permits and a good nights sleep we headed onto Paro. Long beautiful tarmac winding around mountain tops, through wildlife sanctuaries, over gushing waterfalls and past quaint villages. The whole scene clearly explained this “Happiness”.
Each rest halt had its own happiness offering. Small wooden huts serving up steaming KOKA noodles and omelettes. To the hotels that had “sit on the roof outside your window” balconies, to policemen who caught us for breaking traffic rules and obliged to teach us better and wished us a happy ride. Much against my usual experience with aamchi cops. None of the “licence dakhwa”, “paper kuthe ahes” “paoti phadu ka”. Just genuine people, doing a genuine job and being helpful and HAPPY

Pumps need to be watched out for, but electricity at the pumps is far more crucial. We lost about 6 hours at Trongsa to fill fuel and ended up descending over 12400ft after sunset in fog with 20 metre sight ahead of us. Two bikes one bulb! We lived through it, drank at night laughed about it. Had a great night’s sleep. There’s no greater feeling than living a nomad life on your bike (at least that’s what I think). It your own time. No one, no rules (apart from a few), just the way freedom was intended. HELL YEAH this was that happiness Ive been in pursuit off.
Riding from Pheunstsholing in West Bhutan to Samdrup in the east over 12 nights was too short a time to truly soak in the amazingly preserved yet progressive culture. The guys had all decided to leave and head back to Guwahati and fly home. I wasn’t done just yet. I’m riding back to West Bhutan I said. You’re going straight out the East Bhutan gate and riding through Assam into West Bengal said the Immigration officer.
You can make me leave the Land of happiness… but you can’t stop me from finding happiness in another land!

Riding back solo from Meghalaya to Maharashtra I was never alone. Happiness followed me all the way back home. 

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