“How often did I like the snaky curves on the way to a hill station? How many times did the depth of a gorge send a chill through my spines? How would I negotiate an incoming monster on four wheels determined to take me off road? “– I am thinking too much maybe, that’s what I told to myself. Phuntsholing was still busy undraping the night cover to welcome the first sun, when we set out for Thimphu, on a ride of a lifetime.
A butter smooth tarmac followed us on our exit and I could see my ride adjust smoothly to the twisties enroute. The plains soon became a distant imagery as we gained elevation. Before I could settle with the S mode riding, the first checkpost at Rinchending arrived. Our immigration and road permits were verified for the first time and minutes after leaving the place we landed up at the most treacherous terrain of this route: The landslide prone area of Sorchen. The road was gradually degrading, and at some places became a ‘no road’. The loose rocks and flowing water at times made the turf almost impossible to ride. My feet came down a number of times to strike a balance and save my day. Margin of error was zero here. One slip and off I go sky diving into the 6500 feet deep gorges. At one point the road took a sharp bend and we cautiously crossed the infamous Jhumja Slide. This slide wipes away the road during monsoons and stops traffic for around a week. A sign board looked menacing to me “Beware of Shooting Stones, Inconvenience Regretted”. A short while later the picturesque village of Jhumja arrived with colorful farms and with loads of relief. The heart thumping and dangerous terrain finally made way to some smooth strip and in no time we accelerated to our first stop for the morning, Gedu it was, still 127 kms away from our destination.
Somu negotiating the rough roads
No road actually..had to turn back and take another route
Lovely views of the city we left back- Phuntsholing
Clouds hovering on the valley
Ponies join the party
Dreaded Jumjha Slide
Deepu negotiates the curves
After refueling with a sumptuous breakfast, the thirsts of our babes were also satisfied. We tanked up at an Indian Oil petrol station for Nu 41 a liter! 7 Rupees cheaper for a liter, wow! We couldn’t have asked for more, considering our shoe string budget! The roads remained nice for quite some time and we passed the Tala Hydroelectric Project which was an Indo Bhutan joint venture and sign of a long term friendship between the two nations. Some vintage shots with the lenses and we moved on, the air was getting warmer as we descended to the Chhukha Power Project. I had heard the stories of this project from my father, who happens to be associated with the power department of my country’s government. But my curious browsing to catch a glimpse of the project went futile as it was covered by the hills. The rain and clouds had made way for a bright sunny day and it was getting hot as the day progressed. I was riding at an average of 40 kmph while Dipu and Som were speeding up; Pinak as usual was lagging behind, being grossly apprehensive of his 150 cc’s capabilities. We waited at a spectacular waterfall (Takti Chhu) for Pinak to arrive and upon his arrival advised him to lead the party, to keep up his spirits. Little did we know that a surprise was awaiting us. After some time, I saw a road worker standing with a red flag indicating us to stop. A yellow helmeted man, supposedly the lead of the construction gang informed us of a dynamite blast, which was to take place in a few minutes. “Pinak had already crossed the area unaware of the blast and would panic not seeing us for such a long time” – my mind was running dizzy thinking while my body was crouching behind a bulldozer to tackle the shock waves which was to follow. A series of eight deafening blasts shattered the silence of the expanse and smoke billowed through the crevices in the mountains. The blast impact had the rocky mountain thrown up into morsels.
You find Indian Oil allover Bhutan
Post breakfast posing
Signboard at Gedu
Danger..yes it loomed large!
Wait at the waterfall
Water and rocks create magic together
Chukka ..still to come
Smoke puffs up after the blasts
The clearing of debris took 20 mins and with dust covering all of us, we started another bumpy ride along muddy and slippery trails. Somu and Dipu kept speeding and I maintained my “view mode” riding, by stopping at all joints promising a feast to my eyes. The checkpost at Tanalum arrived sooner all camouflaged with lush green shady forests. The moisture in the air, smell of pine, gushing waterfalls and the noisy insects did me in. I stopped the engine and embraced mother nature with open arms. The enigma had transcended my senses. After I realized a lot of catch up work needs to be done, I pushed off slowly, but not before capturing the aura in my mind, forever.
Moving on to the deep forests
Waterfalls and prayer flags
The air was getting warmer
I stopped here and waited enjoying nature’s bounty
The two speeders had been waiting when I reached the highest point on the road at 8,350 feet above MSL. The moistness in the air was blown away by a fiercely cold gust of wind blowing from the north. We posed with the backdrop of conifers for some shots and waited for Pinak. We thanked Tashi Cell for the connectivity, without which we would never know how Pinak lost his way in between and was actually behind us!!!
We followed the road from Chapcha with the steep ascent and suddenly dropped straight into a mediocre high, neighboring a river. The river was none other than Wang Chhu, our companion for next one hour of jaw dropping silky smooth ride to the capital!! The curves of the cliff hugging two lane highway were beyond my expectation and sooner than later I was trying cornering by leaning at angles! The checkpost at Chuzom arrived and I was too engrossed to get down. Thimphu was only 31 kms from here. The road continued to be dramatic with steep, barren rocky mountains on one side and twisty Wang Chhu on the other. Excitement creeped in and I was negotiating the bends with knees almost touching the surface. What a cruise!! Before I could realize my ride of a lifetime was halted by the majestic gate announcing: “Welcome to Thimphu City”. The road continued to suddenly drop into an expressway whizzing past paddy fields and street light stands to the capital of the happiest nation on earth.
Grand Entry to the capital
Me posing .eh he
All the kings in one frame at the gate
Four lane expressway leading to the city
Within the city limits
Thimphu, was a neat and clean city with clustered houses bearing the stamp of a special Bhutanese architecture. We drove past Norzin Lam, the road at the heart of the city and took a right from the only manned traffic signal in the country. Settled for a cheap hotel and after a heavy lunch, we scoured the city for souvenirs. Evening was interesting and we spent most of the time around the ClockTower square, exploring handicrafts at a fair. A bit of shopping and a bit of hopping followed by a early dinner. The exertion of the day was taking its toll. I dozed off with a relieved mind. The thoughts still crossed my mind: I rode the mountains, climbed the ridges, smelt the forests, and blazed the trails. Ohh yes I did it!!