I waited for a perfect day to watch Walter Salles‘ masterpiece, The Motorcycle Diaries. And good that I did. Having pored over a whole lot of Lonely Planets, National Geographic Travellers and more for the whole day, yesterday night was perfect. My mind was already at its detached best. Somewhere across the misty seas and remote hamlets, hovering.
While Guevara and Alberto Granado made a journey that’s the sort that legends are made of, I figured the road I would hit. On what’ll be my first great road trip. India to Bhutan. To Trashigang to be precise.
Yes, to a country that’s hailed as the last Shangri La, in spite of its struggle against much. Not to add the lure of the fact that the shortest road link between India and Bhutan was thrown open to the likes of me in 2010.
The first stretch is (going by my map) from Kolkata to Jaigaon. A 13 hour ride, it’ll be a flying away from the City of Joy to cities of greater joy! And though I would’ve loved crossing into Bhutan from Tawang, I’ll have to choose Phuentsholing, for the other route is closed. While the place itself is too commercialised to make me stop, I suppose I’ll have to, for this is where I’ll get a visa for Thimphu. In the queer way that my mind works, I would’ve steered clear of the capital.
But I can’t, for Eastern Bhutan is what I’m aiming for.
Phuentsholing to Thimphu, a 2 hour ride. A journey the bliss of which I can only imagine. 149 kms on the Thimphu Highway, winding, bring me closer to what is, at least, officially the heart of Bhutan. The winds will be set to change, for by now I’ll have crossed Gedu into Chukha district. Though Thimphu holds little to attract me, what with its swelling number of tourists, it’s one place to pack in food.
Reason, eastern Bhutan is a fairyland, that often runs short of essentials, including food and, of course, oil.
Plus, there’s Paro too. Atypical as it may sound, the supposed hermitage of Guru Rinpoche, built in 1692, is marked in bold on my itinerary. Just 10 km from Paro, Taktsang Monastery calls the bike’s engine to quieten.
To confess, some hours (days if possible) of meditation is on my mind for this one. After all, it’s the most famed meditation site in the world. Little wonder that its wallpapers on the desktop are enough to sober me down! Writing this, I can feel my knuckles clasping the red painted railings on the trek, flapping of prayer flags blended with the roar of waterfall that’s right by the side.
Taktsang Monastery sits (or hangs) in a very loopy fashion on a side of the ravenous looking cliff. At a hell good 10,240 feet. An added reason to sit there and brood (I love brooding)!
Then comes Trashigang. Ever since I’ve found the wonders of Trashigang (if you consider a large part of the road missing, right across the front wheel a wonder!) between the pages, I’m hooked. And since the now infamous buses, also named by some as ‘Vomit Comets’, are not on my list, I’ll keenly burn some more rubber on the roads.
And yes, I’ll not forget to turn the prayer wheels, every time I see them. For I need some good amount of luck to pull this one off.
While tall pines and oaks would be breeching my way now, I won’t really mind those. I’m not a bad sport, not on the roads at least. With some luck (I’m not in love with GPS), I’ll be running in tune with river Dangmechu by now. Of course, even I need company on a 14 hour (473 kms) trip (google maps peg it at just 9 hours, to which I don’t agree!). Yes, apart from the swiftly thudding engine.
For now, I don’t know the exact number of villages on the stretch. I aim to make all those my pit stops. No road trip is complete without a peek in the life and culture. Of course, I know the delicacies those Himalayan nomads, especially the Meraks and Saktengs, offer to lone voyagers like me.
Apart from some leisurely hours at the Fortress of the Auspicious Hill, I’m keen to experience the ways of Buddhism. Religion has always made me inquisitive, as I’ve, almost, hand picked the most humane tenets of many.
I’ve no religion, for I’ve so many.
While Trashigang in itself is just some streets, it makes for all the more reasons to stay put here and explore around. For all that you know me, I might camp in the wild, somewhere by the side of the gurgling Mithidang Chhu. Plus, Trashigang has much to scour around for, including those other worldly villages.
Though I would never want to, I’ll have to leave this little kingdom. Never mind, I can always cross over to Assam from here! Another road trip perhaps.
PS – This one will see many changes in the time to come, for I’m busy collecting information and funds. And of course, customising my father’s vintage bike for the trip. Feel free to put in any suggestions or query. This one is a dream written in words, etched to come true. Words have never deserted me; they never will.
Image Courtesy – Flickr, Wikimedia Commons and Me.