Vacation, 2200+ Kms motorbike tour in Northeastern India and Bhutan

Travelogue: 2200+km motorcycle road trip in Northeastern India.
August 2010

All photos are here (feel free to use them as you please). GPS plots and GPX files are also available. If you need them please drop me a line.

The plan

After having done the Manali – Leh trip (North India) two times, we thought it was time to give the Northeastern part of India and Bhutan a visit on a motorbike. I had read so many travel blogs about the beauty of Sikkim, Darjeeling and India’s neighboring country, Bhutan.

So, the plan was this. I would fly into Calcutta in West Bengal, India from Hong Kong and my friend Prashant would bring his own motorbike from Mumbai to Calutta by train. I would be renting a motorbike in Calcutta and we would start driving from there.

The execution:

Booking a plane ticket to Calcutta was simple enough. I used www.makemytrip.com which I would highly recommend. Very easy to use website for good deals. I got a ticket from HK – Bang Kok – Calcutta for HKD 3800.

The motorbike rental turned out to be a much greater challenge though. Having scoured the internet and having called many, many shops, we realized 2-3 days before the trip that getting a rental motorbike in Calcutta would be extremely difficult. The backup plan was to buy a second hand bike for 10 days and sell it back to the same shop we would buy it from for a discounted price. We weren’t sure if we could pull this off.

And this is what really happened:

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Vacation, 2009-06-25 to 07-11, 1600kms Himalayan motorcycle drive

All pictures here.

June 25th 2009:

Took a cheap Air India flight (HKD 4,100) to Delhi. They were playing some movie from like 50 years back but luckily I had my Bloomberg magazine for in-flight entertainment. The flight attendants were pretty much old ladies and guys on the fringe of retiring.

Reached New Delhi at 10PM and transferred to the domestic terminal at 1AM.

June 26th 2009:
The flight we were supposed to take to Kulu was called MDLR Airlines. Completely unheard of! I was preparing myself for the strong possibility that the flight may never take off! But, much to my surprise, it took off at 7.10AM (more or less on time) and the economy seats were fantastic! The flight attendants looked as pretty as some Bollywood actresses and they even served a quick in-flight snack! The snack was tasty. At the end, they handed out some leaflet promoting MDLR’s new casino in Goa and a free admission to it! (not for me, I don’t like contributing to casino revenues).

We reached Kulu airport at 10AM and decided to avoid a INR1000 bucker taxi ride to Manali, instead choosing what we thought would be a quick 30-minute bus ride to Manali. The weather was hot (30 degrees) and the bus-stop turned out to be more than 10 minutes away. We eventually boarded a bus that started out empty but soon passengers were packed inside like sardines. I could smell sweaty armpits and a frequent and generous fart every now and then from a passenger with apparent bowel problems. Two grueling hours later, we reached Manali.

Lunch was at Swamiji South Indian restaurant and our bike hunting mission began soon after. Hardev motors, Anu Autoworks and the other bike shops did not have any bikes. Disappointed, we decided to come up with a Plan B and headed over to a juice bar. As we casually asked the “bartender” if he knew a bike shop, he immediately directed us to a buddy and our mission caught traction. We were soon acquainted with a dude called Dev who owned Bajaj Autoworks 50/50 with the mechanic called Ashok. The deal was this:

2 Pulsars @ INR 700 a day
2 Yamahas @ INR 500 a day (1 for a mechanic who was to accompany us all the way. The bike shop guy highly advised this in case we ended up with mechanical faults on the way. Roads are said to be in a very, very bad shape with some snowfall somewhere along the way).
700 a day salary for the mechanic.

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