The Long way ride to Tawang

In October 2015, I had embarked on an all India motorcycle journey covering 16000 kms in 51 days on my Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500. It was during this trip that I managed a glimpse of the north east and it didn’t quite satiate my wanderlust.

During the journey, I had visited Meghalaya and turned back to mainland India due to lack of time, but with a resolve to do a tour of the Northeast certainly very soon.

It was on 19th February 2017 that resolve finally came through, and I set off on a tour of the North East.

But this journey was different, unlike my usual solo trips, this time I was accompanied by my friend, my brother from another mother, Mrithyunjai Rampur a.k.a Muthu Anna.

I have always been sceptical about travelling far distances with company as I am generally averse to compromising on my travel plans. Which involve ‘no plan’, no itinerary, and often without strict conditions for stay, food, or convenience.

But with Muthu Anna, I was sure that we both won’t be required to compromise in any manner as we share the same style of travel. Having said that, Muthu Anna had been travelling a lot before I started doing my motorcycle journeys and listening to his stories changed my perspective on how one should actually travel – Untamed and Wild.

Muthu Anna rode from his hometown, Hampi to Mumbai and stayed with me for a couple of days, and we started off from Mumbai.

2 Men, 2 Motorcycles from one extreme end of the country to the other extreme end. We have never shipped our bikes and therefore riding all the way (for 2800 kms) to reach Guwahati was the only option we were left with.

It took us 6 days to reach Guwahati.

The first night break we took was at a Dhaba, 25kms short of Bhopal. There we slept on a Khatia, enjoying some mind-blowing tracks from ‘90s Bollywood, bringing back sweet memories of our childhood.

The next day we rode through Bhopal, Vidisha, Sagar and took a night halt again at the outskirts of Chattarpur. Yet again at a colourful dhaba called ‘Friendship’ where we found some 15-20 curious folks excited to see two men in an attire like the one we were in.

The third night halt was at Varanasi in a dorm at Roadhouse Hostel, and fourth at Begusarai in Bihar where we thoroughly cleaned ourselves and our since we had taken on some of the more terrible roads of UP and Bihar over the past 2 days.

The fifth night at Bagdogra was arranged by an unknown acquaintance who was part of the BTH Whatsapp group. To our surprise, he turned out to be a highly decorated officer of the rank Wing Commander in the Indian Air Force.

The night we spent with him turned us into best friends and later this year in August, I travelled along with him in my next Tour of NE.

After Bagdogra, the following day we were at Guwahati.

Reaching Guwahati, we heaved a sigh of relief. Because we realised that riding through states of UP, Bihar and Bengal is a serious challenge. And somehow we made it through them alive.

We replenished our resources for our journey to the hills – put out our bikes for a short service at the workshop and packed up necessary items like bungee cords and ropes.

It took us an entire day to get all of this done and it was only by three that we got some breathing space. We decided to move to Tezpur where I had another friend waiting to host us at the army quarters guest house.

Our first visit in the region was reserved for Tawang, given the hype around it.

The Lt. Colonel had readied all our Inner Line Permits for entire Arunachal Pradesh beforehand as a generous gesture.

The following day which was a Sunday, I, Muthu Anna and Sir rode together to Nameri Wildlife Sanctuary and sat by the Nameri River spending some much needed quality time of peace. My friend accompanied us till Bhalukpong which is the border of Assam and Arunachal and bid goodbye finally as we proceeded northwards.

We made our first stop for the night at Tenga. Unable to get a budget hotel, we got shelter in the restaurant where we had our dinner. The owner of the Hotel, Mr Kishan gave us a space in the room where the workers of the restaurant sleep. It got cold in the evening and colder at night. Next morning was even colder and I hadn’t anticipated that.

We rode from Tenga to Bomdila to Dirang. After crossing Dirang we stopped at a war memorial which was manned by the Naga Regiment of the Army. The jawan there informed us about a place on the top of the hill where nobody visits and is a great place for panoramic views. We rushed to the top of the mountain riding 10 kms and the higher we went, the lower was the temperature. However, we were given the hospitality of kind villagers and a Veterinary Doctor named Aniyang Lego. Seeing us and knowing our intent of camping in such harsh weather, he opened the doors of his own quarters where he stayed and with a smile said, “I am not going to allow you to camp in such harsh conditions”.

The temperature was -2 degree Celsius. The cold got to me bad, I shivered through it all. But Aniyang managed to keep us warm by burning bukhari while we ate our hot Maggi and omelette.

The next morning the weather was clear and we started riding towards Tawang with a heavy heart. Both us did not want to leave this beautiful place, which by the way is named Nyukmadong.

We reached Tawang by the end of the day and managed to get accommodation in a hotel for 1000 bucks. Since it was offseason, we got it relatively cheaper or that is what we were told.

We spend some time in Tawang till the next morning after which we started our journey back to Tezpur through the same route. We reached Dirang that very evening.

After booking a hotel in Dirang we enquired with the locals about an alternative route to Tezpur via Kalaktang instead of Bomdila and Tenga.

The locals were sceptical. They warned us that the route we were inquiring about was known to be a hideout of Bodo Militants.

I was a bit disappointed but this didn’t shake my willingness of taking that route because taking routes less travelled is what I love to do the most. I tend to escape from the crowd and chaos and the regular route had plenty of it. Muthu Anna was riding a Triumph Tiger which costs 15 lakhs and thus was a bit sceptical if he should take that route and after some discussions, Muthu Anna says, “Anna, you take the other route and I will take the regular route, you have been talking about this route all this journey and I don’t want to spoil your dream and plan. We both shall meet at Tezpur at the same place we had arrived on Saturday”. This gave me a lot of relief. I have travelled with groups and such situations often tend to make the situation a bit dicey leading to unpleasantness between travel partners. But the way Muthu Anna handled the situation, balancing my eagerness and his bike’s safety. This is something I look for in every ride partner who comes along with me on my rides.

I took the route off from Dirang to Mandala, Morshim, Shergaon, Kalaktang, Rowta and Tezpur. The ride was bliss.

It was paved with some smooth stretches of road and the best thing about that journey was that for a span of 180 kms, I hardly crossed four to five vehicles on my way.

It was a perfect combination of solitude and peace. I literally danced and laughed on the saddle at every twist and curve with the vistas the journey threw upon me. There were wild bulls and horses along the road at times who hopped in front of me and ran alongside. I encountered three SSB posts that man the route and had friendly chats with the jawans there who said the militants have been flushed out but it’s advisable to cross this route during day time. I comfortably reached Tezpur by 7.30 where Muthu Anna was waiting for me for an hour. I told him what he missed but thanked him for giving me this opportunity and not making me regret the company I was travelling with. We were just 12 days into this long journey and had another 20 odd days with us which made me confident that I am have the right partner along with me, with whom, I shall never hesitate to ride and travel along.

Mates or friends are important part of our journeys, and no rider would replace this element in their stories. Just like I found a mate for my ride, countless riders discover theirs too. Find yours and go take a trip down to Goa where Royal Enfield’s Rider Mania is happening from Nov 17 – Nov 19.

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