2020 (not 2021) started with a Bang. Months of planning my epic Roadtrip from Bangalore to Bhutan finally happened. With lot of fear and apprehension, we did start and complete the 13 day 5 states, 2 countries, 7000 kms drive on the 8th January 2020.What seemed a very daunting task till we started, finally did go through. With planning, luck, excitement and enthusiasm something new, something different and something bold did happen.
But that euphoria was short lived.
Covid struck and put a stop to not only any future Roadtrips but it also grounded the best of industries from aviation to hospitality. All roads went empty and the fear of meet and greet was almost paranoid. Many lost jobs, lost health and even lost lives. While no one could control anything, but everything seemed bleak and hopeless. I started to think what could be done in such a situation. I could not travel, drive, meet people or even go to work. Sitting at home long hours of office meetings, calls and HR interviews was not making things great either. That’s when the thought of “Running” struck me.
While I always liked the outdoors, Running was one sport that never clicked with me. From the beginning I though it was exhausting. difficult, unsocial and something that I could never do. Nevertheless, with such thoughts, I tried. I turned up to the small cricket ground in our new complex, where we had just moved in. Early morning walks there was giving it a nice feel and the empty green field at 6:00am beckoned me to give it a try. Its a 250 meter circumfence ground but the newness and lushness appealed. I started by walking 3-4 rounds of it, never even thinking or attempting to jog or run it.
After few days of walks, I broke that initial taboo of “what will people think” seeing a middle age person running. (Later I realized this is one of the most common fears for people to take up running as a sport). But I pushed, thinking “whatever” lets see, its not going to hurt anyone” attitude. But it did. People those days were not coming out of houses, so I started at 5:30 am when it was still dark. I pleaded with the security guard and with a mask on, I started slow running till I could do 1 complete jog of the field and felt accomplished. It was a full 250 meters of jogging. Wow. I did this for 2-3 weeks and slowly I targeted to complete 3 rounds of running on that field. I mustered all courage, read all motivational quotes from pinterest but still the fear of crossing that hurdle stopped me from trying. Then one fine day I just broke free and gave it a shot, and yes with some nice music in my playlist I did it. 750 meters of running. Not even a 1k, but doing 3 rounds of that field did give me a boost.
Next I planned for 5 rounds of the field, that was 1 KM run. I can’t tell, how tall a mountain it seemed, it seemed impossible to finish 5 rounds of that field and that thought stopped me from trying. Then I downloaded Nike’s NRC app. Coach Bennett’s guided runs helped, helped a lot. The coaching, the voice, the motivational speakers made me do more, push more. I did that 5 rounds of the field, that 1 km run. It felt great as if I had reached the summit of my achievements. I clicked selfies, shared on insta and put it on my whatsapp DP, etc.
Then I went on to attempt my first 1st 5k Run. That’s almost 15 rounds of the cricket field. I remember not so long ago doing 3 rounds and feeling overwhelmed and here I was planning 15 rounds? A 5k Run? But with grit and little motivation from my NRC app and music playlists, I did it. I did my 1st 5k Run inside the ground in 32 minutes.
Slowly things were turning better in the Covid world, too. Some folks were getting back to streets and shops were opening up. I tried the next impossible thing. Run on the Roads. My biggest fear running on the roads was “Dogs”. I have seen dogs running and barking up to you and probably even bite. So that stopped me from trying, also the thought what if that happened and people were to see and laugh etc. There were so many reasons for me not to start. But since now I had accomplished 5 rounds of the field, which seemed impossible some months back, I gave it a shot. And lo and Behold, It was done. A 5k Run on the Roads.
From not being able to do long Roadtrips, here I saw a different purpose of the Road, Running. So I started running on the roads. Dogs did come after me. I stopped immediately then walked past them slowly. I also changed my time from dawn running to slightly later in the morning, around 7am . That helped with the dogs too.
Then, I attempted my first 10 k Run. It was over 1 year of running and completing multiple 3K and 5K’s Runs. In October 2020 I completed my first 10 k Run. I was over the moon. That’s like 30 rounds of that same field which 1 year back I was scared to even do 3.
Finally, yesterday, 31st January 2021. I completed my 4th 10k Run and on the Road. I dint want one 10k to be a fluke. I dint want 1 run on the road to be a , one off. This was my 4th 10k Run.
Running a 10k is not ground breaking in any ways, Lots of people, athletes do it. But for me it was a big challenge. Overcoming fears, personal taboos and even a pandemic crisis to come out and learn a new sport. A sport that not only helps your body but also your heart and your soul. That was a great learning, Challenging but defining for me.
The pandemic has changed lives for so many people in many different ways. For me it transformed my life by helping me take up a life-long sport and taught me valuable lessons that with small strides, patience and a sense of adventure, No Roads are difficult, No Journeys are impossible. One should but Just make a Start.
So here we were, finally travelling to Abu, as a family.Sitting in the Bangalore airport lounge around 10:30 pm at night,tired after the entire process of reaching Bangalore airport by Road,navigating baggage,immigration etc.
So when the kids told me they were hungry , it was obvious.Only issue was the boarding call had started and almost all boarding completed except for the 4 of us.Why? Because the chicken noodles was getting prepared in the small airport lounge eatery. My wife and kids frantically calling out to me from the exit gate and I am like yes,yes 1 min, coming.2 mins. etc..finally no time to eat simply picked up the paper plates of noodles and rushed to entire the flight.Finding and sitting on our seats was no issue as most of the passengers had seated comfortably, of course few glares toward us as we trotted into the aisle to find our seats with 2 plates of hot noodles, in my hand,The smell of which must have intrigued few passengers and pissed off the so very nice “etihad” flight crew.
But why is this trivia worth mentioning in the travel blog post.Surely i am not mistaken for a food blogger. 🙂 Well, you must know folks,what happened to the 2 plates of hot chicken noodles.Just as we were fastening our seat belts readying to complete our food so that take off is not delayed…My son with his super special motor skills, managed to give a simple flick with his elbow to the 2 plates of noddles which by now was resting in my wifes, hands to be eaten.The gently flick, was gentle no doubt but enough to topple the 2 hot plates of chicken noddles straight from the hand to the super clean floor of the etihad aeroplane. Alas,So much for hunger and noodles.Welcome to the Abu Dhabi Trip. 🙂
Abu Dhabi is a very beautiful place, I must say.Off the hustle of Dubai ,with clean and wide roads sparsed population.Enough for a quite life.If its not in your Dubai Itiniery, it should be.2-3 days spent here will relax you during your Dubai vacation and if you are a car or driving fan, the Desert Safari with the Mitsubishi Offroads is a must and ofcourse the one and only Ferrari world.How can you not be there.
Places of Interest, Visited. – Abu Dhabi .The Corniche, Emirates Palace,Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque, Ferrari World.Abu Dhabi City Walk.Yas Island(Yas Merina F1 Circuit).
Dubai, in contrast , is a different Story.Its very cosmopolitan place.People from across the globe live and work here,It compares to any global city.Modern,Stylish and Efficient.
Dubai is home to so many beautiful beaches and palaces and of course the Huge towers (Burj).While Dubai is like New York, Mumbai,Paris,London is many ways.A visit to the marvel of asia is the worlds tallest Structure The Burj-Khalifa.(828Metres Tall).One can wonder the marvel of engineering and human effort.This place in the day and evening is a must visit and a travel up into the tower is as good as the ride up the Eiffel Tower in Paris.A 2-3 Day tour of the places to visit in Dubai is good for short budget trip.But end the trip with a visit to the Miracle Garden, the worlds largest Natural Flower Garden.
One will be surprised that a visit to Dubai will cover so many worlds largest.Surely Money, Effort and Human Imagination can do wonders.Drive around Abu Dhabi and Dubai to see the wonders of the modern world.Its amazing.
Places of Interest, Visited. – Dubai. – Burj-Khalifa, Burj-Arab,Miracle Garden,Dubai Mall,Palm Jumeirah, The Atlantis, Dubai Marina.
Also must mention two very nice people,My BIL and SIL,Kenneth and Shilpa, who hosted us around the same time in 2017 in Abu Dhabi. Their hard work and very good planning helped us see through this Trip.
Some pics from our Trip.
Adding few More Photos, as per feedback.
Looking back, I must say that this has to be one of the most wonderful trips of my life. Not because of the destination or the journey but the sheer impulse of the trip and the randomness at every step.
This was way back in summer of 97. My second year during MBA classes in Noida(next to New Delhi). We had just completed classes and it was the beginning of a weekend.Friday late evening, lazing in the football field, chatting up some classmates and general time pass.
We were all hostelers, so to kill the time some decided to play the game “Antakshri”. A popular “rhyme and sing”game of those times.(maybe now too).
My friend, Romani as usual struck bored with the idea of singing and usually the adventurous one picked a novel idea. Hey, why don’t we go for a bike trip? He was the one always dreaming and talking about that one Leh – Ladakh – Bullet Road Trip. Thinking it to be one of the usual brags.We let it pass. Suddenly even Anurag caught the fancy and added, Yes why not. Let’s go. Romani asked Saurav (our “swami” then). He too nodded in agreement and then Romani looked at me.. I was like what..where..how??
Suddenly al stopped playing the game, thinking what are these guys talking about, curiously looking at us.For God’s sake,guys, it’s just starting for the weekend, it was almost 9:00pm Friday night,Who the hell talks about road Trips now.
But by now the animal in us had awakened 🙂 Romani was asking few girls to join Lets go to Jaipur or Shimla or even Leh.( lol..) 😊 For Romani nothing is impossible, even thought he was addressing some decent young ladies and some nice boys.To him all it takes is a simple nod.
Obviously, mostly backed out not even giving it a thought.I dint have a bike myself,then. so I stayed calm. Romani made the plans in a jiffy. He said he had a road map of India, we should all go back to our rooms, get some clothes, some cash, loads of attitude, bit of luck. And go to JNU ( Jawarhal Lal University) to plan our trip in between chai and ciggie.
And so off we were, not sure where ..but somewhere..We left Amity Business School, Sector 44 Noida around 10:30 pm that Friday night.
The boys below…Myself,Anurag,Romani and Swami(Sourav).
So, quickly the 4 of us and two bikes. Romani’s Hero Honda splendour and Anurag’s 7-year-old Kawasaki Bajaj. I and Anurag sat in his bike and Romani and Saurav in Romani bike. But just as we started out, Anurag was like. Hey, I am not driving. Maths, tu chala. (you drive)..hmm.
We rode off past our college ground, waving off to the friends still playing Antakshri., They shouted back, ok ok…watch a movie and come back soon in few hours..we know it.
But we did not stop, we reached JNU,actually a very stupid decision as it was opposite part of the city of Delhi. Nevertheless around 11:30 or so we had somewhat of a plan.Shimla,By Bike.With the road map opened wide in front of us.We started. 🙂
Yes SHIMLA. It was much closer to around 400 odd kms, but rains, bad roads, landslides.we blissfully avoided such thoughts and the adventure overtook us.Shimla here we come.
By now, it was touching midnight, but the four of us riding out of Delhi which itself was a task as we had to crossover south campus to north and hit the outer ring road to touch NH1 which connected Delhi to Amritsar through Sonipat, Panipat, Ambala,Kalka then Shimla.
We hit NH1 at 1:00pm in the night. As the adrenalin was high we rode and rode as much as we could , overtaking the highway buses..pollution,high beans etc..crossing the towns, whic looked like ghost towns in the dark.We took turns in leading the way, sometimes it was Romani and Saurav and at times it was Me and Anurag.
We touched Panipat at the break of dawn and it was lovely to be on the open highways with green paddy fields,open land at our sides and the sun breaking its way through the darkness amidst chirping of the birds. The whole night riding was tiring but we really enjoyed the morning break, at a roadside Dhaba for Chai..cleaned and washed in a nearby tubewell water.We dint want to stop for long as we had miles to go before we sleep, literally.
Amidst all this as we were reaching himachal, we now had to deal with one more natural phenomenon which we had prepared for, Heavy Rains. Nevertheless, we kept riding getting wet and drying up on the way.
Finally, around 4:000pm we touched very cool parts of the country,It was Kalka,Himachal Peadeesh.We stopped because our bikes were groaning and so were we.But at Kalka we just could not go any further. We were at the foothills of the Himalayas and it was awesome for me to have riden till here.
16 hours back we were happily playing antakshri in Noida Campus and now, here we were staring at the Himalayas. Kalka is an awesome small town very much like the movies and the view from there to Shimla is breath-taking. The narrow-gauge Railway lines were also very reminiscent of the Rajesh Khanna Sharmila Tagore Movies.
The beauty of the place took us over and then of course Romani got an idea. He said we needed a camera Those days we had no mobile forget about mobile cameras. We also did not carry so much cash. So, we decided to Rent a Camera by paying some deposit money. We collected around 800 bucks and got a kodak click camera. And took the early photos in Kalka…which is publised here…
Soon we started on our uphill ride towards Shimla. It was afternoon around 3:00pm and it was getting cold. The rains also made us think twice about the hilly terrain next 100 kms that we had to cover. But the excitement of riding in hills was just too much and so we started off.Though there was Rains but thankfully no Landslides.We stopped frequently to look down upon the gorge at 5000 ft above sea level. It was sheer excitement. Here,I must write about one incident here.
Romani and Saurav in their bike were riding in front of us. It was a while that they were not in our company. I and Anurag were chatting and slowly riding up the steep roads when suddenly ahead of us almost 50 metres ahead at the edge of the ravine we found the hero Honda lying down with engine running and wheels still moving. But there was no sight of both Romani and Saurav, I immediately panicked. I last remembered Romani revving up the engine and speed uphill. and now this. Sight. It was shocking.
I immediately pulled up, both Anurag and Myself rushed over to the edge. The valley was steep from there but no sign of both these guys. I was shocked and so was Anurag, when suddenly from the opposite side pf the road they emerged laughing and shouting .he he he. For a moment I was really praying and heaved a sigh of relief. Trust Romani to play a prank like this. After that I was more careful to Romani’s pranks. We laughed and stopped for photo there. (below one)
As we were making uphill the mist was getting denser and since it was raining …we reached a point when visibility became absolutely zero There was heavy mist and fearing the worst we actually stopped as we could not see anything only hear some car horns bus engines but visibility was zero.
And here I must write about another incident that happened.
While we had stopped our bikes and wowed at the spectacle at 5000 ft above ground in the middle of rain mist and narrow stretches of Road, exicited we spoke among ourselves about the scenery and how a chilled bottle of beer would really be fun at this moment. Hardly did we say this, a white Maruti car with Chandigarh number plate passed slowly and stopped near us…since it was almost invisible, they honked till we came there. A bunch of young folks were inside the car. Seeing us wet, our bikes and our excitement.They asked us where were we from.WE told them we were students from ABS,Noida and lo and behold they pulled out a bottle of beer and handed it to us and said enjoy. and drove away.:) I swear to God, this happened..(pic below)
Amidst all this, we finally made it to Shimla around 4:00pm. Beautiful Shimla. I think the rains made it look ever so wonderful and even more romantic. We were super excited having made it till here.Suddenly out of nowhere a cop pulled us up.
Asked for license etc, seeing us in the condition he surely must have thought that we were robbers and stealing these 2 bikes between us. But no, he told us we had jumped a Red light signal.:)
OMG, all the way from Delhi riding almost 20 hours and now getting pulled by cop for breaking a red light signal, which was not even visible.
We sulked, paid and and moved on.
We finally found a home stay and booked a room. We ordered some food and said we will take some rest before we go and explore the city. It was Saturday 5:00pm. We had left Noida Friday 10:00pm. Food we had, but when we started the short nap. We slept, we slept and we slept. We got up the next day ie, Sunday at 11:00am. :).
Daunting upon us that we were actually in Shimla, not in our Campus Beds.Reality yet to sink in..But the joy of the pursuit was so fulfilling.WE then freshened up and decided that we had done our journey, what else to do but go back to class on Monday, next Day . 🙂 So we quickly checked out, had lunch and started back our journey to Noida. Yes. We did..and reached Noida around Sunday Midnight.
so there it is…the Friday Night impulsive ride to Shimla and back for monday morning class at 11:00am. with a lifetime of memories within us. 🙂
Looking back, I really feel. Those were the best days of my life :)Summer of 97.
Well, This was it.Finally what seemed like a whackish,whimsical idea few months back …a statement made in a simple Brag, now had to be done.The Bangalore to Bhutan Family Road Trip, was to happen.It was now or never. 🙂
Planning a Road Trip ,including kids & wife is never easy.Its just not about the origin or the destination.Its about which States to take, which hotels to stay, which highways to take, safety , carry to cash, budget of the trip ,pay for fuel in card etc..
Add to that Gov.t Rules (Fasttag compusory before Dec 15th, Modi Govts Mandate), Immigration for family and Vehicle, and obviously paperwork to ensure a foreign trip like passports, car insurance, etc etc…there can never be a complete laundry list.
Neverthless the plan was made to cover 2 countries, 5 states, same cities in both onward and return journey and thats it.Advance booking of hotels done. Thats another challenge as it involves a foreign country albeit who take INR currency.Well mostly set and the D-Day arrived 21st Dec Saturday.
We Coudnt plan an earlier date as kids 2nd term exams were completing, though we bunked my sons geography test. It was start from Bangalore 5:00am sharp. to reach Vijaywada before sunset.
We did start on time, with full josh and enthusiasm except for a minor panic attack which my wife suffered.Suddenly it dawned on her what we were about to embark, the distance, the long drives, health conditions etc. also the car was 6 years and 1 lac kms old..etc.Oh cmon, we planned this. so, after little starting trouble.left for the trip.Approx 6000kms of driving in the next 19 days.
We did Guntur on Day 1, Visakapatnam the next and finally Bhubaneswar in our 1st leg.The hotels in Guntur and Visak were ok and the HN 16 was pretty good except for few praffic issues around Tirupai. We reached Bhubaneswar for a 2 day break for Christmas with my Sisters family to move on.
Fasttag was an issue in many places, but as long as your PayTM balance is valid in your e-wallet, it was maangeable.
Christmas was great with family and friends but the lingering thought of starting again to complete the next leg till Phuentsholing, Bhutan kept us alert mostly.
26th Morning we left Bhubaneswar for Durgapur as that was un-chartered territory.Till Kharagpur we got NH16 which again is excellent with almost 6 lane highways baring some road works.
Durgapur we clocked by around 5:30 pm and stay was good in mostly the town area .NIT Durgapur was closeby which I passed the next day during my early morning run.Post Breakfast started for the longest drive of the onward trip.We took towards Siliguri using the Bihar circuit , preferring the national highway over state highway of West Bengal.
That was a long ardous journey as most parts of Bihar , Dumka Purnia stretch though a National highway but many parts with single lane and with overnight fog, long lines of Trucks made navigating that stretch difficult.Google maps says 11 hours but with stops and food and fuel , the entire journey can cover almost 13 – 14 hours.Bad Traffic Management made it worse.
Reached Siliguri for a late dinner around 10:00pm ….and next morning started off for Bhutan.We had a stop at Phuntsholing,Bhutan.That was a nice drive mostly till Jaigon, the border town of West Bengal and Bhutan amidst Tea Estates and looming mountain ranges of Bhutan.
All tiredness replaced with enthusiasm to enter a foreign land.We hit and entered Phuentlsholing and reached Druk Hotel.The clean and cool city in Bhutan was a super entry to a happy nation.
Phuentsholing is a bustling small towns with a cross mix of Bhutanese and Indian Culture.The Momos, Chai and cool temperatures really made us feel worth the long drive to reach here…but entry into Bhutan would have to wait till the Monday as the Immigration office opens only at 10 am on Monday.
Nevertheless Sunday spent in Phuentsholing was worth the selfies, the druk beer, the bathtub in the hotel and some much needed rest.
Monday using an agents help we got our immigration for family and also for car done and started off for the mountain driving towards Thimpu.Multiple stops for paper check and one major landslide delayed what was otherwise an exciting, adventurous and thrilling drive in the mountains of Bhutan.Temperatures falling towards zero the shill in the air and the excitement of reaching our destination was nail biting…literally.
We hit Thimpu ,Bhutan after 3000 kms of Driving at around 6:30 pm local and apparently 6:00pm IST. What an adventure to reach here with family amidst the highway dramas and trecherous hill drive.Phew.but worth it.
The last mile for me was to reach tigers nest, Paro Taktsang, the highest driving point is off the Thimpu – Paro highway to reach almost 8000 ft above sea level as the rest of the stretch is by foot to reach the monastry,Tigers Nest.
We reached Tigers Nest by Car,till the highest motorable point from where we had to walk/ trek upwards.My dream to Drive Till this point in Bhutan with family was done. 🙂
My Dream of Driving to Bhutan and Paro’s highest driving point was acheived.
The stay in Bhutan is pretty good,one calm and nice place to relax.Both Thimpu, Paro are awesome,breathtaking and beautiful.Jan is pretty cold almost touching minus 4 degress on new years day.My car Gear Fluids almost froze making me immobile for sometime till we manually pumped the gear suction pump and kept the engine rolling for almost 1 hour did the car show signs of recovery and started driving again.
The Druk Thimpu is the oldest hotel in Bhutan but very well maintained and with room heaters and beautiful bath tubs ,the family and myself had a great time.
Bhutan was conquered by road by me and the simplicity and ease of the people conquered our hearts.Cheers to the happy nation.
Our Drive back was long and tiresome but the sweet spirit of victory kept us going till we reached back Bangalore using same route of Thimpu, Siliguri, Durgapur, Bhubaneswar, Visakapatnam, Guntur and Bangalore.
The return didnt trouble us with the fastag issues like our onward journey and barring some really very bad stretch of road near the famour town of Shantiniketan,West Bengal, rest of the Drive was fine.
Reached Bangalore on 9th Jan instead of 8th as there was a national Bandh called on 8th when we were in Guntur, So we had to stay over one more day.But finally after 19 days, 2 Countries , 10 cities and 6000 kms we had completed our Bangalore to Bhutan Roadtrip successfully.
What a beginning to the new Decade.Welcome 2020 🙂