Chalo Nepal #bobmcRM2020


Sitting midair between bong-land and sambar-land with Mark Knopfler blaring at my ears, I am bracing myself to the soon approaching reality of mundane routine and endless chores.

I sound like a grouch, but hey, why not? The last 11 days have been nothing short of adventure, excitement and happiness. Rider Mania 2020 was the opportunity of a lifetime and full of excitement like no other. To be able to ride your motorcycle into another country, party with 1000 other bikers and to soak in everything like a sponge is super duper exciting and filled with memories.

I still remember the day in Udaipur when FORE ( Friends of Royal Enfield ) won the vote to host the next RM in Nepal and Diamond vowing to make it a brilliant event. The man lived up to his word.

Rider mania is the annual get together of all the bikers across the country. Each year, one of the clubs play host and all of us ride towards the host’s city. The 2/ 3 days of partying includes meeting old buddies, meeting new folks and enjoying the local experience. This saga has been a continual thing within India for the last 17 years, until 2020 when FORE opened the doors towards the international territory. This was going to be a game-changer and it was going to be crazy interesting.

For starters, we were bloody excited about the whole thing. Once the excitement settled, the questions started coming. When, where, how !??

The moderators’ group was buzzing with excitement when Diamond posted up the venue – an open space with a view of the Annapurna range.

Next came the registration/ payment woes. I still remember how we timed our rides so that we would stop for lunch during registration time but every single time, the servers failed!

Anyway, fast forward to October when things started to take shape, a process set for registration and things were falling into place. There were over 25 registrations from the Madras Bulls, which meant one thing – this party was going to rock!

Right about November 2019 is when NERM( northeast riders meet) was to happen. My cousin was getting married during the thanksgiving weekend and I was on a flight to Minnesota whilst I should have ridden in Mizoram. The urge to ride to Nepal was even stronger and the adrenaline kept a flowing. But knowing me, I’d never let excitement get the better of me until the rubber meets the road.

Back from the US, I was in office the whole of December. Everyone around me was taking their vacations for Christmas and New Years while I was holding the fort. My time for leaves would come up soon.

January 2020 was here and it was time to count the weekends before i was to ride out. The initial plan was to ride up to Nepal, enjoy RM and ride back to Madras. But all of that changed when I realised NERM this year is in Nagaland and when combined with the Hornbill festival- it was something not to be missed. I’m sure eyebrows will go up at work in November, but that’s 10 months to go.

The ride plan spanned 3000+ km in all. Close to 2400kms riding to Nepal and then 600+ km from Pokhara to Siliguri. The route was fairly simple and through estimated calculations, we would be in Pokhara on the 4th day.

Come 18th, the rubber met the road and so did the rains. Not very heavy, but a steady drizzle followed us right through for about 350 km till we took the left to Hyderabad.

The state of Andhra Pradesh is known for its food and we were not disappointed so far.  Stopping for breakfast outside of Nellore, we were in for some real Andhra food – Guddu Dosa and Omelets. Guddu Dosa is their version of Egg Dosa which is totally lip-smacking when coupled with homemade chutney and traditional Andhra Sambar. Between the five of us, we polished about 20 Dosa’s and about 10 omelettes and the bill did not break the bank.

Tummies full, we were back on the roads rumbling towards Hyderabad. The roads were pretty much butter smooth and with regular fuel and chai breaks, we were soon on the outer ring roads towards Ramoji film city.

 

And then the flight landed in Madras and I was on my way home. Over the next couple days, I got busy catching up with work, sleep and sanity. And now, bright as a Rosie on Monday, I have finally gotten back to the draft I was keying in from last week.

 

So, where were we? Ah yes, the clouds over Hyderabad. The roads were smooth, the weather just right and the steady flow of adrenaline pushed our motorcycles towards biriyani land. A few heavy drops of rain was a teaser to what was coming our way, but thankfully the flyover turned left and we sped away from the cloud that was ready to burst at any second. The skies made a brilliant background for pictures though.

 

Ramoji film city brought back some awesome memories from over a decade ago. The RM 2008 location had so much charm, swag and memories that will last a lifetime.

From Ramoji film city, it was chaos all the way. Two-wheelers are not allowed on Hyderabad’s Outer ring roads, thanks to the multiple crashes over the years and so to circumvent that, we were sneaking in and out of service lanes until we reached a hotel with parking at Medchal. The place looked spacious from the outside but on the inside, it was nothing fancy. Basic beds and a mediocre bathroom.  The hotel had indoor parking and the kickass restaurant adjacent was the only saving grace for this place.

 

When in Hyderabad, you biriyani! And must do it in Hyderabadi style. Lip-smacking food and some alcohol saw us retire for the day.  Day 1 was over.

 

Day 2 started off bright and beautiful with the air crisp and chilly. Today was going to be a long day. We had about 700 odd clicks to cover and we had to start off soon. Authentic Dumm chai done at the next door restaurant, we were rolling just after 9 AM, an hour from the scheduled ride out time. Pulling over for breakfast shortly, we were stuffing ourselves to some yummy Idlis and Andhra special chutney.

 

Breakfast done, we were soon riding into Maharashtra and leaving all the good roads behind.  These guys definitely need to do something about the potholes littered all along the national highway. With regular stops for fuel and chai, we were soon on the roads to Nagpur. Raasu had an issue with his motorcycle and needed to have it addressed, so while Rassu and Hema went into the orange city, we took the outer ring road bypass. We were way past lunch and tea time and as we scoured the bleak landscape of trucks, dirt and service roads we sighted a swanky Dhaba. Overlooking the outer ring road, this place had outdoor seating and looked quite alright. Dhabas are interesting places to chill out – the food is fresh and the interactions with locals are always positive and cheerful.

Hot food on a cold evening is always delicious. As we sat there watching the sunset and waiting for food to be cooked, the mercury levels dipped beyond the usual chill. This was going to be an interesting evening. The bikernis’ who had ridden these roads earlier in the day advised us not to take the roads at night, but with a tummy full and blood running on chai, little did we heed to it. Added to that warning was Bra’s update in 2 words – Dhaku alert – which meant, watch out of dacoits.

 

A quick conversation with the locals dismissed the dacoity scare, but there were bad roads apparently up ahead. Knowing the mad lot that we are, we started off. Our initial destination was supposedly Jabalpur, but with the timing and the chill, we were not going to make the 300 kms ahead of us. Seoni was our best bet and that was in another state – Madhya Pradesh.

 

Starting off with 50% visibility and ton loads of trucks, we were soon riding through the Pench tiger reserve.  A quick google search reveals that Pench Tiger reserve is one of the major protected areas of MP. Having a striped cat meet us on the road would have been quite something. Anyway, in a short while, caught up with Raasu and Hema and as we rode out, the roads were actually quite alright. So much for the warning!

 

The chill was now seeping through the layers of thermals and getting into our bones. With every yank of the throttle, the chill kept biting in. The countermeasure adrenaline was doing its job pretty well and it kept us going. The madbull train kept a rumbling until it was time to stop for chai. Pulling up at a roadside chai shop, the hot liquid was manna to our cold bodies. Two minutes into the shop, the chai-wala started video recording each of us. For a minute, it was taken in a light vein, but after he brought the phone closer to each of our faces, we were sure this clipping was going to the local cops. As we sat there enjoying the hot chai, we did wonder about the bad roads we heard so much about.

 

Less than a km after the chai stop started the “take diversion” boards and then all our questions were answered. There was no road. What we rode on was a mix of gravel, stones and broken tarmac coupled with dust and trucks zipping down like it was a walk in the park. It was evident that we were leaving Maharashtra and entering MP, but this was a sad entrance. From one “take diversion” to another, we managed to cross over 17 km of shitty roads until we finally hit some good tarmac. It was quite an adventure for all of us and to have made it in one piece was a huge sigh of relief.

 

Fatigue was visible in everyone but the day was not over yet. We had another 40 odd km to get to Seoni. The roads were good and though it was quite cold, we were clocking the required miles to get to a motel at Seoni. Our place of stay was a newly built motel that had really comfortable rooms and a clean bathroom. Super contrast from how our stay at Medchal was, it was time to take care of other things – Dinner and a bath. The temperatures were dipping at 9 deg c, and we also needed inner warmth.

All the shops in this town shut at 10ish, but thanks to backdoor entry, we were still able to get our required “essentials” at 1130 PM. We had the local cook whip up a storm for us at midnight and the guy was thrilled to see us happy with his cooking. Settling into bed at close to 1 AM after stories and laughter about our ride, It was a long day so far, but the ride was worth it.

Day 3 was bright and beautiful. The motel we stayed in was self-sufficient in all ways. They had a working farm where the produce was used in the kitchen and all that we had eaten was organic. Breakfast in these parts was supposedly Poha and Jalebi and we started off searching for some much-needed breakfast, money from an ATM and fuel for our bikes. We had a bit of mile-munching to be done and hopefully, we go according to plan.

A fuel bunk was just outside the motel and the prices made our eyeballs pop. 84 bucks for a litre of Petrol. Other states were 78-80/liter. Anyways, riding on, the roads to Jabalpur were straight as an arrow and some parts of them made out of cement.

The roads go through some really scenic hills and with some really deep curves. Some tankers/lorries didn’t make the turn as expected and ended belly up on the opposite side. The roads were really fun to ride on.

Straight as straight can be with the bluest of skies above you, the experience was exuberating.

 

The local dhabas were not serving Jalebi’s that early in the morning, but there were other goodies coming out from the kitchen. Though we had pulled over for breakfast, we spent quite a lot of time taking photographs especially with the skies being so blue that added to the awesomeness of the photographs.

We were eating everything from Gulab Jamuns to Peda to Poha to Aloo Parotta and sour curd. Our stomachs were bursting and it showed in our pictures. We ordered so much that we had to pack a few Aloo parottas back.

The roads ahead seemed to be good so far and we couldn’t be happier. Crossed Jabalpur and as we rode past signposts, I was looking forward to that yummy tungdi kebab at Lucknow. Little did i know all those plans were going to change.

Pulling over for chai, there was a proposal to change the route plan. Ride through Rewa – Gorakpur and Sanauli so that we had extra time in Nepal. Sounded pretty interesting and made more sense as well. There was one small detail that we did not bother to check – road conditions.

Taking the right towards Rewa, we were exiting the national highways and onto state highways. There is always that adrenaline rush in your blood and the tingling in one’s nutsack as you overtake on two-lane state highways. The rush was super good and in a short while, we were on the road to Rewa in Madhya Pradesh.

Madhya Pradesh is an interesting state. Though they have four lane highways, locals use as two lane highways. There is oncoming traffic on both sides of the highway, which is crazy but it seems like this a norm in these parts.

One thing about Irene is her thirst for fuel. She lasts 200 kms and pushing anything more is something to be wary about. Riding on silky smooth roads, it was throttle wide open until she decided to beep for fuel. Had to pull over for some pictures though.

Finding a bunk after quite a bit was a huge relief.

Fueled and ready to take on the miles ahead, I had set off. The boys had moved ahead and I had to catch up. There was a car ahead of me that was swerving from left to right like he was drunk. Paused for a moment and then found a gap to overtake the guy. As I passed him, I was totally surprised to see a woman lying on him while he was driving the car. They were fucking on the highway and the guy was swerving like there was no tomorrow. I have seen some crazy sights in my many travels but this was a first.

Anyway, soft porn aside, we were on our way to Rewa. It was close to 6ish and we had to cover miles to get to Allahabad ( Pragyaraj). In all of this, we also had to stop somewhere for lunch. The morning breakfast held up so far, but once the night chill started, we had to fuel our stomachs to keep the thermal engine running.

Another Dhaba, another raid-de-kitchen episode and we were on our way to Allahabad. Close to 100 kms to go, we got on to the highway where I had seen only one stone that said – Varanasi 200 some km. None of the signboards said anything called Allahabad. Kept riding for about 30 odd km till the sweep came up in front expressing the same concern.

Sakthi had got his maps switched on and the way he led us, looked like we were on the right road. His maps guided him to take a left into a service lane. This was going to be interesting.

The roads we turned into passed multiple villages, had narrow roads but they had signboards and guideposts. This was interesting. Being densely covered with trees, the ride was getting chilly by the km. The national highway seemed afar off, but we kept going.

At one point, we had to pull out the maps again to check if we were on the right roads. A few of the locals also confirmed what the maps had said – yes we were.

The thermal engines in our stomachs were churning out as much heat as possible but were no match for the dipping mercury levels. There was nothing else to be done but ride ahead. Allahabad was about 60 km ahead and we had to hurry. We were already past 9ish PM and MP/UP are not states you want to loiter in the dark.

One of the boys was not taking the chill too well, but we had no other option. Being on the highway, riding against the odds is like facing life head-on. One builds the grit and grows the balls required to see through things.

Welcome to Uttar Pradesh read the signboard. We needed some chai and our motorcycles needed fuel. Chai was readily available at the border. Fuel bunks were hard to come by and surprisingly as we enquired in a couple of them, they would not dispense petrol. This was not good news until there was an IOC bunk that replied in the positive but would only accept the online transfer for payment. As we built conversation, we learnt that this part of town was known for vandalism and theft, so these part of the state never dispensed petrol after 8 PM and this bunk, in particular, had 6 armed security guards to prevent anything untoward. Can only thank God for his grace that we found petrol to continue further.

Literally pushing forward, we were back on the roads, 20 odd km to go before we found a place to sleep for the night. There was a huge traffic jam and trust me – this was the bitch. One thing about the state of UP – Cattle and trucks are all over the roads. It was hard to believe how the trucks had lined themselves upon the highway. The jam was at least 15 km long. Snaking through the roads, we reached a junction where we stopped to find a place.

It was way past midnight, there were tired souls in the trip, and a bed was quintessential for the moment. Using OYO rooms to locate a place, we soon reached the first available place to stay and then after negotiations, the 7 of us managed to get rooms to crash for the night.

Day 3 was an interesting ride so far. Maharashtra – Madhya Pradesh –  Uttar Pradesh. Not bad.

Day 4 started well. One of the boys’ bike had some issues with the chain sprocket and that needed sorting. Using the time, there was an Adhoc plan to go sightseeing. Not part of the ride agenda, this was an interesting proposition.

Struggled to see the Triveni Sangam ( the point where 3 rivers meet – The Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswathi) and then we were off to see a temple. As time ticked on, this little excursion was going to alter our ride plans.

Anyway, riding out at 4PM, we were one man short in our group as he made plans to ship his motorcycle back to Madras and fly to Pokhara, we were on the highways out of Allahabad and on our way got an aerial view of the Triveni Sangam. So much for spending time in the morning and going in an auto and all of that jazz.

Riding onward, we were struggling to get out of the tightly congested roads of UP. It is a fucking mega mess of craziness. Narrow roads, and tons of traffic. Finally, onto two-lane happiness, it was back to open throttle. Though short-lived, we were making quite a bit of progress. The plan was to head to Gorakpur, but things did not look all that well.

Stopped over for our first meal of the day at a fancy Dhaba called Lucky Dhaba and was welcomed with some really yummy food.

One of the boys there had worked with Buhari in Chennai, so it was instant happiness as we said we were riding from Madras. Filled our stomachs to some really yum food, we had started to saddle up and that is when we noticed.

FOG. Our bikes were drenched in the dew of the evening and as we started riding out, the fog was getting thicker and crazier. Adventure in its true sense was kicking in making the ride more exciting.

The 6 of us were making slow progress through the fog, the broken roads, the millions of “Take diversion” boards and trucks. The fog was so intense at some points that it completely blindfolded us and the speedo from 60 dropped to 10 in a matter of seconds.

It must have been about an hour since we rode out from Lucky Dhaba and ironically, we had covered only 25 km. This was not good.

Stopping at one of Azamgarh’s best restaurants ( as claimed by the owner), we were soon sipping some really yummy dumm chai made by the proud chaiwala. he was a sight to behold and the chai lived up to the hype given.

Sipping on chai, we had to look at reality. It was close to 10PM and the roads did not look rideable. We had to stop over at a place, else we were def going to crash somewhere. Talking to the owner again, the city of Azamgarh was about 20 km ahead that had good hotels. Sounded promising and we took off. The roads were getting to be more interesting with every km crossed.

The roads in this state are just being constructed and coupled with fog and darkness, it makes things really crazy to ride. Onward to Azamgarh and thanks to google search, we found a place to stay. Negotiations again, and we got 2 rooms to house the 6 of us and make sure our bikes were safe as well.

Marketed to sell the best Lucknowi biriyani, I couldn’t wait to try it out, even though it was way past midnight.

The chefs were able to whip up something close to biriyani, but it was a nice snack though.

Day 4 was extremely short in riding km but had plenty of adventure throughout the time. It was time to get some shut-eye.

Day 5 was here and by 9 AM we were out of there. To be honest, we should have been in Nepal on the 4th day, but because of some shitty roads, our plan moved by 2 days. This is how road trips are, with curveballs being thrown at you, but through it all is the experience to relish and move forward.

As we rode out of Azamgarh and onto the semi-empty small town roads towards Gorakpur, I personally thanked God for the place of stay the night before. There were fields on either side and though the roads were good, we would have had a really tough time riding through the fog and the truck traffic.

Sometimes, all things are for a reason. Actually, all the time, everything is for a reason. After riding through some good roads, we were horrified with the condition of the roads presented to us. There was road expansion happening and where they should have been tarmac, there was gravel, loose soil and people were actually using this road.

This is the national highway and such was the condition. Our speeds reduced quite a bit and this was not good. Per Navaneeth, the gates to Nepal in Sanauli close at 430PM and with the time being close to 1PM, there was not a chance of making it into Nepal but there were chances of staying right at the border.

After close to 100 kms of really bad roads, we pulled over for breakfast and lunch combined near Godarkpur. A dhaba again, and this time we struck a conversation with the owner for some snippets on Nepal, road conditions and currency and other itsy bitsy information.

Stomachs full, we were off again. Gorakpur – Sanauli was the destination. Entering the small town of Gorakpur was like entering Siliguri town. Traffic was a bitch to get through BUT the good side was the eye candy. To the left, to the right, to everywhere, there was eye-candy. While #irene was burning her clutch plates, our eyes were popping out of its sockets.

After an hour of struggle, we were out of Gorakpur. The time was close to 5PM – no way were we going to get to Sanauli and get into Nepal tonight based on the border timings.

Some chai, more eye-candy and after a rider from PEG (Punjab Enfield Generation) join us, we were back on some really neat roads. Ironical how the roads that lead out of a country can be so good, while the roads in the country are so fucked.

As the miles to Sanauli reduced, there was a sudden burst of adrenaline to keep at the 3500 rpm level despite the chill, the fog and the narrow highway. There was some kind of satisfaction, some kind of strange thrill as I rode through those roads.

Seeing the road sign ” Ministry of road transport thanks you” was a different kind of a high. As we kept riding onward towards the border arch between India and Nepal, the gate was actually open.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the gates to Nepal were actually fucking open! Unbelievable.

Guided by a local broker, I made a beeline towards the border not noticing that Navaneeth and the rest were not behind me. So much for excitement mixed with confusion. The phone signals did not work – I was in a different country and I had no clue how to inform the other boys to come in.

After a few calls and a lot of tense minutes later, I see the entire group ride in and cursing me for ditching them. I was in Nepal. #Irene and I had made into a new country.

I was really excited. The chill, the fog, the tiredness – None of that mattered. Lil birdie and I had a lot of dreams together, but some of them did not happen but with Irene, it has been a whole new world with her. Last year was the entire east coast and this year was Nepal. So far, so good.

Once we had entered, it was time to negotiate with the local boys to get our Bansar( authorization) and SIM cards. About 2 hours later, we were good to go.

Destination Lumbini – the seven of us headed out. So riding through India is one, riding through the fog in India is another. Riding through the fog in Nepal is a totally new ball game. A game in which we had absolutely no idea where the fuck we were going or if the route was right.

Using the verbal approach, we asked cops if we were on the right route. Instructions were pretty simple. Straight, take left after 5 Km and keep going 30 Km.

And off we went. The fog was falling but with due training, we did not worry too much. Stopped by the Nepali police for some general questions, we took off again. Point to note – Nepali women cops are amazingly beautiful. There was one at the border and another at this checkpoint.

Was it our luck or was it just coincidence? The roads to Lumbini was a truck route and hence, no tarmac. WTF. This time, I couldn’t give a shit. Sakthi and I were riding standing on the footpegs through the fog, darkness and gravel roads.

Visibility was down to 5 feet and in a couple of occasions we ended up riding into a barricade. Using the few minutes to laugh and take pictures in the dark, we were off again. Another 10 odd km to go, we were soon in Lumbini town and searching for a place to sleep.

The fanciest of hotels was right next to us. Sceptical to check the place, I approached the place checking for rooms. Straight into negotiations and pretty soon, the 7 of us had a sweet deal.

A makeshift arrangement in the hotel lobby area saw us dump our luggage in the open while food and essential orders were being placed. We were finally in Nepal. A huge feat for Day 6 and to celebrate we were swigging to some much needed Khukri, the local rum.

Day 5 was beautiful. Praise God for everything so far. With good food and a good drink, it was time to hit the sack.

Tonight was the last night in a hotel and facilities, or so we thought.

Day 6 was a foggy day. After having ridden into Nepal, we were going to take it easy today.  The RM regroup of all the Madbulls was tonight and Pokhara was about 200Km away.

The day’s plan was simple. Lumbini is the birthplace of Buddha and is also a UNESCO world heritage site. The place is beautiful with green fields and we definitely wanted to spend some time looking around the place.

Helmets are mandatory when you are riding a motorcycle in Nepal. Learning it the hard way from a few cops just by the hotel, we took off towards the site. As tourists gaped at us riding our motorcycles, we were soaking in the experience right through.

Taking loads of pictures and riding straight to the friendship canal, we parked our bikes and took a boat ride towards the Pagodas. The entire experience is quite interesting. A boat ride to the Pagodas (temples) and a walk towards the main palace where the birthplace of Buddha is preserved. It is a revered location and people from many afar places come to visit the place.

After a bit of walking around and photos, it was time to head back. We had to checkout and head out to Pokhara where the rest of the Madbulls would have regrouped. There were about 28 of us riding from Madras with different route plans, but as rituals go, all the boys regroup the night before RM to share stories and have a laugh before we ride into the venue as a group.

On our way back to the hotel, we bumped into the Siliguri group boys.

Rathish, Arun, Sumo and Hari rode out from Siliguri doing the Hettuda circuit and was visiting Lumbini before riding into Pokhara. The group of 7 now became 10.

Coming all the way, could not resist the temptation to visit the world peace pagoda.

A few pictures were taken and we headed back to the hotel.

We had asked the lone rider from PEG to carry on as our plans were ever-changing.

Back at the hotel, we had good news and bad news. The bad news was that the road to Pokhara was blocked as there was a landslide. The good news was there was another route, though this was through the hills.

New plan.  Lumbini – Butwal – Pokhara. Seemed pretty simple so far, until we saddled up.

Back on the roads, hoping to get to Pokhara, we were heading through the backroads of Nepal, through lush green fields and villages and into the town of Butwal. Riding with Hari is a different experience. With sunset around the corner, the group pulled over for lunch. This was early, but apparently, after this town, we were headed to the hills. Settling for the local Nepali thaali that constitutes of rice, vegetables, dhal and pickle, I had this weird temptation to clean up.

In a hope to get a quick shave before the boys could realize, I sat myself down and told the barber what I wanted. He nodded in agreement and went about getting what was required to ensure a clean shave.

Starting off with some warm water to a brief massage to then spraying some foam and then eventually starting to shave took about 20 minutes. These guys took a 5-minute activity rather seriously in my opinion. Anyway, the boys found out of my atrocious act and out came the cameras. This was embarrassing and funny to everyone including me.

15 more minutes later, all our motorcycles were back on the roads. It was about 6ish PM, but the roads were already dark and in a couple of turns, we were climbing a hill. The hellish roads we had ridden in Uttar Pradesh were no match to what was presented to us for about 10 km. A jeep would consider this track an offroad stretch and here we were throwing our motorcycles around. Enough adrenaline to keep the chill at bay and our blood pressure in check, all of us snaked through the hills of Nepal.

About 3 odd hours later, we pulled over. Pokhara was about 120km ahead of us, but through guesstimate, it would take us about 4 hours to get there. Google maps are no good here with timing calculation. The roads we were riding were all hills. There was not a single straight stretch of plains in sight.

The situation was rather grim. An hour later and at a place called Galyang where the people of the town go to sleep by 8 PM, 10 Enfields stopped to discuss what can be done. Pokhara was 90 km to go and going by what we heard, it would take us 3 hours to get there. The good news was that the roads were alright to ride, the bad news was that it was going to be riding in pitch darkness. So IF there was an emergency or an issue with the motorcycle, one is truly fucked.

So much for expecting to be at the regroup point on time. Frustrated with how things were going, we parked our motorcycles by the roadside and checked into the only lodge in town. Once the lodge owners knew they had 10 guests, they were in frenzy cleaning rooms and making things presentable.

Day 6 was in Nepal, yes. But not in Pokhara where we wanted to be. The new plan was, wake up early, saddle up and get out. Mercury stood at 5 deg C that night. Frustration was at its peak.

Good Morning Day 7. Managed to crawl out of bed and get ready to ride out. Time was close to 9 AM.

The locals were up early and were surprised to see motorcycles parked by the entrance. For a one-horse town, this place was busy in the morning.

Kala chai done. Settled accounts and off we were. The roads were silky smooth though it was riding through the hills and I did not want to get angry.

Riding through the curves of the mountains, I saw this really cool cafe that was too tempting to stop. Besides, we hadn’t taken a break since we started at Galyang.

The Roadside Cafe on the way to Pokhara seemed like a popular stop. For one, they had fresh oranges and also excellent black tea. Besides that, a closer inspection of the fridge revealed multiple club stickers – most of them who were familiar.

Madras Bulls had to mark a spot too.

Spending some time getting to enjoy the chai and the oranges, we quickly demolished 1 Kg of oranges for breakfast. Talk about healthy living!

Saddling back, it was another 40 Km to Pokhara. The view was brilliant, but we didn’t have much time to relish the sidelines. Focused on getting to Pokhara and meeting the rest of the boys was the only thing on my mind. Twisting the throttle through every curve, we were soon at level ground.

Pokhara! Finally. The frustration of the delay was there in me, but we were there. Period. It was time to meet and greet the rest of the boys and figure out what ruckus we were going to create as an entry to the event.

In due time, the entire Madbull group had gathered in Pokhara. There were several groups. Some who took the Uttarakhand route and visited the Jim Corbett Tiger sanctuary, some who tried venturing to Muktinath and then there was us, who rode through some bitchy roads in India.

After Hari’s inspirational and informative words, the entire parade took off. Well marked posters along the way ensured we were on the right route to the #rm2020 venue.

Pame lakeside is a side of a lake that was dry, for now. And that was the venue.

The boys who were here before remembered the spot where the paragliding participants would land. This was going to be an interesting few days.

The Eastern Bulls had pulled in just minutes after the Madbulls. It was the East coast chapter all over again. Missed the Kovai thumpers to the mix.

The welcome drink,Aila reminded me of Roxy in Arunachal. Good memories and great thermal respite too.

We were here! Finally. Rider Mania 2020. For #irene and me, this was a huge thing.

The party started – Madbull style. 28 Enfields along with a Force Gurkha truck made their way through slushy roads to rev, honk and announce our arrival. This was no small feat – riding from Madras to Nepal and we were excited to show off our colours and motorcycles.

Boy, did we kick up a racket. Honking and revving our motorcycles in unison we showed off like there was no tomorrow. Folks from all over the venue came towards us to witness this spectacle. And we could not be happier.

Settling down after all the excitement, the next task was to set up tents and settle down.

As darkness enveloped Day 8, the party was just starting and it was time to go meet friends that I had seen last year in Udaipur. A quick look around the venue and the arrangements had made one thing clear – I was going to be walking a lot. And trying to do that at 8deg C was going to be interesting.

Contrary to what was said about the temperature dip at Pame, it was warm. Udaipur was colder. There were so many who bailed out fearing near-zero temperature. Their loss.

Swinging right into the event, I was at home. Going around meeting, greeting, hugging and cheers of how have you been was the general agenda of the night. This was what it was about. Friends, motorcycling stories and laughter. Life was at its simplest best.

Dinner was traditional Nepali cuisine, simple and fulfilling. With stomachs full and the long walk back to the Madbull tent area, the party was still going on with firewood in the center. Right through the night, there were boys riding into the venue. It was lights out for me.

Good morning Day 8. The view was brilliant – tents and motorcycles all around, the Annapurna range straight ahead, the air crisp and the bonfire still smouldering.

From seeing 4 walls every morning, this view was panoramic beauty, nature at its best and peace within like no other.

Soaking all of it in, one breath at a time, I was getting into the swing of the day, the event and going around meeting more friends. The event has a clear agenda – there is music all day, motorcycle events through the day, live bands all evening and friendly chatter every single second.

If we thought the bikers had put on a show, the hosts upped the ante. Just as we were chewing on some yummy food and settling in for the day, there were two aeroplanes over the venue – One with the banner of Rider Mania2020 and the other that threw flowers.

This was an out of the world experience. In the last 18 years of RM, this was a first and we could not get enough of it. There were two aeroplanes- The red aeroplane flew the banner of Rider Mania while the yellow aeroplane was throwing flowers. The fun part was the yellow pilot was throw the flowers and disappear into the skies and before you know it, he would fly so low that made you go oooooohhh wowww.

Cheekiness at its best, this spectacle lasted an hour. The excitement at the venue spiked rapidly. We’ve had all sorts of performances at past RM’s, from rock stars to Russian dancers but this one was next level thrill.

It was now easier to judge the weather at Pame. By close to 3PM, the sunlight faded and the chill set in. Just realized that it was already Day 2 of the event and there was only 1 day to go. Time was moving fast.

Sitting around the table with the Eastern Bulls, we made plans to see the sunrise at Sarangkot. The only catch was waking up at 5AM in that cold. The sunrise at Sarangkot is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It is the highest point in Pokhara and gives you a panoramic view of the entire Annapurna Range.

AnnaPurna range

The above pic from Wikipedia to show the various peaks

Well, plans can be made – executing them is the key.

The rest of the day went about listening to some of the local band’s belt cover songs, endless chatter and tons of memories.

Back in the tent, it was rather comfortable after a bit of rearranging the sleeping position. Setting an alarm to wake up a ghostly 445 AM, it was lights out for me. It was a very memorable day so far.

Day 9 started off early with Indro’s phone call. Expecting this to be the wake-up call, I was in for a surprise – Apparently, the cab was on its way to pick us up. In the next 20 odd min, cleaning teeth and potty was done and I was on my way to the waiting cab. Tirtho, Arpan and Shomu were freezing inside and we were off. Next stop was to pick up Indro and Priya.

This was quite something. All of us managed to wake up, get ready and get out. Today’s sunrise was going to memorable. Circa 2019 where we did the same quick visit to the Taj Mahal.

The drive to Sarangkot goes through steep twists and turns. On our way, we saw scores of tourists waiting by the viewpoint to get a glimpse of the sunrise. The cab driver quickly swung to plan B, which was a higher point where the view was even better but there was a climb involved.

Each of those steps felt like scaling a hill. By the time I got to the top, I was out of breath. Reminded me that I should include some sort of sport in my lifestyle. Once up there, the view was insanely gorgeous.

The entire Annapurna range right in front of your eyes, the sun’s tip rising across the horizon and slowly filling the sky.

The happy us after the sunrise. The view, the surrounding landscape and the experience were captivatingly spellbinding. Never did I expect to see all of these with my eyes, but here I was.

With the sun now showing off, it was getting warmer and we were off. Arpan suggested we see a place called Kusma before we head back to the venue. Housing one of the world’s highest suspension bridge, he said it would be worth seeing the place.

Running low on oxygen or just tiredness, I recollect crashing to sleep as we went drove through twists and turns. An hour or so later, we were there. Not knowing what to expect, we alighted to see pine trees to one side and mountains to the other side. And these mountains were connected through suspension bridges. This was definitely some view.

The suspension bridges allowed connectivity between villages besides being a brilliant viewpoint. There was a motorcycle coming through and I was surprised. Soon learnt that this is a common mode of travel for the locals. Taking the plunge to walk the longest suspension bridge I have ever walked, this was a beautiful feeling. The bridge gently bobbing with our weight, it was a 1200+ foot drop if the bridge snapped.

As we approached the middle, we saw another suspension visibly higher than the one we were on. Apparently, the one we were on is the longest, while what we saw is the highest. And there was a motorist riding through like it was smooth roads.

Crossing the bridge, we settled down for breakfast at the only cafe available.

From Nepali specialities to Wai-wai noodles and black tea, this was definitely one of the best breakfasts ever.

Time was flying past and in a couple of hours, we were back at the venue. While the dirt track events were underway, it was time for the moderators meeting. The moderators of all the clubs gather along with the hosts to collectively share feedback, express opinions and decide the next Rider mania.

It was the last day of Rider mania already. The last 3 days went by so fast that even as I write this today, I am so surprised. Life in the mountains is so different as compared to the plains.

With the night chill coming, I realized I had not shopped. Quickly headed out to the town to do a bit of shopping and back to the venue to hear a band whip some really classy rock numbers.

Of all the bands I had heard the last 2 nights, this one was the best. Calling themselves “The Dreamerz“, they had a tight lineup. Their lead vocalist – looking barely 15 had an amazing vocal range.

#chalonepal2020 was closing its curtains. The hosts had put up an awesome show. Right from the time when they sent a clip of scouting for a venue on a helicopter to the finest details of having volunteers keep a check on the perimeter, to feeding us tasty food, to taking care of every small thing and putting up with 1400 odd bikers – these guys had given more than 200% of effort, time and soul.

With all my luggage packed, I was now hunting for a place to sleep. Arpan helped out with a swiss tent accommodation complete with a quilt and built-in bathroom. As I lay in bed and looking back, it was a long day. From the sunrise at Sarangot to the suspension bridge in Kusma to experiencing a slice of Pokhara and to lie in the quietness of the night, it was an experience to remember.

Day 10. All bright and beautiful.

Irene and I had miles to cover before we could sleep. The return ride plan was simple. Ride to Siliguri, ship the bike through safe express and take the flight back to the bitch, reality.

Supposedly to start off at 7AM,  the Madbull tent area was just waking up. Their plan was even simpler. Pack tent, eat breakfast, get ready and then ride out. So while everyone was making a beeline to the exit, we were heading to the breakfast table.

Finally saddling up at 11ish AM, our small group bid goodbyes. Tampon, Wanker, Anjali papa and I were on our way to Siliguri. 3 Himalayan and 1 interceptor.

This was a tight group and we stuck to each other like a bee on wax. Crunching miles together, we stopped every 80 odd km for chai. There were bikers everywhere. And the four of us were overtaking each of these groups as cheekily as we could.

Met up with a very interesting girl who had the pose of a super confident model. While we stopped for chai, I came across this little girl by the bridge. Having started a conversation with her family, learnt they used to tease her for her small eyes, but the way she posed for pictures seemed totally amazing.

There were some great roads, moderate roads and just after Hettuda pulled over for the night. The roads were single lane and filling up with fog.

Our place of accommodation was a humble lodge that had small clean rooms and served food with parking inside the lodge.

All that we could ask for and more. It was a good night.

Day 11 – Saddling up at 8 AM, it was open throttle from the word go. In the last 11 days of riding, today was the first of starting early. Such joy!

It was a wise decision to stay over the night before. The roads, straight as an arrow was narrow and filled with trucks. Coupled with fog, it would have been tiresome to ride. There were some fancy hotels about 20km from where we stayed though.

The ride with this group was fantastic and brought a wide smile to my face. Stopping for bun and chai, which doubled for breakfast, we were collecting memories all along the way.

From stopping at a Peda shop to gawking at eye candy just before Kakarbitta, we were having the time of our lives.

Soon we were at the exit gate of Nepal. The country had given us a beautiful experience with so many memories. Stopping at No-man’s land ( the space between two borders), we looked back at the Nepal border fondly.

Welcome to India – said the board. We had to take a picture, but according to border security, this was not allowed.

The guard walked up to us after seeing our TN number plate and asked one word – Tamil a? Turns out that the guard was from Nagercoil and was excited seeing the TN board and to know we had ridden down from Madras. He checked our phones and let us pass. Earlier in Sanauli, a tourist made a video call showing the Nepali border office and the cops confiscated his phone.

We were back in India and had to have chai. Taking the left bend, the RERAM boys had gathered there. All 90 of them.

Folks I did not see in Nepal, I got to finally meet them at this chai shop. The roads never fail to surprise you.

After a lot of chatter and smiles and hugs, we took off to Siliguri. Staying at the same place as 2018, we checked into Hotel Amravathi for the night.

Got a chance to meet up with our friend Bikash who greeted us with yum rosagollas.We had only one request from the hotel – hot water. We needed a good bath.

Managed to find some time to visit the famous Hong Kong market for collectables, we were back to the hotel. After some yummy dinner, we were off to sleep. In less than 24 hours, reality would catch up. Sigh.

Day 12 – Woke up and after a short hunt found an old lady making chai. One of the best chai I’ve had, Anjali papa ( navaneeth ) and I sat down for more chai and stories. We had a busy day ahead of us. The bikes had to be packed, shipped and we had a flight to catch.

Everything after that chai was a blur. The ride to safe express, negotiations, packing, bidding byes and the Bagdogra airport.

The next few hours were spent in recollecting the memories added in the last 12 days. It felt like a dream – #irene and I riding into another country, having the time of our lives, being safe and alive to tell the tale.

Praise God for His grace every step of the way. Through every place we were in, everyone we came across, He kept us safe and secure.

As Anjali papaa and I got off at Madras, it was time to suck up all of the good times and start clicking on Microsoft outlook for that reality slap!

And then, I see this image and it’s smiles all over:)

Those wonderful maps being plotted by the day with a detailed description of temperature, altitude, GPS locations are courtesy KOGO.

All pictures and videos were taken on my iPhone.

More pictures at: https://www.icloud.com/sharedalbum/#B0eGY8gBYt3iiIY

From #chalonepal2020 it is #chalobiriyani2021. Hyderabad- We will see you soon.

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