The 5 Idiots Ride To The North East

I just spent the last 15 days riding Colt through Sikkim and West Arunachal Pradesh and managed to check a bunch of items off my bucket list.

We rode through snow, ice, slush and muck to reach an Army base near the frozen Gurudongmar and Tso Lhamo lakes in North Sikkim. The Tso Lhamo lake is out of bounds for civilians due to its proximity to the volatile border with China. But as special guests of the Indian Army we were escorted in an Army vehicle to the lakes.

We rode on snow and ice covered roads through a breathtaking pine forest past the village of Domang in North Sikkim to an Army Camp. The road further led to the border with China.

We rode our motorcycles to the Nathula pass on the border with China. As guests of the Commanding Officer of the Nathula army base, who happens to be a Goan, we were treated to a sumptuous lunch and then taken around the facility like dignitaries, with the Army’s official cameramen capturing our every moment using their DSLR cameras.

The epitome of our visit to Nathula was when the Commanding Officer arranged for us to shake hands with a Chinese soldier across the barbed wire along the international border. I’m told civilians aren’t allowed anywhere close to the barbed wire. That is a moment I will remember for the rest of my life. The Commanding Officer also presented us with a plaque to commemorate our visit to Nathula. An Army vehicle then escorted us to the nearby Baba Harbhajan Singh Mandir where a prayer session was held in our presence.

We were at a loss for words that day. But I sought permission to address the troops. In a short impromptu speech I told them that it is because of their sacrifices in those harsh conditions at 14,140 feet that we are able to sleep peacefully in our comfortable homes. I was choked for words as I spoke. I don’t know how much of my message came through to them. I don’t think they get many visitors. I’m pretty no guests of their Commanding Officer come to Nathula riding motorcycles from Goa.

We spent two memorable nights at 100 Petals, a lovely hotel in Gangtok owned by fellow rider Karma Tenzing. He served us Yak meet and treated us to some really nice local wine and beer. He arranged for all our Sikkim permits. It’s a lot of work and he did it for us with a smile, even waking up early in the morning and taking us to the tourist office to pick up the permits. He did this twice. I can’t thank him enough.

After exploring Sikkim we rode to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh. The Indian Army was there to help us again. They arranged the permit to the Bum La pass the day before we arrived in Tawang so that we wouldn’t need to waste a day to get the permit.

The road to Bum La was closed due to heavy snowfall and tourists were allowed to go only up to a place called Y Junction. The road was strewn with stranded jeeps filled with tourists who came out of their vehicles to see 5 idiots ride their motorcycles uphill through snow and ice. Colt’s knobbies did their job and I ploughed through overtaking even 4×4 jeeps fitted with snow chains.

The next day we rode to Zemithang, the most remote village in Western Arunachal Pradesh. On the way we stopped at the army base in Lumla and were treated to an excellent breakfast by the Commanding Officer there. He also arranged lunch for us at a Army detachment close to Zemithang.

When going to Tawang we crossed the Sela pass. There was some snow and ice on the road, but nothing too serious. However, when returning back from Tawang, the shit hit the fan at Sela pass. The previous day vehicles were stranded at the pass due to heavy snowfall and taxis from Tawang were used to rescue tourists stuck in their vehicles. The pass was opened the day we attempted crossing the pass, but there was total carnage. There were vehicles strewn all over the place. They had slipped off the road and fallen into ditches. Even the breakdown truck was in a ditch and needed to be rescued. In some places the ice on the road was so thick that even the heavy trucks couldn’t break it to make ruts for us to ride in. They just ended up compacting the ice into a thick sheet of glass for us to ride on.

Once again Colt stepped up to the challenge. The knobbies did their work and I overtook stranded and struggling vehicles with snow chains and ropes tied to their tyres.

In all of this I didn’t lay Colt down sideways even once. This is more of a testament to the motorcycle, and less about my riding skills. I know that a horse is only as good as it’s rider. But if you have a good horse, the rider’s job becomes much easier. This ride has made me love my little Hero Impulse even more. It’s just perfect for the madness we did and I’m really glad I chose to ride this motorcycle to the mountains this year. This is absolutely the right tool for the job.

All the help we got from the Indian Army on this ride was due to a college mate currently serving in the Army, who shall be unnamed for obvious reasons. He put me through to his colleagues in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh who helped us immensely and gave us an experience that no civilian could ever dream of. Without his and Karma’s help, this ride would never have been such a success.

When planning this ride I tried to pack as much as I could and ended up with an itinerary of 15 days continuous riding without a rest day. This turned out to be an high altitude, endurance ride in the toughest of conditions. And the 5 Idiots from Goa Trail Riders did it.


The 5 Idiots at Y Junction


On the way to Y Junction


On the way to the Gurudongmar and Tso Lhamo lakes in North Sikkim


Stuck behind a bunch of stranded tourist jeeps on the way to Y Junction


Returning from Y Junction


The 5 Idiots returning from Y Junction


At the semi-frozen Sela Lake


Returning back from Y Junction


On the way to Y Junction


On the way to Y Junction


On the way to the Gurudongmar and Tso Lhamo lakes in North Sikkim


Returning back to Domang


At the frozen Gurodongmar Lake


At the frozen Tso Lhamo lake