“Weekend escapade” is a term used so commonly these days that it has almost lost its ardour. For many, it means running away from the busy work schedule of the week on a weekend, to others it is the comfort of home with all the coziness. And for bikers, it can be described as ‘freedom’; a freedom to explore what Mother Earth has bestowed upon us; a freedom of flying without wings; a freedom to accomplish every thing possible on two wheels. A planned weekend travel has a possibility of failing to accomplish what was planned. But an unexpected journey on a motorcycle, unplanned and ill-equipped, undertaken on a weekend has much more flavor and excitement.
It is also commonly observed that most party freaks just need a small excuse to throw a party. It so happened, that for no good or proper reason, I got an excuse to hit the road on one particular weekend. And I am lucky to have my friend, Devilboy, to accompany me on the trip.
Day – 1
Riding gear – checked.
Driving license - checked.
Pollution certificate - checked.
Registration certificate - checked.
Bike servicing – Well who cares? Whatever may come, we were Ready!
Cash from ATM – Nah! We are going to loot the highway robbers & militants instead.
Leave from Office – Who cares! Yeah! Who cares for the approval of leave & Leave Station Permission! ;-) (That’s the xBhp spirit, right?) Ha ha ha….
15th of May 2009 started in a hectic manner with both of us winding up unfinished work in the office. Then, about 2 hrs before departure, we put in our application on the table of our Officer In-charge for one day leave for 18th May 2009 and also permission to leave station, in case we were not able to return before that. With adrenaline pumping faster we didn’t bother to wait for the approval of the leave and off we went for a last-minute shopping spree for things that we might need on the trip like “Gulf Inflate and Repair Kit”, Tubeless tyre repair kits etc.
Then at 14:00 hrs we started off from Shillong, me (Dragon/Dhanraj) on my Pulsar-180 and the Devilboy (JDan) on his FZ-16. Shillong, also known as the “Scotland of the East”, is the district headquarter of East Khasi Hills and the capital of Meghalaya, a hilly state in the north-eastern part of India. We had no apparent idea how long is the journey to Williamnagar, the district headquarter of East Garo Hills, how much of the risk is involved, which safest route to be taken (except for the visual idea in our grey matter and the guidance of our friend Kyle). We were both attired in leather jackets, jeans and military boots, not forgetting our full-face helmets. The start was slowed down a bit due to the onset of monsoon rain, but we were ready for that. I do remember Devilboy’s rain pant getting torn at the hip to which he responded notoriously “Look dude its wet, but who cares, ride till it gets dry. hahaha”. Our first stop was Nongpoh, district headquarter of Ri Bhoi, halfway (50 Kms) between Shillong and Guwahati, where we had tea and snacks. Nongpoh is also famous for variety of fruits and vegetables. Anyway, we had no time to grab the fresh fruits and hitting the road was our preference. By this time, it had stopped raining, so we throttled to keep pace with time.
When we crossed over to Assam, the roads became wider, straight and single lane, so we lapped up the kilometers. The weather was dry and dusty with the energy-draining heat becoming unbearable. Yet our leather jackets remain intact on our sweating body. We took the NH-37 route towards Goalpara. As darkness fell the temperature started dropping slightly, the highway getting ever darker and we stopped only to rest a bit for a leak and then had food at Dhupdhara. It was about 20:30 hrs then. Considering the dangers of night travel due to insurgency and night highway-robbers , a short discussion followed whether to halt for the night at Devilboy’s hometown which was about 25 to 30 Kms ahead or to take the risk and face whatever comes by. Finally, determined to test our endurance, I asked for Devilboy’s 3 Kgs iron chain and tied it around my waist in preparation for any unwanted dangers. My buddy did the same with the sharp-tip tool kits hidden inside his leather pockets. For a moment we felt like Nicholas Cage in the movie Ghost Riders, ready to rumble, avenge and punish any zombie that comes between our machine and the highway. At that late hour, finding a hotel would be difficult, so we decided to put up for the night in the unprotected and wild jungle if we lost our way or if our machines failed us. Then we headed straight for the next stop at Paikan, a popular stop for interstate buses & trucks plying overnight. We refreshed our dry throat and hit the road again. Had it not been for Devilboy who kept checking landmarks and clues we would have surely spent the night in the jungle for I mistook a route and traveled about half a kilometer. All the while we were in Assam we were out of cell phone network as none of us had roaming facility on our pre-paid connection.
From Paikan to the Assam-Meghalaya border, the ride was a breeze, the road was smooth and silky. At every turning and bridges, there were properly lit indicators and road signs. This is not the case with most of the National Highway roads in North East Region. Devilboy excitingly reacted “Hell, never traveled on such a smooth road, it feels like I am gaming Need For Speed”. On entering Meghalaya again, we were face to face with rough, narrow and winding roads again and had to slow down a bit to only 30 to 40 Km/h. The road and bridges conditions were terribly bad in some places. Potholes and sands reduced our speed to even more extent.
We kept on going till we reached Asanangiri junction at about 11pm. Halted for few minutes where we had a sorry sight to see few drunken motorcyclists riding in a zig-zag manner. The Signboard showed another 58 Kms more to Williamnagar. At few minor junctions, Devilboy would stop to enquire from tipsy pedestrian and night workers confirming if we were heading in the right direction. God bless them for none misled us. He kept on the lead since his headlamp was better focused for winding roads. Everything was calm then, the villages sleeping, the trees and plants refreshing our mother earth and the only audible sound were our heart beat and our roaring machine. It is noted that a rider should not follow another rider for too long because it blunts the alertness of the mind. This was proven when I blindly followed him off the road after corners and I did this thrice on that particular night travel. We were strained by then, the early rising from bed, hectic schedule in the office and the long 10 hrs rides so far had drained our energy. Devilboy who was deeply in concentration on the winding road got a bit of a fright when he unexpectedly came face to face with a brownish eyed and dark brown cow which stood still in the middle of the narrow road amidst the dead of the night and thick jungle, and that too just after a very sharp and blind turning. He felt his heart throbbing for minutes as the area was also militants infested.
As we approach the destination the road condition became even narrower, slippery with more sands and gravels, the bridges worse and the foggy sky added to our low vision. We were hardly prepared for the chill weather as it was the month of May. Our cheeks and fingers felt numb, our eyebrows and mustache wet due to fog and the tyres loosing traction at many times especially before or on the bridge. Finally, at about 01:00 hours of 16th May 2009, we finally hit Williamnagar and met my sister, who was posted there. All the while we were on the road, she stayed awake providing us necessary directions when the network was available our cell-phones and also to wait for our safe arrival. She arranged a room at a nearby Guest House and took the trouble to arrange toothbrushes, toothpaste, towels, candles, soap and not to mention the warm and delicious home made food. We also locked the tires of our bike with the large chain that Devilboy brought along for a bit of security in an unknown location.
It may be mentioned here that so far we did not snap any pictures as we had concentrated on reaching our first destination as soon as possible. Though we were tired, sleep was far away because of the thrilling ride and experience of the first night long travel. After having food, we chatted for a while before calling it a day, while a cock was strolling on the verandah crowing out loud because the sun was almost ready to spring out of the horizon. Cock-a-doodle-doo….
16th of May started at a more leisurely pace as we got up late around 10:00 hrs. After freshening up, we headed in search of a petrol-pump to feed the steeds and had breakfast at a local restaurant for our hungry mice inside our tummy. I also had to tighten up a bit the chain on my bike because it was giving off a rattling sound. We paid a short visit to Kyle family before throttling for our next destination.
So we started off for Siju to meet Devilboy’s long-time-no-see uncle and to take pleasure in a short sight seeing. Located in South Garo Hills, Meghalaya, Siju is famous for its limestone cave, bird sanctuary and wild elephants. The limestone cave, called “Dobakhol” in Garo language means caves of the bats, was tempting for a visit but we knew time was limited. We had hardly traveled for half an hour when the sky suddenly started raining cats and dogs. A family was kind enough to provide us with some shelter till the rain stopped.
The trip was really fantastic with a mixture of variety of roads including dusty, graveled, sandy, potholed and watery road - the biker’s dream road I say. I could still remember Devilboy’s tyre skidding many times while maneuvering the off-road around Nongalbibra village. The surrounding too was a joy to behold. At times there are betel nut trees all around us and at times we were flanked by huge jackfruit trees and bamboos. We also came across a large number of small waterfalls and water crossing all along the way.
Around midday we reach the viewpoint of Rongdong Falls at Siju. The waterfall was at a distance from the viewpoint and since we didn’t have optical zoom on our camera, we could not get a decent picture of it. But, the breathtakingly beautiful Simsang river in the backdrop more than made up for it.
We then visited Devilboy’s uncle and family who were staying nearby and had a hot cup of tea and snacks there. The surrounding was amazing with tall betel nut trees all around over rolling hills and valleys unlike our plateau of Shillong filled with pine trees.
The return trip was started at leisurely pace and before we knew it darkness was already over us. The road was getting worse and worse but we attributed it to the spell of rainfall in the morning. The return journey took us longer than anticipated. The bridges looked the same, the dark surroundings looks similar too. It was only when we saw two huge holes filled with water stretching across the road that we realized something was wrong. Devilboy told me later that his intuition kept on telling him to check for landmarks but then the road demanded all the concentration. When we checked from the next signboard we came across and after enquiry from one or two pedestrians, we learnt that we had missed a turning somewhere, probably while overtaking the dusty coal laden trucks. We had unnecessarily crossed around 12 kms on a wrong route and this took us about an hour to reach the junction where we actually missed the turn. At this point I was leading, my sister in the pillion seat was accompany me with sisterly talks while Devilboy was following. The only source of light around was our headlights and everything else was frighteningly dark. Suddenly he gave the signal to slow down, overtook me as he shouted over the roar of the machines that he was feeling a bit uneasy and would lead from there as he was riding without a pillion. Without any hesitation or clue, I let him take the lead and followed him while we lapped up the road at a faster pace as the road was much better that side. Then, while we were crossing one of those bridges that were laid with thick wooden plank, Devilboy’s bike skidded and toppled over at a place where one of the planks was broken, but he was quick enough to adjust and prevented the bike from hitting the ground. Surprisingly, he then told me that he was feeling fine and asked me to lead again. Finally, at about 9pm we reached the guesthouse and quickly freshened up again as we had received an invitation from a friend in high position. We had to wash our military boots as they were thickly encrusted with mud and coal. We expected a simple dinner, but to our utter surprise, our host had already arranged appetizers (Hard & Soft drinks) and lavish dinner. Since we were not planning on any more biking we enjoyed the treat and the lavish dinner and left the place with buzzed up heads. Ha ha ha…
As we were already exhausted, we hit the sack as soon as we reached the guesthouse and went out in a flash.
The next day, Devilboy narrated what happened on the previous night before overtaking me. He told me he felt goose bumps all over his body as he was riding behind alone. He thought it was the cold that made him shiver and the actual cause of goose bumps and therefore tried to mentally divert the feeling. But failing to control the feeling and after the goose bumps kept coming back again and again, he finally had to switch to the lead to make himself feel at ease. Later, we learnt that the particular area was a place where some military personnel were ambushed and killed by militants almost a year back. Whew! That is scary. Even the Devilboy can feel the spirits of the dead huh! Thankfully the Devilboy did not let the Dragon know else the Dragon would have roared with blazing fire. Hahaha…
End of Day-2! Enjoy!
17th May 2009, day three started late again as usual. Got freshened up, had full stomach lunch, bid goodbye to my sister and headed straight for the next destination Kharkutta, the home town of Devilboy. We stopped at an interval of about every 50 kms for a break of snacks and water as well as to take pleasure in the greenish surrounding of Garo Hills, the fresh river and the giggles of the ladies dressed in “Dagmanda”, a traditional dress of the Garo tribe. And yes I cannot forget to mention about the folks who were peculiarly staring at our machines and the two leather-clad riders in midday heat. Due to broad day light, we manage to keep pace with time and this enable us to play around with nature. There were many forget-me-not floras which closed their leaves and bend their stems on being touched. On the way we assisted in dropping one villager who missed his bus for his hometown and definitely he must have had one hell of a ride to remember. The smooth and wide roads with curves tempted us to capture few moments on video with our low resolution camera. I could see him zooming at about 90+ on his FZ with his left hand capturing the scenes with the camera and throttling with his right. The track from Baljek Airport to Paikan was the smoothest.
We also took a couple of breaks in between to rest, gulp down some water, smoke a couple of cigarettes and chat bout the journey. Devilboy also climbed a tree, which I mistook for a neem tree and thought we could lay our hands on some neem leaves and branches. Unluckily, some ants got into his pants and he was also stung in a couple of places in his hands. We were also sweating by then in the hot and humid weather of Assam. So, at the first available opportunity, we washed ourselves up at a makeshift tap made out of bamboo underneath a running stream, all the while joking about the ants that got up Devilboy’s pant.
It was then about 06:00 pm and darkness has already set in. After crossing Dudhnoi we again had to face the loaded and unloaded dusty trucks creating a dust and smoke screen for our vision. There were a lot of flies and Devilboy was unlucky to have been targeted right at his eyes by a big moth. Luckily though, he had his eye gear to save him. As we hastened for our destination Darangiri, we were zooming head to head with two or three other bikers who perhaps were looking for a race. Ignoring the company, we rode at our own sweet pace. This perhaps distracted our concentration and missed a turning for the second time in our whole journey. We had already reached Dhupdhara, 15 kms further from Darangiri and were supposed to have taken a diversion from Darangiri towards Kharkutta. Well there was no option for us but to turn back and hit another 20 kms for home.
Finally at about 10pm we reached Devilboy’s grandma’s house. Even as we reached the destination, our spirit was still high, our adrenaline pumping. Leaving the luggage behind we jumped for the nearby stream to catch river crabs (kekra) along with Devilboy’s cousin brother. It was amazing to see how his cousin caught the crabs. Using only an LED torch, he would walk by the stream bare footed to pickup the crabs one by one. At times he would say out of excitement: “Ah! I got one more under my foot!” On having fulfilled our adventure for the crabs we headed home for dinner and off to deep sleep.
We got up early in the morning for a fresh start. But Devilboy’s cousins were insisting on packing some fresh fruits for home. Again the thought of fruits could not resist us and there we go for an added fun. We pluck about a bag full of unripe mangoes, 3 big jackfruits each weighing about 5 to 7 kgs, some rare vegetables leaves, the crabs etc. Our pillion seat was fully packed by then. As we bid goodbye, we decided to take another adventurous track and head for Nakachikong River via Rajasimla village. Nakachikong is a famous picnic spot for people of neighboring areas of Assam and Meghalaya.
The road was again new and we kept on enquiring from villagers for the direction. We anticipated a pakka road with at least few vehicles. But who knew it would be more thrilling. After crossing Rajasimla village the road condition deteriorated further and finally disappeared while climbing a hill. We were maneuvering the path meant only for pedestrians. Not one vehicle or villager was spotted except for one or two when passing through the previous village. There were times when I felt apprehensive that the machines might give up and that would really be a nightmare for us as we were far away from habitations. Luckily, they lived up to our expectations and after riding through jungles and maneuvering our steeds through the rocky path, we reached our first destination, the Nakachikong River. There, we had some refreshing moments with a short dip into the river. As we bathe, we could see many river prawns surrounding our feet due to the fragrance of soap. Ignoring that time was running out and tempted with the sight of the prawns, we quickly took out our netted bag and caught few of them using the ripe jackfruits as bait. At about 2 pm, we then rushed through the village of Adokgiri and back into the highway of Assam. It was in these bumpy and off-road tracks that my biker buddy lost his rear number plate. In addition to his loss, a hungry cow chewed almost all of the special vegetables he brought from home town. But then, Lady Luck was on our side and thankfully there was no checking to delay us as we passed through Assam even though few Assam registered bikes were stopped at a particular check post.
As usual, every now and then we stopped for few minutes of kit-kat break till we reached Khannapara border of Assam-Meghalaya. The Guwahati-Shillong road is winding with many banked curves. Our experience with night riding and the route help us to skillfully maneuvered the corners at 50-70 km/h. Moreover, it is easier to spot an approaching vehicle at night even at sharp turns. We were exhausted by then and our body aching. The continuous 4 days and 3rd night riding of about 10 to 11 hours daily has had a toll on our system. But the thought that we will be home in about an hour or two kept our mind pumping the necessary adrenaline to move ahead. And finally we were back in Shillong base at 11:00 pm, bid farewell to each other at Rilbong junction and headed straight for the comfort of our home.
Next morning, everything was fresh, our energy revitalized, our spirit rejuvenated and 10:30 am we were back in action. No! Not for another trip and not for biking but in our office cabin with the workaholic attitude.
Distance, Route and Time Details of the whole Adventure:
Day 1 route: Shillong-Khannapara-Dudhnai(via NH37)-Krishnai-Paikan (via NH51)-Bajengdoba-Assanangiri-Williamnagar.
Time taken: 11 hours including breaks. Departure: 2pm – Arrival: 1am
Distance Traveled: 350 kms
Day 2 route: Williamnagar-Nengkhra-Nongalbibra-Siju and back to Williamnagar base.
Time Taken: 10 hours approx.
Day 3 route: Williamnagar-Ronsak-Assangiri-Bajengdoba-Krishnai-Dudhnai-Darangiri-Kharkutta
Time Taken: 10 hours approx.
Day 4 route: Kharkutta-Rajasimla-Nakachikong-Adokgiri-Dupdhara-Khannapara (viaNH37)-Nongpoh-Shillong.
Time Taken: 11 hours approx
Total Distance Traveled during the whole trip: 905 kms
Total Fuel burnt: 24 litres for each bike.