Wednesday, February 1, 2023
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One Day in Bhutan

If I thought yesterday was full-on, then today’s riding can only be described as totally extreme! It’s fair to say that after 40 years of biking, I’ve never had a day like today.

We started our day with ‘just’ a mildly terrifying steep, slippy, rocky downhill slalom on our Enfields to eventually find the one petrol station that served the local area. Typically, it had no fuel so we waited until the tanker arrived to replenish the pumps. Despite my fear of imminent and spontaneous combustion, our tanks finally got topped up.

As we were about to set off, the heavy black clouds decided to empty their contents on us, so we quickly pulled on waterproofs and winter gloves in anticipation of a very wet and chilly ride.

Riding through endless switchbacks into ever-increasing altitudes, the temperature continued to drop.

In the thick clouds, visibility was often down to about 10 metres or less. Progress was slow, and a combination of great caution and intuition was needed, especially when we hit even deeper and thicker mud than yesterday.

Riding in these muddy roads required great caution and intuition. – One Day in Bhutan

The bike often felt as if it wanted to go any way but straight on.

One of the guys in front of me suddenly spun through 180 degrees and his bike was pointing back the way he’d come! How he stayed on I don’t know.

Fortunately, by trying to keep a somewhat steady throttle hand, I managed to not only miss sliding under the wheels of huge Tata trucks, but also avoided impacting the valley floor far beneath the clouds.

The combination of serious terrain, challenging weather, other road users and obstacles continued for what seemed like hours and needed full concentration at all times to avoid disaster.

Eventually, we started our descent from the mountain peaks. To our great relief, the rain slowed then finally stopped.

The clouds lifted. The sun came out. The roads dried and temperatures rose happily with each downhill bend.

We had a quick pit-stop to remove our wet weather kit, checked the bikes over quickly and set off again.

A quick stop – One Day in Bhutan

After hours negotiating the mountain tracks, we arrived at the most amazing road surface a biker could wish for.

All of the potholes, mud, loose surfaces, random animals and obstacles were worth it for that glorious stretch of perfectly undulating and twisty tarmac.

The relief of being back on smooth, dry roads meant that many of us (including yours truly) over-indulged in what can only be described as somewhat exuberant riding behaviour.

We gave the bikes, tyres and brakes all a good workout as we hurtled downhill through the twisties, and were often so close we could see each other grinning in our mirrors. I was laughing so much, it was sometimes difficult to see where I was going.

Nevertheless, it was important to be very aware that landslips, boulders and occasional deep muddy stretches could be lurking just around the next bend, ready to catch the unwary.

It felt quite emotional when after some 8 hours riding, we finally arrived at our destination – Samdrup Jongkhar, near the border with India.

Buddhist monks in Bhutan
Buddhist monks – Bhutan

Together with the great fun and camaraderie of the trip, it felt that the whole experience was often like one of survival.

But we did it.

We certainly managed to do things on these fantastic Enfields that we never would have thought possible at the beginning of the tour.

It’s clear that the main route from west to east Bhutan was quickly being improved.

In the future it may not even be possible to ride these roads again, as we’ve done on this trip.

Another good reason for seizing the moment and experiencing these adventures, as you never know how things may change in the future.

Buddha's statue - Bhutan
Buddha’s statue – Bhutan

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