The thrilling climb to the Bamboo Tree House (Day 24)

17th September

After the tiring ride from Shillong to Mawlynnong (Asia’s cleanest village), I woke up early the next day. Since I had reached this place late at night, I was awestruck to witness the beauty and cleanliness of this blessed place in the morning light. My first view after opening the door was greenery and real cleanliness all around. I was glad to be there.

I got ready to explore this exotic destination along with a friend and headed first to the Living Root Bridge. After riding a few hundred meters, we were at the parking lot of that tourist destination. We parked our bikes and walked. As I approached, I was blown away to witness first-hand the natural root bridge over a crystal clear fast flowing river.

 We locked our memories in photographs and spent some quiet time. We then headed to the Bamboo Tree House. We were the first to arrive there, which quite surprised the care-taker & owner of the Tree-house but nevertheless welcomed us with a broad smile. They opened the gates and I trotted ahead with excitement only to see a bunch of bamboos tangled, that was supposed to be the path to get to the view point. My excitement turned to nervousness because the only thing between me and a 300 meter drop were those tangled bamboo which suddenly in mind started to seem tattered. I could not calm my shivering legs so I opted to not look down and like a centipede I made it to the viewpoint. I had reached heaven as that Tree house is above the cliff overlooking a waterfall and the plains of Bangladesh. Conquering over fears gives a new perspective on life, in this case a new picturesque view for my camera.

Shillong, so much in a day! (Day 23)

 

 

 

16th September

I left guwahati quite early since I had a breakfast ride scheduled with the Assam bikers. They were going to ride with me for about 30kms. At 6 in the morning I met the group of 15 bikers at Pantaloons Downtown. The Guwahati to Shillong route is almost like a race track and since it was Sunday a lot of Superbikers were riding on that route. It is however not suggested to ride fast as there are many trucks that do not even show signals while turning. I even saw a Harley fall on one of the turns. We reached the dhaba had breakfast with some puris and channa masala and I said my good byes before proceeding to Shillong. These roads were the best so far that I saw in the north east and after riding for an hour and a half the weather started getting cooler the skies bluer and the trees thick and lush. I started to feel like I was riding in an Instagram filter. I finally did reach Shillong but I had to find a cyber cafe to apply for 2 more visas that I have been delaying for a while now, but after roaming in the city for half an hour I found none. What amazed me about Shillong was everything was shut and all the families were all dressed up in suits and dresses and they were either headed to church or finished church. It felt like home 😊

I reached out to a biker friend Samyntein in Shillong who invited me to his brother-in-law’s home to use his computer . So I said perfect. As I followed him to his place, I saw sign boards that said Scotland of the east and saw these colorful houses on the hill side almost all around. I noticed and liked how there were more women on the street than men. So much difference than the rest of India.

Anyways once I reached the house it took me 2 hours to get the visa work done and by that time it was already 3pm and I was supposed to ride to the cleanest village in Asia which would take me atleast 3 to 4 hours. My friend insisted that he come along with me as it is not very safe to ride in the dark. Even though I said no initially, I agreed as I thought it would be really nice for a local person to guide me. We quickly had some nice lunch and we left. After riding for 35kms we passed by the biggest village of Asia (sohryngkham), we took a few pictures and continued towards.

Samyntein suggested a short cut to which I wasn’t sure but still I followed. We passed through many tiny villages on the way with cows on the road and children staring as we passed by! They stared as if they hadn’t seen bikes before and there were also many young girls carrying their children around on their backs in a cloth tied around them. The roads kept getting worse and worse, from tiny stones to big rocky road. After riding For 200+ kms since 6am in the morning it just started taking a toll on me and we still had about 80 kms to go. We stopped for one last photo at sunset near a waterfall and met 6 other bikers from Shillong on Superbikes. We started riding again and in just a few kms it turned completely dark and there was a long way to go.

Riding through those curves and looking at the stars right ahead of us because of the clear skies was a good experience, but that was short lived because as we neared Dawki there were thousands of trucks parked on the side of the road which made the two laned road seem like a one laned road. The mining has been stopped in these areas but there is yet a lot of export of limestone. The only thing I was wondering was since thousand of trucks were loaded with limestone on just one day then how much are we destroying mother nature everyday.

 

It was a slow ride as there were oncoming cars and bikes as well. We stopped after crossing the river to buy a packet of biscuits and everything was dark and people started to stare at us, it wasn’t a good feeling. My friend asked me choose between two routes a 20km road or 35 kms road. I said 35km since that was a good road but he suggested the shorter route and I followed him. But after a kilometre itself I knew it was a bad bad decision as the roads were merely loose gravel to big rocky roads and a dense jungle all around. I had never felt so scared in my life, but continued riding. Every 500meters we would pass by 2 armed men guarding the border. We were almost into Bangladesh and out most of the way. My respect for the army increased as it takes a lot of grit to stand many hours in the night in complete darkness and guard these border areas. The way was quite difficult steep climbs and here and there we would hear waterfall noises. Those 20kms just wasn’t ending. This started to feel like the longest day on the road. Finally after many cheackposts my light reflected on a board that said 20kms to the cleanest village in Asia. It was a sign of relief as well as anger 😠 but I said to myself that some days are just meant to be shitty but they may be good things waiting for me. So I took that last bit of energy left in me and rode that 20 kms until we reached a small tiny house in the woods where a lady and her 2 children were waiting for us. That’s when I knew that this was where I was staying for the night, in a wooden hut built by her husband. The moment I entered I realized that it was so tiny but yet so clean and perfect. I headed for a bath as soon as I got there, had a perfect simple veg food for dinner cooked on fire wood and called it a night. I was exhausted yet content that I made it to this place after that scary experience and I was glad I had company of my fellow biker friend 😁     

The living dollhouse in Guwahati (Day 22)

I was not ready to leave Bhutan, but the road beckoned. When I entered India, the broken paths welcomed me. After a tiring ride, the pit-stop in Guwahati was a refreshing change. I was hosted by a friend’s family and I also got to meet her in-laws who is quite well known in Guwahati for her vintage designer furniture. Apart from the delicious meals both the aunties fed me, I also had a beautiful ambience to enjoy it.

Her name is Korobi Das and she has the most exquisite taste in home decor. I never imagined one could build themselves a dollhouse in the city of Guwahati. What was more inspiring is that she built her furniture business all by herself whilst raising two children.

I spent an evening getting to know her and about how all of this came together and how she literally handcrafts most of her showpieces. It was also her birthday, so I snagged an interview too.

Conquering the Tiger’s nest (Day 18)

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been in Bhutan for couple of days but was avoiding going to the Tigers nest as I heard a lot about the difficulty of the trek. However today I gathered the courage and rode to it’s base camp. Once there I hired a stick and a horse. I rode with 6 other tourists. The trails were steep and the rains had made it slushy, so the ride started to seem scarier than walking specially when I saw a few horses sliding down the path. After a 45 minute of tensed ride, we reached a cafe, after which it’s a good 3 hours more of walking to reach the nest. My history of dislocated knee made my waIking slow but steadly I proceeded the view just got better and better. First it was of the thick green mountains and then a couple of streams, steep climbs, people who were hiking to the monastery and then suddenly we got close to the Tiger’s nest and oh my! the view was breathtaking. It was the toughest climb of my life and many times I thought I should turn back but what kept me motivated was the old folks who still managed to get up there. They were happy to be accomplishing such a big task and I knew if they can do it, I definitely can too. So I continued and came across this majestic waterfall along the way and once you cross the waterfall the nest is within vicinity. Only there I realised that I didn’t purchase a ticket from the base. I was nervous but when I explained my mistake they were kind enough to let me enter the monastery. I spent over 2 hours over there and never felt so much at peace. I soaked in the picturesque surroundings, the meditation and met people from different countries. As soon as I went into the last shrine it was time to leave. Slowly but steadily I started to climb back, this time joined by 2 doggies who accompanied me most of the way, which made me happy.
Ascending down the slopes was the biggest task for me as it puts a lot of pressure on my knees.But like a tortoise I kept on going and I told myself that there are days that will be the toughest but once I overcome them, there is immense joy and satisfaction.

When finally I saw the base camp in site I was relieved and the moment I sat on Skye I forgot my pain and I knew that this is what I’m meant to do. I can ride for 16 to 18 hours every day but I can never walk 🤣
When I finally got back to my hotel I realized how much of beating my legs have taken and I had to soothe them by taking a hot water tub bath. Good night ul

Goodbyes at NHRefuel & enroute Hyderabad (Day 1)

Here’s a continuation of what ensued after the flag off..
My friends and family escorted me up until NHRefuel where we assembled to have breakfast together. It was quite a turn around, more than what I had imagined. And the food was superb!
We gathered around to share stories about my past and how I got into riding. My aunt and my parents spoke words of encouragement which rendered me quite speechless. By the time it was my turn to speak I felt my heart swell up and tears came brimming to my eyes and I croaked my words! I never thought this endeavor to see the world on my motorcycle would be met with so much support and love and I felt so grateful.
I also made a video presentation of what I expect to do on my ride and we concluded the meet up with a prayer song. Yes I need all the blessings I can get.
With the morning slowing moving into noon I finally hit the road. Even though the day was hot my soul was calm.
And I watched a beautiful sunset from the highway as I made my way to Hyderabad

Flag Off to Australia #australasianodyssey

It was still dark out the window when I asked my family to go on and meet me at Vidhana Soudha. I needed those last 5 mins by myself to go through my checklist, say goodbye to my cats and also quieten my mind which would not stop thinking. There were a million things running through my head as I made my way to the flagging off point. Did I post the correct timing? Will anyone show up this early? In fact, will anyone show up at all? Just as when Vidhana Soudha came into my view I saw one motorcycle parked behind a car and then a fleet of motorcycles and several groups huddled, chattering and basking in the morning fog. At that moment I clicked a mental picture in my head because I never want to forget what I felt, I felt thankful.
For those of you who dont know, here’s my route
I will be starting from Bangalore covering the east coast of India towards the northeast. Then via Manipur to Myanmar – Thailand – Laos – Vietnam – Cambodia – Thailand – Malaysia – Singapore – Indonesia – Australia. I’ll be doing two island hops, one from Malaysia to Indonesia and the other from Timor to Darwin. From Darwin I’ll be riding all the way to Sydney. Wish me luck folks!

My rendezvous with South India

In the end we only regret the chances we did not take and I for one am not living in regret because I took up this opportunity to explore my wanderlust spirit. And I am really glad that my spirit does not just aimlessly meander but is also open to soaking in all the experiences these places have to offer. The past week around the quaint South have been nothing but an array of experiences and then I realized, adventures are the best way to learn.

It started out with an emotional journey to Trivandrum from Varkala, as I was bidding farewell to my friends that I made at Varkala. 
 
My inspiration for this short trip was the Indian classical dance ‘Kathakali’, I always wanted to tap my feet to their tune. So when I found out that they were offering a class in Trivandrum I made way over there, to the dance organization ‘Margi’ that offers short lessons and full day courses.
After my tête-à-tête with kathakali, I was back on the road towards Kanyakumari, the southern most tip of India. It was a pleasant journey except for the fact that the roads were single lanes and the Kerala State Transport buses were being driven in an erratic manner, the bus drivers were under the illusion that they were all Micheal Schumachers and to top it all it started to rain and that’s when I had a fall. Its in situations such as these that the helmet and the safety gears come in hand.

It was almost after 125 kms of riding that I had my first glimpse of Kanyakumari and before I knew it I was already at the edge of the town facing the ocean and I could see the shops selling shells, pearls, corals and different varieties of stones. I headed straight to the hotel Manickam where I was given a room facing the ocean, along with an amazing view of the ‘Our Lady of Ransom Church’ and the ‘Pooviyoor Theppekulam’.

Our Lady of Ransom Church
Pooviyoor Theppekulam
Garden Restaurant at Hotel Maadhini – The Malai kofta and the Kerala paratha here is a must have!
The next day early morning at 5 o’clock I woke up and walked up to the edge of the beach and as I stood there waiting for the sun to rise through the heavy clouds I had a pretty view of the Indian ocean getting merged with the Arabian sea and the Bay of Bengal.
A bridge of rocks towards the Indian Ocean
Vivekanda rock memorial and Thiruvalluvar statue
All the boats had a photo of a deity
Thiriveni Sangamam

The Hindus consider it holy to take a dip here

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Wandering Monk Exibition
I can so relate to the term ‘Wandering’
Kanyakumari was followed by Tirunelveli where more than the destination I was blown away by the ride because the scenic view had a charming appeal with the freshness of the greenery and the windmills which stood along the way.
At Tirunelveli I met up with my friends and they took me out for dinner and insisted that I try the famous halwa of that place (you should try it too, I insist!).

Navaratri preparation at my friend Amritha’s house

The next morning I rode to Tiger falls and the Main falls which lies around 100 kms away.

I made it to the temple city Madurai after a smooth ride of 170 kms just in time for the Navratri festival and I could not have been there at a better time. The entire area was lit up including the Meenakshi temple and I got the opportunity to view some of India’s most talented people performing Bharatnatyam and singing classical music. That feel in those festive moments is something I will never be able to brush away from my soul.
Temple view from the terrace of a local shop – Kashmir Handloom House
Meenakshi Temple
Lighting decorations at the Temple
Owing to the spectacular festival delicious food was being served at the temple for only ten rupees.
Little talents of India
I was told by the guides at Meenakshi temple that the Gandhi Museum is a must visit place at Madurai
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Located in a quiet corner, it is a well maintained memorial of Gandhiji. It comprises of photos, paintings, sculptures, manuscripts, quotations as well as the blood stained cloth that was worn by Mahatma Gandhi on the day of his assassination. The museum depicts various phases of Mahatma Gandhi right from his childhood days till the day he was taken to the crematorium. The pictures displayed here are carefully compiled making sure that the spectator feels inspired from the life of this true patriot.

On the way back to the hotel I came across this breathtaking view of horses and cows grazing on the almost dried up river bed.
As I was nearing Rameshwaram while riding from Madurai for almost 190 kms, I came across a small narrow path that runs to the beach. My instinct always tells me to take risks and explore places, so I went for it and that path opened up to a vast expanse of sea, the view was so blue that day and what a clean and private beach that was.

I rode to Rameshwaram to view the famous Pamban bridge. People usually go there to watch the bridge split when the ships go by or to see the train pass by which apparently passes by only twice a day. I got lucky though, as soon as I reached I chanced a view of the train pass by, it was majestic!

My selfie moment with the train against the blue water
While strolling in Rameshwaram I came across ‘Blue Coral Cottage’ who were offering snorkeling. I was lost under the sea for almost 3 hours.

Pardon the dates, its set wrong on my Go Pro
Its a whole different world under the water
Sea cucumber
Sea lotus

**Watch the video till the end to see what the sea Lotus does….

I also had the opportunity to have lunch with the local fishermen who were so kind to share their cuisine with me.

Ate fresh fish curry which was caught while snorkeling
In front of the home of former President of India Abdul Kalam
Riding back to Madurai

Concluding my voyage around the coast I finally made my way up the hills to Kodaikanal. It was such a relief after riding for days in the heat, to find myself in such a misty and cold place.

My first view of Kodai
My favorite spot on the hill
the view at Coakers Walk in Kodai
United 21 Resort at Kodai
As you can see my entire travelogue is overflowing with a mélange of memories and that in itself is such a high, who needs magic mushrooms?!

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