As you may remember, the Royal Enfield Tour of Bhutan 2017 had kicked off on 13th October 2017 wherein selected Indian riders, along with one of TravelHub, rode the tough Royal Enfield Himalayans all the way to Bhutan from Siliguri. Steal a peek into their challenging, yet inspiring road trip that has changed the face of bike trips across the country!
Since the news of the Royal Enfield India Tour Of Bhutan 2017 has had you on the edge of your seats, we thought we’d bring some of the thrill and awesomeness from the trip right here to pour you in with all that our riders saw and experienced on this sensational getaway.
And as promised, here’s an account of India’s most awaited and adventure-packed Bhutan road trip!
First, let us run you through the details of the trip.
Royal Enfield India Tour of Bhutan 2017 Trip Details
Route Map: Siliguri — Phuentsholing — Paro — Thimphu — Punakha — Gelephu — Bumthang — Mongar — Tashi Gang — Samdrup Jongkhar — Guwahati
Trip Dates: 13th October to 25th October
Trip Duration: 13 days
Total Distance: 1,569 km
Day 1 | Landing in Siliguri: Setting foot in a different world altogether
Our riders had butterflies in their stomach when they landed at the airport. The day was all about resting and gearing up for the next day when the trip was to begin, and our excited group just couldn’t stay calm with what awaited them in the land across the border!
Day 2 | Siliguri To Phuentsholing: Kickstarting the trip!
Our riders revved up their hefty Royal Enfield Himalayans and set sail for Phuentsholing in Bhutan post a short briefing and flag hoisting session. Following the entire caravan of tough riders are three sets of vehicles, one for luggage, one for the doctor, and one for the photographer & his crew.
The trip started on a rather joyful and hassle-free note as the roads they encountered during this part of the journey were mostly smooth, tarmac roads.
On entering the Bhutanese border at 2 PM, the team was met with the locked doors of the Immigration Centre since the office remains closed on Sundays.
The first thing our riders did in this beautiful country was checking out the famed Kharbandi Gompa near Phuentsholing. As charming as the architecture of those monasteries is the nature of Bhutanese people. Calm, polite, friendly, and extremely helpful, it’s the natives of Bhutan that make it the ‘Happiest Country In The World’.
Distance from Siliguri to Phuentsholing: 180 km
Time taken: 5 hours 30 minutes
Average riding speed: 60km/hr
Day 3 | Phuentsholing to Paro: Riding to Paro through foggy hills & pitch blackness
Just when they had started to grow weary of standing in the long queue outside the Bhutan Immigration Office, Bheem came to their rescue. A Bhutanese national who is collaborating with Royal Enfield for The Tour Of Bhutan, Bheem helped sort the entire process and the riders finally had their permits in their hands.
By this time, the group had started to understand the bikes they were riding. Be it on the road or off it, the Royal Enfield Himalayan seems to take on them all with ease. Built for the most non-complying mountainous roads, these versatile, sturdy, yet light-weight machines are effortlessly taking our riders from one destination in Bhutan to another without fail!
Soon after, they rode off to Paro. Though the route was absolutely scenic and surreal at first, it turned treacherous once a thick layer of fog descended over the mountain and it soon got dark. But that wasn’t an issue for our fearless riders! With their adrenaline soaring through the roof, they took the challenge head on and proceeded to Paro on their bikes built for tests such as these.
The entire team rode in a tight formation to make sure no one was left behind in that darkness and finally reached Paro at around 8 PM.
Distance from Phuentsholing to Paro: 120 km
Time taken: 5 hours
Day 4 | Paro: A treacherous trek to Tiger’s Nest
Our riders started the trek at 8 AM through the narrow yet crowded trekking route to the top. Unaware of the proper route for the trek, our riders swayed onto a different trail, which, though treacherous and tough, turned out to to be a rather scenic route. Taking regular halts to admire the stunning landscapes, it took the group 2 hours to reach Tiger’s Nest.
While some meditated inside the beautiful shrine, praying for a safe journey ahead of them all, others wandered about to admire the beauty of the sanctum. After a quick descent and a small tea break at the hotel, the group geared up and left for Thimphu.
Tired, they reached Thimphu at night, and took a nice long rest.
Trekking distance for Tiger’s Nest (one way): 4.5 km
Time taken: 2 hours
Distance from Paro to Thimphu: 60 km
Time taken: 4 hours
Day 5 | Thimphu: Exploring the capital city of Bhutan
They spent the day exploring the capital city of Bhutan – Thimphu. First on the list was the Buddha Temple, a massive structure of shimmering gold that was giving off cool and calm vibes! Climbing more than 200 steps to the statue, they reached the main temple in time for the morning prayer where more than a thousand monks were immersed in prayer while tourists idled about.
After spending some time amid the serene environment of the temple, our riders went onward to a restaurant nearby for a spot of lunch. The evening was marked by a live band performance in a cafe near the hotel.
Day 6 | Thimphu to Punakha: The utterly scenic ride via valleys & rivers
It was time to ride to Punakha today, the next destination in this Bhutan road trip. Thanks to those good tarmac roads between the two destinations and the absolutely scenic route, the riders enjoyed their journey to Punakha and even the steep descents they found along the way across valleys, hills, and rivers.
Taking short breaks for fuel, both theirs and the bikes’, they reached the Wangdue village in 15 minutes ahead of Punakha.
Distance from Thimphu to Punakha: 85.7 km
Time taken: 2 hours 45 minutes
Day 7 | Punakha to Phobjikha: The thrill of off-roading on those mean machines
The riders were supposed to go to Gelephu on this day, but due to some unrest in the same, they proceeded instead to Phobjikha, a scenic valley close to Punakha.
After riding on some good tarmac roads for a few miles, they were met with rocky dirt tracks for the rest of the way, and that’s where the adventure began, along with a test of their bikes!
While normal bikes would have broken down during this off-roading gig, the Royal Enfield Himalayan stayed put and got our riders through without a lot of effort. Proving to be accurate and easily maneuverable, these Herculean bikes helped them cover the distance without a single scratch on its armour. Riding through serene landscapes on roads that taught the bikers more about their unbeatable riding skills, was pure joy for these vagabonds.
Whizzing through mesmerising routes and stopping by to chat with friendly and humble locals, the ride to Phobjikha was more enjoyable than they had imagined. They reached their destinations quite early and got plenty of time to explore the valley even after the lengthy off-roading, all thanks to their bikes.
Distance from Punakha to Phobjikha: 80 km
Time taken: 2 hours
Day 8 | Phobjikha to Bumthang: The toughest test for RE Himalayan!
It rained heavily through the night at Phobjikha, making the temperatures drop to a whopping 6 degrees from 18 degrees. The riders started early for Bumthang, feeling the chill rising and dreading the nasty ride on those dangerous terrains to Bumthang before them all thanks to the weather.
They knew the route ahead would now be a bigger challenge than it already was, but as always, they greeted it with a smile!
The route to Bumthang was pure off road and now full of slush, making it dangerous to tread on and allowing the riders to not go above a speed of 40km/hr. It was the toughest route they had encountered in the entire road trip and the group was extra vigilant at all times as a single mistake would have sent them hurling 2,000 meters down the mountain!
With their adrenaline rush through the roof, they mustered up all the energy they had, both physically and mentally, and proceeded with caution, occasionally falling in the ankle-deep slush.
Getting them across the most treacherous route on this Bhutan road trip, the Royal Enfield Himalayan emerged victorious yet again, proving there ain’t a tougher and more reliable bike than this for such murderous roads. Performing above and beyond the riders’ expectations, these machines continued to surprise all with its strength and durability.
The magnificent views of Bumthang that greet the riders emerging out of those slushy roads made their hardships appear worth all the effort!
Distance from Phobjikha to Bumthang: 180 km
Time taken: 11 hours
Day 9 | Bumthang to Mongar: Off roading amid scenic landscapes
By this time the riders had realised that the Royal Enfield Himalayan can take on anything, and they wouldn’t leave any opportunity to show it off!
Still exhausted from their nerve-racking ride the day before, they proceeded to Mongar. The ride to Mongar made up for what it lacked in terms of adventure and thrill with enchanting views and a charming weather.
Off roading for the entire length of the day, they rode in a compact formation once the sun was down to ensure nobody was left behind. Spotting the beautiful town of Mongar, at last, was a huge relief to the riders who had been on the road for the most part of the day.
Distance from Bumthang to Mongar: 184 km
Time taken: 8 hours
Day 10 | Mongar to Trashigang: Traversing through marshy terrains
Just as they realised that the trip was soon coming to an end, the riders were hit with an overwhelming surge of nostalgia. It seemed tough to leave behind the bonds they had made on the journey where everyone looked after one another.
The group left early for Trashigang following a light drizzle in the morning. Since a point in the route was scheduled to be closed at a certain time in the morning to fix up the roads damaged during a landslide, the riders needed to make sure they had passed before it was closed in order to reach Trashigang at the decided time.
Offroading wasn’t as much a challenge here as was offroading with a deadline! Traversing through another stretch of slush owing to the rain, they made their way in haste, but also made sure to be cautious at all times. Helping them conquer the marshy roads and cross the construction point well in time, the bikes again proved their incomparable abilities!
By now our RE Himalayans had met with numerous wars with the roads of Bhutan. Though still spick and span, the riders thought well to tend to their battle scars and get them serviced. Soon enough, Raheem, a skilled mechanic with Royal Enfield India who had been accompanying the riders on the trip, got down to work on the bikes, which were as good as new after minute tweakings here and there.
Distance from Mongar to Trashigang: 70 km
Time taken: 4 hours
Day 11 | Trashigang to Samdrup Jongkhar: Zooming through hairpin turns and curves
The group woke up as early as 5 to cover the hefty distance between Mongar and Samdrup Jongkhar with time to spare.
While it rained continuously still, the sun graced the group with its presence once in a while, allowing them to clearly see the roads ahead which were otherwise pitch black blanketed by those thick clouds.
The clouds finally gave way and the riders zoomed through the rest of the curvy, yet thrilling roads that seemed no less than a roller coaster ride, reaching Samdrup Jongkhar at the appointed time.
Distance from Trashigang to Samdrup Jongkhar: 180 km
Time taken: 6 hours
Day 12 | Samdrup Jongkhar: The last day in Bhutan!
They bid farewell to the Happiest Country In The World and made their way to Guwahati, India. Contrary to the goosebumps they had had on the first day of the trip, our riders were now met with a profound uneasiness at the prospect of bidding farewell to so many wonderful things they had experienced on the trip – the rides, the bonds, the landscapes, and so much more!
Distance from Samdrup Jongkhar to Gangtok: 520 km
Time taken: 11 hours
Day 13 | Bidding farewell!
The end of this incredible road trip was marked by a heart-wrenching goodbye! Of all the memories that they were getting away with on the trip, the ones that they made with their bikes would undoubtedly have been the best. One of the many things that this trip offered, was a deep understanding and insight into a kickass bike like Royal Enfield Himalayan.
Though it wasn’t easy, they bid farewell to the friends they had made on their unforgettable journey across Bhutan. More than that, they bid goodbye to their most reliable companions on the trip – the bikes! During a short retreat of 13 days, each of them had turned a fan of the unparalleled Royal Enfield Himalayan!
Apart from their unending strength, it was their tough machines that gave them no reason to stop on this magnificent road trip to Bhutan from India. Made for mountains such as these, the Royal Enfield Himalayan has helped them cover the entire route at ease.
There’s now no terrain or type of road that our riders haven’t scaled. From ripping on curvy mountain roads, slashing through muck and rain, to making friends along the way, our bikers and their tough machines have experienced it all.
Had your mind blown? Wait, there’s more to come on what the riders experienced on this Royal Enfield bike trip, and what you can learn from it! Stay tuned!
*All the images in this blog have been clicked by Siddharth Sengar