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     Volume 2 Issue 140 | October 18, 2009|


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Mountain Biking across Bhutan

Pantha Rahman
Photo: Pantha Rahman, SM Muntasir Mamun

CAN you imagine the feeling of cycling through the clouds, chased by a bunch of wild dogs or crushing with an angry bull while descending on a bicycle over 50 kilometer per hours speed. I do not have to imagine these strange phenomena because I have done all those. It may seem a big fat lie but to me it is the orientation towards mountain biking. I have been mountaineering over the Himalayas last year but this is a completely different experience. This is riding the Himalayas on two wheels.

It all was planned and organised by Imran Bhai. It was termed as 'West to East Cross Country Bhutan Bike Ride.' The theme of this ride was friendship. We had to ride from the western district Paro to the eastern district Trashigang (as like Teknaf to Tetulia). According to the plan we (Imran Bhai, Mamun Bhai, Raiyan and me) dismantled our bikes and packed them in large cartons. We had to take all the repairing kits, tools and spare parts of the cycles because there is no bike repairing shop in Bhutan. According to the Bhutan Mounting Bikers Club "The nearest city may be 80 kilometers away and the nearest telephone booth may be 75 kilometers away." So, you have to go prepared and know everything needed for your bicycles.

And the roads of Bhutan are not only dangerous but also painful. Sometimes, it is 50 kilometers uphill and when you are going down you can gain over 50-kilometer speed in just a few seconds. Anyone can fall anytime from the sharp turns. And if anyone falls from the mountains the best chance of survival is to fall directly on a hospital bed!!

So we had to be extremely cautious while going downhill. We landed on Paro with our packed cycles and started for Thimpu. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bhutan and Bangladesh Embassy gave us an excellent reception at Thimpu. They greeted as like guests and before starting our bike rides they gave us a white scarf to protect ourselves from any kind of danger. We started very early in the morning and just after crossing the city my rear wheel was tilted. So everyone had to stop. They tried to fix my bicycle for a long time. Imran Bhai, Mamun Bhai and Raiyan tried everything they knew and after a couple of hours my bicycle was finally fixed and we were ready to ride again. So we started toward Dochula and soon we found out that the roads were higher than our expectations. Reaching Dochula took a lot out of us and we decided to pitch our tent and pass the freezing night. Next morning, it was 60 kilometers down from the mountains and we were going insane with anticipation. While crossing the turns we were bending our bodies and cycles like a Motto GP racer. The sound of wind grew louder than any storm and we were riding so fast as if we were flying the high skies. After reaching Wangdea it was again another 35 kilometers uphill towards Pelela. And in between Wangdea and Pelela there was no placing for lodging or even pitch tents. So we tried to speed up but only after crossing a few kilometers, the weather turned bad and it was raining like hell. The following morning we started riding between the dense forests and saw a lot of monkeys and a python as well. We successfully reached Trongsa and the local authority greeted us hospitably. We reached Chume the following day.

Chume was a peaceful and extremely beautiful valley with farms and rivers. We decided to spent a day at Chume and celebrate our Eid there. We cooked shemay, khichuri and many other dishes and celebrated the day with the inhabitants of the locality. At night we put a camp farm and we sang songs and danced. Unfortunately late at night Bhutan was struck by an earthquake after 50 years and many places were severely damaged. On our journey the next couple of days we had to cross several landslides and the roads were terrible. The worst part was people were so terrified that they left homes to spend nights in tents. We crossed Zakar, Tansibi, Sangor, Lingmithan, Mongor and finally reached Sherichu the last city before Trashigang-our last destination. We started at 5 am from Sherichu and all of us were in high spirits. From Sherichu to Trashigang it was 33 kilometers; most part of the road was uphill. As the kilometers were decreasing at the milestones, we were getting more and more excited. We crossed our final check post 12 kilometers far from Trashigang. Crossing the final 12 kilometers was painful. The road was steep and the weather was so hot we had to stop and take rest after a few kilometers. The local authority of Trashigand could not give us a formal welcome like the others, as they were busy with the disaster management. We spent 4 days at Trashigang fixing our bicycles and sight seeing and then came back to Thimpu. The Foreign Ministry of Bhutan was extremely pleased on our coming back. Sangay the Director of South Asia took us to several places and gave us a wonderful time and also arranged everything for our flight back to Bangladesh.

Even though the trip is over and we have come back, I am still in cloud nine-dreaming about riding the world's greatest mountains.

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