Times Pas­sion Trails: Bik­ing through mag­i­cal Bhutan

Bhutan Times - - Home - ( Source : The Times of In­dia)

Bhutan is famed for its pur­suit of hap­pi­ness. Now, some avid In­dian cy­clists are dis­cov­er­ing the joys of ped­al­ing up and down its breath­tak­ing slopes. Sur­rounded by a stun­ning coun­try­side made greener by the mon­soon rain, rid­ing on tar­mac lined by flut­ter­ing prayer flags and dot­ted with Bud­dhist stu­pas and monks in winered robes, the 14 riders are on a mem­o­rable week­long jour­ney through the mag­i­cal Hi­malayan king­dom.

Or­ga­nized by The Times of In­dia, in as­so­ci­a­tion with Ya­tra. com, the cy­cling trail in Bhutan is the first in sea­son 2 of Times Pas­sion Trails, which helps peo­ple ‘live what they love’. Guid­ing them on this tour through the ‘Land of the Thun­der Dragon’ (it’s called Druk Yul in the na­tive tongue) is bik­ing guru Ra­jesh Kalra.

Two days down, the par­tic­i­pants have con­quered the scenic Haa val­ley on their moun­tain bikes.

“I couldn’t have imag­ined my­self do­ing a re­lent­less up­hill climb of 35km in a down­pour,” says Disha Shri­vas­tava, 36. The steep de­scent was as ad­ven­tur­ous, if not as try­ing, for the mother of two. The ter­rain and weather is a pleas­ant change for the so­cial worker from Mum­bai, who usu­ally cy­cles from her home in Powai to Marine Drive amid heavy traf­fic and pol­lu­tion. “My eldest son saw the ad and coaxed me to ap­ply for the trail. It’s help­ing me dis­cover a new thing about my­self ev­ery day,” she says.

Learn­ing the nu­ances of moun­tain bik­ing on high al­ti­tudes and in tough weather con­di­tions is what brought Gur­gaon res­i­dent Raj Ka­mal Chauhan all the way to Bhutan. The 40year-old re­gional head of an MNC was very dis­ap­pointed about miss­ing out on the Manal­iLeh bik­ing ex­pe­di­tion in sea­son 1 and made sure he caught the flight to Paro this time. “The usual va­ca­tion is laid back but the itin­er­ary here is planned to make sure we get the most out of this beau­ti­ful land,” says Chauhan.

The trail has been planned in a way that ev­ery rider gets to ride at a com­fort­able pace. “Only when you’re rid­ing a bike do you go at a pace where you can en­joy the land­scape,” says Kalra, the trail ar­chi­tect, as the par­tic­i­pants gorge on some chai and pakoda af­ter a day of cy­cling in the rain to reach Chelela Pass at an al­ti­tude of 3,800 me­tres.

The trail has brought to­gether 14 peo­ple from var­i­ous parts of the coun­try and walks of life to a land that is known for its high hap­pi­ness in­dex. “Peo­ple here are un­hur­ried, warm and very pleas­ant,” says Kalra.

Up next is a day’s ride to Thim­phu, also the long­est stretch at 110 km. The par­tic­i­pants are pumped. “The first day’s trek and brief ride helped me warm up for these chal­lenges,” says Kavit Shah, 31, who par­tic­i­pated in a triathlon and cy­cled about 30 km ev­ery day in Se­cun­der­abad to pre­pare him­self for Bhutan. Shah has a fas­ci­na­tion for the un­con­ven­tional and isn’t into the usual sight-see­ing and shop­ping hol­i­days.

For Shri­vas­tava, this is an in­tro­spec­tive jour­ney. “Be­ing a mother and house­keeper, this trip is about de­tach­ing my­self en­tirely and tak­ing it one turn at a time.” In a land that can teach the world a thing or two about spir­i­tual well­be­ing, that’s a les­son well learnt.

In­dian en­voy to Bhutan Gau­tam Bam­bawale and his wife Amita hosted high tea for the pas­sion trail cy­clists

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