It was probably spending a full month in Delhi. That just completely destroyed my lungs. I picked up a bad cough that is still lingering until now.
The pollution in India is bad.
Riding east from Delhi, it didn’t get any better. I dare to say it even got worse. Suddenly, I just couldn’t handle it anymore. I was craving fresh air so badly I couldn’t think of anything else.
After studying the map I realised that my best shot at fresh air would be hill station Darjeeling. Google maps proudly announced that would be an 11 hour ride. An 11 hour ride.
So I did it. I rode from Vaishali to Darjeeling in one long, very long day. All went well - until the last few kilometers. Unfortunately.
I got this habit of always getting petrol at the end of a riding day. A great habit - if I say so myself. Being able to ride the next morning knowing your tank is full is just the best feeling.
Except that this time, I had to make an awkward turn riding away from the petrol station. My bike being fully loaded + me not paying attention for one moment = a lethal combination.
I let go of the gas handle for a split second while making the sharp turn. And there went Basanti.
Face-planted right in the middle of the road. Since I had no speed whatsoever, I managed to semi-elegantly jump off before I was kissing the street tiles too.
Again, in the crucial moments, I never seem to be recording with my GoPro. It didn’t cross my mind either to switch it on while Basanti was awkwardly holding up traffic all by herself.
So you have to take my word for it that it was a tad bit embarrassing. Alright then, more like a BIG FAIL.
Together with the guy who had just filled up my tank at the petrol station, we lifted Basanti back up. All I could think was “GO! DRIVE! Get out of here before anybody sees!”. Which was a great idea. Except that she didn’t start anymore.
Petrol guy: “Overflow. Overflow.”
Until this moment I have no idea what happened exactly. Or why it caused my bike to not start anymore. Something to do with petrol and overflow. That’s all I know.
**Feel free to drop my a comment down below with the science behind this phenomena.
More importantly is that now I know how to fix this problem. Which came in handy much faster than I’d thought: the next day. I swear, this time it wasn’t my fault. Really. But more about this later.
Pretending like nothing happened, I rode the final couple of kilometers to Darjeeling. I made it!
Ride into Sikkim
For a very long time - before I went to India the first time, honestly.. - I thought that Sikkim was the place where the Sikh people lived. Spoiler alert: this is not true.
Sikkim is a relatively small little appendix stuck on the North side of India and bordering Bhutan. This mountainous region is home to the Sikkimese - who are a mix of people who migrated from southern Tibet, Nepalese people and indigenous tribes. Nowadays, the people here mostly speak Nepali.
Sikkim was on my list for a long time and finding myself in Darjeeling now - I could almost smell Sikkim. Or well, I could definitely see the snow-capped mountain peaks of Sikkim from Darjeeling.
Anticipating similar riding conditions as in Ladakh I decided to make it a day trip. Leaving my heavy luggage, spare parts and tools behind in Darjeeling and riding a light bike through Sikkim.
I decided to ride to Namchi, located in South-Sikkim. The North of Sikkim is without a doubt more spectacular with high, snowy peaks, but this was not doable in a one-day trip. But the ride around the south of Sikkim was absolutely fantastic.
The road was rough and the views amazing - exactly the type of terrain that my motorbike is made for!
After arriving in Namchi, I headed to the Siddheswar Dham. Spreading over 29 hectares on top of a hill known as the Solophok hill, this is one massive temple complex. It’s actually a replica of all the 12 Jyotirlingas (lord Shiva shrine) and Char Dhams (set of four pilgrimage sites) in India.
Visiting this place is believed to wash away your sins. I mainly enjoyed the views and the sunshine. Unfortunately, I had to leave when the number of requests from locals for selfies was getting too much to handle.
Going back to Darjeeling, I picked a route which had worse road conditions so Basanti and I were bouncing through the mountains. Loved it!
When I returned at the border of Sikkim and went to sign out with my permit - Basanti fell over again. Some idiot couldn’t keep his hands off her and tipped her over when she stood parked outside. Fail - and again, no video footage… But what I did capture of Sikkim was pretty stunning - check out this YouTube video!
Good to know
To get into Sikkim as a foreigner, you need a special permit. Arranging this permit in Darjeeling is quite the hassle and will take you up to half-day. Better is to get it at the border with Sikkim. All you need to do is bring:
copy of your passport
copy of your Indian visa
one passport-sized photograph.
You’ll get the permit within 5 minutes! Don’t try and cross the border into Sikkim at Jorethang. This crossing is closed for foreigners. Enter via the town of Melli instead.