Have you ever wished to experience an offbeat adventure but didn’t have the backbone to venture out for it? Well, even though I have been to the oddest of spots, explored cuisines and different ways of life and cultures, I have never had the desire to commit to something wild and uplifting until I learnt the encouraging story of two dear friends, Abhishek Datta and Shovon Ray of Kolkata. They travelled all the way from Siliguri to the Eastern Himalayan ranges, Gangtok, and Darjeeling on their bicycles — purely for the sake of their passion.

Abhishek and Shovon amazed me with their extraordinary journey. They planned their cycle trip in May 2015 with the aim to reach Gangtok from Siliguri, and to document the whole journey, which they successfully completed in the month of January 2016. In spite of being amateur cyclists, they aptly covered around 200km in eight days in order to reach the destination via Darjeeling. Besides, they shared a tip about the necessities that one should carry on a cycle trip — water, dry food, safety gear, tire repairing tools, hand pumps, portable chargers, track suits, helmets, tent and cycling gloves.

Remembering the adventure, Abhishek said, “I felt every metre of the journey, every inch of nature, and heard every single heartbeat of mine.”

They were determined to come out of their comfort zones so as to experience something really different; something that is more edgy than a beach vacation! However, to do something remarkable one has to face all the hardships — and their difficulties started with transporting the bicycle from Kolkata to Siliguri, which can be one of the most difficult tasks in preparing for your journey. But this was not the end, as Abhishek broke the gear system of his mountain bike, and had to halt for a while.

Nevertheless, nothing could prevent them from hitting the road once again. After repairing the gear system, they left for the hills early in the morning. Although it was freezing cold, they steadily covered 45km in one stretch and reached the town of Kurseong, a tiny hill town known for its tea estates, in the Darjeeling district. On the way to Kurseong they captured the distinct view of the toy train railway tracks that run along the road. As they were not accustomed to such cycling, it was too challenging to climb the steep road at 4500ft above sea level; thus they decided to halt for a night.

The following day they arrived at their base via Hill Cart Road by covering nearly 30km, almost 4 hours of cycling, which was their first milestone. 

The following day they arrived at their base via Hill Cart Road by covering nearly 30km, after almost four hours of cycling, which was their first milestone. Here they came across the Ghum railway station which happens to be the highest railway station in India. “The feeling of cycling at this pace was incomparable to anything in the world,” said Shovon. At this point, being excessively exhausted to proceed anymore, they booked a room in a hotel for two days.

During their stay in West Bengal’s premium hill station, both of them went sightseeing with their mountain bikes. Shovon took a stroll down memory lane while visiting his second home, St. Paul School, where he spent some of his most memorable days as an teenager. Yes, the same school which has turned out to be an ideal location for many Bollywood filmmakers. With gloom on their faces they bid farewell to Darjeeling on the third day and set off for the next phase of their journey.

The start of the following stage seemed to be a cakewalk, since they were riding downhill, but suddenly the road became narrow and tricky, causing the bikers to speed up to 35km/hour, with sharp turns on one side and traffic on the other. They both hit their brakes and realised that they could smell the hot melting rubber of the brake pads. But as the saying goes: luck favours the brave.These two audacious cyclists took on the obstacles and reached the banks of the Teesta river. After riding 144km via NH31, it was pretty late at night to book a lodge so they chose to spend the night in a tent, under the stars and cold breeze. It was astonishing to encounter the starry night sky, hogging thukpa and momos, something that they had always hoped for.

(L-R) Abhishek Datta with Shovon Ray.

The next day they drove towards their ultimate destination, Gangtok, Sikkim’s modern capital which is surrounded by many peaks of the Himalayas. They thanked the picturesque panorama that made their ride all the more delightful. While paddling through the sloping roads they acknowledged the discipline that the people of Sikkim possess.

When the moon took over the sky, they finally arrived in Gangtok. At the time of entering the city, Shovon felt like he had won a war, a war with his own self. Even though out of breath, they were brimming with beatitude and smiling as they looked at each other. According to Abhishek, “It’s not that we climbed Mount Everest, but for a guy who lives in the plains, and leads an ordinary life, it was indeed an achievement.”

I’m aware that I was never a part of their expedition, but whenever they narrate its details I find myself among them in the mountains. By the end, I am only left with a lingering desire to ride with them someday.