This is not a trick-question! I’m black; I stretch on longer than anything that’s connected could possibly stretch; beyond even the imagination. My first tattoos were of imprints left by organisms that had limbs and moved. My history is one that lives and has lived through the ages. I was perhaps accidently built as more and more trod upon my guiding directions and me and being the indiscriminate path that I happen to be I’ve been witness to everything that is both appalling as well as inspiring. Genghis Khan rode upon me, as the Buddha walked upon me. Hitler used my surface to slaughter millions, as did Gandhi to save billions. Over the ages I’ve become quite fashionable; as both movie stars and country folks, together with politicians, clamor on about the dire need of the necessity of having my importance and me.
If you still can’t tell; you’re probably a moron but that’s okay ‘cos believe me, I’ve seen more than my share of lunatics. Yes, I’m the road you walk upon. I’m the path you take; I’m the journey you make. In my latest tattooed avatar, I’m now both cobalt and tarmac. In this particular episode, I’d like to adopt Tarmac as my moniker. You see; it goes well with the conditions here.
Now if I tend to go on please forgive me, no pun intended but you do see that I can be pretty long winded! The part I’d like to narrate here relates to a couple of soles… yes soles indeed! And the journeys they have made on my veins. They made many a journey, but it’s when these soles make the trip together that really, I get the tickles! And to arouse my curiosity, you know what these soles did? They brought in one particular hand that literally saves and heels your soles and even dyes for it day in and day out! This is not the comeback of Christ or the reawakened Lazarus (a looming second death at hand!) amongst us but metaphorically related.
There's a sole called Dawa. He is a cobbler. He began a new-age enterprise called “ShoeVival” a year or two back. See, he mends shoes for a living and giving renewed life to these worn out ol’ shoes gave him more than a livelihood; it gave him an impetus to help mend shoes gone astray and lend a helping hand to the many that walk barefoot in this kingdom.
So it happened that one fine day this idea came to a fork and merged with another set of soles who were also doing something akin- bringing whatever scraps of help they could.
They are a bunch of grown up kids that motorcycle through my many veins in the Thunder Dragon Kingdom of Bhutan. They are called the Bhutan Dragons Motorcycle Club and whenever possible, they get together, plan a trip to far flung places and bring whatever little relief they can to folks that need them the most, and tho’ they number the most, they deserve as such for they form the fabric that makes us who we are as a people, and as a living cultural entity, although unquantifiable, their contribution and way of life is the foundation on which we proudly call ourselves Bhutanese.
So they met. The Heeling Cobbler and the Giving Dragon. It was love at first sight. The Dragon would carry the Cobbler and his mended soles. There was a driving collection and the Heeling Cobbler managed to save about 450 castaway soles. The Giving Dragon became the Riding Dragon and together with the Heeling Cobbler and his 400 or more soles, made the journey down my southwestern veins and bends to the Dragon Kingdom’s borders with Tibet called Tendu.
Now I’ve both seen and felt the Dragons on their other incognito and vertigo rides among my many trails, tracks, U-Turns, pot-holed-veins and hairpin bends that keeps increasing on my palm (a saffron clad Sadhu once read me for free; “Long Life! Very Long Life! He proclaimed).
The Dragons are pretty peculiar. They have their own riding names when riding on such course with nemesis as varied as Pale, Ghost, Cool, Positive+, Don, Bap, Aggie, Thunder, Tarzan, Banta, Gangjung, Veep, X, Swiss, Old, Phantom, Toxic et al. It’s a motley crew. After this thirteenth ride and the looming fourteenth close on the heels, I’ve sort of grown fond of them. Like I said, they tickle me funny and give me Goosebumps whenever they go on these ventures. Pale is the President. I like the way he manages to maintain his consistency no matter how banged up the bike or the ride. No matter how crooked or straight the road, he always maintains a certain grounding that brings calm to the posse.
It perfectly balances the tips of the scales for there are some gung-ho cowboys in there.
Cool is fun and paradoxical because though he appears reckless; he’s always in “Balance”- as opposed to Toxic who, somehow, always manages to come out of the journeys in one piece even if his machine goes to pieces!
Plus the bonfires wouldn’t quite be as Asterix and Obelix if Toxic wasn’t there together with his bonhomie mate that could only be Bap. Tarzan tends to get on my nerves as I get the feeling the man is in love with himself! There’s nothing egoistical about his innocent sense of misplaced male vanity that results in dozens of impromptu stopovers with him facing the camera and screaming, “Click Me!” My favorite part is when he uploads them in the middle of nowhere on his iPhone, iPad or the sheer wheel power of his omnipresent gadget I’ve dubbed the “iWill!”
Aggie makes me nervous, as does Banta. I don’t know when they are gonna fall but I know they are gonna fall.
It’s now a ritual, always complemented at some point with an exclamation culvert from Toxic.
Phantom is a phantom. He may not have the gadgets and gizmos of Tarzan but his Bullet comes customized with an oven, a phonebooth, a mini-electronic mobile accessory shop, and a mini-bar. If Phantom was cast in that TV serial “Lost”- he’d be the first one out of that island or the jungle. Take a bow Phantom; even Bond will have to; that’s how functional he is. And that’s just great ‘cos sooner than later, someone needs a drink, a mobile charger or a fresh toast.
Bap is also dear to me. He has to be endearing. On this particular route down southwest, he’d been Mr Late Latiff and had to play catch up. So just as the Dragons and the Cobbler have spent a night in the lovely outdoors of Samtse courtesy Lt./Cap? Jendrix and Cap/Major? KT, I sense excitement amongst the Dragons. And none is happier than Toxic when news is wired that Bap is at the gate! Now Samtse is about a full day’s ride from Thimphu so what does Bap do? He uses his insomnia and rides at minus seven and yet has time to call the authorities from the middle of nowhere amidst the darkness alerting them of a “Deer” he briefly fell in love with. Later he tells the Dragons that a good 2-3 hours went by nursing that deer. Yet some 700-1200Km later he is at the Samtse Gate! That gets everyone pumped, for you see, besides being Toxic’s partner in crime and in merriment, he also happens to be the club’s Sergeant-at-Arms (tho’ he’d improvised and on his No* Plate had this declaration visibly embedded: (Sergeant-In-Arms!); a role of immense responsibility that Bap executes to the U-Turn without a glitch.
Their ride was good. I never sense any hurry in them, yet they seem to arrive at their chosen destinations almost always on time and without fail. You see, I sense vibrations and the vibrator is never wrong.
One bunch I admire a lot but keep forgetting is the Cooking-Camping Party of Two that preps up the tents, the food and my favorite- the bonfires!
Watching them unwind around a fire like that after a hard day’s ride makes me smile. Then the quiet ones will yakkitty yak to the dozen while the bunch that cannot sing will croak, growl, hiss, yell, scream and roar until they pass out! Cool is a good growler. Pale becomes Elvis; Bap becomes Tarzan of the Jungle minus a Jane and Toxic does all of the above. When the tunes go Hin-Dzong, everyone shuts up save for Jigs, and again, Pale. When the actual Tarzan croons, the fauna around comes to life! They wonder what’s going on!
Morning breaks in with pleasant chimes and climes, being the plains and foothills, the Thimphu chills seems colder to the warm bathing sunlight and the cool breeze. They ride to Sibsu; a beautiful hamlet surrounded by gently sloping hills and green banana and betel nut trees. There is a look of priceless peace on the faces of the riders, and let’s not forget, the Heeling Cobbler.
The night before at the campfire, our Heeling Cobbler had a soulful conversation with Toxic (never ceases to surprise me that the bugger can write!). You see; Dawa the Moon spoke to Toxic the Gonzo Journalist about his heeling business. He’d been an alcoholic. He was at a crossroads ‘cos the booze and the marijuana leaf had left him empty- leaving a void he could not fill, ‘till he decided, in his mid-to-late twenties, that he wasn’t gonna be a dependent bum. So he thought of mending shoes, which led him to buying machines he’d customized to optimize the mending process.
He called it “ShoeVival” and true to the name, he revived, rejuvenated, re-heeled and re-soled his own skin in life and as I speak, he’s already gathered and mended more than 500 pairs of refurbished shoes for the official 14th Ride to another part of me that’s in the confines of the eastern roads.
These Goodfellas have earmarked April for the ride. I’m awaiting this drive keenly, you see, my left limbs hardly get as tickled or massaged as my right and tight limbs.
Forgive me; that was a departed detour (boy am I long winded!). They rode on one of my finer veins just recently blacktopped, and seeing them enjoy that weather and that ride made me smile. When they got to Tendu, the villagers were out to receive them together with their Gup- an elected local leader. So they came, parked their Bullets in perfect symphony, orchestrated by Banta who concluded the parking chorus by falling off his bike, very gracefully at that.
The Heeling Cobbler and the Giving Dragons got to work. Its another aspect I’ve come to appreciate, the way in which they go about offloading whatever’s brought in the back of the DCM Truck faster than you can say DoCoMo. Two identified kids were given money to help them continue their education. Toxic was rather surprised to learn that there was two little boys born afflicted with polio. The two barefoot boys with polio got the first pairs. They smiled. The majority of the folks were barefoot and after the distribution was done, everyone stood shoed, somewhat bemused and smiling, holding atleast one more pair of shoes.
Another chunk of what were beautifully mended shoes went to the wives of the constables of the Samtse Police Force.
The shoes were so good even the Dragons themselves seem to want a pair or two! But this motley crew is anything but small-minded. Their sense of decency is so disciplined that they’ll never take what they came to give, and the giving part is what endears me “The Tarmac” to this Royal Enfield Bullet loving motorcyclists and their Good Samaritan gestures.
Besides shoes, they always bring rations of food that can be stored and anything that can be useful to such folks. One man’s junk is really another man’s treasure. They stopped over in Tendu, distributed some more in Sibsu and the remnants in Samtse.
The second night by the campsite was even better, save for Aggie who felt the food could have been better cooked! So talk of bringing along a miniature fridge to keep the beer ‘cool’ surfaced. Phantom wasn’t around to hear this one, ‘cos there he was telling Jigs he possibly cannot burden his customized Bullet anymore!
With that they again did what they always tend to do: the quiet ones get the gift of the gab and the wanna-be-rockstars start karouking the night’s quiet dignity by goin’ ballistically cacophonic.
Yes! That’s what I’m naming that pack! The Cacophonies!
The next day one posse heads for Phuentsholing and the other to Siliguri, on account of the proximity plus the chance to buy much required parts for their Blistered Bullets.
The ride from Siliguri to Phuentsholing was a rainbow! The flat and endless invisible horizons of the Indian Plains had them oozing pure delight! There is nothing more intimate on a road than a Biker, His Bike and the Tarmac.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is more than a mere book. It’s a manual for life and living with your engine and everything else you come to touch. The wind in your face; the gravel beneath. The song of the machine and a whistle on your lips are priceless peeps that cannot be manufactured.
I’ve seen a lot in my time and that is a monstrously long stretch of a time. You see; if you let yourself go, and you go with that trusting flow, and your flow carries a certain warmth and glow, then everything around you becomes illuminated. In the end, its like seeing your own face facing back at you in hundreds of thousands of manifestations… till realization hits you spontaneously of the trapping illusion that nags “This is This and That is That.” For when you surrender completely, you are also freed instantly and completely.
And that my friend is the reason why the sages coined that term when they walked with and on me:
“That the journey is the destination.”
Just one final note: on their ride back up my spine from Phuentsholing to Thimphu, the whole posse froze! So if you ever ride me in the winter, dress warm- extra warm! Adios Amigos and see ya all on my eastern curve. Till then, take care, stay aware and always, always be fair…
PS: If you wanna heel your sole and give it life in another person’s feet rather than letting it fungus and dye, then go to ShoeVival on Norzin Lam, Main Junction, or ShoeVival on Facebook at Help Shoe Bhutan Page or just call Dawa at (77337275), or get directions and go donate your good ol’ shoes right now- to newness and to a revved up life!
Dear fellow dragons, honorary members and prospects............ Let me start by wishing all a very happy new year!! may this year again be one filled with rides... May we continue to grow through our charity and may we continue to visit new places and make new friends..... May the gods continue to smile on us and may our friends and families continue to guide and support us!!
On behalf of the club, I would like to thank all our members both on and off our rides.... Our benevolent chairman and sponsors... Motorcycle Bhutan.....Clubhouse-Nobu.... Our support team... Our families.... Our friends all throughout the country for making 2011 a successful Year for the Dragons...
And as always to our local deities for ensuring our safety and well-being....
The 13th Charity Ride............
Riders on tour - Cool, Born, Steel, Jigs, Happy, X, +ve, Bap, Aggie, Toxic, Bullet, Macho Don, Pale
*Prospects - Tshering Tobgay, Ugyen (Gangjung), Sangay Yeshi
*Invitee - Dawa Dakpa (Help Shoe Bhutan) support staff - Gyem Tshering, Pem Namgay, Sanu Bhai, Namgay
*Sponsors - Bhutan & Beyond, Help Shoe Bhutan and ABC (Arunachal Bullet Club)
*Others - Central Hotel, Rinzin Wangda, Cool and Steel, Ugyen - Gangjung, Capt. Sangay, Major KT
Started off late as usual minus bap, parop and thunder rider who couldn't make it due to work and family commitments....... Was a cold cold start to the ride.... Icy road conditions at several places too...... But we were all grateful for the sun which lifted our spirits (heard later in Peeling that it snowed in Thimphu for an hour or so a few hours after our departure!!!)..........Usual pit stops and arrived in Peeling after lunch at Taktikoti....... Started raining after our arrival there and so got further delayed.....almost dark when we finally headed off for samtse......... Bike breakdown on the way..... Met Happy and Born in Birpara and finally reached Samtse at around 8:30 pm....... Met Capt. Sangay Yeshi there who took us to our campsite by the river...... Lovely site and an extra army tent had already been set up!! Major KT bought us tea, drinks and snacks........ Many thanks to both of them for their help and assistance....firewood too............
Had a sumptuous dinner and sang and joked around the campfire (had a guitar this time too) till everyone finally called it the night........Jigs and Steel stole the show:)) And Now They Made a Killing Selling it to Some Bored Billionaire in Los Angeles, California
Headed off towards sibsoo after breakfast.......good weather....for most of us the rideto sibsoo and tendu was a first......good roads in most places...beautiful scenery..sparsely populated......rice fields,,,,cash crops such as cardamon, oranges, banana, etc....little or no traffic en-route........small reception party in sibsoo....thanks to lt. Jamyang for arranging tea and snacks for us..........did our charity for the 3 kids and their families........Dawa distributed shoes for the folks + others.....boy were they elated!!!!!!!!!!
Getting late so we headed off to Tendu after ordering lunch at a local restaurant..... Took us around an hour or so to reach there.....Surprised to be greeted by another reception party there in Tendu headed by the local village leader.....Charity for two kids and their families...........
Distributed shoes for them and around 30 odd villagers who had come along............
Very very humbling and emotional experience for all of us witnessing the charities and the recipients........
Tears all around i tell u!!!!!!!!! and how can we forget Steel Rider's grand entrance:))) Aggie stop laughing as your two in one hug with the asphalt wasn't quite bad either...ha ha.....Gangjung didn't do too bad either:))............
Rode backwards to Sibsoo and had lunch......Headed off to Samtse and as usual reached there after dark!!!
Late dinner....and the usual around the bon-fire activities commenced!!!!!!!!!!
Distributed shoes for the police children and their family in samtse and then headed off in two directions towards Siliguri and Peeling
Bap Rider shocked everyone with his arrival during the distribution of shoes....... Started from Thimphu at 3:30 am and arrived in time before our ride to Siliguri........
What can u say about the guy...last to sleep n first to get up.....always full of energy...hardcore biker.....is he seriously a machine or what!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (He is Pale- i Saw a Metal Tip on His Little Finger! ToXic).
Riders to Siliguri - Cool, X, +Ve, Tshering, Ugyen, Toxic, Bap, Aggie and Pale.
Checked in a nice little hotel and went bike parts shopping at the enfield dealership in town....... All of us did bike maintenance and repairs.... Toxic needed a brand new shock as one of his shocks broke........ He also now has the hottest seat in our club!!!!!!
All agreed that riding in India, especially in its towns, is something else....we do prefer our quiet scenic hills anyday!!
Met Macho Don rider who rode solo from Thimphu to join the Dragons on the last leg of the tour..........
Kudos to him for doing so.......We appreciate the Wheel Power!
Made it back to Peeling in one piece... Lunched at Utlabari - treat by prospects...... Tough riding conditions after Birpara....miles of dust fogs and potholes...........felt sorry for the bikes later....one flat...and one in a truck!!!!!!
Met rest of the guys and the dragons checked into Central Hotel in Peeling (courtesy - Ajay).....
Had dinner and then went to our unofficial clubhouse (The Anaconda's Lair) to take a well deserved break:)))))))
Happy Rode off solo to Darjeeling and just about made it back with his antique bullet!!!!!!!
Many thanks to Cool Rider for the breakfast.......Bid adieu to our Peeling Brothers and rode towards Thimphu -
11 bikes.......started late...photo shoot......luncheon at Gedu.......flat tire.....Toxic did a jig called the Ice Dance:))))))))
Freezing conditions....... Brrrr...... Made it back at our clubhouse at around 9pm...as usual!!!!!!!!!!!!! Played Ping Pong to Keep Warm and Get The Blood Circulating!
***5 days of riding.....5 days of fun and 5 days that will forever be etched in our memories and the archives of our club.............
A great ride and a ride done right for all the right reasons.......tired but refreshed.........sad yet at the same time happy...............happy to have made new friends - sad to have left them behind....happy in seeing a different part of our beloved country and hopeful to see those places again.............love all around - happiness abound..................yet and yet there are still so many in need and with that thought in mind, we shall be back again....................
Bap Rider's stag delay and 'Cow to Cow' jokes amongst others.......Cool Rider's special sandwich.........+ve and his bed-da-Chair..... Steel's haunting n tent hijacking..........Jig's intellectual discourses...... Happy's bowl-of-a-helmet Plate...... Toxic's 'Pink Underpants' and night long antics.....
Prospect did themselves proud......Led by Gangjung's racing spirits......Born's quiet moments.......Bullet's speech n kiss with a truck.......... Aggie's bathroom moments....X's appetite for beer and shopping......pit stops and local meals.......Tarzan Tobgay's headaches on the ride.... Sangay's booming Whispers.... Dawa's shoes and quiet moments.... Old Man in his brand new sneakers...... Shoes for the polio affected kids.......Fines aplenty.......
As for Pale - the ride was one special moment!
Already looking forward to the 14th/15th Charity Ride in April (Double Jeopardy).........
Will keep all posted on it soon.........
"Ride to Love - Love To Ride"