Around the World... One Journey at a Time. Around the World... One Journey at a Time.

Bhutan: Day 11

by Kathy 4. June 2009 21:42
<< Day 10: Living Like Royalty in Paro Valley | Day 12: West Bengal Backroads to Kalimpong >>


Crossing the Border into Jaigaon, India


We left the Paro Valley this morning and headed south to the Bhutan/India border.

Here I am preparing my bike for departure:

We followed the Paro river out of the valley, and then connected with the main road that extends from Thimphu to the Bhutanese border. We would be descending in elevation from approximately 7500 feet to 950 feet, along a narrow twisting road that often clung to the sides of steep mountains or  cliffs. Bhutan is in the process of widening this road, and we passed countless bands of laborers. From what I could see, the work crews consisted of Indian men and women (no Bhutanese) chipping away at cliff faces and breaking rocks with sledge hammers.

We stopped for some hot tea mid-morning:

Ann was full of joy (as usual):

Next door to the tea house was a man spreading red chilies to dry on his tin roof:

We continued riding, past many more groups of Indian road builders. The manual labor looked intense—the women worked hard, lifting their sledge hammers over and over to chop a rock into smaller pieces. We also passed many of the small tarp-towns in which the workers lived with their families by the side of the road. I gave thanks many times over today for the comforts that I have in my life—while things throughout my life have by no means been “easy”, seeing the dire conditions in which other people live definitely puts the term “hardship” into perspective.

We stopped for a picnic lunch that Dorji and Rob had brought with us.  This area had a small restaurant, some rustic bathrooms, and other buildings that were being used by the nearby road crew.

I admired the strength and beauty of the hard-working women:

Ann took many portrait shots throughout this trip, always asking politely if she could take a photograph, and then showing the digital image to the people afterwards, which usually elicited smiles or laughter. Here, Ann has just finished showing these two young women their picture:

Here is a woman who was pleased to have me take a picture of her with her son:

These children were sitting patiently by the side of the road, presumably waiting for their parents to finish working. They sat quietly, holding each other, with no toys for entertainment.

They were sitting like this when we arrived, and they were still in the same spot when we departed after lunch. When I think about my own children and their abundance of opportunities, I think back to these children; they pull at my heart—their endurance, their silence and stillness, their lack of complaint, and the directness of their gaze.

This lunch stop was where Larry, one of our riding companions, lost his passport. He took his pullover off, and the pouch around his neck must have slipped off too. He didn’t discover that it was gone until many miles later. Along with his passport was about $500 in cash; he wasn’t too concerned about the monetary loss, however, and said that whoever found his pouch here probably needed the money a whole lot more than he did.

After lunch, we rode through many miles of dirt and rocky terrain. We rounded a corner and found some cars stopped in the road. We threaded our way to the front, where we discovered that a small landslide had just occurred, strewing large rocks across the road and injuring a passenger in a van. Ben looked up and saw some small rocks still tumbling down, with a large section of earth still looking unsteady. We waited a short while to make sure that nothing else was going to fall. Okay, everything appeared to have stabilized. Some workers cleared rocks to make a path for our bikes. I glanced up at the cliff--nothing was moving. Taking a deep breath, I picked my way forward cautiously, going as fast as I could.

Ben and I rode with a brisk pace today. We both are very experienced at riding dirt bikes, so we motored without hesitation over the uneven rocky surfaces—standing up on the pegs to ride over particularly bumpy sections. The Royal Enfield bikes proved to be reliable and solid—and fun!

We stopped for a rest in the small town of Gedu. The new road would bring many more people through town, and there was a lot of new construction on the main street.

Directly across from the new construction were some small traditional houses and a grazing cow:

These children came and stood nearby, watching us until we left:

In the middle of town was the usual AIDS prevention sign:

(Upon returning home, I did some research on the prevalence of AIDS in Bhutan. According to a 2008 United Nations report, the total number of people in Bhutan who have been diagnosed as having HIV since 1993 is 144, which is below 0.01% of the population. It is estimated that about 500 people could be living with undetected HIV/AIDS. The report stated that there has been an “alarming rise” in detected cases over the past few years, with 37 new cases in 2007. All of the prominent AIDS education signs throughout the country are just a small reflection of the government’s long-standing commitment to prevent and control the spread of HIV.)

Up ahead, the road was temporarily blocked while a crew blasted through the roadside cliff:

While waiting for the workers to clear away the rubble, we looked across the hazy valley and could see the faint, tan line that was the mountain road we had just traveled:

After we were finally waved through, we zipped along roads that were just plain fun—miles and miles of one curve after another, with tight switchbacks, along with some rocks and dirt stretches here and there. Woo hoo! Ben and I agreed that the roads throughout Bhutan (especially the eastern part) were the best motorcycle street roads that we had ever ridden.

Up until now, we hadn’t taken too many photos showing the magnificent road wiggles; we had been too immersed in their rhythm to put on the brakes and interrupt the magic. However, we wanted to take a few photos today in case the vividness of our memories started fading in the future:

Our photo stop was near a large chorten, which provided a nice resting spot for Glynn and Marian:

We were getting closer to the Duars plain that crossed into India, and we could see the lines of the Torsa river (Amo Chu) below. This river originates in Tibet, flows swiftly through Bhutan in a valley bordered by steep mountains, and then flattens into a wide braided channel at the Indian border.

The hairpins and curves that we had just photographed were even more fun to ride than I had anticipated. Ben and I were in sync with our pace, tracking smoothly behind our leader Rob.  Our smiles were outrageously big. The roads here are very narrow, however, with barely enough room for two tiny cars to squeeze past each other in opposite directions. Rob rounded a corner and found himself face to face with a big truck, which took up the entire lane; he stopped the bike in time due to his excellent motorcycle skills (and miraculously kept the bike upright). However, his powerful braking manuever caused the rear brake to seize, requiring the expert mechanical repair services of Sono and Gyan.

Sono working on the rear brake:

While we were waiting for Rob’s bike to be fixed, we heard a lot of movement in the shrubbery below us. Then this sheep came running up the embankment:

We looked around and found the soft-spoken shepherd girl:

Her father asked that we take his photo too; he was very proud, as well as kind:

Rob’s bike was soon back on the road, and we quickly arrived at the Indian border town of Jaigaon. Inside the border gates, we stopped at a gas station to wait for the chase trucks to arrive.


Down the street:

Among the fascinating sights were people carrying humongous loads:

The trucks in Bhutan and India were usually decorated with colorful and artistic designs and lettering:

Our passports had not been stamped at the border crossing. After the chase trucks arrived, we rode through the streets to a small building a few blocks away, went inside, filled out entry documents, showed our visas and passports, and then received an official stamp of approval to enter India. The process was done fairly quickly. However, I was a bit emotionally exhausted.

During our ride today, I had been surprised to see the multitudes of Indian road workers in Bhutan, and the appalling conditions under which they worked and lived. Plus, the energy of all of the people and vehicles in Jaigaon was a bit jarring after the quiet towns of Bhutan. I needed some time to adjust. Jaigaon also had some small groups of men that gathered and watched us from a short distance away. During our wait at the gas station, and also outside of the passport processing building, I had noticed (and felt) many eyes on me. When I ride motorcycles, I am used to some people pointing and staring, as the number of women riding their own bikes is still quite small compared to the number of men (even in the United States); and my fringed leathers also get noticed. However, I did not sense that the looks from some of the men here were necessarily “friendly” or “curious”; it is hard to articulate, but the best way that I can explain it is that the men seemed to have “hungry eyes.”

In any event, I was glad to check into the hotel. It was very basic, and Ben and I used our sleep sacks tonight, but it did provide a relatively quiet space to clear my mind.

Here are two pictures from the front balcony of our hotel:



<< Day 10: Living Like Royalty in Paro Valley | Day 12: West Bengal Backroads to Kalimpong >>

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Comments (2) -

10/5/2010 10:27:30 PM #

Prakash sharma

hi i m prakash i grew up in jaigaon so i m very happy that u went there n its a good place to visit

Prakash sharma United States | Reply

10/6/2010 11:18:25 AM #


Prakash, thank you for your comment.  We stayed in Jaigaon such a short time, but I am glad that we got to experience a small part of the city.  Kathy  

Kathy United States | Reply

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Map of Our Journeys

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Our travel map

Places We’ve Been, w/Quick Links

   Bumthang Valley
   Gom Kora
   Paro Valley
   Punakha Dzong
   Sangdrup Jongkhar
   Wangdi Phrodrang

   Janko Marca
   La Paz
   Laguna Colorada
   Laguna Verde
   Salar de Coipasa
   Salar de Uyuni
   San Pablo
   Santa Rosa
   Sud Lipez
   World’s Most Dangerous Road

   Banff National Park
   Battle Hill Nat'l Hist. Site
   Boya Lake Prov. Park, BC
   Burns Lake Bike Park
   Canyon Sainte-Anne
   Dawson Creek
   Eastern Townships
   Fort Nelson
   Jasper National Park
   Kluane Lake, YK
   'Ksan Historical Village
   Lake Louise
   Liard Hot Springs
   Niagara Falls
   Quebec City
   Thousand Islands
   Vancouver Island
   Watson Lake

   Forbidden City
   Great Wall at Mutianyu
   Hong Kong
   Summer Palace
   Terracotta Warriors
   Tiananmen Square
   Yungang Caves

Costa Rica
   Arenal Volcano
   Finca Corsicana
   Hanging Bridges
   Manuel Antonio
   Poas Volcano
   Proyecto Asis
   Sky Trek Zip Lining
   Venado Caves


   Amazon Rainforest
   Chaquiñan Bicycle Trail
   La Mitad del Mundo
   Napo Wildlife Center
   Papallacta Hot Springs
   Proyecto DCR
   Yasuní National Park


   Baja California
   Frida Kahlo Museum
   Hierve el Agua
   Marietas Islands
   Mexico City
   Monte Alban
   Oaxaca City
   Puerto Angel
   Puerto Escondido
   Puerto Vallarta
   San Agustin
   San Martin Tilcajete
   Santa Fe de la Laguna
   Santa María el Tule
   Studio of Jacobo Angeles
   Teotitlán del Valle

   Dead Vlei
   Elondo Village
   Etosha Nat'l Park
   Hippo Pools Camp
   Hoba Meteorite
   Khowarib Camp
   Moose McGregor's Bakery
   Mowani Camp
   Ngepi Camp
   Nkasa Lupala
   n'Kwzi Camp
   River Dance Lodge
   Seisriem Camp
   Treesleeper Camp

   Cañón del Pato
   Cerro de Pasco
   La Oroya
   Machu Picchu
   Nuevo Jaén
   Tingo Maria
   Yungay Memorial


South Africa

   Rock of Gibraltar
   Santillana del Mar

United States National Parks
   Arches National Park, UT
   Badlands National Park, SD
   Bandelier National Monument, NM
   Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
   Cahokia Mounds (UNESCO site), IL
   Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
   Canyon de Chelly Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Cape Hatteras National Shoreline, NC
   Capitol Reef National Park, UT
   Civil Rights Memorial, AL
   Death Valley National Park, CA
   Denali National Park, AK
   Devil’s Tower National Monument, WY
   El Morro National Monument, NM
   Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.
   Glacier National Park, MT
   Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
   Grand Tetons National Park, WY
   Great Basin National Park, NV
   Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI
   Joshua Tree National Park, CA
   Kaloko-Honokohau Nat'l Hist. Park, HI
   Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks, NM
   King's Canyon National Park, CA
   Martin Luther King Jr. Nat'l Hist. Site, GA
   Mesa Verde National Park, CO
   Montezuma's Castle Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Monticello, VA
   Mount Rushmore National Memorial, SD
   Mt. Rainier National Park, WA
   Olympic National Park, WA
   Petrified Wood National Park, AZ
   Pinnacles National Monument, CA
   Pu'uhonua o Honaunau Nat'l Hist Pk, HI
   Pu'ukohola Heiau Nat'l Historic Site, HI
   San Antonio Missions Nat'l Hist. Park, TX
   Tuzigoot National Monument, AZ
   Walnut Canyon National Monument, AZ
   Washington Monument
   White Sands National Monument, NM
   Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, AK
   Wright Brothers National Memorial in NC
   Yellowstone National Park, WY
   Yosemite National Park, CA

United States, Cities and Places
   The Alamo, TX
   Alaska Wildlife Conservation Cntr.
   Alpine Loop in CO
   Anchorage, AK
   Antares Junction, AZ
   Arctic Circle, AK
   Barrel Oak Winery in VA
   Biloxi, MS
   Bottle Tree Farm in CA
   Calico Ghost Town, CA
   Canfield Mountain Trail System, ID
   Cape St. Vincent, NY
   Carson City, NV
   Carter Caves State Park in KY
   Chappie-Shasta OHV Area, CA
   Child's Glacier, AK
   Circle B Chuckwagon Show in SD
   City Museum in MO
   Cody, WY
   Corn Palace in SD
   Crazy Horse Memorial in SD
   Custer State Park, SD
   Dalton Highway, AK
   Dinosaur Tracks in AZ
   Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC
   Dry Falls (Sun Lakes-Dry Falls), WA
   Fairbanks, AK
   Front Royal, VA
   Gallup, NM
   Goffs, CA
   Grand Canyon Caves, AZ
   Grand Canyon Skywalk, AZ
   Grave Digger Monster Truck in NC
   Great Salt Lake, UT
   Hackberry General Store in AZ
   Hannibal, MO
   Hatteras Island, NC
   Hawaii (Big Island)
   Hickison Petroglyphs, NV
   Holbrook, AZ
   Hole in the Rock, UT
   Homer, AK
   Honey Island Swamp Tour in LA
   Hoover Dam, NV
   Hyder, AK
   Jim Gray’s Petrified Wood Co. in AZ
   John’s Peak OHV Area, OR
   Kailua-Kona, HI
   Keepers of the Wild Nature Park in AZ
   Kennecott, AK
   Kennecott Copper Mine in UT
   Kingman, AZ
   Lake Havasu, AZ
   Lake Tahoe, NV
   Las Vegas, NV (winter 2010)
   Little Brown Church in IA
   London Bridge in AZ
   Loneliest Road in America, Hwy. 50, NV
   Los Angeles, CA
   Lost Colony Show on Roanoke Isl., NC
   Lowe’s Speedway in NC
   Mardi Gras World in LA
   Mark Twain Museum in MO
   Meteor Crater, AZ
   Million Dollar Highway, CO
   Minnesota Zoo
   Mitchell, SD
   Moab, UT
   Moab, UT (dirt biking)
   Montgomery, AL
   Montpelier, ID
   Navajo Nation, AZ
   Needles, CA
   Nevada Beach, NV
   Newberry Springs, CA
   New River Gorge, WV
   New Orleans, LA
   Niagara Falls 
   North Pole, AK
   Oatman, AZ
   Old Faithful Geyser in WY
   Omak Stampede, WA
   Painted Desert, AZ
   Park City, UT (summer)
   Plymouth, NC
   Portage Valley, AK
   Portland, OR
   Prospect OHV Trail System, OR
   Resaca, GA
   Riverside State Park, WA
   Rock City in TN
   Rosa Parks Library and Museum in AL
   Roswell, NM
   Russian River, AK
   Salt Lake City, UT
   San Antonio, TX
   San Diego, CA
   San Juan Islands, WA
   San Francisco, CA
   Santa Catalina Island, CA
   Seattle, WA
   Sedona, AZ
   Shoe Tree in CA
   Shoe Tree in NV
   Silverton, CO
   Sonora, TX
   St. Louis, MO
   St. Paul, MN
   Talkeetna, AK
   Telluride, CO
   Route 66
   Twin Knobs Recreation Area in KY
   Virginia Beach, VA
   Washington D.C.
   Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park in IL
   Williamsburg, VA
   Winom Frazier OHV Area, OR
   Winslow, AZ
   Zion National Park, UT

Planning Our Adventures

For us, each journey begins with the initial heart pangs to venture to a certain part of the world. Then the ideas start coming together . . . ahh, the possibilities . . . and the dream evolves gradually into an actual plan. But, oh, the joy of the dream!  Click here to learn more about how we plan and prepare for our journeys.

Where Are We Now?

Click here to discover where we are now, as well as our uncoming travel plans.

Words for the Heart

“. . . and then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Anais Nin