A gust of icy cold breeze hitting your face like a thousand needles, the smell of burning gas, the constant humming sound of the engine, and the breathtaking visual of a deep gorge with majestic mountains in the backdrop—does that sound like your cup of tea? Then you must try doing a road trip on a motorbike up in the North-east of India.
There are many circuits to do here, but I want to tell you about having a thrilling adventure driving through the serene land of Sikkim. With varying landscapes, rivers, forests, trekking trails, monasteries, abundant waterfalls, hot springs, frozen lakes, snow-clad mountains, and altitudes ranging from 3000 ft to 17000 ft, you get a wholesome experience riding through the once closed kingdom of the Chogyals.
Though the idea seems very enthralling, many do not venture out on a bike simply because they have no idea or do not know what to expect and how to plan for it. So I’ve decided to give you my top 10 things to do through your planning, arriving, and embarking on that magical trip to Sikkim that you always wanted to go on.
1. Checklist: Make sure your bike is tuned up (especially the tyres and brake) and all your papers are up-to-date/available (registration certificate, pollution certificate, insurance certificate, Voter ID, or passport). Also make sure you have a valid driver’s license that does not expire close to your trip dates.
2. Own, Borrow, Rent: If you do not own a bike yourself, then you can:
a. Borrow from a friend/relative. When you do so, do not forget to carry an affidavit (official authorization) stating the actual owner of the bike, and carry the vehicle papers as you will need this to obtain a permit to roam within Sikkim (especially in protected and restricted areas)
b. Rent a bike service. There are plenty of bike rentals in Sikkim that are readily available. I did see someone suggesting rentals from Siliguri, but my advice is that if you are going on a trip in Sikkim, get a local rental so that you can have maintenance support in case of any issue. Outstation rental companies will not have any active support inside Sikkim.
3. Essentials: Carry a heavy jacket, gloves, goggles, and other clothing/accessories as the terrain you would be travelling to can and will have subzero temperatures. Also carry camping gear (optional), sunblock, and offline maps to help you navigate through your trip.
Note: It does not matter which time of the year you plan to travel (though Dec to Feb is best avoided as roads up north may be closed due to heavy snow), always carry woolens when planning to visit altitudes of 4000 ft and more.
4. Physically Fit: Make sure you have a medical check-up before you start your trip and carry all the medications that you may need on your trip. People with heart and pressure-related health issues are not advised to venture into very high altitudes.
Note: Doctors and medical facilities are scarce and sometimes not available at high altitudes so I suggest taking every possible precaution (health-wise) before venturing out for such a trip.
5. Permits and Paperwork: Once you enter into Sikkim, you need to apply for a ‘Motor-bike permit,’ which needs to be submitted to the local Tourism Office a day in advance; the applications are received only till 1 pm. NOTE: All documents are to be submitted in two sets. The permit for a two-wheeler is issued for 15 days and can be extended further if you reach out to the issuing authorities before the permit expires. Permits are expedited when processed through local travel agents. These permits can be done either at Gangtok or at Melli check-post (close to the Sikkim border).
Note: You can try us, TourGenie.com, for bike rentals, planning your trip, and also taking care of all the necessary paperwork for you. We are a trusted name for bike rental in Sikkim and also help plan all kinds of holiday trips to the whole of North-East, Sikkim, Darjeeling, Nepal, and Bhutan.
6. Recalibrate Before Heading Out: Meet some local agents and vet your travel plan with them. Make alterations to your route plan (if required) taking local knowledge, road, and weather conditions into account. Once again I stress on carrying essential supplies and medicines when travelling up to North Sikkim as you may not find any of them there.
Note: No matter the amount of planning and preparations, always keep an open mind and flexible approach as landslides, blocked roads, and bad weather are very common in hilly areas.
7. The Roadmap: There are 4 districts in Sikkim, each having its own charm. A good place to start is South Sikkim, covering Namchi, Ravangla, Jorethang, and then move towards West, which is Pelling, Yuksom, Tashiding, and Uttrey. Once this circuit is over, you can head towards Gangtok, which is in the heart of East Sikkim. The East has a lot of monasteries and other tourist attractions along with the famous Tsomgo Lake and Nathula Pass (Indo-China border). The extreme end of this district will take you to the Old Silk route of Zuluk, famous for its winding terraced pathways. Then you can finally head towards the North towards Mangan and from there first cover Dzongu valley and then retrace back to Mangan and head towards Lachung, Yumthang, Lachen, and finally reach the crescendo of your trip at Gurudongmar Lake, which is at a staggering altitude of 17000 ft. above sea level.
Very Important Tip: I advise you to take a 5-10 min break after covering every 30-35 kms to help with the acclimatization, especially when driving higher altitudes. Driving high altitudes too quickly can result in altitude sickness, which can take you out completely and can be fatal for some. So please do not disregard this tip.
8. Full Tank: Always fill the full tank when venturing to the extreme reaches of the 4 districts. This is especially pertinent when travelling North as Mangan will be the last gas/petrol pump, and you should always fill a full tank before heading towards Lachen/ Lachung and maybe carry some extra gas with you. If stuck, you can take help of the army base camps there. They are very helpful generally.
9. Document Your Journey: Write a journal or make a video journal and log your most exciting moments to cherish fond memories. There are effective gears available nowadays that are driver-friendly and easy to set up.
Apart from this, I would also suggest carrying extra chargers, power banks, investing in a weatherproof bag to brave subzero weather, first aid, and above all carry a free spirit.
If you do wish to embark on a trip like this, then get in touch with us here.
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Suggested read: Silk routes diaries
Check out this amazing package: Explore North Sikkim on Bike