Travelling through Nepal was like a breath of fresh, calm mountain air before returning to the craziness of Indian traffic. My route now brought me into the north-eastern part of India. Rarely travelled by tourists, this piece of land is nested amongst Butan, Bangladesh and Myanmar and is somewhat disconnected from the rest of India. The first 500 kms from Siliguri to Guwahati was not so different from the lands I’ve travelled before, except the people I’ve met just seemed to be getting more and more friendly. At the hotel I stayed in overnight I was met by the owner and presented with a white and red coloured scarf - a symbol of Assam hospitality.
What was occupying my mind though was the road ahead. As Myanmar can only be crossed on an own vehicle with a group and a guide I had to be in the Indian border town of Moreh on a certain date. However, the roads in that part of India are infamous for being perhaps the worst quality roads on the whole Asian Highway. The stretch of road between Dimapur and Kohima in the state of Nagaland was supposed to be particularly awful. However, as I looked through the news on my way to Guwahati, I realised I don’t have to worry about that stretch of the road any longer. Due to a recent landslide that road simply didn’t exist anymore.
Guwahati was the place we met with our Myanmar crossing group for the first time. Joining us was an Australian biker who just came from the other direction. There was apparently a road bypassing the landslide, but having a quick glimpse at his bike I realised there was no chance I’ll be able to get through that place on my Fazer. His bike was covered in mud so much that I couldn’t decipher the original colour of it.
The only other option was to go via a more southern route through Silchar and Imphal - though Silchar to Imphal road also had a bad name for being nearly impassable in the wet season. What finally tipped me over for that option was that Biswajit, an Indian biker from our group, was also going that way, as well as Amaia and Marvin, a Swiss couple. So if I was to get stuck there would at least be some people that I know in the vicinity.
We’ve set off from Guwahati towards Silchar together with Biswajit and his wife. However, it quickly proved impossible to travel together. It was the first day of their months-long trip and as they were setting off from their hometown a lot of their friends came to wish them well on their journey. 3 hours after we set off from Guwahati we barely covered 50 kms and we were on our 4th tea stop. Biswajit is a local and didn't mind riding in the dark but for me it was imperative to get to Silchar and a hotel before the nightfall. Riding at night in India as a foreigner is positively suicidal - the traffic is just too bad. So I waved them goodbye and went by myself. Later I’d find out they'd arrived in Silchar at 10pm, 4 hours after the sunset.
The first half of the way felt like being back in Europe - the roads were flowy and of a perfect quality and finally my Fazer was in its natural environment. Little didn’t I know that it was calm before the storm. As I began to approach Silchar the roads deteriorated substantially. Going along the border with Bangladesh I would regularly ride through small towns where the road would be riddled with potholes so much that one constantly needed to swerve from one side to another to avoid those. And avoid other vehicles, auto rickshaws, trucks and an occasional cow on the road who are all doing the same. I passed the sign indicating the city limits of Silchar as the sun set behind my back. I made it before dark and it was all that mattered today. The hotel I stayed in that night was extremely basic - a room with literally no furniture and bed sheets that prompted me to sleep in my clothes. However, as soon as my head hit the pillow I fell into a deep sleep - the next day was going to be possibly the toughest day of the whole journey.
At 5am I was already outside packing my bags on the bike and soon rode out of the sleepy town east straight into the rising sun. I was to cover 250 kms that day to the town of Imphal but I knew it may take a whole day. The ride has started relatively calm with the first part of the road being of reasonable quality. A couple of hours later at one of the checkpoints a man dressed in a shirt, shorts and slippers motioned for me to follow him into one of the buildings. Having accustomed to the local hospitality I politely remarked I didn’t want more tea as I don’t have that much time. Turns out the invitation wasn’t optional - as I was crossing the border into the state of Manipur the guy was from the local security service and needed to ask me some questions.
Soon the tarmac began to disappear and the road was an endless spiral of twisties. I barely had the bike upright before diving into another corner. Passing through some very poor villages I was greeted by kids who looked at me as if I was an alien - but waved and smiled enthusiastically nonetheless. Soon after I hit my first patch of muddy section of the road and only then I realized how lucky I was. The past few days were reasonably dry and the road conditions were probably the best they could be in that area - with dust and dirt instead of mud on most sections. Had it been raining before, the road would’ve been next to impassable for me. Nonetheless, an hour or so later I’ve eventually ran into slippery slick mud and, trying to climb out of the deep mud a little higher, dropped the bike on its side. Annoyingly, it happened literally in the last few metres of the last muddy section of the whole road. The soldiers from the nearby checkpoint helped me to get the bike up, I limped out of the mud and assessed the damage. The brake pedal was bent, an indicator broken and a toolbox holder cracked. Could’ve been worse! I took the tools out to bend back the pedal and fixed the indicator with a superglue and a piece of duct tape - much to the amusement of the soldiers watching me from the side of the road.
It was already past 2pm and I only covered 150 kms (remember - I began the ride at 6am!) so I had to hurry up! Little did I know they seem to operate an interesting system on that road. Until 2pm they are holding all the trucks somewhere and at 2pm they unleash all of them at once. As the road was barely wide enough for a truck I often had to wait for all the oncoming ones to pass - or try to squeeze through. It was only when I had just 30 kms or so to cover to Imphal I realised that it’s highly likely I will make it successfully - until running into giant puddles of muddy water. Being tired and not really caring anymore I just rode through - praying there aren’t any stones or pieces of scrap metal at the bottom. But it seemed luck was on my side that time.
I had an AirBnB booked in Imphal where I arrived, as always, at sunset. It took me 11 hours to cover those 250 kms but I finally made it. However, at the location marked on the map there didn’t seem to be any resemblance of an AirBnB. As its customary in India, a small crowd soon began to gather around me just as I was trying to call the owner. When a man standing next to me saw the owner's profile picture on my phone he said enthusiastically - “ah! I know him! Follow me!” - and 10 minutes later I was in my room with the bike having a well deserved rest outside.
I had planned for a “reserve” day in Imphal in case I get delayed the day before hence I could have some rest the next day. I couldn’t help but notice how different Imphal and the state of Manipur in general felt different to the rest of India. More gentle and friendly, even peoples faces have changed - they looked Asian now. I couldn’t describe any specific reason but I just liked the place.
For the last day of riding in India we’ve decided to team up with Amaia and Marvin as we only had to cover 100 kms to Moreh on the border with Myanmar. The road was nice enough apart from an occasional blockage because of landslides and checkpoints and we got to Moreh with plenty of time to spare. Moreh is notorious for difficulties with accommodation hence I’ve contacted one of the hotel owners before to arrange rooms for us. Amaia and Marvin tried to haggle a bit for the price but the owner wouldn’t budge. As an unexpected bonus the guy also turned out to be a poet and a writer so later he wrote a short story on how he met 3 motorcycle travellers on the road (those were us).
It was Friday, the 18th of October 2019 that we arrived at the Friendship Bridge between India and Myanmar at 7am on our last morning of riding in India. While completing the Indian immigration and customs formalities, while we the foreigners were processed quickly, Biswajit being a local got a lot of trouble from the customs. As such it was only 11am that the group had finally crossed the bridge and parked out bikes on the Myanmar land. Crossing India has presented many challenges to most of us and, having successfully overcome those, we did a little celebratory dance and a big hug. But there were more adventures to come. We were leaving the Indian subcontinent and officially entering South East Asia though Myanmar, the Golden Land - what would await us there?...
The founder of Andalus Moto Rentals, Alex is an avid motorcycle traveler. He started with short classic trips around Europe, explored some of Asian countries on rental motorbikes. He eventually embarked on a solo motorcycle journey from Europe to Australia passing through Europe, Middle East, South and South East Asia.