Another new year’s day came, and i was stuck at home. I wanted to go somewhere. Last time i was in Nepal, and this time I wanted to visit Bhutan.
I spent all my savings on travel and there was nothing left with me to visit Bhutan, i almost stayed 2 months at home doing nothing. And then, through my instagram feeds, i saw this young guy, Arfat Ahmed Matte, doing hitchhiking across India, a true inspiration. That was the moment, without wasting any time, i left for Bhutan the very next day.
I couldn’t get inside the compartment, and was standing near the door almost outside the compartment, but i took this risk, because there are no other trains in this direction for next 3 days
Bhutan, a small country in the Eastern Himalayas, is one of the happiest places to be, and can be called as the last Shangri-la, a fictional place with happiness and prosperity, away from the mainland, where people live in harmony with nature, in the novel Lost Horizon by James Hilton.
My plan was to get into Bhutan by road, as for Indians its quite easy. I had to travel from Kerala, where i live to the Bhutan border, get the papers ready, then walk in, 4 more days to new year and I was so excited.
Left home the very next day, taking only my camera, 2 pairs of clothes and a jacket. From Kannur Railway Station i took a train to Thrissur from where i got another train from Trivandrum going to Dibrughar, Assam. My friend Athul helped me with the tickets. Thus my 56 hours train journey in second class Compartment started. There are only a few trains running between Kerala and the North East states, and this was full of labourers working in Kerala, going back home. I couldn’t get inside the compartment, and was standing near the door almost outside the compartment, but i took this risk, because there are no other trains in this direction for next 3 days.
People helped me by sending money in my Paytm account. That really gave me hope to go forward and somehow reach the border
The train had several stops and no one was able to get inside as the compartment was already full, and I managed to find a secure position after few stations, still at the door side, the risk of falling from a running train is negotiated.
The next day as the train reached Chennai, i was lucky enough to find a seat to sit, some samosas to eat and chai. My whole body was aching from standing for almost 12 hours without able to move. Slowly, I fell asleep.
I woke up hearing the claps of a transgender gang asking money, which is a common practice in running trains here. They demands usually 10 rupees per head and give blessings. Some of the passengers who were not ready to give them money, were harassed and made to give money as everyone else enjoyed it. The train reached Vijayavada, Andra Pradesh.
I had barely eaten anything, so I took another tea from the station, some biscuits and plenty of water. I been posting stories on Instagram, and many of my followers helped me by sending money in my Paytm account. That really gave me hope to go forward and somehow reach the border. The train journey would have been boring without the passengers from Assam sitting close to me. who worked in kerala, and returning home. We talked about almost everything under the sun. From politics in Kerala to how to distill and make pure alcohol at home. It was hard to sleep sitting on the train, and with people sleeping below your feet, on the floor, everyone somehow found a space to sleep and there were people sleeping on the floor, luggage berths, and even inside the toilets.
The train went through a forest and then through a vast tea plantation, in 30 minutes I reached Hasimara
I reached Howrah, WB next day. My best friend Riju Banerjee who been a great support for me, came to meet me there with his friend Sruthi. I was tired of sitting continuously for more than 24 hours without moving. The train halts for 30 minutes and we had a quick meet, i walked through the platform for some time, discussed my plans. They bought me lunch and something to drink.
Next day morning I reached New Alipurdwar Railway Station and it was time to leave the train after a tiring 58 hours journey. I quickly brushed my teeth and washed my face after 3 days. There was a restaurant inside the station where i found Masala Dosa, a south Indian dish, it was almost 20 hours without any food. So i had a Masala Dosa and tea, and took a shared rickshaw to Alipurdwar Junction Railway Station from where i will get another train after 2 hours to Hasimara the station close to the border. The station is huge and well maintained with only a few passengers to spot. The Masala Dosa was activated in my stomach and I ran for the toilet. You don’t know the feel when you hit the toilet after 3 long days and finally empty your stomach. Relieved, i waited for the train to come. There were only few passengers in the train. It went through a forest and then through a vast tea plantation, in 30 minutes I reached Hasimara.
The border town is Jaigoan, and i took a private bus from Hasimara, took around another 30 minutes. And from the bus station a shared auto to Bhutan gate. Finally I reached my destination. I was so happy that i was going to enter Bhutan. I went directly to the immigration office to apply for my Visa.