Cruising along the highway today, I happened to take a look at the map and realised how very close we were to the border with Bhutan. “Hey Nick, wanna take a detour?”. I’ve never been to Bhutan, hadn’t imagined I would go there anytime soon either. The prospect of an expensive visa and even more expensive organised tour wasn’t that appealing, I’ve seen budget versions starting from $250/day – not exactly a casual week away. For what is supposedly the happiest nation on earth (google it!) they make it a little difficult to get there.
But when you’re only 10km away and after 2 weeks puttering along slowly through India in a tuk-tuk all things seem possible. I zoomed in on the map and searched for the ideal entry point. Somewhere off the main road, unlikely to have a busy border gate, if any.
I found what we needed and directing Nick we took the next exit off the highway and promptly got lost looking as we took the wrong turn in the first village we encountered. Realising our mistake eventually and finding the correct path we ventured off into another tea plantation, ignoring all signs that indicated it was private property and set off on our mission. The road we chose deteriorated rather quickly into a dirt track, but nothing that our faithful steed couldn’t handle. Also, it was Nick’s shift to drive so I wasn’t bothered either way as long as we didn’t get stuck or tip over.
After an hour and a half of rickety driving down this weatherbeaten track (note, we were only 10km from the border when we veered off the highway!!), we came within sight of the border and we’re a little disheartened to see a manned guard building at the end of the road. But.. the gate was open and the guards we’re mostly facing the other way, so we did the most sensible thing and simply drove straight on through.
As we passed across the border there was a frenzied shout and they began to chase, but let’s be honest, we weren’t going fast anyway, and so we pulled up just inside the Bhutan side and hopped out, waving and smiling to everyone around us. Explaining we simply wanted to visit Bhutan and take some photos, everyone relaxed and sat back down again. We hung around for 15 minutes or so before we got bored (they clearly weren’t keen on us driving any further into the country, and we had no real reason to anyway..), and then set off on our perilous journey back to India and up the goat track towards the highway once more.
Been to Bhutan..? Yep, sure have!