Aakash Ranison On How He Hitchhiked to Bhutan To Promote Entrepreneurship

In Travellers

This post has been published by Aakash Ranison.

Gazing into the pantheistic beauty of the mighty mountains in Mcleodganj, I wondered how the life is beyond the reaches of the nation as we know it. As I sipped the wonderful coffee of café Literati, I began speculating a journey into the neighboring countries.

I began summoning ideas about reaching a place where I could make a difference. Just like any other teenager whose 21, I’m full of positive energy. Energy that I have used well so far; travelling, hitchhiking, cycling, devoting myself to a social cause. In fact, I’ve completed 15,000+ km cycling and 45,000+ km hitchhiking. I’ve also established an NGO that goes by the name “The Golden Bird Foundation” and have efficiently delivered motivational speeches in various top Institutes like IIM, IIT & Companies and Government Departments.

Being a Socialpreneur, Travelpreneur and an Entrepreneur; it comes as no surprise that I choose to go to Bhutan with my sole motive on development of Entrepreneurship. As an aftermath of which,”The Bhutan Project – Scott Ride” began in my life.

On 6th September, 2015, I left from my home at 10:15 AM (Indore). One has to go through a lot of small villages in order to reach Gangtok, as there is no single road. Villages mean less road vehicles, mostly two wheelers, and so less hitchhiking opportunities thus I walked rest of the time.

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Through the backseat of 18 different amazing people, I reached Nipania, M.P. Stayed there for a night at a person’s house whom I had met while hitchhiking.

Alas morning came, 6:30 AM I was on my feet. It was cold and too early for people to be out and moving, thus I continued walking for hours. Finally I got a bus that was heading to Jhalawar. I was low on power as both my phone and my portable charger were on the verge of giving up. Thus, as soon as I got down from the bus I headed towards a police station. When I asked the Inspector for a charging slot, he directed me to a room which happened to be a kitchen. There a maid was preparing food for Policemen. One of those policemen began questioning me on my travel and later as the conversation progressed he asked me to join him for lunch.

I checked my phone and it hadn’t charged much since the electricity had gone.

I thanked them and took another lift for 20 kms and the van driver dropped me in front of a park. There I found a café, plugged in my phone for charging, had a subtle conversation with the owner, and he offered me Tea and Allo ke paratha.

Then I was out again on the roads, where I managed to convince a bus driver to drop me to Shivpuri, from there I got a lift in a truck that dropped me to Jhansi. Next morning around 07:00 AM, I reached my destination Lucknow via Kanpur. Here I visited an old comrade Bhavna Mishra.

I stayed at Ashish’s house who is a friend of Shreya Mazumdar. I stayed In Lucknow for the next day as well and decided to leave during the night.

So now, I was en-route to Patna from Lucknow. I reached the railway station of Lucknow at 09:30 PM and convinced a person to sponsor my ticket to Patna, he got me a general ticket. The train arrived at 11:30 PM, generally I’ve been fairly lucky enough to get a seat every time I travel in the general category but this time the train seemed over crowded and the chances of getting a seat were slim.

Fortunately a person from the upper berth got down and I managed to squeeze myself into that gap. My travel peers did not seem to be sharing my enthusiasm and they kept bothering me for everything.

At 01:00 PM I finally reached Patna, the first thing I did was go to Buddha Smriti Park and then I went to my stay, Buddha Inn. I had got a free stay here courtesy of Shashank Vaishnav(wittyfeed). In the afternoon, my dear friend Anand Chauhan came to pick me up with his mother and invited me for lunch. He then told that the next morning he was going to a place near the Bihar/Sikkim border and asked me if I wanted to accompany him, I said yes quite delightfully remembering my experience of my previous train ride.

I visited to Patna Sahab Gurudwara and came back to town. Now the problem was trying to find a suitable place to stay for the night, hence I contacted Anand, he was staying in a hotel himself and offered me to rent a room, but I didn’t want him to pay so I rejected and spent my night on the railway station. Sometimes sitting on the waiting chair, something leaning on my bag, walking for a while somehow I managed to elapse the cold and lifeless night.

At 10:00 AM in the morning, I met Anand again, had breakfast and left from Patna for Purnea, Bihar in his vehicle covering 350KM’s. We reached Purnea by 06:30PM, I was still quite far away from Gangtok and did not want to waste any time and hence I convinced a bus conductor to drop me off to Kishanganj. There I got onto a train for New jalpaiguri.

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When I dropped at New jalpaiguri, I persuaded a cab to take me to Gangtok but it won’t start until 04:00 AM, so I slept in the taxi. We reached Gangtok at 08:00 AM and coincidentally I ran into a friend Agya Dawa there and then I proceeded towards my stay. My friend Deepak Chawla back into Indore had a friend in Gangtok named Primula Bhandari she owned a hotel called “Le Primula” and a cottage and she was happy to offer me free stay at her place.

I left my stuff at the hotel and proceeded to the ‘Hub Outdoor’ bike store where I was to collect my bike. I collected my Scott Subcross’50 bike and cycled back to the hotel to freshen up.

Primula then called me to her place and we talked for 4 hours and then she offered me lunch and our acquaintance continued until a beautiful walk on the MG road after the dinner. I thanked her for the amazing time and told her that I would like to come to Sikkim again and stay here for at least 1-2 months as I bid her farewell for the night.  

The next morning I left to meet Agya Dawa. Then later I decided to go biking to Hanuman Tok and Bulbule. I was back in town after an exhilarating yet refreshing ride.

On the morning of 16th I decided to start cycling, though it began raining soon, I decided to go on with the adventure. I was mesmerized by the beauty of nature that surrounded me. The calmness of the mountains, the serenity of the water that was flowing nearby; the roads were too small yet I did not stop pedaling. For smaller roads meant more closeness to the subtle nature. At 11:30 AM I had snacks and then I started cycling again.

By 04:30 PM I decided to find a shelter for myself and inquired at the army service area but they denied. Then I came across a petrol pump where I found shelter for the night, I ate at the restaurant nearby.

Primula sent me contact of a person called Abdul, he was a wonderful person and came to meet me the next morning at 08:45 AM and then we had our breakfast. He told me about his experience in Bhutan and a few other things that I wasn’t aware of. He also gave me a few handy contacts of Bhutan. After the meeting ended I started driving again into the broader roads, flourishing tea gardens. I was trying to keep my minimum speed at 25 kmph, the only time I stopped was for lunch. I reached the border by 05:00 PM.

As soon as I reached the border, I tried my luck at the immigration office, but unfortunately the office had closed by 05:30 PM. My next worry was to find shelter for the night, I tried at a Gurudwara but failed, and then I started to look for a place where I wouldn’t have to spend much.

On 18th December I woke up at 07:00 AM and then headed for the immigration office. But I could not get through that day as well, had a lot of hurdles but I managed to get through the next day. I had to spend a total of two and a half days before being able to cross the border.

The other side seemed to be very different, rich black tarmac roads replaced the normal potholes filled pathway. The area was much cleaner and it seemed as if a border had changed a lot more than just the country.  

I started to cycle by noon again and cycled for the complete day stopping for photos mostly, there was not much to eat there except for a lot of pan shops (people in Bhutan seem to be addicted to pan). Also when it got late I couldn’t find any houses or dhabas to stay and so I decided to spend my night in the jungle. I cycled enough to find myself an open spot and I slept there with only my sleeping bag. It was very cold that night and I was pretty scared but I woke up alright.

I started cycling again the morning since 6 AM and reached Thimpu by 9PM. My first concern was to find a proper stay for myself. I contacted all the numbers that I had but unfortunately, they seemed to be of not much use. So I booked myself a hotel room.

Bhutan is very cold at this part of the year, it was pretty difficult to get out of the room. But there is one thing for certain, the place is very beautiful and has been gifted very uniquely by the maker of the universe. The complete place is quite hilly and chilly at the same time. But the fun part is once you buy the local sim, you will get network coverage even in the most unexpected places.

The next day was a dull Sunday morning. I decided to go to the nearby clock tower for a round. I happened to meet Thinlay Wangchuk, I had seen him cycling the other day (I tend to develop an instant connection with people). He took me to a lot of good places, including a monastery and the Buddha point.

MartiniAndMore_AakashRanison!

When I was cycling through the roads of Bhutan, I felt an eccentric calmness rush through me. For I do not possess enough words to describe what I saw there nor the necessary lens to capture it and show it to you people. But right in my head, I relive it again and again.

You will realize one major difference when you come here that is the people become really friendly in this part of the world. They tend to live a satisfied life even though things are pretty expensive here. They are calm and happy, unlike people I’ve been with.  And why wouldn’t they be, they see these eye-candy sceneries on a daily basis, and live their life peacefully.

All was going well until I tried taking out money from my debit card account. I went to the ATM and inserted the card and the machine said that the card had been blocked for some reason. Security purpose I assumed. Now I was a stranger in a new country with no money.

Anyways I called Primula and she connected me to Gaurav, I contacted him for help and he handed me Rs. 3000 without a moment of doubt.

After my leisure time was over, I began meeting different organizations like BOIC, Boawe, Loden foundation, My Bhutan.  My aim was to collaborate with them and influence the right crowd to increase the popularity of entrepreneurship in the nation.

I spend that night at Thinlay’s place and the next at my friend Nima’s office where I broke a lot of things unintentionally. Still sorry for about that! She handled the situation very well (I told you the people here were very calm).

So eventually, the money that I had taken from Gaurav dried out compensating for my hotel rents, phone bills and FOOD and so I called Gaurav again and asked him to share his bank account details so that my mom could transfer some amount in his name and I could withdraw it from here. He asked me to come to his office and told me that we will figure out something.

While I was on the way, going to Gaurav’s office, I decided to go hitchhiking. On my signal, when a car stopped, the person asked me to where I was heading. And then he later dropped me to my destination and then waited for me to come back and then leave me where I wanted to go. I was mesmerized by his hospitality and his kindness.

Then at last I met Chimmi Dorji, a local entrepreneur- Fly to Bhutan, who had been struggling a lot lately. He was the boss of Thinlay and we went to meet him in Paro. He had tried many businesses but somehow he was unable to cope up well and so needed help. I was really glad to meet a person with the right amount of potential so I was very happy that I finally had an enterprise that I could help in Bhutan. I took up his case and am currently helping in reshape his brand. The biggest point was that he did not possess the right approach towards customers, and so I decided to begin from there.

On 31st morning at 06:00 PM, I woke up at Thinlay’s place again and got ready to start cycling back to India. 07:00 PM. I was all set to start moving. We bid our farewells to each other. And then I started cycling from Thimphu to Phuentsholing, Bhutan.

Martini And More

I cycled continuously till 12:00 noon and then I decided to look for a place where I could eat something but for one and a half hour, all efforts went in vain. Finally, I found a place. I ate some rice and curd and after some rest, I was back on track by 02:30 PM then I cycled till 05:45 PM. I decided to start searching for a place to stay, but after cycling for an even longer duration, I realized I wasn’t going to get any. I decided to stay in the jungle and that is how I celebrated my new year. Amidst the nature, pure, raw and wild. This is something that I really like, as I do not prefer celebrating my important days with a lot of people. In fact, no one knows my actual birth date, and I generally spend it alone with my humblest friend; the nature.

I slept at 01:00 PM. and started cycling again at 07:00 PM. I managed to make it to the border by 06:45 PM. I did stop in between for food and refreshments.

So now it was night again, but things were different, the year was different and so was the soil beneath my feet. I was in Jaigoan, West Bengal. A border city between India and Bhutan.

I spend my night at a Rs. 200 hotel and next morning started cycling back to Gangtok, Sikkim.

The day that followed, passed smoothly and I reached the same Indian oil petrol pump, at Mal Bazaar that had hosted me once in the past, after cycling for 10 hours. The cashier there was surprised to see me again, but happy at the same time and welcomed me with open arms. I shared with them my experience and they listened with utmost interest.

On the 3rd of January, I started from Mal Bazaar to Gangtok, and after 9 hours of extensive cycling I reached Primula’s cottage in Gangtok. Delighted to be back to this amazing place I stayed there for the next 5 days, admiring the beautiful views and sceneries that I adore so much and cherishing the company of amazing people of Sikkim that will always be missed.

During my stay in Gangtok, I met a few amazing personalities. Mr. Shubhash Yadav was one, he is the second commander of the Indo-Tibet force. I had the pleasure of his company twice, and we discussed about Border issue, Nepal Issues, Pathankot attack, etc. It was great having my questions cleared by someone who is actually in the field resolving these issues.

My next opportunity was meeting the officers of ITBP, a thorough discussion with them was a complete eye opener for me and those are a couple of moments I will cherish for a long time to come.

I also met Nirmal and Tamanna Tama, who’ve become quite good friends with me. They are professional media representatives and covered my Bhutan Scott ride project. Nirmal introduced me to Bindiya Gurung after knowing my interests, and I’m so glad I met her. She’s a single mother, a full time social worker and also a very serene and calm person. She runs an NGO with utmost passion and her unparalleled dedication. She treats the mentally challenged people of her NGO with so much care, as if it were her own family. And why wouldn’t she? She does consider them her family. She raises money for the NGO herself, by visiting people, who’ve promised to help. We need more people to come up and help her cause.

Just like other volunteers, I have also taken up the task of helping her in her mission by launching “the Gangtok Project” very soon where I shall work for her NGO.

I then visited the HUB OUTDOOR shop once again and handed them over my bike to be shipped to Indore. We had a nice discussion over a cup of coffee and then I left.

On 8th of January, I began my journey back to Indore. I was low on time and since I had already seen most of the roads in between so I decided to use the train. The journey home was not easy here as well as I had to travel in a very uncomfortable manner for 38 hours and change 3 trains. I caught my first train at 01:10 PM. from new Jalpaiguri after convincing somebody to sponsor my general ticket. I reached Kanpur the next day at 7:40 PM. spent a day here and left by 11:20 PM. towards Bhopal and reached by 11:30 PM. Then I boarded my last train of this trip at 02:30 PM. and reached my hometown at 07:00 AM. in the morning.

I was back home, the same place from, where I had left. Things were same yet so different. I now hold a cradle of extremely unique memories that will always be with me. ALWAYS.