Ziro, Music, Magic and an Awesome Ride

Ziro Music Festival
The Ziro Music Festival

Here, you can feel magic! You can wind back, relax and give in to music! You can be among strangers but feel perfectly at home! 

Well, yes, it is the Ziro Music Festival. Held in the Ziro valley, Arunachal Pradesh. 

I had been wanting to go to the Ziro music festival for some time. It just so happened that in 2019, the stars aligned. 4 of us riding buddies signed up for the trip, and we decided to make it a ride as well. The plan was to ride from Guwahati to Ziro and back, with 2 days at the music festival.

Things worked quite well. We had Krishna, who, fortunately, also does this for a living (occasional tour organizer). He organized the bikes and the tents at Ziro. All we had to do was pack our stuff and show up at Bangalore airport, from that point onwards everything was taken care of.

Rushed breakfast at Bangalore airport, flight to Guwahati and the start of an adventure. At Guwahati, we went into the city to pick up our bikes. We were to ride Himalayans. 

The Bikes waiting for us
Himalayans, waiting for us

Bikes tested, picked up, fueled and we were ready to be on our way. 

Within a few minutes, we were out of Guwahati and on to the highway. Immediately the world was left behind. Anyone who rides knows exactly what I am talking about. There is a certain special feeling you get when you ride on the highway, under the open sky. There is you, the bike and the road. That is all! Everything else, the meetings, the unanswered emails and pending tasks are all in a parallel universe. 

The plan was to get to Tezpur and stop overnight. This was to be a short haul, and then the next day promised to be a solid 8-hour ride to Ziro. 

Soon, we came to the mighty Brahmaputra river. It is a sight to behold. The majestic river sweeping along quietly not giving an inkling of the potential for fury it contains. The bridge across the river was the perfect spot to gaze in awe and of course, click a few pics.

We got to Tezpur by Sundown. We stayed at a nature resort with tented accommodation, the kind of large tents with proper beds inside. There was beer and good local food. The non-stop downpour that ensued did nothing to dampen our mood.

After a nice ride, with food and beer next to you, even thunderstorms don’t matter! 

– Torque Baba

The next day, post a hearty breakfast, we kicked off. It was going to be a long ride, we were looking forward to it. The overnight rain would make the road very exciting, to say the least. Within Assam, the roads were ok, with occasional rough patches. The rain added the excitement of not knowing how deep a puddle is. Unfamiliar roads and plenty of puddles made it a high concentration ride.

We had rain for company all along, but it never got too heavy, in fact, it had a nice cooling effect. Soon, we reached the Arunachal Pradesh border. You need to register and get your inner line permit here. 

Just on the other side, the road in Arunachal was magnificent. It looked like a newly laid black tar road, super smooth. The risky thing was that it was just completely missing in patches, because of landslides. But boy was it a pleasure to ride on that road. Steep green hills on both sides and clean crisp air. Blue sky above and black road below. Riding dreams are made of such roads!

Beautiful Road
One of my favorite parts of the ride, lovely roads and natural beauty all around

This lasted till we got to Itanagar, after that, it was bad. Near Itanagar, one could see road construction was underway, however, further out, no such signs. We were firmly into offroad territory.

There were places where we rode the Himalayans through stretches of muck for up to 250 meters. Muck: you cannot keep your foot down and you cannot touch the brakes, just keep a constant acceleration and keep going, because any change in momentum causes you to fishtail.

Extremely involved riding to say the very least. 

At one point we literally had a pond on the road. Krishna was the first to dive in (really, was like a swim), the water was up to the tank of the bike. We followed him in, riding through that with the water all the way above our thighs was one unforgettable experience. Luckily all of us went through without a hitch. 

Most of the ride was bone-rattling, but the Himalayan is built for such roads. We were all extremely impressed with how well the bikes took the punishment. We went through, slush, potholes, puddles, ponds and dirt with not a squeak from the bikes. Hats Off! 

Soon we stopped at a small town (Potin) for lunch. Here we saw many 4x4s all heading to Ziro, the number of 2-wheelers on the road had also gone up. This is the intersection for travellers coming to Ziro by train (North Lakhimpur). The road further on was going to be busy. But there was also a lot of bon homie among all the travellers. 

To save time, we decided to eat at a small fruit shop. The lady there was kind enough to cut a couple of local pineapples for us. Those were the sweetest pineapples we had ever eaten. It was an amazing meal, done in superquick time. 

By now we had been riding for more than 6 hours, through rain, potholes, muck and all. We had another 3-4 hours to go and we were racing against the Sun. No one wanted to navigate these roads post-sunset. It was now going to be about endurance. 

We had to keep a good pace right through to Ziro. There were a few spots which were steep, wet and road-free. The Himalayans were brilliant on this terrain. We were able to stand on the footpegs and ride across the roughest terrains without the bike giving us any surprises. Exactly what a rider wants in the hills, a bike that is reliable and gives no surprises. 

With a sigh of relief, we spotted the lights of Ziro, it was just after sunset and it was getting dark rapidly. We had made it.   

By the time we got changed and freshened up, there was a nice campfire going. An improv band was playing eclectic music, mostly live mixing. The whole experience was seriously psychedelic. 

At the end of a long and adventurous ride, sitting around a campfire listening to music and sharing smokes is a completely other-worldly experience. 

I am so glad we did it when we did!

Whenever the opportunity presents itself,

Go, ride with friends.

– Torque baba

(to be continued….) 

Music, Campfire, Good Company…

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