Bike rider with luggage on highway during 2000 kilometer road trip along India's east coast

Hyderabad to Kolkata by road: A 7-day, 2000-kilometer motorcycle ride

In 2011, we embarked on a trip from Hyderabad to Kolkata by road. It was a seven-day, 2000-kilometer motorcycle ride along India’s east coast. And this is what we experienced.

There’s something about hitting the open road on a motorcycle that makes for a completely different road trip from one in a car. Maybe it’s the sense of freedom that the wind gives you. Maybe it’s the oneness you feel with everything around you because you’re not enclosed. Or maybe it’s the feeling that you can ride off in a completely different direction if you want. These things made five of us set off on a seven-day, 2,000 kilometer-long bike trip along the east coast of India in January 2011. And the fact that Rider Mania, India’s most raucous annual biker party, was being held at the end of the line didn’t hurt either.

The plan

The four bikes we were riding on our Hyderabad to Kolkata road trip were all various models of Royal Enfield: the missus and I on my trusty old Thunderbird 350 AVL, another friend on his Classic 500, and the other two on their old warhorse Standard 350s—one of which had even been made in the ‘80s! The original plan was to ride from Hyderabad, where we live, to Kalimpong and then Kolkata using this route: Hyderabad-Khammam-Visakhapatnam-Bhubaneshwar-Kolkata-Kalimpong-Kolkata. Though the distance from Hyderabad to Kolkata by road is actually around 1,600 kilometers, this route worked out to 2,700 kilometers, which we planned to make in seven days. But, as so often happens to the best-laid plans, that didn’t work out.

Travelling from Hyderabad to Kolkata by road was never going to be easy, even in the best of circumstances. And we hit some inevitable obstacles along the way that made us change our plans. So we finally ended up doing Hyderabad-Khammam-Visakhapatnam-Bhubaneshwar-Kolkata-Mandarmani-Kolkata instead, which cut 700 kilometers off our ride, but gave us a day of chilling at the beach in return! All in all, our east coast road trip was fun, even if it didn’t work out exactly as planned.

Also read: 16 tips to stay safe and have fun on that awesome motorcycle tour

Day 1: Hyderabad to Vizag

Visakhapatnam (or Vizag for short) is a port city on the coast of the state of Andhra Pradesh, and is 700 kilometers from Hyderabad using the major highways through the city of Vijayawada—which one can usually do in about 14 hours of hard riding. We decided to be clever and shave 100 kilometers off the route by using the state highway through Khammam town instead. While the route was a good deal shorter, the road turned out to be absolutely rotten. By the time we called it a day, we were still well short of Vizag. We had to resign ourselves to making up for it the next day.

Ghatkesar, Hyderabad, India - Hyderabad to Kolkata by road
Traffic before sunrise
Roadside pit stop
A buffalo calf keeps us company
A pup leaves off playing with dried leaves to look at us
Road signage - Hyderabad to Kolkata by road
Still a long way to go…

Day 2: Vizag to Bhubaneshwar

We spent the night in a sprawling but almost abandoned and rather filthy highway hotel (we didn’t like it, but needs must, after all) and started off the next morning encouraged by the monkeys in the hotel’s garden. Vizag to Bhubaneshwar in the state of Odisha was a relatively easy 400 kilometers, so we thought the few extra kilometres we had lost the previous day could be made up without much fuss. Little did we know that the highway from the border of Odisha leading up to Bhubaneshwar was undergoing a major overhaul, so that threw a spanner in the works. It was quite late when we finally got to our hotel in Bhubaneshwar, after almost 12 hours of riding—on a route that should have taken eight.

Grey langurs welcome the dawn
Curious cow, empty playground
East coast hughway - Hyderabad to Kolkata by road
Waiting for the others to catch up
A welcome sign
Time for some chow

Tea maker makes tea while his aluminium pot looks on
Tribal woman mans her store
Another curious cow
Towards Bhubaneshwar - Hyderabad to Kolkata by road
Lengthening shadows
One needs to stretch one’s legs every once in a while…

Day 3: Puri and Konark

During the previous day’s ride, one of the Standards had started acting up a bit. So the owner decided to get it checked out, just in case. To our dismay, the mechanic declared that it would take the better part of the day to get it fixed up. Making the best of a bad situation, the rest of us decided to do a bit of sightseeing. On the agenda were the famous Puri Jagannath temple, and the sun temple at Konark about 100 kilometers from Bhubaneshwar. The Puri temple—as well as the town—was packed with devotees, so we cut our losses and headed to Konark.

As one of the very few temples in India dedicated to Surya, the sun god of Hinduism—as well as one of the two most well-known examples of erotic temple sculpture in India—we expected Konark to be just as crowded, but resolved to see it just the same. After a brilliant ride from Puri along lots of nice beaches, we got to Konark. No devotees here, luckily, just us and hundreds of other tourists gawking at the ancient temple. By the time we were done, we received the news that our friend’s bike was fixed, so we headed back to Bhubaneshwar to pick up our stuff, and then it was back onto the highway for a few hours before turning in.

Also read: Millennia back in time: The magnificent temples of Madurai and Tanjore in South India

Road to Puri - Hyderabad to Kolkata by road
The road to Puri
A young boy serves us fresh coconut water
Dappled road

Crowds in Puri - Hyderabad to Kolkata by road
Crowds at Puri
Puri beach
One of the many beaches on the Puri-Konark road
Roadside barriers
Some of the less scandalous sculptures on the temple walls at Konark
Konark temple - Hyderabad to Kolkata by road
One of the massive ‘wheels’ of the temple

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Day 4: Bhubaneshwar to Kolkata

The ride from Bhubaneshwar to Kolkata was around 450 kilometers, some of which we had already done the previous day. The road was also much better, so this day’s riding turned out to be relatively easier than the last few. It did start to get chilly, though. Our friend’s bike still wasn’t tip-top, so our average speed still lagged a bit. But we still managed to get to Kolkata in the early evening, so we were happy. We were hosted by a few fellow bikers from town who offered to get their mechanic to take a look at the troubled bike. This he did while we roamed the streets sampling Kolkata’s famous street food.

When we got back, bad news awaited. The mechanic declared that the bike needed major work, and would most definitely not make it up the mountains to Kalimpong. That was actually a bit of a relief, since we had already lost a day at Bhubaneshwar, and I had picked up a nasty cold. It turned out Kolkata was experiencing one of its coldest winters in recent times, and my system hadn’t reacted too well.

We went into a huddle, and quickly decided to eschew Kalimpong in favour of doing a short bike trip from Kolkata to the beach town of Mandarmani, about 170 kilometers away. This would also give us a day to relax at the beach before we headed back for Rider Mania.

Also read: Durga Puja 2018: Glimpses of gods and mortals

Piping-hot breakfast in the warm morning sun
Howrah bridge - Hyderabad to Kolkata by road
Crossing the Vidyasagar bridge into Kolkata
Kolkata windows, ageing remnants of past colonial splendour

Kolkata Signage - Hyderabad to Kolkata by road
We go straight
Some of the last hand-drawn rickshaws in India

Day 5: Kolkata to Mandarmani

We slept late the next morning, allowing ourselves some time to recover from the exertions of the previous days. When we finally left, it was after lunch, and we did the four-hour ride to Mandarmani at a leisurely pace. This time, we enjoyed the countryside and the fact that we didn’t have to hurry for a change. It also got warmer as we got closer to the coast, so that was pleasant as well. Mandarmani turned out to be a sleepy little town, despite being a one of the more popular weekend getaways from Kolkata by road—probably because it wasn’t on season yet.

Lots of the little guesthouses lining the beach weren’t even open. Interestingly, the ones that were open weren’t accessible from the road. We had to ride down the beach itself to see what was on offer! We finally settled on the small but clean and comfortable Hotel Bijoy, whose entrance was a ramp that led up from the beach. This made us wonder how we would be able to get in or out during high tide! Luckily, we didn’t have a problem.

Gaily decked up in pious splendour
Kolkata to Mandarmani - Hyderabad to Kolkata by road
Evening rice fields

Day 6: Mandarmani

We spent the next day soaking in the beach experience, with nowhere to go and nothing to do but relax. We turned out to be the only guests at the hotel. So we pretty much had the place to ourselves and the staff at our beck and call. Some of us wanted seafood, and convinced the cook to make us something special if we brought him some fresh catch from the market. The resulting golden-brown prawns and pomfret went perfectly with the beers at the hotel’s beachfront sit-out (we hadn’t turned vegetarian yet). Our rejuvenating beach experience was complete.

Also read: 4 reasons why you should stay in Agonda on your next Goa trip

Our morning view
A fishing boat in the distance
Mandarmani beach - Hyderabad to Kolkata by road
We try our hand at driving a three-wheeled motorcycle-cart

The catch of the day
This beach doggie is interested in our food
Riding on Mandarmani beach - Hyderabad to Kolkata by road
A sunset ride on the beach
It’s not easy when the sand is dry

Day 7: Mandarmani to Kolkata

It was back to Kolkata the next morning, where two days of biker party awaited. My wife had relatives in the city and stayed with them, and I still hadn’t recovered from my cold. Not surprisingly, neither of us did much partying. In any case, it was the ride that mattered more than the party. By the end of it, though, none of us felt much like riding back. So we shipped our bikes back, and caught the flight home. Our epic motorcycle ride along the east coast, our two-wheeled trip from Hyderabad to Kolkata by road, had ended. But the memories remain.

Also read: Six great experiences to have when you’re in Kalimpong

Roadside shop under a young banyan tree
The great Indian speed-breaker!
This is where we’re at
Oxford book store, Kolkata - Hyderabad to Kolkata by road
The famous Oxford bookstore on Park Street (guess which section I’m in)

Safety gear recommendations

Here are some recommendations for gear that I’ve used and liked.

  • Helmet: MT Mugello
  • Jacket: Joe Rocket Alter Ego
  • Gloves: Cramster Raven
  • Elbow guards: Cramster REDSETGO
  • Knee guards: Spartan ASPIDA bionics
  • Riding boots: Exustar SBT130

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  1. Wow ! I always aspire to take such trips some day. Have been to vizag by bus and the road was amazing, had I had a little more time Probably would have gone till Kolkata. Lovely documentation of your trip. Will refer if I plan something like this ever !

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