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Visiting the Indian Border Guard

– My personal mountain bike training camp and retreat.

In India, things can happen that actually normally not just happen. And so it happens, that I have been a guest at an SSB base near the Nepalese border for a week now.

SSB is the Indian border guard and stands for Sashastra Seema Bal, which translates as “Armed Border Force”. It is very similar to the army, but it is a department in itself.

Uniforms, morning appeals and grades are also available here.

So, and what do I do here?

Well, it is the case that the commander of this camp is also a mountain bike athlete. He has built his own team within the SSB. I met him several times on various mountain bike races and we became friends. So good friends, that he has invited me several times to Didihat, the base under his leadership.

Didihat is a small town of 6000 inhabitants in Uttrakhand, near the Nepalese border. The journey is long and cumbersome. From Delhi it takes at least two days by bus and train.

So it happens, that hardly any tourist, let alone a foreigner, are found here.

But now it turned out that I had to leave for Nepal because of the expiry of my visa and would be not too far away from Didihat anyway. (only 8 hours by car). Moreover, Rajesh (the commander) himself would only be here for a few more days, as he was assigned a new location after three years in Didihat.

So I took advantage of the favorable circumstances and my last chance and travel to Didihat in the SSB camp.

I have been living here for about a week now and I have to say, that I am doing well here. Very well even.. Since I am on site as a guest of the commander, I share many of his privileges: it is cooked for me, I am allowed to leave my laundry for washing, during the tennis game, there are 5 soldiers around us collecting the balls and on my daily bike tours through the impressive surroundings of the Kumoun mountains, I have a whole escort team around me that guides me and takes care of me.

I know the mountain bikers of the SSB team well from the races in India and so it is extra fun to be with the guys and the two girls on the road. So I not only improve my skills on the mountain bike, but also my Hindi ☺.

After my morning yoga practice and a breakfast in the garden, the team goes out on the trails. Wow, I’ve never had such fun on the mountain bike: empty roads, great jeep slopes, endless single trails. Every day we take a different tour. Pure variety. And then there is this landscape: located at 1700 m, Didihat is set in an unspoilt hilly landscape. It’s green, it’s wild, it’s so peaceful here. There are only a few surrounding villages, whose villagers we occasionally meet while there are collecting grass, take their goats or farmin on their fields. Otherwise it is just quiet and completely untouched here.

Around noon we are back from teh time. In the meantime, it has heated up so much that it is good to escape the sun. Towards the evening there will probably be a strong thunderstorm again, as every day here. The area is said to be one of the wettest in India. However, as long as the rain only comes down in the evening and at night, I find it even refreshing. But the rain also causes some landslides. The ground here is much more unstable than that in the mountains around Manali.

But now to the rest of the day (I love it if I have some routine outside of my tours).

Lunch is served at 1 pm. Then Rajesh is back from his morning office work. He has a break until 3 pm.  Rajesh takes a nap and I get to work.

Admittedly, the Internet is bad here. Very bad even and whenever the cloud mountains pile up (which usually happens in the afternoon), the reception is completely gone.

Nevertheless, the peace here (and since I have nothing else to do) allows me to work well and I am happy about the constant progress.

At 5 pm the offices are closed and time to go to the tennis court. Here Rajesh plays daily with the Camp Doctor and two other officers, around are again a handful of soldiers who collect balls and take over the function of the referees.

I play from time to time, but I’m not very good.

Today, the superior of Rajesh is visiting and everything is a little more formal than usual. They’re playing tennis right now and I’m supposed to stay in the background. Well, I’m doing ☺.

Now the trumpet has just roared at sunset. Change of guard and end of the day. I already smell how Rajesh’s personal chef conjures up a treat again and look forward to dinner.

Good night and greetings from Didihat.