Mohammed Musdaque Chowdhury, a passionate motorcycle traveller set off on a journey from Chattogram to travel all the way to Saudi Arabia's holy city, Mecca, with his Suzuki GSX-R 150 on 28 September, 2019.
Musdaque's expedition – Ride for Nation – was fuelled by his longing to perform Umrah and tour through countries on a motorbike.
Prior to riding across borders, in 2018, Musdaque travelled through all 64 districts of Bangladesh on a Lifan KPR 150. While motoring in Bangladesh, he came across many riders who travelled to India on bike.
As soon as Musdaque got familiar with the process of travelling across borders with a bike, his aspiration to travel further arose.
In an interview with The Business Standard (TBS), Musdaque shared his experience of motoring through different nations and cultures on a two-wheeler.
What was the best part of the trip?
Musdaque: The best part was being the first Bangladeshi biker to take a motorcycle registered in Bangladesh and cross into Pakistan. No one had ever crossed the Attari-Wagah (India-Pakistan) border on a motorcycle.
Though I had to face many hurdles, I had tonnes of good experiences as well, especially in Pakistan. Being a Bangladeshi, the hospitality I received there is beyond comparison.
How long did it take to prepare for the Ride for Nation?
Musdaque: Starting from paperwork to financial stability, I spent numerous hours preparing for my Ride for Nation tour. It took me two years just to research, plan, and prepare for the ride.
How did you manage the expense for such a long tour?
Musdaque: Travelling across borders on a vehicle can be very expensive. I bore most of the expenses. However, the support from MRF Tyres Bangladesh – Royal Enterprise, MT Helmets Bangladesh, and iFixit Bangladesh was helpful.
Such long tours come with a huge budget and it would be great if more companies could come forward and sponsor riders. This can work as a win-win situation for both the companies and the riders. Not only that, such expeditions can also promote Bangladesh at the global level.
Tell us a bit about the challenges you faced.
Musdaque: Firstly, balancing a professional career alongside passion can be very difficult. I had to quit my job for the sake of this expedition.
I had to face some complications while applying for the Indian visa; we Bangladeshis only have the option to select one port of entry and exit. In fact, we can only use an exit point that is connected with Bangladesh.
The Indian government does not offer any transit for Pakistan so I had to visit the Indian Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi and submit an application requesting the government to allow me to exit through the Attari border into Pakistan.
The second-most challenging part was to adapt to low temperature and ride the bike on snow. Initially, I had the plan to visit Khunjerab pass (Pakistan-China border) but due to an extreme cold temperature of -17°C and snowy road, I could not proceed further and thus, returned from Hunza, Pakistan.
Then from Pakistan, I made my way to Iran. I needed to avail a no objection certificate (NOC) from the Pakistan government. But due to Iran's unstable diplomatic situation, there was no way I could enter Iran at that point.
I was left with two options – coming back or figuring out a back-up plan. I travelled all the way from north Pakistan to the south and sourced a customs clearing and forwarding agent who helped me ship my bike to the UAE's Jebel Ali port while I took a flight from Karachi to Dubai. For this reason, my journey got extended by another month.
Finally, when I reached Abu Dhabi's Al Sila border to enter Saudi Arabia, it appeared that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Umrah visas were banned by the Saudi government. I had come so far and thus had to make an attempt even though I had a single-entry UAE visa.
I took a risk and reached the Saudi immigration where they did some basic diagnosis – temperature check, body scan, etc. When I got the clearance and headed toward the immigration, I was almost sure that I would be able to enter Saudi Arabia.
However, when I handed over my passport to the immigration officer, everything went south. After many failed attempts by me trying to convince the officer, I realised I had to go back to the UAE. The UAE immigration officers were kind enough to revoke my exit stamp.
Musdaque started his ride on September 28, 2019, with the initial plan to complete the tour in two months. On October 7, 2019, he crossed the India-Pakistan border. However, he had to return to Bangladesh due to an unavoidable situation.
"I was supposed to be accompanied by a fellow rider - Abu Saeed - on this tour but we could not start the ride together. Saeed would have arrived in Pakistan on October 12, 2019, but he could not proceed due to a business emergency. Hence, I had to wait till we could start our ride again" said Musdaque.
Then, on December 9, he flew to Lahore from Dhaka, followed by Saeed, arriving on December 12 and resumed the Ride for Nation expedition. Unfortunately, after riding around 1,200km together in Pakistan, Saeed, again, could not continue the ride and had to return home.
"In that situation, I had no other option but to continue the ride without him," said Musdaque.
The overall journey would have consisted of around 27,000km but on his way from Bangladesh to India to Pakistan to the UAE to Saudi Arabia, Musdaque had to return from Al Sila (Abu Dhabi-Saudi Arabia) border as the Saudi government had banned entrance with Umrah visas three days prior to his arrival at the border immigration.
Stuck in such an intense situation, Musdaque, left with no other option, had to leave his bike in Abu Dhabi and fly back to Bangladesh.
"I was lucky to have taken a flight back home. I thought of waiting for a few days but right after I returned, the UAE temporarily banned all sorts of travel," he said.
As soon as the situation turns normal, he will resume his Ride for Nation and this time, after performing Hajj, he plans to embark on a tri-continental ride motoring through Asia, Africa, and Europe covering a distance of more than 45,000km.
Mohammed Musdaque Chowdhury is an adventure motorcyclist. To know more, visit his YouTube channel and Facebook page - When the Flash Travels.